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View Full Version : Why are the best gunsmiths communist?


Blue Duck357
March 24, 2002, 06:34 PM
OK maybe I could have come up with a better title for my post ;)

But I don't understand the wait to get things done. If a shop has a trigger job that takes about 4 hours and currently has a 3-4 month turnaround to get it done would it not make sense for them to simply raise the price 50% or so to get the wait down to 2 weeks? Make more money, do the same amount of guns, happier customers..

Same for the 2-3 year long waiting list for some custom 1911's. Did I miss somethng in economics class or what?

WESHOOT2
March 24, 2002, 07:53 PM
maybe its not just the money

Dfariswheel
March 24, 2002, 09:11 PM
1. On a few GOOD 'smiths out there, and everyone sends them work.

2. Most 'smiths are a "one man band" operation. He's working on guns, answering letters and phones, doing his ton of gov't mandated paperwork, ordering parts, and fending off BATF, who's convinced he's building machine guns for John Dillinger. Most get to spend only a little time per day actually working on guns.

3. The more output you can do, the more people want your services...see #1.

4. He can't make a living doing one or two guns and then waiting around for more work to come in. He has to slightly overbook to insure he's kept busy. Sometimes he over does it.

5. Things go wrong. He gets sick too, has family problems, etc just like the rest of us. There is also the "Midas touch in reverse" syndrome. Some days, everything you touch turns to ****.

Sierra1
March 24, 2002, 09:28 PM
I have had a 1911 in with my smith since September and I am still waiting, patiently too, even after all this time cuz the man does great work. I know that I am not capable doing the work he does so I have precious little alternative but to wait it out. I'll admit I am getting a lil antsy though!:)

James K
March 24, 2002, 11:13 PM
Dfariswheel has it right. And believe me, good help is hard to find even if the 'smith is willing to put up with all the employee rules and regulations and train the apprentice to boot. Further, the profit margins are not usually enough to attract a graduate of a good gunsmithing school for starting wages. Most of those guys want to set up shop right away on their own.

Several folks have expressed the idea of doing gunsmithing work and have sweated the FFL. Believe me, the FFL is the easy part. The real problems just start when you get your FFL. Then come Fed, state, and local income taxes, sales taxes, zoning laws, business licenses, OSHA regulations, security regulations, medical insurance, FICA, etc., etc., etc.

Jim

James K
March 24, 2002, 11:16 PM
Oh, and I forgot the angry customers wanting to know why their guns are not finished yet, while they change six different things in the work order.

Jim

Blue Duck357
March 24, 2002, 11:37 PM
'Course if it was done in two weeks the customer would have less time to change his mind ;)

zot
March 25, 2002, 12:00 AM
I'm no smith, if the parts fit with a little files and dremel, thats as
faras I go, but good smiths with lathes , mills and all welding,and
drill press and all major armormers tools for 1911s, Glocks, S&W,
ETC,are far and few, its a sad that so many have retired or died,
its hard to make money for new smiths these days because of cost to set up, plus to get ahead smiths have to do several projects, get more customers, and do GOOD work for return bussiness, a late wait for good work is worth the wait for good work,ussualy a good smith will explain the long wait, and if the smith doesn't explain or just blows you off, I'd try someone else.
I hope theirs a new generation of smiths,and other FFLs.

George Stringer
March 25, 2002, 07:29 AM
blue duck, I probably have as long or longer a backlog as just about anybody. Smaller jobs like the one you mention I try to "work in" when I can but usually they just have to sit and wait right along with the bigger projects. In addition to the things that Dfarriswheel mentioned sometimes the work comes in bunches. Last week I built 2 rifles not including bedding and stock finishing, recontoured one barrel and rechambered another. That's 4 jobs done while 7 others came in during that same time frame. Today I'll not likely get anything done. I have to go to the range this morning and that will probably take 1/2 the day, then I have a bunch to be boxed and shipped which will probably eat up the rest of the day. I don't have room for another smith or an apprentice but if I just had someone who could handle errands, answer the phone, box and ship, etc. I'd get a lot more done. And on top of all of that my lathe drive belt broke on Wednesday. It has to be "made" at the factory so I had to order a new one. I always have a spare on hand and it's eyelets pulled out on Friday so my lathe is down until the new belt gets here tomorrow or Wednesday. George

mryan1
March 25, 2002, 02:09 PM
Say there, Blue Duck. I didn't get to advanced ecky-nomicks class so bear with me. Just how will making something cost 50% more get the completion time down to 2 weeks? As an evenings only gunsmith, I would like to add that option to my labor list. But then, that would make all my regular, poor folk be waiting while them with big money goes to the top of the list.
Not an honorable way to do business......?

stuckatwork
March 25, 2002, 03:35 PM
Ya' know what? There was a time when master craftsman were expected to take their tima and do things right the first time. Gunsmithing on a masters level is just as much and art as a science. Me? I'll wait for perfection.

4V50 Gary
March 25, 2002, 03:35 PM
Now George, if you spent less time on the web, you'd get more work done. ;) Now, git back to your bench! :)

Being merely an armorer (no machines other than a Tennessee Lathe - hand drill mounted in a vise), I can attest to one other cause of delay: waiting for parts. You order, you wait, and wait and wait...

James K
March 25, 2002, 08:22 PM
In some shops, at least at one time, "waiting for parts" really meant "waiting until enough parts orders pile up to get a bigger discount from the parts house." I never agreed with this, feeling that getting the work done and out was more important for good will than saving a whole 64 cents on a discount, but I was always overruled.

But the practice does explain some of the delay customers experience.

Jim

Keith J
March 26, 2002, 10:03 AM
Most of the better 'smiths have little business saavy as they put their skill above the trade. Since the little shops are mostly a "mom and pop" operation, quality of work performed is always high even if turn-around isn't the quickest.

If you want a quick turn-around, don't be surprised to get "Earl Scheib" results. If you want a factory quality refinish job, you won't get it at Earl Scheib and you definitely won't get it in a week.

Dwight M S
March 27, 2002, 10:51 AM
I'll paint any gun any color for $29.95.
Earl :p

saands
March 27, 2002, 04:24 PM
Not an honorable way to do business......?

Actually, I think that the only dishonorable part would be if you were not up front about the arrangement to all your clients. I would submit that if the time a job is "in the queue" leads to a lost opportunity (can't take that once in a lifetime safari), then a client may place a higher value on expediting a job and be willing to pay for it. Many of us are not in that situation ... we have back-up rifles or whatever. I think giving your clients the option, as long as you set limits (eg. normal price will not exceed 12 weeks) seems both reasonable and honorable. Having someone else jump to the head of the line by paying the expediting fee is part of being responsive to those who have a real need. The economics comes into play when you decide what the amount of that fee needs to be. Too little and everyone wants "rush service."

Just my .02,
Saands

Johnny Quest
March 28, 2002, 06:39 PM
Blue Duck asks a viable question.

If you look at the hotel business, rates are raised until occupancy hits 80%.

A gunsmith who has work waiting for 3-4 weeks is NOT CHARGING ENOUGH.

For those of us who use gunsmiths regularly, low price is a good thing. The wait is a bad thing. I would pay the higher price for faster turn-around with quality work.

Johnny Quest

Blue Duck357
March 28, 2002, 08:12 PM
Thanks for all the replies, I think a few misinterputed my question as complaining about having to wait (never had a custom gun done likely never will :(. Lots of good info I had not thought about such as waiting to order parts till abulk order was in and machines needing replacement parts etc.

Just wanted to know as Quest pointed out if the service was in such demand why prices don't seem rise instead of the wait. It seems most smiths from "Bubba" who will get a trigger job done in two weeks charges the same $60 to $100 as a really well known smith with a huge backlog of the same work.

mryan, sorry I missed your post earlier. I meant the raising of the price would reduce the number of guns in the shop to be done, thus lowering the wait. Not that raising the price would somehow speed up an individual job.