Ramblings of a Retired Gunsmith



One sign that we had prominently displayed was "A EMERGENCY ON YOUR PART, DOES NOT NECESSIARILY MAKE A EMERGENCY ON OUR PART".  This did a pretty good job of slowing down the bad customer attitude.


Another good one that should always be there is "LABOR $65 AN HOUR, BUT FOR YOU TO BE MOVED TO THE FRONT OF THE LINE $120" as this gives the customer a chance to get his firearm worked on sooner.  In circumstances like this, the gunsmith will usually do these repairs after hours, thereby not effecting his regular customers repairs that are "WAITING".


One of the first things I look for when entering a "gunsmiths lair"  is what kind of a reference library does he have?  A repair shop with no books or manuals is like a house without windows.


A problem I see nowdays is that it would be very hard for a modern gunsmith to survive in the modern world as a full time gunsmith unless he had a secondary income, like maybe even two retirements.  Most modern guns are fast approaching the aspect of being "Throw Aways" if something breaks.  By this, you now see so much mass produced parts made of plastic/Nylon and stamped out metal parts with composition stocks.  A machinist can not repair plastic, and if the trigger assembly is made of stamped parts AND riveted together so it can not be even made adjustable (remember the liability situation).   And with modern machinery where you can purchase a new Savage 110 series bolt action rifle with a 3X9 scope for under $350 from Cabela's on their credit card, and these mass merchandisers buy in such a volume, they can do a DEEP DISCOUNT on a firearm, hoping you will come in and also buy their expensive clothing. 


That taken into account where a contoured barrel blank costs the gunsmith over $150, this leaves little room for a gunsmith to rebuild a old Mauser 98 action much less restock it.  Not taken into account the costs involved in setting up a well equipped shop.


Even if you attend a gunsmithing vocational trade school, and are very computer literate, there is not much you can do to generate a living.   Remember you are essentially an apprentice.  I have known many in this situation and after a few screw ups, or an exuberant fee trying to sight in a customer's gun (and never accomplishing it), word gets around FAST, and they usually simply shift to using the training as their own expensive hobby.  You could specialize, BUT in doing so, then YOU then have to be the EXPERT, but without the experience to back it up.

At gunshows I see it all the time, a newcomer gunsmith shows up, spreads his trade samples out, but is working out of his house where the only way to find it so far back in the boonies is to Google the location.  Usually these enterprising gunsmiths don't last long as their labor price is what the schools recommended, remember the schools have to portray a expected good income.  In my day, I did not charge more than I would have expected to pay if I had hired the work done.   Also I did not charge the customer for MY learning experiences. Then there is the ones who think they are so smart, tries to impress everyone, but sticks both feet in his mouth at once. 


One that stands out was the table owner had a 30-40 Krag rifle advertised as a Craig, where maybe this is the first one he ever saw, he just did not know or his spell checker did not have Krag entered.  Or they may just attend shows to BULLSHIT with a old friend, ignoring people actually looking at merchandise.  I can not begin to count how many times I have finally just moved on.  Then there are the ones that do not price their displayed items, where they must have to have one hell of a memory.


Nomenclature ;   Ask any gunsmith that has been in business for even a limited number of years what their "Pet Peeve" is.  You will probably get them started in conversations that could take days to cover completely.


Many times just because a human is born with testicles does not mean that they are as smart as they think they usually are.  Some more so than others.  And those seem to be the ones that will always try to impress their vast knowledge onto others.  Some of them also must also have cotton in their ears, because you can tell them how things are, or will be, but they do not listen/understand.  Don't confuse me with facts, my mind is made up.  Probably very akin much to most politicians.


Many times a gunsmith will hear is, "My rejecter does not work".    Well first off, there is no rejecter on any firearm.  Ejector, usually, but no rejecter.  There is also usually an extractor.  Most of the time, Duct Tape can not fix STUPID.


To make any kind of a firearm function, especially a repeater, the EXTRACTOR pulls the fired case out of the chamber and the EJECTER helps throw it out and away from the receiver so the next round will chamber.  This operation needs both of these components to perform that required task, unless you use a crochet hook and do it all manually.


In the gun repair industry, component parts all have a name and to be able to identify what a customer who has no comprehension of firearm nomenclature and is referring to, sometimes can get interesting.  Then to compound the situation, each manufacturer can have a different name for the same part.  OK, a barrel is pretty well defined.  Grips for pistols are usually "grips", but some will be called "stocks".  Again for revolvers, the pawl (the part that rotates the cylinder) can also be called a lifter or ratchet, even a hand by some companies.  It seems the the newer manufacturers (like Ruger) are the ones most commonly found to use different names than the old line companies like Colt or S&W.  


Some firing pins are called a striker.  Hammer springs could also called main springs or striker springs.  And Winchester uses the nomenclature for the model 70 of guard bow for what others simply call a trigger guard.   Some cartridge lifters are also called carriers.


So you can see that there is built in confusion just to start with on some things, especially when you get into imported firearms, either Japanese or European.


Brother-in-Law Did it ;  Gunsmiths often see some DIYE (Do It Yourself Endeavors) that are just plain dumb and could be very dangerous to boot.  However the guy who brings it in is never the one that has done these "repairs".  He is either bringing it in for a friend, but usually he loaned it to his brother-in-law.  He will NEVER admit that he did it, however he usually seems to have way more knowledge about the situation than if he had actually just loaned it out.


Actual Experiences in Over 50 years of Gunsmithing; 


(1) The first day of local deer hunting season, my son and I took off and went hunting (a rare occasion for a gunsmith).  When we returned the gunsmith we left at the shop was laughing and volunteered to work every opening day of season after that.  It seems that this hunter shows up with an economical converted military 30-40 Krag bolt action rifle that would not feed ammo from the magazine.  My gunsmith inspected the gun, but did not find anything wrong, EXCEPT the hunter had the magazine cut off in the ON position.  The hunter supplied the ammo, my gunsmith stepped outside the side door, loaded it in the magazine and with the safety on, but by holding the gun so the hunter could not really see, flipped the magazine cut off to OFF.  He then proceeded to cycle all the rounds onto the lawn.  The hunter looked astonished.  The gunsmith reloaded the magazine and handed the gun to the hunter, Here you try it" only in the process, the gunsmith placed the cut off back to ON.


The hunter of course then could not get the gun to feed, but the gunsmith had proven it worked.  The hunter handed it back to the gunsmith, who by slight of hand again moved the cut off to OFF, and proceeded to empty the magazine.


This procedure repeated itself for a couple more times until the gunsmith, felt ashamed of himself and finally told the hunter what that ON/OFF lever was really a magazine cut off instead of a safety lever.


(2)  One weekend in mid winter, I was working on a Flintlock muzzleloader rifle.  Not much going on that day and I was trying to get this economy rifle to fire.  The frizzen was not hard enough for the flint to produce enough sparks to ignite the black powder in the pan.  I had removed the frizzen and tried to harden it with Casenite, (a process where you heat the metal red hot, quench it in the Casenite powdered compound), let it soak 20 seconds or so and then quench the hot metal and compound into cold water.


The first hardening did not get it hard enough to produce sparks all the time, so a second round was done.


I reinstalled the frizzen into the sidelock, reinstalled it on the gun and poured some FFFG powder in the pan, cocked it and POOF, it seemed to be working now.   OK the real proof would be would it ignite powder in the barrel?  I powered some FFG powder in the barrel and the phone rang.  At this same time a customer stopped by.  He spotted the musket in the back and walked right into my shop area (he was a muzzle loader shooter).  While I was on the phone, he asked what I was doing to it, between the phone conversation, I mentioned hardened the frizzen.


As I turned around to hang the phone up, BANG.  This guy just happened to be a flintlocker and was carrying a priming flask containing FFFG in his hip pocket.  He had primed the pan, holding the gun away and toward the wall/window, cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger.  I had gotten it right that time.  There was no ball in the barrel, but that course blackpowder, at the range of maybe 3 feet, sure killed the deer on the front of the calendar behind my workbench, then broke and blew the window pane glass out. 


Who in the hell would have thought this guy would have done a thing like this?  He apologized and quickly left the shop.  It was the middle of November and cold outside.  I cut enough out of a cardboard box, covered the broken window and taped the cardboard in place.


On this guys trip back home from town, he stopped and offered to pay for a new window pane.


A mutual friend and ex-employee stopped by a week later and I related the incident.    A plan was hatched.  I took a cardboard box about 6"X10"X14", put some old newspaper in the bottom 3/4s, then the blasted deer calendar photo AND a lot of broken glass on top.  This was all wrapped up so there was no noise if was shook.   It and it just so happened that a group of men gathered at a local cafe in his area for coffee and donuts every Saturday morning.  The week before Christmas this mutual friend took this box was presented to the flintlocker at their cafe rendezvous.


Boy was his face red when he opened it.  Then to top that off, word spread in the muzzle loader circles and a couple of months later this flintlocker entered a shoot off in a small town 50 miles away.  At the end of the day when the awards were presented, his name was called.  He pranced forward to collect his trophy.  However this was something different.  He was presented 1st prize in Wisner's Annual window shoot, of which was a surprise to me as well.  But we all got a good laugh when we found out "The rest of the story".


(3) One evening a good number of years ago when we first got started gunsmithing, it was a WARM summer evening and we were about to close the shop.  In drives Bob, he and his black lab come in the open front door.  As he was talking, the lab walks over to our pistol sales counter, raises his leg and waters the down the edge of the display counter.  My wife's jaw dropped.  She turned, went into the house, returning with a bucket of warm soapy water, mop and scrub brush.  She sets it down by the dog near where his marking occurred, saying "it is your dog, you clean it up".


My remembrance is that Bob never showed back again.


(4) At about the same time, when we first set up the shop on the highway, we installed a motion detector in the upper corner of the showroom.  Everything went fine for a few months and then occasionally the siren would go off in the middle of the night.   Me in my PJs and trusty Colt would inspect everything.  No evidence of any break-in nor anything out of place inside the building.   However occasionally it would recur. 


After MANY false alarms, one night about 2 AM after another false alarm, I happened to be close to the alarm and looked up.  There was 2 or 3 mosquitoes bobbing around in front of the motion detector.  What was happening here apparently was on some of these warm summer afternoons, we would open the front door.  This motion detector apparently was putting off high frequency output that attracted the mosquitoes and they were what was setting off the alarm.  I could never determine why it was always about 2 AM.


(5) The first year we had the retail store along with the gunsmithing, we also were WDFW sales agent for hunting licenses.  One morning the day of opening deer season, at 2 AM our home phone rang, (same number as the shop then) the guy on the other end sounded as if he had just closed a tavern.  He wanted to know if we sold hunting licenses?  My blurry eyes and numb mind that time of the morning, I said "HELL NO, what makes you think we are open now".  "Well, someone told me you stayed open all night during hunting season".


And to think he may buy a hunting license AND go hunting, kind of makes a person consider taking up playing Golf or even Ping Pong.


(6) With our retail store also a WDFW sales agent for hunting licenses, the afternoon/evening before season opened, we were always swamped right up to closing time and then some, so stayed open till everyone was on their way.


This night was no different, with lots of hunters getting licenses, ammo and picking up repaired firearms.  I was at the counter and this middle aged man walked up to the counter.  He was looking at the ammo shelf which we had behind the counter.  I asked if there was a particular caliber he was looking for.  He said "yes, do you have any 28 ga. shotgun shells".  I reached behind me and picked up 2 boxes, set them on the counter in front of him and asked him which do you want, size 6 or 7 1/2 shot.  His jaw dropped, -- "Well I am not sure what I have at home, so will come back later".    Yah Sure.  He in reality was trying to show up a new small town gunshop with a request for ammo that he was sure I would not have in stock, and in front of a bunch of other hunters.  Well, his plan backfired. 


I asked him what brand a gun he had, his low voiced comment was Iver Johnson, which was a OLD single shot.  What I found out later, he was the principle of a small school in the next valley.  Also what he had no way of knowing, is that I had given my daughter a 28 ga. Remington model 870, so I was well aware of the rareish cartridge.  Since most hunters never heard of one, he was sure he would put egg on my face.


(7) This will be one of those who appeared to think he knew it all.  He brought in a S&W 357 Magnum model 19 that was hard to extract.  This model was the lightest 357 made at the time, partly because the model 19 just had a cylinder a bit longer that the model 14 which was a 38 Special (considerably less power) With heavy reloads in this 357, bulged chambers were somewhat common, as compared to the larger, thicker walls of the model 28 cylinder again in 357 caliber, which stood up better under abuse.


Upon inspection two of the cylinder notches were bulged, (blown out a few thousandths), evidence of an overload.  No, it could not be, as he was a commercial reloader for a law enforcement agency and was only using 38 Special brass, and he only used the best data available.  For those not in the know, a 357 Magnum case is the same diameter as the 38 Special only about 1/8" longer, where the 38s are often used for practice in a 357. 


To top it off, he needed the gun by the week-end.  OK, I made a forming punch the size and shape of the cylinder notch and swaged these 2 notches back to SOMEWHAT close.  He was informed that the pistol would have to go back to the factory for cylinder replacement as this "repair" was not going to last long since the metal was already stretched.


OK a couple of months later, he shows up with the pistol to be shipped to the factory for this cylinder replacement.  The gun was sent off, and returned in a few weeks.  It was then returned to the owner with the instructions to not overload it.  His response was that he could not be overloading as all the ammo that was being fired out of it was his 38 Special target reloads.


Six months later he is again, but mad at S&W because of their defective gun.  This time the whole frame top strap including the complete rear sight was missing along with 1/2 of the cylinder, split lengthwise.


This time, I had done some research and asked his reloading data, which was 2.8 grains of Bullseye powder under a 148 grain lead wad-cutter bullet.  OK, that was a recommended load.  Then I asked how he was shooting the gun, was it a target mode, like standing and aiming a a stationary bullseye target OR was he pulling the gun from the holster and firing instinctively at a man sized defensive type target?  He was fast drawing, and from the holster.   BINGO.


What was happening was, yes he had a light target load, but if he was firing as normally would have been when target shooting, the gun was usually held on the firing line, with the muzzle pointing in a safe position (straight up in the air).  Then on the command to fire, the gun would be brought down and firing would take place with the gun being held and sighted at the target.


However in his fast draw circumstance, where the gun was holstered and drawn, fired instinctively (no aiming) in rapid succession as in a defensive situation, things are different.


What was happening with the fast burning powder that he was using, (where the capacity of the cartridge case being 10 times this powder charge), is that under normal bullseye type shooting, when the muzzle was pointed up, this position positioned all the powder at the bottom rear of the then vertical case.  When the gun was lowered to normal a shooting position, the primer ignited the powder resting inside and near the rear of the case.  Everything functioned fine.  BUT when using a fast draw from the holster, the powder inside the case was spread out the length of the cavity behind the bullet and probably with most forward near the base of the bullet.  This primer flash now ignited the whole quantity of powder instantaneously instead of progressively, creating a whole new ball game and a lot more pressure.


He did not like what I told him as he wanted S&W to give him a new gun.  But I had documentation that he could not discredit.  What he needed to do was to change powders to a slower burning powder using about double the amount to create the same velocity, but the inside of the case would be fuller, not allowing the primer flash over the whole inside.


After that incident, when we would get those 3 shot open topped models in, where the customer was upset, I could tell them the exact powder and charge they were using AND the method of shooting they were using without even asking.  This seemed to slow them down to a stumbling, jaw dropping stall.


(8) While we are on the above subject, here is another similar story.  This local guy owned a S&W model 28,  357 revolver that he was reloading for it by sharing the reloading equipment with a buddy.  He got a job in Oregon and was there for a few years.  One week-end he shows up with the 3 shot open top model as described above.  Will S&W fix it.  I asked what powder he was using and the load.  OK, the load looked fine, so I then asked how he measured his powder.  He went home and brought in his powder measure.  I poured in the same kind of powder in the hopper, threw a charge and weighed it.  About double of what it should have been.  Upon more inquiries, I found that when he left for Oregon the two partners split the reloading equipment.  He got the powder measure and the partner got the powder scale.  For those of you who do not reload, the scale is used to weigh the powder, then SET the measure, throw a charge, weigh it and again possibly reset the measure to coincide with the needed weight.  He apparently was the assistant in this partnership and after the split, not reading the manuals, he ASSUMED that the reference numbers on the measure meant grains of powder instead of just a reference number, once the charge was set.


In talking to his wife later, he went in to a shop in Oregon, wanting reloading supplies, the shop owner was hesitant as this was a new customer to him.  This shop owner would not sell components until the customer assured him that he had reloaded before and had the proper equipment.


OK, the reloading took place, and in the back yard to test fired his handiwork.  His wife came out the back door, Bob, that was really loud, are you sure you did it right?   "Go back in the house woman I know what I'm doing".  Well to the credit of S&W, this model 28 withstood another round before it blew the top of the cylinder off on the third shot.


And 20 years later, he threw his hat in the ring for a local political office.


(9) S&W was not the only handgun that was afflicted by this 3 shot -open top model as seen in the photo below of this Colt Anaconda 44 Magnum.


The owner swore that only the Winchester ammo accompanying the gun was used in it.  On inspection at their factory, Olin (Winchester's ammo facility) said no, that it was the firearm's failure.  Colt said NO, it was the ammo manufacturer. 


We never did learn the outcome of this one.  It could have even been a overloaded reload, but presented with a partial box of factory ammo.


Colt Anaconda 44 Magnum paper weight


(10) Fire damaged firearms are seen quite often.  The ones that can be repaired without any metal damage are where the damage is mostly smoke and water.  This particular instance was not much different than others where there were 6 or 8 guns ranging from pistols to a shotgun and a couple of rifles.  I asked what they had done with them after the fire as it was a couple of weeks later when I saw them.  They were sprayed down with WD40, OK maybe that was enough to salvage a few.  These were essentially water/smoke damage as the stocks did clean up.


In the reblueing process all of the parts are disassembled, cleaned, polished, dipped in boiling blueing solution fro the required time to impart a black oxide finish and the flushed in cold water to stop the corrosiveness of the blueing chemicals.  Then all are put back together.  If the stocks needed to be refinished that was also done.


When I do fire damaged guns like this, I would always fire a couple of rounds through the gun before I gave it back to the customer.  This in my mind sort of cleaned out the bore more than with just a wire brush on a ramrod, which was also done.


I had just finished putting together all of this customers guns when he walked in the door.  He lived an hour away, and if they were ready he would pick them up.  Well, YES and NO, I had not fired them yet.  He said he would do that.  I was adamant that he do it ASAP to be sure to get it clean before there was time for any crud to harden.  OK, he would do it as soon as he got home.


Three weeks later he shows up with one of these reblued guns, a Remington model 700.  He said he finally got around to firing the cleanup shots, ??? but could not get the bolt open after he fired it.  He had the bolt handle in his other hand, broken completely off the bolt body.  He knew that I had reassembled it improperly.  I asked how that happened, his comment that he used a hammer to open it and the handle fell off, what did I do to his gun?


OK after he left, I removed the stock, and with the barreled action on one hand, yes the bolt was immovable, I removed the bolt stop, to see what may have had anything to do with holding it.  In the process I pushed the safety off, the bolt fell out of the action.  This version of that model had a safety that would not allow you to open the bolt in the safe position.  He apparently after firing, had moved the safety to ON, locking the bolt into the receiver.


(11) Not to run down one man, but this instance is from the same guy above.   He brought in a Remington model 700 in 25-06 caliber, with the bolt stuck tight after firing.  After much work, I got the action open and using a length of special sized drill rod that just went inside the bore, hammered out the fired case.  Guess what, the headstamp said 308 Winchester.    This round is shorter overall than the 25-06, but with a larger bullet AND by forcing the bolt handle down on this tight combination, it will move the bullet back inside the cartridge case enough to allow it to chamber.  That 30 caliber bullet must have been long and skinny going out of a 25 caliber barrel.  And yes, he said it kicked like hell.


He learned from the first incident and did not use a hammer this time.  Oh, by the way he was the same guy in #7  and #10 above.


(12) Muzzle brakes are a great thing in reducing recoil of high powered rifles.  They can be added to the muzzle of most rifles and do effectively reduce recoil, however there is a accompanying muzzle blast.  Most of these devices are a round cylinder with a hole about .015" over the bore diameter of the firearm and with numerous holes drilled from the outside in a radial fashion.   This dissipates the muzzle gasses away and OUT, not rearward as normal.


In shooting with these devises in place, it is recommended for target practice to wear hearing protection.  For hunting, you are in a more open environment and the noise may not be as bad, especially if you are drawing down on a game animal.


Most of these devises have the holes all the way around the brake (360 degrees), which can create a mini dust storm if you fire it prone in a sandy, fine dirt situation.


This one experience that stands out in my mind, was a middle aged many (ex-town cop) who was shooting a 300 Weatherby Magnum and drove a Chevy Luv pickup.  When I turned the finished product to him, I warned him not to shoot off the hood of his pickup as I had seen big dents in the hood and even blown out windshields.  OK, he would remember that.


A week later, he sheepishly came into the shop, saying, remember your warning me to not shoot off my hood?  Yes.  Well, I took your advise but used the top of my pickup's aluminum canopy instead.  Now he has a permanent birdbath there.


(13) My wife was my book-keeper and counter person at times.  This time a customer came in to pick up his repaired rifle.  He asked if his 7mm Remington Magnum was done.  Her response was "What make is it"?  "I said REMINGTON" was his defiant response, her's "Sir you are giving me a caliber not a make or model".   It got a almost hostile there for a bit and he started looking in our rack for his gun, as the wife took his claim stub and found his Browning BAR 7mm Remington Magnum caliber.


No response from him at all.  Dumb woman, doesn't know anything, was probably on the tip of his tongue until she proved him wrong.


(14) My wife always helped take inventory at the end of the year.  We pretty well did the same areas year after year, except when one of us got behind.  The following year I came on an item from the previous year that I could not identify.  Stop Squeeks she had written in from the previous year.  I could not identify this item for a couple of years, until I happened to take a good look at the small spray cans of WD-40.  In big bold letters above the WD-40 were the words "Stop Squeeks".


(15) Before Christmas one year a young man from a small neighboring town shows up with a crudely sporterized 1917 Enfield in 30-06.  About 6" of the nuzzle was missing, and what was left there kind of looked like a crude bayonet.  This young man was not known for being a bright scholar, but more like a poacher as he had run ins with the law previously.


I got out of him that he was poaching one COLD night and when he fired, it kicked hard and lots of fire in front.  He did not hit the deer and when he reloaded, took aim, he could not find the front sight, (which was totally gone).


He remembered that one of his young nephews was playing with color crayons and his gun was standing in the corner.  Maybe so???


OK, I happened to have a used military barrel that I installed and he was a happy camper.


(16) I got to where I was rebarreling a considerable number of rifles.  I had perfected my procedure quite well.  I had a large enough lathe, a 14" X 40" and used a dial indicator to measure the depth of the chamber reaming.  I did not use the tailstock as a rear reamer support, but squared my tool post holder which was dial centered to the lathe chuck.  And I used a floating reamer holder.  I would ream to where I was about 1/4" from the final location, run a headspace gauge in, take a measurement to the base of the shoulder and then use the dial indicator mounted by a magnet to the bed and against the cross slide.  This way I could ream .050", then back the reamer out and clean the chips off, re-oil it, then slide it back and do another .050".  When I got close, I would only take .010 and check the gauge.  With this rigid lathe, and my experience, I could cut the chamber right to within a few thousandths, allowing for spring when tightening and I was there.  Test-fire, stamp caliber and ready to reblue.


A good friend of mine's son-in-law made a statement to him that I was not a good gunsmith because when I rebarreled a rifle, that I never put any witness marks on the barrel.  That apparently was his determination of a GOOD GUNSMITH.


The next time I had a chance to converse with this professed expert, I asked him why he did not like my rebarreling.  He was frank with a response of "No witness marks".   My comment was that if a gunsmith was good enough to install a barrel and did not need to remove it in the process's final pass, there was no need for witness marks.  Witness marks are only put on a sporter barrel if you have to take it off and then reinstall it to align the iron sights.  Military barrels are made mass produced and chambered to tolerances as well as the receiver.  In fitting one of these, the sights have to be aligned, hence the witness marks.  If you install iron sights on a sporter, that is done AFTER everything else is complete, but if no sights are on the barrel, even if it was reinstalled a fraction of a degree off, it would still be within tolerances and not noticeable.


He never said a word and found something he needed to do elsewhere.  And I never saw him again.


(17) One night just before closing time, my pistolsmith and I were working, getting ready to close.  In walks this middle aged man, and asks the then counterman for some 32 pistol ammo.  Which 32 ammo, there are at least 3 or 4.  The guy does not know as he just bought the gun used, so he goes back to his car and brings in a holstered pistol.  He proceeds  to pull out a Colt 1903 pocket automatic out.  He must have had some instructions a he pulls the slide back and lets it go, then pulls the magazine out.


I was in the back, but watching.  This guy had his back to me at the time.  BANG.  He is just standing there in a daze, the counterman, looking on with his mouth open.  He had an AD (Accidental Discharge) in the store.  If the response was any different than what I saw then, this guy would have had a Colt Detective Special screwed into his right ear, compliments of me.


The gun's chamber WAS empty, but after pulling the slide back and letting it go, this chambered a round from the loaded magazine.  He must have then pulled the trigger.    If he would have dropped the magazine first then pulled the slide back, everything would have been OK.


He was holding the gun pointing slightly downward, the bullet hit the bottom round pipe of our rotating bookrack and bounced onto the floor.  Otherwise it would have went right out through a 8' square front window.


Yes, we had 32 ACP ammo, and yes we had some that he bought, but before he left my pistolsmith gave him some instruction on firearm functioning, and a sheepish man went home.


(18) We had our new guns along the wall behind the sales counter, but had our used guns in a floor rack directly in front of the gunsmith receiving counter.  We began to have used scopes missing off these used guns.  After a 3X9 Leupold with mount rings disappeared off a custom consignment rifle, my counterman and I simultaneously thought of the same guy.  This guy appeared to never have any money, yet came in regularly, struck up a conversation, but never really bought anything.  We thought maybe he was just killing time for some reason.


OK, I installed a TV camera and VCR recorder pointing to the used gun rack.  However the quality of the video was far from good.  One day I saw him come in, I left my work bench in the back of the shop and went upstairs to my wife's desk area where the camera was located.  When I peeked over the railing, I was looking right in to the eyes of this guy who was kneeling down in front of (behind the used gun rack from my crew who were not be able to see him).  He quit coming in after that.


(19) We had a good counterman who was well acquainted with firearm usage for different types of people.  We had put on numerous firearm seminars which were very complete including NRA certification for over 700 men and women.  We saw a number of men / husbands bring in a woman and say, "She wants that pistol".  Many times this would be a semi-auto that the woman could not even grip the slide well enough to cock/load the gun.  Or the grips were way too large and she could not hold it.  If the gun is to be used for personal protection, you need to have a powerful enough one, yet small enough to be able to carry concealed and one that fits your hand.   


This day a young lady comes in and was interested in a handgun.  It just so happened a man also came in about that time and was near the handgun counter.   My counterman asked her needs and experience, was then showing her different makes/models/calibers.  This man moved right in, offering his advice, totally contrary to what my salesman was offering.  My wife, from her desk on the balcony, observed this goings on and came downstairs, walked over to the pistol counter and asked the man if she could help him.  No, but, "He was helping this young lady".  "Are you with her"?  "No".  Then she told him, "Sir, I think our salesman is very competent enough to find the right pistol for this young lady".


His response was "Well, I will never be back here again".  Well, that was the first time that we had ever seen him anyway.


(20) In our first full time shop in a converted garage next to our house, we had racks for our guns along one wall.  The upper rack had a 12" wide carpeted shelf where the guns sat on.  We also had a very tame housecat that thought she owned the place.  She would jump up and sleep amongst the rifle gunstocks.  More than one customer became quite surprise when that furball moved.


(21) Many times we would get salespersons call and want to talk to the owner.  This day the salesman asked for "Ed, the owner".  My counterman hollered out to the shop in the back, is Ed there?  No Ed.  My name is LeeRoy.  The salesman said he would call back. 


After a Alaskan hunting trip I had a Caribou head mounted, which with our ceiling a normal 8', this Caribou head was lower than normal.  For some reason this mounted Caribou head became known as Ed.  He was now the mascot and owner for all salesmen, but after that, Ed was never available to talk to them, he couldn't.


(22) In my years of gunsmithing, I developed a simple method of shortening rifle barrels and re-crowning them.  My business was large at that time, being the largest gunsmith shop on the west coast with a crew of 4 gunsmiths plus myself.  We had a few "Wantabe" gunsmiths around.  One day a somewhat occasional customer brought in a moderately heavy barreled Mauser model 98 barreled receiver only, wanting the barrel cut from 26" to 24".  His "Gunsmith" was also with him, who told me that he did not have a lathe in his shop large enough to do the job.  OK, now is the time to teach him a lesson. 

Normally we would have him leave the gun, but today I had a mission.  I took the gun, asked if he had time to wait a few minutes, and before they could answer, headed for the bandsaw.  I cut 2" off, then took it to the bandsander and by rotating it at 90 degrees to the platen, squared the muzzle, then at a slight angle, beveled the outer edge again on the bandsander as I rotated the barrel evenly by hand.  Then I went to my workbench, which I had mostly hid from the front customer counter.  Next to my bench we had a  6' tall double doored metal cabinet that the customer could only see one edge of.  I opened the cabinet door on the seeable side, retrieved my 1/2" carbide crowning ball that was inserted into a speed type handle.  I did not want them to actually see what I was doing, so with my toe, held that cabinet door open just enough for me (standing there) to crown the muzzle, but not enough for them to actually see what I was doing.

I then took the barreled receiver downstairs to where my buffers were and proceeded to buff/blend the counter bore crown into the outer bandsanded taper, all the while being careful not to alter the inner bore edge of the crown, using a newly loaded muslin wheel with 240 grit compound.  Took it back and handed it to them.  Total surprise on the "gunsmiths" face and the owner said, "Looks good to me",  then he asked  how much. $25.  Not bad for 5 minutes, and not a bad price as this gunsmith, if he had a lathe with a larger spindle hole, would have taken the barrel off, put it in the lathe, spent a lot of time dialing in for centering the muzzle and then after the re-crowning, would have had to reinstall the barrel on the action for a price of maybe $120 at that time.   I did it all attached to the recover with no disassembly.

Once in awhile it is kind of nice to be able to show these book learned or college wantabe guys what the school of hard knocks teaches.

(23) My son had made a custom rifle for Hank Williams Jr. and he was supposed to take delivery of it when he was on tour in our area.   This was in late September of 1986.  He had a concert in Portland and we gotten tickets.  We (my wife, I and my son) made arrangements to meet him in a hotel in downtown Portland.  He of course was registered under a different name.  We went in before the concert and met him in his hotel room.  Merl, his big tall "friend/bodyguard" met us at the door.  Sure, come in, Hank is expecting you.

As we talked, his band was preparing for the concert, but Hank was just a hometown boy that wanted to talk guns.  He was a Ruger collector and had brought 3 or 4 of his single action revolvers.  He wanted to know if I could
do something with the front sights as he was having problems seeing them.  No problem, what color inserts do you want, bright orangeish red or lime green?    Do a couple of each and he could decide which he liked best.


He also had a couple of rifles he wanted worked on if we could do it so he could pick them up 2 days later.  This was one time that a customer's guns moved to the head of the line.


His band got all ready and left for the concert, but Hank stayed and talked guns.  We mentioned that maybe we had better go, and Merl said no, that talking guns put Hank at ease so they had another 20 minutes or so before they needed to leave.


OK, he gave us his 2 rifles in soft rifle cases and a large leather bag with the name HANK on the outside that was filled with the pistols.  This hotel was one that had all glass around the elevator, which was totally visible from the lobby.  Here these country hicks were carrying, these firearms down the elevator and across the lobby, trying to be casual.


We got to the concert just before Hank showed and our daughter who was there waiting for us was wondering what happened.


Hank had another concert in Eugene Oregon the next night and the following night in Seattle.  The plan was that on his way back from the Oregon concert, that he would stop by in his Leer jet at our local airport, we would go get him and bring him and his girlfriend out to our shop, where he could pick up the custom gun, and retrieve his guns that we took with us that we had worked on.


It was foggy that morning and our local airport  was fogged in, but the Olympia airport farther north was clearer and had radar, so the alternate was to land there.  With this in the mix, we were not sure where to meet them until time drew closer.  We kept in contact with the pilot and finally just before their take off in Oregon, the fog cleared and they could land locally.


We knew that Hank liked to go incognito, so we tried to keep his visit rather quiet.  We were to supply transportation, but not sure how many of his band may have wanted to come along, so our young daughter, just out of high school, being a Hank fan, offered to try to change her work shift and she would supply one of the vehicles.  In her efforts to change shifts, her boss, had to know WHY.  It seems that one of her co-workers had a large ear that day and overheard the daughters reason for the shift change.  This co-worker's father happened to also be a Hank Williams Jr. fan.


My wife and daughter made the trip to the local airport in 2 separate vehicles.  It turned out that only Hank and his girlfriend decided to come as the others were heavily into betting on a college football game and wanted to stay in contact to a TV.  When they got back to the shop, we took them to the rear, (our gunsmithing area) of the shop just in case someone came in at that time.  Well someone did, the co-workers father asking if Hank Williams had made it here yet.  My counterman lied, saying NO, and that we were not sure when he may make it because of the morning fog.  The guy left, while Hank was in the back.


At this same time a friend called and said one of his friend's father was interested in a gun and for me to treat him right.  Shortly after that, they showed up and were looking over our gun rack.  Hank was in the back then.


When Hank was getting ready to leave, and they moved to the front showroom.  He wrote a check to cover the rifle and other repairs.  And sat the leather pistol bag with his name on it down on the floor near his feet.   They were getting ready to leave and the friend who wanted me to give his buddy's dad preferential treatment shows up.  Standing right beside Hank and the leather bag, he was happy that his son was playing college football that day and on the TV then.  This happened to be the same team Hank's band members were betting on, so he engaged with Hank somewhat with conversation that this was his son's first college football game.


The two that were looking at rifles, put a lot of fingerprints on many of them, stalling and trying to play it that they did not recognize Hank.  After Hank and his girlfriend left with their firearms, nothing was said about who the tall guy with a Stetson and dark glasses was, but I am sure that they knew.


Later I met this friend's wife in town and asked what her husband thought of Hank Williams Jr. when he was near him at our shop.  I explained what happened and within the next few days, he came in and said that yes, he knew who Hank was but did not want to make a scene.  YAH SURE.


Later one of the persons working at the local airport, put 2 and 2 together, a Leer Jet, tall guy with a Stetson and dark glasses who was asking where the gunshop was, asked if us if that was Hank.


Then somehow another local boy found out, and at the Seattle concert when it was over, he went backstage and told the doorman that he was a friend of Wisners and was let in to join in the after concert private festivities.  It had to have been Merl at the door that night otherwise no one else would have recognized the name.



A memorable day at Wisner's


(24) I have occasionally taken tables at gun shows.  Years ago, I took small stuff, like magazines, scope mounts, some parts, but never really got into selling guns.  My small stuff was easier to move in and out and seemed to sell better than the large ticket items like guns.


One of my pet peeves are those guys who offer a ridiculously low price to buy a widow's guns and then price them way over book, hoping to grab a greenhorn with more money than smarts.   Or the guy who never prices anything on his table.  You have to ask.  Just how can he remember the price on over 30 guns he is offering?   Once I mentioned this to a table holder, who was in that group who did not price his.  His response was that many guys would come in trying to sell or trade one of their guns, offer it to him and he would make an offer.  No, they would look around.  Then later they would show back up with a different gun that they had traded for and since this new gun was worth more (in their mind, because the previous owner had it overpriced, but made them a deal) than the original table holder had made the offer on a trade, they felt the new acquisition qualified them for a better chance to trade.


I told him all he had to do was say NO.  I also told him that any table that I came to at a gun show that the items were not priced, that I quickly bypassed that table, thinking their items were probably more than I could afford and did not need the embarrassment of trying to think of a nice way to pass on the sale.


One show I did have a gun for sale and it was of course priced.  A walk-in was interested, but he had to get it for a better price than my established price.  OK, I usually price mine so I can come down $10 or $20.  But this guy wanted it for $50 off my labeled price.  Immediately my negotiation price was upped $50 from the labeled price, he came down another $50, I went up another $50.  Finally he left, only to come back later and bought it for my asking price.


(25) I was doing a lot of rebluing at the time of the 1980 Mt St Helens eruption.  I had turned out many reblue jobs before hunting season, but a number came back complaining that my reblue job was no good and did not hold up.  Those guys did not understand.  With all the fine ash on all the leaves, it acted like sandpaper and just wore off the stock finish and blueing.  And in this ash mix was fine sulfur.  Water from the rain and sulfur on the tree leaves make sulfuric acid.  This acted like a blueing stripper.


How I recognized it was that hunting season, I came back to the shop after a rainy morning hunt.  I sat my gun down and took off my raincoat, and shook it off.  The next day I saw on the blue of this gun, places where those raindrops from the shook coat, had totally removed the blue from the metal.


(26) As mentioned above, I did a lot of reblueing, usually 25 or 30 guns once a month.  One night, my wife decided to help.  OK how?  She offered to tear them apart prior to the cleaning and buffing.


Well one really stood out from this helping hand.  It was a Walther PPK 380 semi-auto pistol.  After the blueing and ready to reassemble the next day, there was one spring that I could not figure out where or how it fit back in the gun.  Since I had no taken it apart and at that time there were few of these  around, it only took me 4 hours trying to figure out where and how it functioned in this gun.


(27) In  reblueing the process is to use dry chemicals that are mixed in water and heated to a boiling 210 degrees.  This is accomplished by the use of a Nitrate to do the coloring and a mixture of Lye to raise the boiling point of the mixture.  A gunsmith who had moved into the valley close by decided he was going to move to Nevada, but that he did not want to take any of his unused blueing chemicals with him, so offered them to me.  At that time, I had a part-time machinist helping making parts in the location where the blueing was being done. 


I had a doctors appointment that morning, so my daughter drove over and picked up the 30 gallon plastic garbage can about 1/2 full of these chemicals.  She brought it to the shop and my son asked this machinist for assistance to move it into the blueing room.    OK.  Once they got it there the machinist asked what was in the can, "Blueing salts".   My son removed the lid, reached into these dry components and came out with a handful.  This machinist moved so fast out the door that my son said it the door was closed, the would have made a new one right out the side of the building.


It turns out that he had the idea that the reblueing process involved using Cyanide.  This probably came from in the old days many gun parts were case hardened which was done with Cyanide in those days.


(28) In the early 1980s 22-250s were the craze, to where the pickups driven by these hometown boys always had a Remington model 788 in that caliber hanging in a gunrack at the rear window.   Our game department had that caliber listed as illegal to use for deer.  If you would do your part, that caliber laid down many a Blacktail.  The boys would keep in practice by shooting crows.


Now, these boys probably never heard about the international treaty with Mexico where it was illegal to shoot crows unless they were doing crop damage.  However this treaty was broad when it was signed that it covered all crows, not just the protected Mexican crow.


One day one of the boys was in the shop getting some ammo for his 22-250 and mentioned how many crows he had gotten in the last month.  Also in the shop was a plain clothed game department employee.  After the boy mentioned his feats, I asked the gamy what is the law on shooting crows?  He proceeded to rattle off the law from memory as they saw it.  Which was that the crow had to be in the process of predation on farm crops and that the shooter had to have the owners permission to shoot them.


This boy (well actually a young man of about 30) spurted right back, "By god I will shoot them where and when I see them" and left.  I asked him later if he knew who it was that told him the law?  Of course he did not know, but everyone did it and to have a warden on all the country roads would have been prohibitive.


(29) In relationship the the above rifle and keeping in practice, farther up the valley and into timber country, the boys there also shot crows, but they expanded to finer things.  They would sit on an old logging landing looking over the canyons below that was growing up to young fir trees.  During the late summer and early fall, if they spotted a buck deer, (which were many in those days) even out to 300 or 400 yards, they would shoot a hole in the deer's ear.  It got to where some only shot at the right ear, while others shot the left ear.


At the end of season they had a contest as to which buck was killed with the most bullet holes in the ears.


(30) I had a customer bring in a Browning Superposed shotgun that had been recovered  from being in a river for a year.  Rather rusty on the outside, but the bores were sanded in and survived quite well.  The wood's finish was all gone and the wood itself faded into a gray color.  He wanted me to restore it to "Shooting" condition, with nothing done to the exterior of the gun.


The reason was that he was a trap-shooter and used the same gun for trap.  He wanted this gun restored so he could dress up as a hillbilly, floppy had and chewing on a grass stalk, then enter a trap shoot with it.  He was pretty good with his regular gun, so this one would be so close that he felt he may be able to trick some hot shot outsiders in to a good bet.


(31)  Spare parts are not available from Remington if you order from the 11-48 list.  However the firing pins, FP springs, extractor, spring and plunger for the 870 will interchange.  The 11-48 operating handle is held in by a detent plunger putting pressure on the bottom of this handle.   The current model 1100 handle #91197 is designed to accommodate both the 11-48 bottom plunger with the 1100 plunger which comes in from the rear.   Therefore you can use the 1100 handle on the 11-48 series guns.

The friction piece and shell latch are usually the first to need replacement.   Recently Gun Parts Corp. has listed these friction pieces in their catalog.

When this gun starts spitting operating handles, the usual things to look for will be a weak detent plunger spring.   These detent plungers are however factory staked into the bottom of the bolt slide, not really designed to be replaced.   I had one customer bring a gun in with a hole drilled in the outer end of the handle with a piece of fish line tied into it and on to the trigger guard, so that he could recover the handle when the gun spit it out.

In all actuality the handle is only needed to charge a live round into the chamber or to extract a live round.   It does not effect the firing of the gun.

On the above gun, after much trial and error, then some head scratching, I finally, many years ago (about 1975) called the factory and was fortunate enough to be able to talk to a repairman that worked on these guns at the time they were being factory serviced.   The real problem on this issue is that there is too much headspace.   A harmonic vibration is set up at the firing/unlock time that results in spitting these handles out like popcorn.

Look at the locking lugs on the barrel and on the locking block.  These will usually be worn and or set back   This repairman said the method of deciding if this was the problem, was with the gun unloaded, place a ½" dowel down the barrel until it rests on the face of the breech bolt, mark on the dowel the muzzle location with a pencil.    Now push the dowel down until you feel the locking block unlock from the barrel lugs, but before the bolt starts to move rearward.   Mark this position on the dowel.

Ideally there should be minimal movement.   I do not really remember his exact dimension, but it seems that if it moved more than about .040", this was the problem, and the symptoms get worse as the wear increases. The solution that they used then, was to replace the locking lug with a oversize one.  These lugs were numbered using letters, I have encountered many with just the ga. stamped on them, but a few with letters.   I assume the non lettered are standard and the A size to be the next oversize or longer.   Not sure how many oversize sizes were made

Since no spare parts were available from the factory or any of the parts suppliers even then, I cleaned the barrel lugs up, then annealed the locking block, TIG welded 3% nickel material onto the back of the locking block lug.   I figured that if I screwed up that maybe I could find another locking block, but to find a barrel extension would take time and perseverance.  I then refitted it, using lay-out die as a wear marker, and then heat treated and tempered the whole block.   If anyone would try this I recommend you take a Rockwell hardness reading of the locking block before you start, so that you have a known hardness to return to (mine read 53 Rockwell C).  It could be slightly softer by a point or two, but not any harder, since it would break off.

I however think a simpler solution would be to soft solder a piece of steel shim stock to the bolt face. In order to determine the proper thickness, a piece of different thickness shim stock cold be cut to the approximate shape of the bolt face and tried under a loaded round until one too thick was placed there so that the locking block would not close.   Then back off and use a thinner one.   You might even Super Glue a shim onto the bolt face as a trial to see if it would work first.


(32)  When gunsmithing the Remington 1100 and you get one that will not fire and have exhausted all your normally encountered things to look for, look at the association of the connector bar off of the trigger to the disconnector.  If someone has torn it apart and got one over the other instead of under the other, things do not happen as they should.  And this was very easily overlooked.


(33)  Sometimes the Winchester model 88 will not always feed the nose of the cartridge properly.  If nothing else can be found that can contribute to this failure, look at the speed of the lever cycling. This gun needs to be operated rather abruptly, as close to the model 100 gas operation as possible to allow the ammo to feed right.   Also, at this same time the gun has to be held either at right angles (right and left) to the ground or tipped to the right if anything.  DO NOT TIP IT TO THE LEFT so you can see what is happening.  If it is tipped left and and at the same time fed slowly, the ammo feeding can be erratic depending on which side of the magazine it is fed off from.

When trying to track down feeding problems, look first for cleanliness, remove all the grit, rust etc. from the inside of the magazine.   The box may have over time become spread outward in the middle (front of the feed lips), place the box upside down in a vise and slightly squeeze it inward so that the middle sides are equal to the end dimensions.   Also as a last resort, you might want to bend the front of the lips up SLIGHTLY, being careful to correlate this with the bullet feeding into the chamber. 

If this gun does not eject properly, and it has a scope mounted using Weaver top mounts, the mount base could be on backwards.  Most gunsmiths put the scope mount thumb nuts on the RH side.  If the base in on wrong, the location of this large front nut is in the exact wrong location and the front of the fired case bumps the bottom of the nut on ejection.


(34)  While we are on the Winchester model 88 and 100s, if the gun does not eject properly and has Weaver type scope bases, where most owners mount the takedown thumb nuts on the right hand side, check the base as it may be turned around backwards.  This would position the thumb nuts so that the empty case would eject, otherwise the case neck would hit the large nut, knocking the case away from the ejector's grip, but sometimes back in on top of the next round trying to feed into the chamber.


The original Weaver bases had a word FRONT stamped in the base.   Then somewhere along the line on subsequent production runs this stamp got placed on the wrong end.  When that got found out, they just quit stamping anything on the base.


You could also swap the rings so that the takedown thumb nut was on the opposite side of the gun, again solving the problem.

(35)  Late model Savage model 24 series O/U  were notorious for occasional miss-fires.  This was traced to the auto rebound stop on the mainspring rod.  This rod's top has a convex section that mates with a concave part on the hammer.  The design is so that after firing, the hammer will automatically rebound so it is not resting on the firing pin.  In this rebounding process the heel of the rod's plunger mates with the lower edge of the hammer, placing it so the hammer is retracted AND the trigger is in the safety notch location.  Since all this is mass produced, sometimes the hole in the receiver could be drilled a bit off, changing the fulcrum design.  Therefore there can be more mainspring tension, which slows down the initial hammer fall, creating a miss-fire.


You really can't reduce the mainspring power, and if you re-cut the safety notch it could possibly create a safety issue. 


The quick and easy method to correct this is to, with the buttstock off, but the metal parts intact, by using 2 LARGE screwdrivers, one ABOVE the mainspring plunger in front behind the hammer, and another UNDER the center of the mainspring that is over the rod.  Hold the top screwdriver so the front of the plunger does not move and twist the lower screwdriver, bending the spring plunger rod slightly up in the center.  This changes the location and "TIMING" of the "bottom" rebound part of the plunger.  If you go too far, bend it back.


When I was warranty repair for Savage, I got a number of these in for repairs, and this method was developed from this experience.  I could not really change the hammer or trigger on all of these under warranty along with the time involved cutting, reassemble, try and then redo it until I got it right.   But by just bending the mainspring rod, it was a easy repair.  I even began writing it up on my warranty report to the factory as Wisner's misfire repair kit #2.  I took over 2 years before I got a phone inquiry from the factory service manager wanting to know what I was doing.


This could also pertain to the model 94 single shot shotguns as the plunger parts are same, however we saw little of this problem on them.

(36)  On the Savage/Stevens model 94 single shot shotguns, reinstalling the mainspring into the receiver can be a problem.  I devised a simple method to do this.

The mainspring base is a hollow tube that the rod goes through.  This tube is tapered on the rear where it rests in a hole that is oversize from the rod's diameter.  The front of this tube is flat, bearing against the rear of the coil mainspring.


Trying to push this tube (under strong spring tension of the mainspring) forward and at the same time into the recess in the frame can get frustrating.  Sometimes the spring and plunger/rod go flying.


I took my Dremel tool and a cut-off stone, then cut a slight angled groove in one side of this tube base.  Now I can use a flat bladed screwdriver blade in this groove and push the base AND spring forward enough on the rod to allow the base, spring and plunger to slide forward and into the recess in the frame.

(37)  For a whole some of the Sterling model 300 and 302 semi-auto 25 ACP and 22LR pistols had misfire, and ejection problems.  Once I had a customer come in, who had bought a 302, which functioned fine.   He wanted 3 more, one for his mother, wife and aunt.  I did not have that many in stock, so he agreed to let me order them.  When they came in, he hurried in and purchased them.  Two days later he was back saying they were a piece of $hit as they either would not fire, or eject.  He wanted me to fix them ASAP or give him his money back.


I had never had problems with these before and could not see anything broke or abused.  Out of desperation, I called the factory and explained the situation.  The gentleman I was talking to happened to be the owner.  He apologized and said to send them back and he would take care of the problems.  I explained the circumstances and that I had to have them ready to go the next day, or refund the money, and being a gunsmith, what could I do to fix the problems?


OK, he leveled with me.  Three things to look for. 


(1) Miss-fires 1, pull the slide off and look into the firing pin channel.  If there were a lot of deep circular milling marks, use a powersaw file and remove the roughness.  What had happened, during machining of the slide, a milling cutter got chipped and the machine operator was not watching, allowing it to mill a lot of spiral grooves in the firing pin channel.   This created extra drag on the firing pin, slowing the striking energy down when the firing pin moved forward to fire the gun.


(2) Miss-fires 2, with the recoil spring out, move the slide forward as if it was ready to fire.  Note if there was any clearance between the front of the slide and the rear of the barrel.  If so the front bottom of slide had not been milled properly.  It was milled at a slight angle matching the frame's magazine feed ramp and would usually be longer, bumping the feed ramp.  This moved the slide rearward enough that excess headspace was created and on the 22 LRs had too much space to where the rim of the case had no support in front to allow the firing pin to push the rim section in enough to fire the priming compound.  The cure was to hand file that mating surface on the bottom front of the slide to match the feed ramp.


(3) Ejection problems, with the slide off, look at the bottom flat metal on each side of the firing pin slot, Again as in #1, look for roughness.  If that was the case, file it down , smoothing that surface.  What was happening was that the with this bottom of the slide being rough, as the gun cycled upon firing, this part of the slide was dragging on the top round in the magazine, again creating reduced movement speed.


Later in the spring when we would go to conventions, I asked a salesman for that company about the problem.  He knew about it, they knew what the problem was, but had quality control inspectors, but they could not track down where the inspection problem was happening.   The following year I asked again.  Yes, they found what was happening.  Apparently on one shift in the plant a lazy operator was not catching chipped cutter marks in the firearm.   But how they were getting through the inspection line, was that one lazy inspector, would have many guns stack up on the conveyer belt.  So when no one was looking, he would grab 30 or so guns and move them to the inspected side.  They found this out by installing closed circuit TV cameras in the plant.


But by the time this was discovered, the company had numerous bad complaints.  About that time a lawsuit was filed against them because of a accident from a so called defective gun accident.  And a fancy lawyer did his thing.  That gun company just closed it's doors and the owner pursued his previous business as a machine shop owner.


(38)  During my factory warranty repair for S&W, one thing that came up occasionally was a revolver would shoot to the right or left no matter who shot it or what ammo was used.  Shooting high or low could usually be corrected, but sideways was something else.  This could be a combination of things, usually the bore not true with threads, or the frame not threaded straight. The factory method of correcting this was, with the cylinder out of the frame, lay the gun supported by the center of the frame in the cylinder opening, and the front of the barrel on lead blocks.  With another lead block resting on the barrel frame threaded area, Whomp the lead with a hammer, "adjusting" the front of the fame slightly.  Do a visual inspection and test-fire, if not enough do it again, or if too much roll it over and do the other side with less of a Whomp.


(39)  Two days later than #38 above, during one of my eastern trips, the same situation as above happened but I was at the Colt factory for a training session.  One of their discontinued guns came in for that same problem, the factory smiths never heard of, or would even accept an offer by me to straighten their gun barrel.  They scrapped it out and gave the customer a new gun.  It was beneath their dignity to use a S&W repair method.


(40)  Occasionally we would get a rifle in with a bulge in the barrel near the muzzle.  Usually we could cut the barrel off behind the bulge and everything was fine.  However for the Winchester model 70 or Savage model 99 that had integral front sight ramps, that was different.


What I would do was to measure how far was needed to remove the bulge, set the barrel up in the lathe and counter-bore the muzzle with a drill bit about .030" bigger diameter in to clean up the bulge.  This retained the original front sight and eliminated the inaccuracy caused by the bulge.


(41)  On the subject of barrels, again occasionally we would see damaged chambers.  This could have been because of a stuck fired case , overload or a number of things.  The stuck cases usually involved in the Do It Yourselfer in using a ice pick, which of course gouge a groove, usually making extraction of a fired round worse that originally encountered.


Occasionally if it was a low powered cartridge with a single deep gouge we could clean the chamber, take a unfired round and wax it, smear JB Weld into the chamber and insert the round into the chamber allowing it to cure, then remove the round and polish the chamber.


If it was a higher pressure caliber, I devised a threaded in chamber bushing, made of a old barrel of the same caliber.  First make a dimensioned headspace measurement to use later.


A lot of precise drawing was made taking into account of the power of the cartridge and the diameter of the existing barrel for the different calibers we did this on.   In essence, the chamber was drilled with a large enough drill to allow the bushing to be strong enough.  The drill to be used would be the right diameter for a common thread, (like 5/8 NF).  The drill would be stopped at the exact front of the cartridge neck.  This hole was then threaded to the National Fine thread needed, stopping about 3/8" from the front of the hole.


A blank, or used barrel of the same caliber was selected and a bushing was turned and threaded to match.  The front of this bushing was tapered to match the drill bit's front taper minus a 1/2 of a degree or so.  This was so that when the bushing was threaded into the hole there would be no gap where it abutted against where the drill stopped.


OK, ready to go, degrease everything inside and out with lacquer thinner, coat the front outer taper with JB Weld and a slight amount of the weld onto the threads.  Take a drill rod that just entered in the barrel's bore AND the bushing which was a assurance of self alignment.  Now thread the bushing in, using what was left of the old barrel as leverage using a pipe wrench.  Drive the drill rod out.  Run lacquer thinner on Q Tips to clean any JB Weld that may have gotten in the barrel or bushing.  Let it cure.  Next morning cut off the excess part of the old barrel at the end of the existing barrel and use the dimensions you too off a headspace gauge before you started, to chamber the bushing.


(42)  Occasionally we would get old Savage model 99 take-downs that had loose barrels and excessive headspace.  These were usually 30-30s.  Tightening the barrels entailed peaning the barrel abutment shoulder to swage some metal back, tightening the barrel against the front of the receiver.  However that usually did not take care of headspace.


These old guns were made of softer material and either stretched or was set back at the rear of the bolt where it contacted the receiver.    There were no replacement bolts for those old guns, welding the bolt's rear locking surface was possible but a lot of time fitting by trial and error.  What I came up with was to clean the bolt face, tin and soft solder a this steel shim equal to the amount needed to correct the headspace problem onto the bolt face.  This spacer was first cut to shape with tin-snips and a Dremel tool.  Once soldered on and cooled the Dremel tool could then be used to do the final cutting of the outer surface to match the bolt face.  Then calculate where the firing pin hole was in the bolt face, using a center punch, lightly tap that area to locate the exact hole, now drill the firing pin hole.


(43)  Then one time when I sold a Rossi 38 Special revolver to a customer who was back the next day complaining that the side of this pistol was cracked.  I asked him to show me.  It was the juncture between the frame and the sideplate.  My response then was just how did he think the factory could have installed all those internal parts inside without being able to being able to take one side off the gun and what do you think those little screw heads there are for. 


"OH,  just wanted to be sure it was safe to shoot". !!!!!


(44) Here in SW Washington, at gunshows you may see Winchester model 92 or model 94s that don't match true configurations.  Most will be a 94 rifle rear 1/2 (receiver and buttstock) but with a model 64 barrel, forearm and magazine tube.  If you look close on the top rear of the barrel you may see a (P) stamped there next to the (WP) stamp.  This (P) stands for "Mail Order Part"  meaning it was not installed at the factory.


The story is that during WWI, Reiner's Sporting Goods in Aberdeen Washington, had a bit of money AND connections at the Winchester factory.  The old man Reiner purchased MANY of these parts.  He would then buy or trade for worn out inaccurate barreled guns and replace the whole front with model 64 parts, that apparently Winchester was happy to dispose of for a discount.


To this day for those old-timers in the area, these hybrids are known as Reiner Specials.


At a recent gun show (2016) one of these guns, a Winchester model 92 with a model 65 219 Bee barrel installed AND a stock/forearm made of maple by a poorly trained beaver with a broken front tooth, along with a pitiful forearm tip with a asking price of $2100.  If the gun was original and in good shape MAYBE, but not in the condition of this one, which should go for maybe $400, with the barrel being 1/2 of that price.


(45)  In making replacement parts for firearms, most of them need to be hardened.  But using a hardened steel to cut, mill, drill or tap can be time consuming and wear the cutters dull quite fast.  The solution is to use a low carbon steel, like 1018, do all the machining and finishing, then harden it. 


The easiest is Case Hardening,  which is accomplished by heating the metal part in carbon, then quenching the part in cold water.


My first experience using this method was years ago (about 1966) when I was riding an Enduro motorcycle, where I needed a smaller sprocket gear off the transmission to slow this cycle down for brush riding.  I already had modified a standard large gear to fit on the rear axle, but needed a lower speed yet.   I bought the smallest gear possible for the size chain I was using, and using my original gear as a guide, bored the hub out, then filed by hand the splines into this bore to match the output shaft of my BSA 350.  I put it on and ran it for a few days, then took the gear off to inspect it.  It was starting to wear on the teeth. 


At the time I was working where occasionally I would work a night shift running a large coal fired steam boiler.  This was perfect, I put this gear in the firebox, bringing up to red hot, then pulled it out and allowed it to soak in fine coal dust that had collected under the coal input auger.  I did this 2 or 3 times, then just heated it up again, but quenched it in water to harden it.  I ran this drive gear for many years.


In making gun parts, the process needs to be a bit more refined.  The principle is the same, but instead of coal dust, charcoal briquettes are more readily available.  Here we just soak them in water to dissolve the starch that binds them into the briquetted shape, then let that dry.  You will now have fines in sands size up to no larger than a pea.   Now after the steel part is made, and bent or fitted, it is placed in a steel crucible that has a lid that can seal off any exposure to outside air.  Spread charcoal in the bottom, layer your parts, more charcoal, more parts and charcoal on top.  Add a small finger sized piece of wood and close the lid.  The wood inside is to burn off all the oxygen in the crucible as it is heated up.


In a electric, thermostat controlled furnace, bring the temperature up to 1650 degrees Farenheight.   Once the furnace is up to temperature start your timing.  When the part is heated to that temperature, the carbon in the charcoal becomes carbon gas and will be soaked into this heated metal.   The amount of soak time will depend on how thick the part is.  Usually the carbon will penetrate about .010" per hour of soak time.  So depending on the size and thickness of your part, you need to decide how much penetration you may need.  A flat spring that is tapered from .040" to .100" would not need a complete penetration, but say possibly 75%.   Here you need to guess, but say somewhere in the middle will have a thickness of .060" and with 2 hours of soak time you would have .020" per side, leaving a softer inner core.


At the end of your soak time, QUICKLEY remove the crucible, pop the lid off and quench in cold water.


Remove the parts from water and dry them off.  Now they will be HARD and BRITTLE, do not try to bend or compress them.  For mass producing parts, they would normally be reheated to a lesser degree (550 DF) and quenched in quenching oil.  For the average gunsmith where you may be only making one or two parts, a simpler tempering method can be used.  Find a "Baby Moon" hubcap in a auto wrecking yard, and some quenching oil.  For years I have used transformer oil, (called insulating oil).  Take your part, lay it in the dished hubcap and pour enough oil over it to cover the part.  Using a propane torch, light the oil on fire.  Let the fire burn until it goes out.  Your part is ready to use.  This oil burns at the right temperature and by filling the oil to just cover the part, which adjusts the burn time to the size of the part.  I have tried many other oils, but some are hard to ignite, or leave a gunky residue on the part.  Automatic Transmission Fluid will work, but is not ideal.


(46) During my career, I also made and sold obsolete firearm parts mail-order.  You will find may customers who think they are know it all.  One I remember was a customer ordered a Colt SAA cylinder bolt (cylinder stop to some).  He ordered one and then a week later ordered another.  A week later he called and said that both of them were heat treated wrong as they both broke.   I asked him to send them back so I could inspect them to see if we may have had a bad batch of heat-treated ones.


Upon inspection, both were broke in the exact same location.  And they had a shiny spot on the tail.   He called back asking if I had been able to inspect the returns.  Yes, but there was something peculiar with the way his had broken.  When asked, he said he had never shot the gun.  He was a Cowboy Action newbie and had installed them but left the cylinder out for his practice because he did not want to scratch the cylinder's surface by this part dragging during his practice.


BINGO -- I informed him that with the cylinder being out of the gun as he cocked and fired it, this placed the part he had bought from us out of position (beyond normal) at full cock, so he was then indeed pulling the hammer farther than it would have normally been, binding this part against the inner frame.  He had probably also broke the original part the same way.  He was not a happy camper, but I did replace one of them for him, and then made up a lot of written explanations to then be added to any sales of these parts.  All the parts are timed together and need to be there to function with each other.


(47) Also in selling mail order replacement parts, you get those do-it-yourself ding-alings who try to pull the wool over your eyes.  We sold a Colt SAA spring repair kit which included two hammer springs, (one medium and another light weight) and in this kit were also the same two weights of trigger/bolt springs.  Between these 4 parts, a customer could tune his handgun without extensive other repairs.


This one that I do remember, the total package was returned saying it did not fit.  However in this package one of the trigger springs was not of our manufacture.  It was the original heavy factory spring.  This person had bought the kit, used what he wanted and sent the rest back along with the original factory part that replaced.  And he wanted us to refund his purchase price plus shipping.  I will leave it to you to guess my response.


(48) In gunsmithing, you may find where you need to TIG weld holes in a receiver or something.  I have ran into trouble in doing this on some receivers, where you weld the hole and after it cools, you have a air bubble type pocket.  You grind that one out and weld again, this time you get 2 pockets, and it keeps getting worse.  What is happening is you are getting the metal hot enough and BOILING carbon out of the metal.  The only way to solve this is do it QUIK, get on, fill the hole and get OFF.


Then in the mix, you will notice that most Tig welding steel rods have a flash copper coating on the outside.  You will also notice that after you make a weld, your rod will have this coating missing for about 1/2".  You can get the same bubble type pockets here.  The reason for this coating on the rod is to seal impurities OUT of a hot rod.  When you withdraw the rod from the gas shielded heating arc, the rod is hot, it draws in oxygen into the now unprotected rod.  You are doing the same as mentioned in the above paragraph, by adding your own induced carbon.


To solve this problem, once you remove the rod from the arc heat, and before you make another pass, use side cutting pliers to snip off the now contaminated rod end.


(49)  IF you purchase metal lathes or milling machines and need to move them down your sidewalk or into your shop, cut steel pipe, 1" diameter long enough to fit under the machine, (usually 3 1/2' for me).  Raise the machine enough to get one under one end, roll it onto the pipe, place another pipe under, roll, place another pipe.  When it rolls off one pipe, take that one and move it ahead and under for another push.   You can roll a heavy piece of machinery on these pipes.  Turning corners is a experience, but doable.


(50)  IF you plan on becoming a GOOD gunsmith, you need to also be a reloader that you also shoot in your own guns.  The reason is because many of your customers will be reloaders, and this can create it's own series of firearm problems.  If you are not a reloader, especially in pump or semi-automatic firearms, you will not be able to diagnose their problems correctly.


(51)  In today's world it seems that manufacturers have created throw away guns, in their efforts to stay competitive.  So much plastic or stamped sheet metal parts are used that gunsmiths can not repair them using standard methods.  Also many manufacturers may import a line of firearms, which can be discontinued or prohibited from importation by the stroke of a pen.  And then replacement parts quickly become unavailable.


(52)  Not related to firearms, but in 1978, my son and I were preparing for a Canadian moose hunt.  The guy who set the trip up told us to take slingshots along as ruffled grouse were thick there.  OK, all summer long we practiced.  At the back door of my shop, coming in from the power pole to the shop electric power inlet conduit pipe on the shop roof was the power line to the shop.  On this line barn swallows would sit.  They became our target practice.


One day during the summer, when a new sporting goods salesman shows up, my son was standing in the door missing a swallow on the line.  After about 5 shots the swallow was still there.  Smart mouth me, I took his slingshot and said, "You only need 3 shots".   He handed me 3 Speer .375 muzzle loading round balls.   1st shot under just, 2nd shot over his back and 3rd shot the bird tumbled off the line.  I handed the slingshot back to my son and continued the conversation with this now impressed salesman.


We got to know that salesman well and still on fishing and hunting trips we carry a slingshot and we now find .350 diameter balls are even better.


On that Canadian moose hunt, 3 hunters put 3 meals of grouse on the hunting camp table for 7 people.


(53)  Sometimes being somewhat familiar with a firearm model and not really thinking can get you in trouble. 

This particular time a customer brought in a obsolete Savage model 20 bolt action centerfire rifle that needed a few parts.  This rifle was similar to a Springfield 1903 but was only made in 250-3000 and 300 Savage calibers both which were designed for lower pressured lever action rifles.  It was made with a detectable magazine.  The bolt head was made separately from the bolt body.


This firearm had been either rebarreled or the original was lathe turned down showing no inscriptions at all on the barrel.  The bolt head had one of the lugs cracked and the magazine was missing.  This was a project gun that the customer was not in a hurry on, so after all the other pressing repairs were caught up on during the summer, this one finally was undertaken.  Normally on a bolt replacement I would not attempt making a new bolt head, but this was not that complicated and I had a bar of 4140 steel.  Plus I had never seen one before so it would be a challenge.


I made the bolt head to the dimensions of the original head, fitted it slightly longer than the original so final fitting could be done and heat treated it.  Checked it for hardness with the hardness tester.  The bore was not a 30 caliber so I ASSUMED it was the 250-3000.  I figured that I would try to test-fire it before any other repairs were done.


I loaded one round in the chamber, which required slight pressure on the bolt so I figured we were close on headspace.  When I pulled the trigger, all hell broke loose.  The stock split into many pieces at the magazine area and my trigger (index) finger was bleeding at the first joint, along with being a bit nub.  The case blew part of the head off and a LOT of the gasses went rearward and down out the open magazine well, since I had no magazine for it.


My new bolt head held beautifully, but it blew the claw type extractor off along with the whole center section of the stock.


What I found was that this barrel was of a 6mm caliber.  So this 25 caliber bullet being squeezed down a bit, created a lot of PRESSURE.


Dumb me, I ASSUMED it was rebarreled to the original caliber.  This may also have been why there was no magazine with it as the smith who did the job may have tried to make the original magazine function, but failed.  And possibly he test-fired it but used the cartridge matching the new barrel.  Since this gun was not designed for the higher pressure of the new cartridge, maybe this is why the bolt lug was partly broken.


I did not do my detective work job as a gunsmith on this one, and ultimately bought some scrap iron from the owner.


My finger was sore for a considerable length of time in that first joint.  Finally I went to the doctor who X-rayed it.  There was a small piece of brass about the size of a grain of rice imbedded in the outer part of this second joint.  Apparently it was so hot when it went in that it seared the flesh around it and healed over.  My doctor asked it I wanted it removed.  My response was that if he did not take it out, then I would, as I then knew what and were it was and I had a sharp pocket knife.


(54)  Sometimes gunsmiths/gunshop owners see the outcome of unscrupulous persons when it comes to gun dealing.  Numerous times we have seen a recent widow entrust one of her husband's "FRIENDS" to dispose of her husbands "collection".  Occasionally it will go well, but I strongly encourage these ladies to seek out a reputable dealer to get the guns appraised.  Sure $25 a gun may seem expensive, BUT numerous times I have seen this widow get taken BIG TIME.  Occasionally the dealer will offer a deal, taking them on consignment, or if a decent size collection may offer to take his fee out in trade for one of the firearms.  This way she is not out any cash and gets a printed appraisal, usually which will be a high and low selling price.   Some of these friends may offer to buy all of the guns for a set fee, or even arrange for disposal at a set fee, but do not accept only his appraisal.   Remember there are probably more unscrupulous persons out there than good guys when they can line their pockets or put a few desirous guns into their collection basically for free.  


Once I saw an offer of $250 for a mint Winchester Model 70 Super Grade 257 Roberts, (which included a Leupold scope).  At that time, the gun actually, was worth over $1000 more than the offer.  To the unknowing widow, that sounded like fair price.  That might have been near what her husband paid for it 50 years ago.  Guns do not depreciate, especially if they are a popular make, good grade and desirable caliber, if they are kept well.


Another instance is where at a local gun show, a Winchester Model 92 25-20 rifle, well used but not abused, but with very little original finish remaining on either the metal or wood was sold by a walk-in for $725 (AND 10 boxes of ammo were thrown in).    And at the next show this gun was placed on the new owner's table for a price of $1750, without the ammo.  Taking into consideration the current price of that ammo, this guy got the gun FREE.  And when asked by a guy who was standing near when the original purchase was made, what was his lowest cash price, would not even return an answer. 





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Originated 07-29-2013, Last updated  12-13-2017
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