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March 12, 2008

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You Always Hurt the Gun You Love

In 1977, I was in a hunting camp in Montana where one of the attendees was a fellow who did nothing but shade-tree gunsmith the whole time he was there. Never hunted; just diddled with the rifle of anyone who wanted his rifle diddled with. Someone gave him a rifle to have the barrel free-floated and he hogged out enough wood to start a good-sized fire. To many people, guns are like cars before cars were operated by 18 computers; the urge to tinker is irresistible.

Sometimes it works. A crummy trigger can't be abided. A barrel that bears on one side of the channel has to be re-bedded. A thin, hard recoil pad should be replaced with something that does not give you hematomas. But aside from that, most tinkering is futile and a waste of money.

Competitive shotgunners seem to tinker more than anyone else. Trap guns with adjustable combs and recoil pads are particularly susceptible. Dropped a bird at handicap? Why, just to crank that comb up a tad and all will be well. I've been to sporting clays shoots where you couldn't hear for the racket created by electric choke-tube wrenches. Back in the 70s there was a very famous trapshooter who was known to wedge his shotgun barrel under the bumper of his care and bend the barrel just a tad to make it shoot a smidgen higher.

Hey, it's a hobby and it's mostly for fun, so why not meddle? Just don't think it's going to help.


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I cut my teeth on a couple of Marlin 336's. One my dad's, the other my granddad's. When I stepped away from their guns, I stumbled into a Parker-Hale .270 Win. I had wanted a .270 since reading some of Cactus Jack's stuff. It just sounded good to a young whipper-snapper with a bad itch. I attempted to sell it to a local gunsmith for cash. He looked at me and smiled, "Have you shot that rifle, son?"
"No sir, I don't have any ammo and why buy a box if I'm gonna sell it?"
Rummaging around under his bench, he came out with a fist full of reloads and said, "I'll buy the gun, but I suggest you go shoot it before you sell it. Just bring my brass back."
That was 5 shots and 30+ years ago. I'm still shooting a Parker-Hale .270, and a Ruger No. 1. When I do my part, that is: take a rest, find proper sight picture, breathe, exhale slightly, squeeze..... I normally find a dead deer. I have seen fleeing flags before, and if I'll just sit back and close my eyes and go over the shot, generally I'll recall what "I" did wrong!
Know some folks that change guns like I change TV channels, and they are never happy. They want a belted "Mangrum" or standard caliber. They want a light bullet with speed or a lead ingot just a bit faster than a 1949 Dodge dumptruck. They want a bore that looks like a hollow log or a sewing needle swage.
I know the ol' .270 isn't the "Ultimate" deer gun, but it was the answer to this "maiden's prayer"!
I agree Dave P.. Quit diddling around and hunt!


Dr. Ralph

Anybody want to buy an $1100 Ruger 10-22? Been there, done that...


Dr. Ralph - Can't stop laughing....

Steve C

Do-it-yourself projects are the sharp object to the great results/assumed financial savings balloon.

My own case of home gunsmithing falls under the category of "what the most stupid and/or embarrassing thing you ever did". It would make for a pretty good feature film.


much as I like to fiddle, I leave well enough alone with my guns and leave it to professionals past the basics...

Dave M

When I was 14, my grandfather passed away & I rec'd the Model 12 he had shot all his life. Being a curious lad with several years of shooting but no gunsmithing experience, I stripped it down to the component parts to see what made the thing tick.

The following day I sheepishly arrived at the local gun shop with the barrel, stock, and forearm in one hand and a coffee can full of misc. metal in the other and asked the proprietor for his assistance in restoring my inheritance to working order.

He replied with these words: "I will fix your mess if you are willing to sit your a** on that bench over there, watch what I do, and show me that you have learned so that you don't end up destroying a fine gun."

I watched and learned and every time I get the urge to meddle today I wish the old boy was still around to back me up.

Bernie Kuntz

I have done almost no "meddling" myself on firearms because I am a ham-handed sort who can ruin anything. I have refinished a few gunstocks that turned out OK.

Many of my shotguns are pre-choke tube, so I had the chokes opened from full to modified by a guy who knows what he is doing. I also have had a couple rifles rebedded, and have had many of them restocked. But I have this work done by artisans whose work I could never hope to duplicate. I would no more consider restocking a rifle myself than trying to build a spaceship to the moon!


I bought a beautiful High Standard HB from a local pawn shop owner. When he got it, it wouldn't cycle so he bought a new spring and installed it, then couldn't get it back apart because he hadn't cut the spring to length. He got fed up, so I got a deal, not much over $125. I tried to get it apart, and took out way to many of the wrong screws and such. Ended up at the gunsmith with a bag of parts. He wasn't happy to see me but said he would fix it. When I went to pick it up, he demonstrated the proper way to disassemble it three times, then made me show him that I knew how to do it. All said and done I am in to it less than $300, which is still a great deal for the condition it is in.

Trae B.

My uncle gave me a 30-30 with a split stock and said if I could fix it I could have it.I fixed it good as new.It shoots perfectly accurate to.The secrete to my succes.Duct-tape.

John B

When I was shooting handgun competitively I always noticed that that somewhere down the line, the guys that kept tinkering with their guns always seemed to have troubles on the firing line. I just kept my gun reasonably clean and it kept firing. Not that it helped me shoot any better, but at least I rarely had the frustration of jams part way through a string..

Jim in Mo.

I have a Ruger 22cal.LR. Mark II Target 'Government Target Model' pistol.
I shoot it all the time and would like to take it completely apart and clean it, but even Ruger says don't do it unless by a competant gunsmith. So I just keep shooting and normal cleaning (by a guy of my ability)and after 10yrs and many,many,many thousands rounds that damn gun still shoots empty shot gun hulls off the bench free standing at 15 yds.


I actually worked in a small gun shop, under two different gunsmiths. There was a sign in the shop that read, "We repair FIXED guns!"
It's mind boggling just how many parts there are in some firearms! The amatuer can take things apart with a ball peen hammer and a Stanley screw driver it takes a gunsmith a lathe, a mill, three new parts and a action wrench to reassemble!
I DO NOT do gunsmithing, not even on my own guns. I am rather accomplished at stock repair because I like working with wood. I DO NOT restock anything, I can fix a broken stock. I, in no way, can "fit" a stock! I've tried. That's why I repair broken stocks!
There is a distinct difference between "fixed" and "repaired". Right Clay Cooper!!! I'm a fixer, not a repairman!



My gunsmith has a sign on his wall:
Labor $50.00 per hour, $75.00 if you watch, $100.00 if you help

Dave is right especially about the trap shooters. We are always looking for that lost bird and figure something is out of adjustment or needs a little tweeking to make the world perfect. It has been this way for at least 38 years and probably forever.


Jim in MO,
Don't do it. There is a very small detent ball bearing that holds the safety in that very easy to loose. I spent the better part of a afternoon looking for a very very small steel detent ball.

Tom the Troll


Jim in Mo.

Have the same exact pistol. I do all my cleaning by field stripping. THAT can be accomplished with the take down lever on the back of the grip. Beyond that, it's gunsmith time!
If it needs cleaning beyond what the instruction manual provides, go to a 'smith!



I got a old Chinese SKS I like to tinker with. I have 4 stocks, 2 or 3 different twist on muzzle brakes, and a couple of different magazines for it. Oh yeah and a pair of receiver covers for it. I can change the looks of it all day long to suite my every whim. But I never take it apart to see how it ticks. It is fun to shoot and is a good conversation piece.


Save for swapping out parts on occasion I leave repairing my guns to someone competent at it! I would like to buy another Ruger 10-22 and dress it up a bit. Past that me, guns and tools don't mix!

Please tell us you used the brown duct tape!!!


Other than fun guns Marlin levers
which are not terribly complicated

Why I use Mauser 98 rifles exclusively.

Simple and strong can be disasembled to the molecular level and then reassembled in no time.
On three have replaced one firing pin spring,, one exctractor,.. and one sear,..in the last 35 years.
The sear was my fault,.. honed it to much had to replace.
spring was a precaution not a falure. extrator broke on a 6.5,.. go figure ,.. but easily replaceable.

If your gonna diddle ,. do it with a Mauser


I think home gunsmithing is a great idea and a good way to save some cash. None of it looks very hard and maybe one day i will be dumb enough to try it.

Jack Ryan

I just don't buy guns that NEED fixing to start with.

Gerald Keller

Since I am a working gunsmith,I love guys who "tinker" with their guns.They are some of my best and most frequent customers!One gentleman brought in a beutiful M98 8mm with a hole drilled through the front reciever ring ,barrel shank,and into the chamber.He had followed the directions in an article from a gun magazine(Not F&S or OL) on how to mount a scope.Only trouble was the author neglected to explain how deep to drill the holes.If you don't have experience
in the machine trades you shouldn't mess about.That's what my fellow gunsmiths and I are trained to do.

Clay Cooper

Dar I wuz August of 1982, hunting jack rabbits and coyotes in New Mexico with my trusty 25-06 Ruger M-77 when I tripped on a strand of barbwire laying low in the brush and crammed a cubic yard of mud up the muzzle. 2 ½ hours of rugged jeep trail and 1 ½ hours of pavement from the nearest gun cleaning rod, I decided to knock it out with a hand full of ¼ inch drill bits I had in my tool box. You quest it, game over, 45 days later and a new barrel I was back in the saddle again. One thing good came out of this, the barrel was due replacement anyhow.


Jack, I used to buy rifles that need repair, fix them then resell them for a good profit.. made a little money . had fun tinkering and shot a lot of different guns. "Good Life"

Clay Cooper

How about instead, You Always Hurt the Gun You Love, how about, The gun you love hurt you! A Tasco 3x9x40 has a violent reactions with a shooter when mounted on a 340 Weatherby Magnum. Yep’you guest it you did and a half roll of paper towels to add to the injury and embarrassment to the Colonel that wouldn’t listen to Ol’ Serge!


By the way, I was watching one of the Sportsmen Channels a few weeks ago and they had Jeff Foxworthy on it. I got to say, he is one hell of a shot! Impressed this old crusty NCO he did!!


Yohan, you beat me to it. I always thought the basic bolt action rifle was very popular beacuse it was the easiest to tinker with. I guess we can all thank the military for developing some close to idiot proof systems.
The Brownell's series of Gunsmith Kinks books provides tons of tales of similiar woe. My expertise is this: If it moves and is not supposed to, duct tape. If if does not move and is supposed to, WD 40.

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