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rdinak Offline OP
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Just curious to hear your stories. What's the worst experience you ever had with a gunsmith? Let's keep it clean and leave the names out of the discussion.

I'll get the ball rolling with an up and coming gunsmith that had an article written about his work by Charles Petty in the American Handgunner magazine. This was in the early 80's.....

So I take a brand new Colt Commander 70 series in with the request for a full house comp gun for ipsc. New gun built from the ground up-custom barrel, sights, trigger job, action work, checkering, etc. I was foolish enough to think i could get a gun like the center fold in the magazine. <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />

After a few months go by I get a call to come and pick up my new toy.

When I get there I notice the two-tone finish (nickel lower, blue upper) looks funny. Instead of a hard chrome finish on the lower, it's electroless nickel. He used some witch doctor set up with a 6 volt battery and the finish was a smoky color. I take the gun to the next Saturday's IPSC match only to learn it jams a lot. Over the phone I am told it needed a good 300 rounds to break in. 500 rounds later I can't shoot 50 rounds of hardball without a failure to feed. Then my handloads are diagnosed as the culprit. ( No explanation on the various brands of factory ammo jamming too) After the third 150 mile round trip to the guru's place of business I am ready to see if I can get a couple rounds off in his rear end before the POS jams again.

In a measure of desperation, I seek a second opinion on what might wrong with my new $1300 full house custom. Remember this is in early 80's dollars..
The second pistol smith explains the Bar-Sto barrel has been improperly fitted and shows me where the problem is originating on the first visit. For a very reasonable fee, he fits a replacement barrel, and all the problems go away. I shoot the gun for several more years with out any problems. Gunsmith #1 is insulted that I asked someone else fix his work. After three failed attempts he can not fix or correctly diagnose what is wrong. He asked for the damaged barrel back after the 2nd smith has the problem corrected and then complains there is nothing wrong with that barrel <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />

What's your worst experience like?


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I have dealt with exactly two gunsmiths here in B.C. Canada.
I bought two rifles from a dealer they were I guess what you would call in the white, they were supposed to be from some company that went broke.
So I bought them, one in 243 and one in 22/250 give them to a gunsmith to drill and tap for scope bases and I get them back and both are not in line, so ended up making the bases fit the holes in such a way that they kind of lined up and then shimmed them so that they were workable.

Then my brother and I get them ready for bluing, and after polishing them up turn them over to the second guy for the bluing and they turned out fantastic. Should have had him do the other work too.
Needless to say never went back to the first guy and never did get any satisfaction from the outfit.
Bill


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Had a would be smith chop the barrel of a keepsake Rem 760, when I picked up the rifle the smith had sanded and "shelacked" the stock. Don't know what mixture he used but it cracked a thousand times. Smiths are like automobile mechanics, one in a hundred. -- no <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" />


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Once again, I made my usual mistake of equating skill with integrity -- and paid for the error.

I felt that my position obliged me to help those craftsmen whose ability exceeded their reputation, so I commissioned a bunch of custom rifles for this purpose (mostly because I could). Usually, I'd have only one rifle built by each 'smith, but "Silver" (not his name) insisted on doing several -- and I put each rifle that he finished on a cover (one went onto two covers) in addition to several references to his beautiful work. I also traveled to several big shows to help him display his work (including the rifles that he'd built for me) and once made a long trip with him to help him select special high-dollar stock blanks for his shop. When he learned of my plans for a matched pair of super-fine rifles with extra-special features, he campaigned heavily for the job. So I took both barreled actions, etc, to him -- several thousand dollars' worth in raw materials alone.

He dawdled around for several years without finishing them. After twelve years or so with no work on them, I asked repeatedly for the return of the makings. After a couple of years of promises but no return, I finally got 'em back.

Mostly. Not totally.

After several more years (over twenty, altogether), I've had to give-up all hope of getting back my
� two custom-made four-leaf safari sights, each worth several hundred dollars
� a custom-made magnum-Mauser-style deep-box magazine and floor plate, worth $350-$500
� a custom-made trigger assembly
� the "innards" of one FN Mauser bolt

-- not to mention my custom-made (to my design) barrel vise and sight-mounting jig

And I later found that a friend of mine, coowner of a custom riflery in England, who'd sent this crook half a dozen orders on the basis of my recommendation, had also been ripped-off to the tune of several thousand dollars' worth of one-of-a-kind custom parts.

Believe me, I've learned to appreciate integrity as well as skill in the rifle-maker's art.

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Gosh, I don't know if I could identify a single, notable incident, but over the years there have been plenty. They have involved either poor service or poor workmanship, or both. Some of these have involved nationally known gunsmiths whose work has been on the cover of magazines. The worst case I can recall didn't happen to me, it happened to a friend. The gunsmith was a guy who is reknowned in the world of custom .22s. My buddy had a Remington 700 rebarreled, and the crown was so rough that you could snag a fingernail. But the main event was when he had this guy rebarrel a brand new Anschutz M54 target rifle. I can't recall what was wrong with the custom barrel, but the smith had installed it and added some sort of adhesive so that it couldn't be removed without machining it out or heating it excessively. He found this out when he turned it over to another gunsmith to fix the improperly installed barrel. My most recent experience, again involving a rather famous gunsmith, involved rebarreling a M700 to .338-06. I stated clearly that the new barrel should not exceed the weight of the original. When I received the rifle it looked like a varmint barrel had been installed. Not really, but definitely a heavy barrel. When I called the smith, he was defensive and told me that "I wanted to have my cake and eat it too", whatever that was supposed to mean. I finally had the barrel turned down by another smith, at a cost of another $150. It's still no featherweight, weighing 8 3/4 pounds with scope. Years ago I had another well-regarded gunsmith rebarrel a M722 .222 magnum. There were swirl marks in the barrel finish, and the chamber was off center. I sensed that the guy was great at one time, but was over the hill when he did my job. I could go on and on. Most of it is small stuff, but poor work anyhow. I am just a hacker, but I have frequently ended up fixing things myself after a so-called pro has screwed them up.



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The worst experience is when a "fly by night" 'smith skipped out of town-with my rifle! Never did get it back. Another time, had a 'smith do me a semi-inlet job on my wood in his stock duplicator. Also sent him the barreled action to be blued-that I had spent several hours polishing. The inletting around the mag box was so large, I junked the stock, and the metal came back BEAD BLASTED and blued....... I did attribute that one to old age as he had done good work for me in the past, and was -mostly- retired...

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Took a 1975 vintage 700 adl in to have the trigger reduced to 3 lbs. Got home and tried the action. Upon closing the bolt the firing pin released. Had it been a hunting situation it could have been a problem.

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For every "war story" you guys have, a good gunsmith has 10 of ass*ole customers. Been there, done that. After a time ( a couple years), I developed a "feel". If the customer "felt" bad - I told him up front I didn't think he'd be happy, and if he wasn't happy, I wouldn't be happy, and goodby.



I ate it big time on a few projects which I went ahead with on a bad "feel" (that wasn't a feel, mister, it was a screw!), as I would not charge if the customer was not satisfied. I lasted 10 years, then had to get paying work. I had kids to feed.



I'll do it again someday- best job I ever had. (My 'smithing was OK- business skills need work!)


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las- it was nice to hear your counterpoint. I'm not a gunsmith, and I can't say I've had a bad experience with getting any of my guns worked on. I just seem to have a bad run of luck with keeping a good gunsmith. The two very compitent smiths I'v used over the years have unfortunately passed away. Once again I find myself looking for someone I can trust to work on my guns. I can tell you that having worked as a rangemaster for several years at a popular local rifle range, many hunters are really upset when their rifles won't shoot MOA groups every time they plop down at a bench. Sometimes it's the equipment, but most times it's pilot error. Some people just can't admit they're not very good shots. I had the luxury of growing up the son of a WWII infantryman who taught me how to shoot the right way, and I can tell you, that from watching these guys at the range try to shoot, that bad habits, and lack of practice add up to bad groups. It's not the rangemaster, or the gunsmith's fault that the shooter can't hit the same quadrant of the target twice in a row at 50 yards, and that does happen quite frequently. They'd get upset because we'd refuse to make a scope adjustment until they shot some kind of group. They seemed to feel that we weren't doing our jobs, and that's why their guns weren't grouping. There needs to be a certain level of self accountability sometimes. Gunsmithing, or in my experience, rangemaster errors do occur, but sometimes the man behind the trigger needs to share in the blame too.

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I once had a 721 remington that had been rechambered from 30-06 to 30 Gibbs, A smith told me that he could rechamber it back to 30-06. I was young and ignorant about case dementions and gave him the go ahead. Well anyone here who knows about the case dementions of a 30 gibbs compared to a 30-06 knows how that turned out( a sloppy chamber) the smith offered me 39.00 off on a new barrel.

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Probably the worst esperience I ever had AS a gunsmith was installing a set of irons on a thin barrelled rifle. I should have silver soldered that front sight on, but had used up the last of it the day before, so I went with screws (which the customer wanted anyway - so he could remove it if he wanted to) .

Well, I put that front hole right through the barrel into the bore, so ended up shortening his barrel by 2 inches. Most embarressing, and another freebie. He was kind enough to accept this solution, rather than costing me a replacement barrel. His choice.

If you don't screw up once in a while, you aren't trying hard enough.


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"It would have been a good distance shot if they hadn't been so far away". Seth Kantner in "Shopping for Porcupine"
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las
Been there, done that too.... <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />
Charlie


The data and opinions contained in these posts are the results of experiences with my equipment. NO CONCLUSIONS SHOULD BE DRAWN FROM ANY DATA PRESENTED, DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, ATTEMPT TO REPLICATE THESE RESULTSj
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Well, I have been pretty fortunate (so far). All of my 'smith experiences have had happy endings.

But..........I currently have one of my rifles being held hostage by a 'smith, who IS really good. That is, when you can ever get your work back !!!

He has two problems.........he can't say no (not always a bad thing), and, he can't stop talking when you get him on the phone !!! <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" /> (please refer to paragraph #1 as to the impact of such gift of gab <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />)

I truly think that if his wife would have the phone disconnected, like permanently, he would actually get his customers work done in a timely fashion. I have actually considered doning the black, covert-OPS outfit, black face grease paint and with wire cutters in hand, do the deed myself !!!

Tony. (harried and helpless <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/ubbthreads/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" />)

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I had an older smith in the area put a douglas premium barrel on a 35 Whelen I was building. I wanted an octagon barrel and the smith said he could do that just fine. Time came to pick up the rifle and the flats were so ripply, it looked like he had used a belt sander to make the flats flat. The smith asked me to ignore the ripples and try the gun out. He was sure it would shoot wonderfully. I refused and told him that I would be ashamed to take the gun to the range and have others even see it. I told him to remove the barrel and return the action. He did and I never returned.


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Rolly,

Sounds like a young fellow I encountered in Colorado about 25 years ago. Mom and Dad had sent him to gunsmith school and set him up in a storefront shop. I stopped in there one day to check it out and saw some work he had done to make octagonal barrels. That was enough for me! I left and never returned.

Paul

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Good lord! These stories are enough to cause mistrust in any/everybody involved with the business.

I'm very fortunate so far in not doing any major screw-ups in my measley 6 years of doing this full time. Maybe because sometimes a customer comes in with a job that one, I'm not familiar with. Two, I have had no call for it previously so I have not the tooling for the job and it would be cost prohibitive to obtain the tooling just for one job. Three, I'm fussy enough in that I don't care how long it takes me to do the job, it's going to be done right so the customer's satisfied, even if I've spent more labor time than I estimated in the first place. You'd think these other guys would have some pride in good workmanship.

This is a good thread.


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I was building a DG rifle and had parceled out the work here and there and so far so good. I sent it off to a smith east of the Mississippi for a heavy duty express sight to be installed and sighted in dead-on at 100 yds with a specific load and installation of a barrel band sling stud.



Upon receipt it was off to the range for to see what it could do. At one point, somewhere after twenty rounds, upon the next shot, the express sight departed the barrel and I believe did a triple ganor over my left shoulder.



On leaving the range with rifle slung over my shoulder, it suddenly flipped backward and hit the dirt. Seems both the express sight and the barrel band had been "glued" on.



Upon conferring with the chief smith, he allowed as how the employee who had done the "work" had been let go.



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other than work not being ready when they said it would be the only thing that stands out is the semi-custom rifle I had built on my parker hale m1200. When I picked the rifle up it looked great. I took it home and tried to run a round thru from the mag into the chamber and it would not feed. I guess they had only single loaded it to test fire it. They fixed the feed rails and what ever else they needed to do to correct the problem. They did not inlet the stock correctly for the safety to move. I ended up doing it myself rather than taking it back and waiting for them to correct it. They took a year rather than the 3 months they promised to do the rifle and finaly admited that they were defering work on my rifle for the high dollar quick turn around stuff for other people. And no I do not tell anyone to use that smith. tom


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A friend took a mauser into the Kodiak gun smith for a scope installation. Got the call the gun was ready and walked across the street to get it. The bolt had not been bent, nor was it part of the work requested... so the bolt could not be opened.

So Bruce left the rifle there and asked him to bend the bolt. The call comes that the rifle is ready so Bruce walked over to pick it up. Bolt cleared the scope fine, but the safety didn't. So they agreed to order a model 70 style safety.

A few weeks later he walks across the road again to get his rifle. Safety works too well and the pin won't drop regardless of safety position. Bruce agrees to a new trigger group...

A few more weeks go by and he goes across the road to get the "tricked out" rifle. He attempts to dry-fire it to try the trigger and the smith jumps on him saying he should never dry-fire any firearm, yet has no dummies to test the trigger pull???

Off to the range Bruce goes and gets the rifle to actually fire. At that point the firing pin x cocking piece retainer pin shears sending assorted parts all about...


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rdinak started an interesting thread here. I'm sure there are many reasons behind the myriad problems folks have experienced, ranging from lack of mechanical competence to lack of business skill to lack of integrity. One of the situations that is particularly perplexing is when someone with a well-established good reputation goes down hill, either putting out poor work or unreasonable delays. In two experiences that I did not mention in my posts I learned that the smith was having marital problems. Being human, gunsmiths can encounter life disrupting problems like everyone else. Alcohol or drugs can be a cause, and a big one that many people don't recognize or want to deal with is depression. This isn't the place to go into a lot of detail, but any time someone's behavioral patterns change without apparent reason, family and friends should encourage him to see a good doc and get checked out. Believe me, it can be the kindest thing you can do.

Paul

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