December 20, 2008, 10:55 PM
From another forum.
Gunbroker's "Partsdog" AKA Mike Smith of Littleton, Colorado
On 4 May, 2007, I won an Imbel FAL parts kit off of gunbroker for the price of $300. This was a high price at the time, but it is my fault and should have known better. Anyway, the seller was Mike Smith, gunbroker username "partsdog". In his auction he offered barreling and headspacing for the price of $125. Since I was new to FALs, and most everyone here on the Files recommends that one or two builds don't justify the purchase of assembly tools, I accepted his offer.
After a lot of excuses and some seemingly normal delays, I received the rifle on 8/6/2007. Since I am generally busy, I test fired the rifle for function only a few times. As of the date of this post, there might only be 200 rounds through this rifle since it was built by Mike Smith.
I have shot this rifle for groups a few times, and was VERY disappointed. I have tried numerous times to get in touch with the Mr. Smith, to no avail. So I began to try to diagnose and remedy this rifle myself.
Today, I removed the handguards so that I can fire the rifle without them. I've read here on the Files that a loose or sloppily-fitting handguard screw can affect accuracy. When I removed the handguards, I found that the handguard rings were full of solder.
December 20, 2008, 10:55 PM
This builder, who is doing business as HighLander Systems, obviously overtimed this barrel. It looks like he used a pipe wrench to install it. To cover up his mess, he filled the handguard ring with solder. He never disclosed this, although he did claim that the receiver was tighter than normal.
I do not know if Mike Smith, partsdog, or HighLander systems frequents the FAL Files. He did claim to working for Gunplumber at one time, although I think Mr. Graham would have an aneurysm if he sees this butchery of an otherwise good barrel and receiver. I have called and left messages after finding this today, but have not received any return calls or e-mails. I have all of the original e-mails, and they are available for anyone who asks.
Please, if you are new to FALs and are looking for someone to do a kit build, stay away from Mike Smith of Littleton, Colorado. His username on Gunbroker is partsdog, and his business name is Highlander systems. I am not the only person here on the Files who has been cheated by this individual, and they might chime in.
December 22, 2008, 03:36 PM
The following has happened with respect to this.
In fairness to all concerned I'm updating with the latest info I have.
Thanks to all for the replies. I have a satisfactory update from Mike Smith.
Cut and pasted from the e-mail response I received:
Thank you for contacting me, I wish we could have talked before it got this far so I could have had a chance to fix the problem sooner. Unfortunately, until I saw the e-mail you sent on Dec. 20th, I did not know you were trying to contact me. My apologies for the 48 hour lag in answering you, but I’m still out of contact most of the week.
I’m absolutely not avoiding your phone calls. Though we have had it worked on several times, we continue to have issues with our phones and voice mail system - which has been an ongoing problem since we have had this number.
As I told you at the time that your rifle was built, I do stand behind my work and will make this right. And if I were you, I’d feel like I deserved a little bit of an explanation about how this could have happened.
If you remember back, I was injured and then had an extended hospital stay right before your rifle shipped out. At the time I felt I had to entrust a few rifles to my, then, business partner to do some of the work that I simply could not do because of my injuries. I chose to do this in order to get the rifles out in a timely manner and because I believed that he would do the work properly and to my standards. I did not make this decision lightly because I do stand by my work and knew I was putting my reputation in his hands. This man was not a home builder. He was a professional with his own shop, which had been in business for a good 35 years. He also had over 20 years of personal experience and good references in the area.
As I had every confidence in him, for a few months (aprox. June to October of 2007) he did the work that I could not, in my name.
Since then, and for reasons very much like your complaint, we have had a major falling out and I have stopped all association with him. Unfortunately, I did not know that he had done this to your rifle or I would have,: First, never let him touch it and secondly, notified you that there could be a potential problem and had you return it to me so I could take a look at it. I do offer my sincerest apologies. This never should have happened and I accept full responsibility for the problems it has caused. He did the work in my name, with my blessings and I will continue to stand behind any rifle I ship.
Please send the rifle back to me immediately. Do not ship it out to his shop (the shop address that you have will be his.)
This is the mark of a stand-up guy. While I am still disappointed, I am grateful that Mike came forward and accepted responsibility.
1) I should have been told that someone else did the work. Period.
2) Mike could have, at the very least, conducted a final inspection on the work that he was responsible for and was paid for.
3) I take full responsibility for not finding this out sooner. I should have fully inspected the rifle on receipt, and could have found this out much sooner.
4) Keep all e-mails. If I had not kept the e-mail correspondence from the time of the build, I would not have had his phone number, e-mail address, or the FFL that he used. Also, by keeping the e-mails, I have a firm timeline for important dates, like shipping dates and dates payments went out.
Updates will follow. For the time being, I would ask that members who posted this on other boards please remove or at least update those posts with this information. Let's give this guy a chance to make it right.
Cut and pasted from my return e-mail, here are my conditions.
I want a new barrel. I would like an 18", non-bipod cut barrel. I am worried about the integrity of the receiver. I don't know if we can test the hardness or heat treat in any way. Any thoughts or suggestions? If the receiver is damaged, I want a new or lightly used Type 1 receiver, of DCI or DSA manufacture. I would like my rifle parkerized, to replace the painted finish that was substandard in the first place. And I'd like to see a test target. Groups were never acceptable from this rifle, and every weapon I own I want to be able to trust for my family's defense. Please test fire, at 100 yards, and send me an image of the target. I understand that test firing at distance is not always possible, so if you are unable to conduct a test fire, tell me, and I will test fire for groups on my end. If this rifle won't group then, I will continue to return it until it will. Either way, a test fire for function must be conducted before it is shipped to me. Also, I do not want to send you parts that are not needed to do a rebuild. Things like sights, pistol grips, etc. Please let me know the things that are not vital, so that I can remove them before I ship the rifle.
If he can meet these conditions, then I will be satisfied.
January 8, 2009, 04:22 PM
Here are the updated e-mails from the smith to the customer & the customer’s reply. The rifle is being sent elsewhere for examination & repair, due to the long delay in obtaining a response.
PLEASE NOTE: I am not the smith, nor the customer in this.
So today, I FINALLY get a return e-mail from partsdog.
When you first contacted me you told me that you had a problem, explained it and wrote, “I have started a thread on the FAL Files to outline this. However, I have kept your username, real name, and your company's name out of it.”
I wrote back to you on, December 22, and told you that I had made the mistake of having someone else do some work for me while I was down. I also told you that I was willing to take responsibility for fixing the problems with your rifle and gave you specific instructions on what I needed you to do - that was, send it back to me - so I could take a look at it and make things right. You wrote me back the same day, December 22nd, with a list of demands including:
That I pay shipping and any transfer fees.
That you would like a new 18”, non-bipod cut barrel.
That you would like the receiver checked and if necessary replacement with a new or gently used DCI or DSA receiver.
That you wanted your rifle Parkerized, to replace the painted finish that you felt was “substandard in the first place“. (I didn’t refinish the rifle, but more on that later.)
Before your that e-mail came in, I was back at work, thinking that I would find your rifle at Shootin’ Shop South when I came back. Especially since I had called while in route and had this e-mail read off to me. This is a fact that you should have known since you spoke with my wife on December 23trd.
At that time she told you that I was already gone and that she had not been answering the phone, since she was out Christmas shopping. At that time you were also informed that I would not be back until after the first weekend of the new year and therefore, would be unable to call you until then. You requested that I e-mail you and that she told you, very specifically, that I do not have e-mail access from work and therefore, would not be able to get back to you until after the first weekend of the new year. But, IF she spoke to me before I came home, that she would tell me that you wanted to speak to me. You seemed to understand that I would not be home and would be out of communication when you said, “Yeah, this must be a busy time of year for them.” When she told you that I was on 24/7 call and would be not even be coming home for Christmas. Now I find a letter from you dated the same day, outraged because I hadn’t called you back and demanding that I send you “$300 for a new barrel“.
In your letter dated the 27th, you say, “I have sent my rifle to CMP Armory for Johnny Glover to repair.” And again, demand $300.
Your next e-mail comes in on the 29th. Still, a few days before the first and several days before the weekend after the first.
There was one more e-mail that was sent on January 5th. When I got back on Tuesday the 6th, I started going through your messages and to be very honest, I was a little taken back by your threat of turning this into a legal matter.
I’m not going to insult you, as you have me, by going through all the e-mails and pointing out the inconsistencies (starting with your comments on FAL Files, where you did in fact mention me by not only screen and business names but print my actual name and address BEFORE you contacted me to let me know that there was a problem, continuing through your writing to Mark Graham of AZ Response Systems, who has absolutely nothing to do with this, and finally ending with your letter dated the 5th where you threaten legal action.)
Instead, lets start back at the beginning. You ordered a NON-refinished rifle, built from a used kit, on your DCI receiver. I sent you pictures of your rifle taken just before shipping and sent you a follow up e-mail after it should have arrived asking you to let me know that you did receive it and if there were any problems. You did not let me know that you received the rifle or that there were any problems at all, and in fact spent the next year and a half apparently being quietly disappointed with it. I understand that up until recently you didn’t know about the problems under the hand guards, but lets be really honest here, none of your disappointment for the first year and a half was in any way related to the problems you recently found.
You didn’t ask any questions, complain or ask me what was wrong when, in your words, “it never grouped right“.
You didn’t feel disappointed enough with, again in your words, “The substandard finish” to either ask what had
happened, complain about the finish or ask me to re-do it. That is, until after I offered to refinish the rifle as part of making up for there being a problem.
You still haven’t mentioned a problem with the rifle’s function, which is what you should have if it was in fact, your words, “overtimed“. But in one of your e-mails, the rifle goes from having some problems, to being, your words, “an abortion of a rifle“.
After I told you to return the rifle to me, while talking about the grouping on December 22nd, you said, “If this rifle won't group then, I will continue to return it until it will.”
What part of that comment should have made me think that when I got back into town your rifle wouldn’t be here waiting for me to take a look at? And what part of me being willing to fix, sight unseen, a problem that you say came out of my shop, would make you believe that I would pay for someone else to fix it? Matt, no matter what they tell you on FAL Files, a guarantee only holds if you use it. By not sending me the rifle back so that I could make good on it, you have unfortunately voided the guarantee that I gave you - both at the time of purchase and then again a full 18 months after you say the problems started.
Consider this: From what you are telling me, if you went and bought a used Chevy, with a guarantee, and found out that there were problems, first you would continue to drive for well over a year (hoping it would “heal” I suppose). Then when it doesn’t heal, you would call the neighborhood lube shop for their opinion. With their blessings and sympathy, you’d give Cadillac a call to complain about Chevy. Then finally you’d contact Chevy, who tells you that they will fix it as soon as they reopen after the holidays. On top of that, they offer to not only fix the problems you know about, but check for problems you don’t, pay for gas and your drive time in both directions and give you new paint for your trouble. You continue talking to the lube shop and calling Chevy, when you know they are closed. Then you take your car to Ford for repairs.
In this scenario, who do you think would pay for your repairs? I can tell you for a fact that it wouldn’t be Chevy’s, no matter what court you took it to.
Unfortunately, you didn’t give me (Chevy) a chance to fix the problem, or throw in the perks that I said I would for the trouble it caused you. Just try taking a rifle back to anyone, and I mean anyone, else after a year and a half and saying that you have always had a problem and have just decided to let them know now because you tried to fix it yourself and found something you didn’t like.
I offered to make your rifle right, no questions asked and sight unseen. If you check back through your e-mails, you will find that you didn’t even send me out pictures until several days after you had posted them, my name, screen names and business name to the FAL Files or contacted Mark Graham. (I still have no clue why you would have contacted him about my work before me, but ok.)
Again, you spoke to my wife the day after you told me that you were returning the rifle (your message on December 22nd, and the phone call on the 23rd). My wife told you that I was out of town and would not be able to call you back until after the first weekend of the new year. You asked for me to e-mail a response and were told, very specifically, that I did not have internet access while I’m working. What part of my being back “sometime after the first weekend of the new year” did you take to mean that I would not stand behind my work, or that I would pay for anyone else to take care of the problem?
I have made every attempt to make you happy, with the exception of sending you cash - that was never part of the deal. You have chosen not to take advantage of what I thought was a very generous offer, especially considering the time element of a year and a half and your not even answering my e-mail, dated October 14th of 2007 - quite a while after you stated that you received your rifle and were already having problems with it, asking if all was well and if you had any questions. (In case you have trouble finding it, it’s the same e-mail that I sent you to gently remind you that you still owed me one more payment.)
Your rifle has already been fixed. By your choice, not mine, I was not able to make good on my guarantee. I have been receiving hate mail from your buddies at FAL Files, and it’s now possible to Google my name and find your complaints without retraction, so you’ve got your pound of flesh.
I don’t know what else I can do for you.
Happy New Year!
Here's my e-mail reply.
Let me first say that there was some miscommunication when I spoke to your wife. What I understood her to say is that you were busy with work and might not be able to call. I said that I understood that. I was not aware that you were out of town, that you wouldn't be home for Christmas, and would not be back until the first week of January. Either way, I'll take responsibility for that. I apologize. I simply did not know that you were not coming home at night and checking e-mails. You didn't say anything about it in your e-mail dated 12/22. But I'll say "my fault" and I apologize. That misunderstanding explains some of my frustration in waiting.
Let's get to the heart of the matter.
Was this rifle assembled correctly? No.
Were you the individual that assembled it? According to you, no. I don't have any reason not to believe you.
But you were paid for the build of this rifle, not the person who built it. You did not disclose the fact that someone else built it. In your e-mails, you conceal that fact. And it took 2 and a half months from the day you were sent a receiver to the day that I received the rifle. That was far outside the timeline I was quoted before the build, which was 10-12 weeks when waiting for a receiver from DSA. I expedited that and had a receiver sent to you. So it should have taken much less time than 2 and a half months.
The timeline of the build was long, whether you can accept that or not. And very simply, I did not want to wait another 2 and a half months to have this rifle repaired. Now, on the 22nd you instructed me to send my rifle to you, and that you would take care of it and make it right. But if I was unhappy with the service initially, why would I send it back to you? Whether you accept it or not, you were responsible for the build of this rifle. You subcontracted that work out, and it was done very poorly. Did you inspect the rifle before sending it to me? Were you actually the one who did the test fire? So if the initial service and work was poor, why put up with it again?
Let's go over your car analogy.
"Consider this: From what you are telling me, if you went and bought a used Chevy, with a guarantee, and found out that there were problems, first you would continue to drive for well over a year (hoping it would “heal” I suppose).
The problems weren't found until a year later. Like you, I work for a living and am busy most of the time.
Then when it doesn’t heal, you would call the neighborhood lube shop for their opinion. With their blessings and sympathy, you’d give Cadillac a call to complain about Chevy.
Wrong again. I contacted you first. You did not contact me until 2 days later. "Cadillac", who I take it to mean Mark Graham, was consulted only for his advice, not to "call and complain" like you say. Would you like to see those PMs?
Then finally you’d contact Chevy, who tells you that they will fix it as soon as they reopen after the holidays. On top of that, they offer to not only fix the problems you know about, but check for problems you don’t, pay for gas and your drive time in both directions and give you new paint for your trouble.
Where is that? Look over your ONLY correspondence to me, the e-mail dated 22 Dec. Where does it say that I'll get this "full service" and "new paint?" It doesn't!
You continue talking to the lube shop and calling Chevy, when you know they are closed. Then you take your car to Ford for repairs."
As addressed above, I didn't know you were out of town. You didn't say so in your e-mail. And your wife didn't fully state that you wouldn't be home for Christmas. Think about it--why would I continue to e-mail you if I knew that you weren't home?? That doesn't make sense.
To use your car analogy, let's say I buy a used car from a dealer. Not an everyday driver but a car to take on vacation and drive infrequently. (I don't shoot every week or even every month) Now, the purchase process was less than stellar, but either way I bought the car. Later, problems crop up and an independent mechanic (me in this case) determines that the rods were not correct for the engine, that the camshaft was wrong, whatever. And it was determined to be the fault of the dealer, who in the case of this rifle was also the builder of the "car". Why not take it to a different dealer to get the problem fixed? The "demands" that you list from my first e-mail response to you were conditions that I wanted met and agreed to before I shipped the rifle back to you. You didn't respond or agree to those conditions, and I sent the rifle to another builder. And as far as your concern over me my contacting Mark Graham, you used his name as a reference, and I contacted him privately and asked him advice about whether or not the barrel could be salvaged and what he would do in this case as a gunsmith. I did ask him if he knew you, and he responded that he did. I only contacted him because he is a top-notch gunsmith and I valued his opinion on the repair of this rifle. I can provide you with those private messages if you'd like.
Let's get right down to it. Mike, you said that you would make this right. But you don't get to determine the action I take as the owner. Since I'm the owner, in the end I have to decide whether I want to accept your infrequent communications and long timeline. I understand you work a lot, and I respect that. I don't respect a man who won't work to support his family. But if you're too busy to build FALs, then you don't have to. But the question remains, are you going to make this right or not? You and you alone sent me a rifle that was incorrectly built, with incorrect headspace, and thoroughly damaged physically by a pipe wrench. If you say that that type of work is acceptable methods, I say "okay" and move on. But if you can acknowledge that the work was done incorrectly and you did not take the time to either inspect the rifle or test fire it yourself, then you should act on that.
I don't wish you any ill will. I just want you to 1) acknowledge that this rifle was assembled wrong and it was your responsibility to ensure it was done right, and 2)be a man of your word and "make it right" like you said you would. Just stand behind your product like you said you would, and like you gunbroker auction said you would. If you don't, then really what can I do about it? Nothing. I can only chalk that up to "lessons learned" and move on.
So what are you going to do?
edit to add emphasis from original e-mail
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