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Old August 2, 2013, 08:39 AM   #1
pro. gunsmithing
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new gunsmith shop looking for suggestions

Hello, my name is Red and my bosses name is Aaron. We are both professional gunsmiths who graduated from Montgomery cc and have a small shop in Mount olive N.C. I was looking for suggestions for services the " people" wanted so I figured I would ask directly, we offer general repair, refinishing(bluing and cerakoting handguns( due to oven size)), stock work and are contemplating re-barreling services but what services do you have a hard time finding? we are looking to scoop up the niche market.
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Old August 2, 2013, 09:36 AM   #2
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One service that's popular is sight replacement.
Another is trigger improvement.
If there's a way to figure out how to increase the mag capacity of Mossberg 500s, without requiring an accompanying change of barrel, that would be a real niche service.
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Old August 2, 2013, 11:36 AM   #3
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Open a retail space and sell guns and ammo.

The gunsmithing service and gun store will bring biz for each other.
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Old August 2, 2013, 05:26 PM   #4
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.

IMHO, What more than a few folks would like to see, but rarely do, is a basic price list posted conspicuously, for NP jobs and/or an hourly rate for custom work.


Since sight work is very common, it might be a good idea to lay in an assortment (hardcopy) of sight company catalogs for customers to choose from - Williams, Lyman, Marbles, XS, Tru-Glo, Hi-Viz, etc.


.
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Old August 2, 2013, 09:16 PM   #5
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I agree with Peter, as I do use a posted price list, and have one printed to give a customer too. That keeps them from wanting to haggle with you over the cost. Make sure you put your minimum rate, etc, on it too.
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Old August 2, 2013, 10:01 PM   #6
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Older Colt revolvers. Cylinder & Slide is one of the few places that will handle a Python, Police Positive, Official Police, etc. Were you guys trained in working on those at Montgomery CC? If so, go for it!
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Old August 3, 2013, 07:45 AM   #7
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Could you move to central PA and do muzzle brakes??? lol
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Old August 3, 2013, 09:42 AM   #8
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Or loudeners. I think one of my classmates is working on one for a joke. A former professional machinist (17 yrs), he can easily fabricate it too. There's only two reasons that justify such nonsense:

1) Clear the range so your buddies could shoot (I used to do the same on the pistol line with the Ruger Old Army back in my college days)
2) If you must in a self-defense situation shoot indoors, it would scare the begeesus out of the opponent (bigger muzzle flash to blind you and more muzzle flash to aim at for bad guy too).
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Old August 3, 2013, 10:20 AM   #9
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Okay, I'm not proud. What the hell is a loudener?
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Old August 3, 2013, 07:45 PM   #10
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I suspect a "loudener" won't be easy to find as they are made from unobtanium by Black Forest elves and with the Euro exchange rate just cost too much.

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Old August 3, 2013, 07:46 PM   #11
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A loudener is a muzzle brake but slightly reengineered to magnify the perceived noise. Because it directs gases to the side and slightly to the rear, it amplifies the noise and muzzle flash. This is unlike a flash suppressor that reduces the flash signature and directs some gases upward. Californians found this out when they had to install muzzle brakes in lieu of the flash suppressor (deemed an evil feature of military lookalike guns by CA state law).

Someone is actually marketing a 'Loudener" and if you search on YouTube, you'll find it.
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Old August 3, 2013, 07:58 PM   #12
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A muzzle brake really doesn't increase the sound but it does direct it back toward the shooter; the more effective it is as a brake reducing recoil, the worse it is in regard to noise. (See "You don't get something for nothing" section.)

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Old August 4, 2013, 07:11 PM   #13
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There is a large demand for precision rifle builds, but I suspect you will need to build your reputation first before thousands $$ are plunked down for such work.

I do know that the smiths that have a name in this niche, have wait times of six months to a year or longer.

Might also consider a manufacturer FFL to allow assembly of kit builds- there are some smiths that specialize in this area as well.

I think specialization is key, once you can identify a target market.

Good luck!
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Old August 4, 2013, 07:41 PM   #14
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New markets....

A few concepts & ideas I'd look at include;
Smith and Wesson M&P parts & custom work. The new Shield line is growing with the concealed carry crowd.
Id also look into joining the APG; www.americanpistol.com . That's the American Pistolsmith's Guild.
Parts & custom work for the M9 and 92/96 series pistols are rare. David Olhasso, www.Olhasso.com seems to be one of the few gifted pistol-smiths for Beretta models. Ernest Langdon was highly respected too but he left the industry to take a exec job with a major US gun maker(S&W I think).
The M9 & M9A1 has been a US military sidearm since the mid-1980s so there are 1000s out there. Parts & gunsmith tools should be available to your firm.
Id add that Cylinder & Slide; www.Cylinder-slide.com & Larry Vickers(a retired US Army spec ops trooper) are known for gunsmith classes/skill training.
Bruce Gray of Gray Guns is known for HK & SIG Sauer P series pistols. He may teach new pistolsmiths too.

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Old August 5, 2013, 03:07 PM   #15
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I live in a large metro area of well over 1,000,000 people. It is easy to find a "gunsmith" but few have actual machine shops at their disposal. Most of them seem to wish they could work only on shotguns along with the occasional scope mount job on a rifle (as long as it's a Winchester model 70).

Finding someone with pistol experience is not easy, and if you do find somebody, chances are their only auto-loader experience is with 1911s.

I've had guys tell me they couldn't put a scope mount on my rifle because they didn't have a jig for that exact model. I wouldn't let one guy do a trigger job on my Tanfoglio/EAA witness (a licensed CZ-75 clone) because he never heard of CZ pistols. Another couldn't change the sights on a pistol because he didn't have the tools to cut a new dovetail. I had to ship a pistol to Pennsylvania to get a hard-chrome job. Lots of guys will Dura-Coat or Cera-Coat but plating or bluing means shipping the gun out.

Around here it seems "machining" and "pistols" are niches.
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Old August 5, 2013, 04:51 PM   #16
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Good honest service at a fair price will bring you all the customers you can handle. All the Cerakote and paint stuff is commonplace and a lot of the guys just do it themselves at home. A person that can do a really good job of polishing and bluing is another matter and they are in demand. I know of one particular shop in Idaho that operates almost exclusively via UPS delivery and shipping. They are well known for their bluing and could probably make a living doing nothing else.
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Old August 5, 2013, 07:26 PM   #17
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Quote:
well known for their bluing and could probably make a living doing nothing else.
It's one of those things where the more you do it, the better you get, but the polishing is what makes a good blue. One should be rather well trained on a buffer before ever tackling an expensive gun, or any gun for that matter, as you can spot an amateur's work a mile off. If it doesn't look close to what the factory put out, then it's not passable. When you see them say that pits aren't removed, then that job will dramatically reduce the collector cost of the gun. Especially if it comes out of the tank looking like a kids half-sucked lollipop!
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Old August 7, 2013, 09:42 PM   #18
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There are always specialist jobs you will want to farm out, like plating and barrel boring and rifling, since there will not be enough jobs to cover the cost of the equipment.

One of the jobs I have suggested for a small shop is stock repair. Not just sticking a barreled action in a plastic stock, but repairing broken stocks or replacing stocks on, say, double barrel shotguns. Years ago, many folks cut down the stocks of military rifles to "sporterize" them; now their descendants want to restore the military look with as much of the original stock as possible. That can be a fairly profitable area once a reputation is built up of doing the job right.

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Old August 9, 2013, 10:36 PM   #19
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Hand checkering the front strap of a semi-auto pistol is a skill I would love to find in a local gunsmith.

If the same guy were a wizard on the guts of a double-action Smith & Wesson, I'd be even happier.

While I wouldn't need his work -- it sure sounds like a man who can do quality work on the inside of Colt revolvers might be a man who never has to worry about running out of work as long as his name gets out.

As for a service that would get a zillion requests and shouldn't take much time or resources... installing night sights should be advertised to every potential customer that hears your name.

Much more difficult would be to guarantee a low-cost and quick turnaround service that simply gives the average common handgun some manner of a better trigger with a lighter, smoother pull. It needn't be a match or competition trigger... but the more I come across the "average new handgun", the more I think I'm either becoming a trigger snob... or they all seem to SUCK.

My example in next post:
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Old August 9, 2013, 10:43 PM   #20
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Let me put that trigger thing another way.

I bought my nine year old daughter a Ruger SR-22. We don't get to shoot nearly as often as I'd like, but we do gun handling exercises often. I am elated and on cloud nine with her safe handling -- she never seems to make any of the common errors. Finger straight as an arrow off that trigger until she's taking aim & preparing to fire. Muzzle discipline better than most anyone you watch at a public range. Anyway, to my point. She's extremely proud of this Ruger SR-22 as it belongs to her, even though I obviously keep care of it. Any time she finds that I have a "gun" friend she's not met, she asks me if "I have shown them her pistol" It's a genuine pride of ownership thing going on.

Last time to the range was last Sunday. She put 30 rounds through her little SR-22. Single action only for the first round -- there's no possible way she'd ever succeed at pulling that DA trigger. Even with the SA, she doesn't have a lot of strength.

So... we put HER pistol down for a bit and I put my '52 Colt Challenger in her hands. You know a Woodsman trigger, yes? Well, this is the kind of trigger that a small person with little strength can manage -FAR- easier while she is also taking on the task of coming up with a sight picture and holding a steady pair of shooting hands. That Colt trigger makes shooting for her -SO- much easier than the trigger on her own pistol that she loves so much.

I could see the conflict right in her face. She just loves her pistol, because it is hers. But she could tell in one magazine (actually half -- I'm loading them to five rounds) that she' can shoot this Colt easier... because of the trigger.

I'm not expecting the kind of trigger that was shipped on a 1952 Colt on a mostly-plastic Ruger that was built in 2012. But you could HALF that stock trigger and still not be down to where the Colt is.
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Old August 11, 2013, 11:21 PM   #21
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What I would offer, and like to see offered, for gunny services:

Cleaning, Inspection of MilSurps
Front/Rear Sights
Scope Mounting
MilSurp Restoration
Stock Bedding
Action Polish
Tank Blueing
Stock Repairs
FFL Transfers
Reloading tools
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Old August 12, 2013, 08:13 AM   #22
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The key is good service and doing the jobs properly.
A customer must have confidence in what the gunsmith is doing for him.
I once took an old rifle to a 'gunsmith' to have him make a replacement leaf spring for me. He just gave me a blank stare. He didn't have a clue what to do.
Another, actually told to me by the 'gunsmith' who did it, put a very high dollar English double shotgun into a hot blueing tank separating the barrels. He reduced the value of that shotgun from about $50,000.00 to $50.00.
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Old August 14, 2013, 08:34 PM   #23
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Great customer service and good luck with your business
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Old August 14, 2013, 08:44 PM   #24
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"The key is good service and doing the jobs properly."

AND ON TIME. In other words, ready when promised. Sure, there will be times when a parts supplier is slow, or whatever, but try to give a good time estimate and stick to it. If you are backed up, it is better not to take more work than to keep making excuses for the delay on the ones you have.

Since you are school trained, you might be able to take on an apprentice to do the semi-skilled work, like putting on recoil pads or installing scopes on rifles that are already drilled and tapped.

Also learn to turn down jobs that will be nothing but problems and money-losers, like worn out old break top revolvers. Be polite but firm - you don't work on those, period.

Jim
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Old August 15, 2013, 12:32 PM   #25
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Quote:
AND ON TIME. In other words, ready when promised. Sure, there will be times when a parts supplier is slow, or whatever, but try to give a good time estimate and stick to it. If you are backed up, it is better not to take more work than to keep making excuses for the delay on the ones you have.
I only have but a bit of experience in using the service of a gunsmith, but given the experience we most often read about... it would seem that being on time and/or speedy would be far, far, FAR outside the norm in this business.

Of course, being "on time" could certainly be quoting a 10-month turnaround and delivering the firearm at 9.75 months, but it just doesn't seem like this is a "quick" service industry.
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