Learning From A Sad Gunsmithing Story

    Hognose, blogging at his home WeaponsMan.com, has touched on a very worthwhile subject in one of his latest posts: How to deal with gunsmiths (if you’re a customer) and customers (if you’re a gunsmith). He springboards off a tale originally posted on Reddit about some gunsmithing work that didn’t live up to expectations, but where the post really takes off and becomes worth the reblog is in Hognose’s analysis of how to prevent that sort of situation from happening in the first place:

    This guy wound up spending $500 for work that was never QCd adequately by anybody and having three guns down for a month and a half. Work that he needed, in some cases, to do over. The shop did offer to blast and restore the Cerakote on the Glock slide, as removing enough of the burrs to assemble the pistol left bald spots on the slide. The seller chose not to give them a second at-bat with his pistol; he’s still so POd that he’s talking about a credit card chargeback (something merchants really abhor).

    Even without having seen their side of the story, it’s a dead certainty that the shop, too, is unhappy with this transaction all around.

    How do you avoid this predicament?

    There are several things  we recommend.

    1. You may not want to use a local shop. There are shops that solicit your business and that do business nationwide.
    2. If you can’t talk to the guy who’s going to cut your metal in a local shop, they send it out to some generic job shop where it gets treated like generic machined tractor parts or whatever.
    3. If the guy says they don’t know how to do something, don’t browbeat him into trying it and then regret it when he fails. Instead, take his word for it. This is not the smith you are looking for.
    4. Don’t pay 100% in advance. In fact, withhold something until the job proves out. Think of those dollars as your hostages to a successful transaction.
    5. What’s the point in dealing locally if you don’t deal face to face with the actual smith? A lot of people today seem terrified of communication by phone or face-to-face with actual humans, but this guy didn’t have that problem, he just communicated with the wrong guys.

    From the Dealer’s Point of View

    1. If you send work out, be up front about it. (“Hey, that’s a milling job, we don’t have the machine tools for that, but we do have a good shop that does work for us.”) Nobody will hold it against you, you’re a small business that needs to interface with other small businesses to please your customers.
    2. Don’t let a customer talk you into work that you’re not sure you or your guy can do.
    3. Never, ever, take a job you don’t understand completely.
    4. Never, ever, release a job without inspecting it to ensure it met what you quoted. (What, no quote? See next item).
    5. Quote in writing and in detail. This protects everybody, yeah, even the merchant.
    6. Consider hiring (or teaming with) a real smith if your market will support it. If you’re really small, see if you can get a guy to come in one evening a week (most of your customers work day jobs) or make a weekend presentation on what he can do. It is not the walk-in repair and modification business that will pay for the smith, but the impulse purchases of the guys who come to see him. You can also use him to raise the profile of some of your plain-jane used guns.
    7. Don’t oversell your smith. We watched an alleged smith fail miserably at reassembling a customer’s common-as-dirt Winchester .22. He didn’t have the humility to go to YouTube for an answer, and the old standby of using two screwdrivers to compress a long spring into a short hole didn’t occur to him, probably because he got rattled by several failures. If a guy isn’t a real gunsmith, don’t call him that, call him a technician, armorer or repairman.
    8. If you’re the smith, be humble. There’s no harm in asking if you can look at something, check some references, and then quote.

    For everybody, meet the other party half way, and try to be sensitive to their expectations. We actually think the shop in this case did that with their offer to re-coat the slide; we think the customer’s being unreasonable if he wants a full refund. But the shop really blew it by returning uninspected work to a customer. Now the guy has lost faith in you, and, he’s dropped the Reddit bomb on you, which is on the net forever, or until Reddit management finally kills the site, whichever comes first.

    I highly recommend our readers follow the link and read the whole thing, but the moral posted above is something any gunsmith or gunsmith’s customer should heed.

    Nathaniel F

    Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. He can be reached via email at [email protected]


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