View Full Version : Hapless Victim of "Gunsmith Time" Needs Help

August 19, 1999, 06:51 AM
This is my first post, so forgive me if the effort's a bit wobbly.

I've sent two handguns out to two gunsmiths for action work. Both 'smiths are among the best around. (Most of you would know their names.) The first told me the work would take one month. Ok, fine. Nice guy, great to talk to. Called him a little after the first month to see where we were. He said the work was done, just needed to testfire it, and I'd probably have it within the week. Wrong. I called a few weeks later and left a polite message to let me know what had happened: did the gun ship? Lost? No answer. Called some weeks later. Same message, same response: none. That was two days ago. It's now three months since the gun shipped‹two months overdue. Am I picky, or is something wrong here?

Second 'smith (really, I'll try to keep this one shorter) has had this pistol for about three months as well. He never gave me a definite delivery date, but just seems to be waiting to squeeze it in somewhere. A few calls haven't produced anything. His assistant told me he was very busy cutting some new barrels and would try to get to it and...At least he's within driving distance. I plan to go pick it up and forget the whole thing. I'm high and dry on the first one.

I would've liked to use these guys a lot. They're both in-state, saving me some FFL hassles. They both have great reputations. There are not many good gunsmiths in my area, or the state.

Is this normal? Is there such a thing as "gunsmith time?" Can you give me advice on how to proceed with these guys? I don't want to get them ticked off, just want the work done and the guns back.

I'd like to hear from those on both sides of the workbench. Any anecdotes to add?

Your help is much appreciated. I'm going to go take my blood pressure medicine now.

George Stringer
August 19, 1999, 07:46 AM
DeadCalm, I think the no reply from the first gunsmith is unforgiveable. You should always answer someone's query. The customer has a right to know the status of his job, it's good business and it's just plain polite. The second guy may just be so backed up that he hasn't got to your gun yet. Before just picking it up and maybe waiting another month for another gunsmith to get to it, you might want to just talk to him and find out when he thinks he'll get to it. I normally tell someone that my turnaround time is 6 to 8 weeks. One instance in particular happened to me this past spring. Things slowed down a little and my turnaround time dropped to what I estimated at 4 weeks. A gentleman e-mailed about having some custom work done on a Defender and that was the time frame I gave him. I received his pistol about a week later May 4th but by the time his arrived 20+ others has shown up ahead of him. That automatically pushed his return back a couple more weeks and on top of that he wanted the pistol chromed. I don't do that and had to send the gun to an associate. Well he was backed up too. By the time all was said and done 2-1/2 months had gone by. I shipped the pistol to him on July 23rd. Sometimes things happen that we aren't expecting. In my own case, being a one man shop, dealing with walk-in customers takes a lot of time away from the bench, not to mention the phone. Now from the other side of the bench I'll tell you what gets my red up. You'll get a gun in for repair, etc. and tell the customer how long you estimate it will take to get to it and get it done. He calls every three or four days asking about it (that part doesn't bother me) and then when you notify him it's ready it takes him weeks to come by, pick it up and pay for it. One example of about 15 that are waiting to be paid for right now: I reblued a revolver for guy. I told him when he dropped it off that it would be at least 6 weeks before I got it done. After 3 weeks passed he called every other day asking if it were done. This is no exageration. I finished his bluing job about a week before I had promised and contacted him. That was 3 weeks ago and the pistol is still sitting here. So, I guess it works both ways at times. George

Walt Welch
August 19, 1999, 04:24 PM
Do you by chance live in AZ? If so, there is specific info about a certain gunsmith I can provide you with.

He gave me an estimate of 3-4 months, and it took 11 months to build a new pistol. His work was such that the thumb safety was unsafe, and I had to send it to another gunsmith for correction.

Having been through this experience, and some even worse (one gunsmith simply went out of business and never accounted for the two guns I had sent him, and never returned them. The ATF couldn't care less, BTW.), I urge patience, and an e-mail about once a month. Stay friendly, and don't press for an exact date. Most gunsmiths are interested in keeping their customers happy. Really.


August 19, 1999, 04:43 PM
Many moons ago, I had a Ruger MkII at a local `smith, who I met at an area gun and knife show, getting it tuned and a adjustable aftermarket trigger installed. No problemo, not a big job, was told 2-1/2 to 3 weeks with his then-current backlog.

At 2-1/2 weeks, he calls to let me know that the trigger had a problem, and after his usual trigger job, wasn't safe. I was told that this particular trigger was probably right on the edge of factory specs, and he admitted he should have checked it first.

He informed me that two of his regular sources were backordered on the type of trigger he originally installed, but he would order a better trigger, have it overnighted to him, eat the cost difference, and have my MkII ready within a week, if that was okay with me. "Um, it's no big deal, really, but sure, whatever you think is fair."

I've owned this Ruger for about 15 years now, it still shoots great, and I sure miss that old coot. He passed away about 9 or 10 years ago.

His secrets to the many friends and customers (he considered all his customers friends) was his honesty, his communication, and his willingness to satisfy a good faith deal. They hardly make `em like that anymore. :(

Don LeHue

The pen is mightier than the sword...outside of arms reach. Modify radius accordingly for rifle.

Jim V
August 19, 1999, 08:58 PM
I have been lucky with gunsmiths for about 22 years, I have been going to the same one for my gun work. He is a prince on getting stuff out. Prior to finding him ,I had the bad luck to have work done by some smiths that were ungodly slow, four months for a blueing job on a 1911 (said it would be no longer than a month with his back log), and three months to have S&W sights installed on the same 1911 (different smith than the blueing job).

I have worked in my current gunsmith's shop, taking care of customers, answering 'phones, etc while he has been working on guns. One of my jobs was to call people after their requested work was done. Then sending a follow up postal card, after 30 days, reminding them the work was done and then sending the last postal card stating that if the work was not picked up within 15 days the gun would be parted out. Just about no one allowed that to happen. We would get people telling us that they really did not have room to keep their rifles, etc so they decided to leave it with the shop until they needed it, as if ANY gunsmith has lots of room to store stuff for customers.

Ne Conjuge Nobiscum
"If there be treachery, let there be jehad!"

James K
August 19, 1999, 10:31 PM
Great post, George. You are absolutely right about demand for fast work being followed by slow or no pay.

It is getting harder and harder to find a good gunsmith. Too many are simply not competent even to install a scope on a factory drilled and tapped rifle. The few good ones are very busy and unable to get competent help. A reminder: The guy who is talking to you so nicely on the phone is NOT doing any work on your gun or anyone else's.

One aspect of the problem is that the gun zines (and forums like this) have convinced every shooter that every gun has to have something done to it to look right or feel right or work right. I often hear or read something like "My gun works fine, but my buddy says he read that it needs....and I should send it to...."

When I ask why have work done that doesn't need to be done, the answer boils down to "I have the money and having ... would be so cool..."

Anyone want to bet I get a "flame" like that in reply to this posting.


August 20, 1999, 10:34 AM
To add my $0.02 to Jim's post, I personally can't see spending money to get something fixed that isn't broken--after all, guns cost enough money in the first place. FWIW, my rule is to keep my guns as "factory" as possible. If something goes wrong, I let the factory take care of it, figuring that the factory knows--or at any rate ought to know--more about the gun than anybody else.

I think that the right time for a gunsmith is when the factory can't help. This usually involves a gun older than the factory will repair any more, a definite custom need, or a problem that the factory can't solve.


[This message has been edited by jimmy (edited August 23, 1999).]