Teaching Armed Self Defense To Your Family

February 9th, 2016

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Teaching Armed Self Defense To Your Family

Armed self-defense, such as defending your home from a burglar, is something we read about all of the time. There is much controversy about whether or not we should own guns. Armed self-defense, is not just about preparing for the worst, it is about preparing for best. By “the best” we mean possible outcomes. Those are family safety, gun safety, and personal safety. In this armed-self-defense blog, we look at how to go about teaching your family how to defend themselves using a firearm.

Children and guns

In the news, you read about children who shoot their siblings, or how a toddler shot his mom because she had a gun in her purse. Those are examples of poor gun safety and while tragic, they show us that gun safety is important for people of all ages, including our children.

Start with gun safety

Gun safety is a heritage that we pass from parent to child. A good place to start is by teaching them the proper names of the major gun parts. This is helpful when you actually start allowing them to hold a gun. Where to point the barrel while hunting is also a good lesson. How should you carry a gun when traveling in a vehicle, on foot, or by horse for long distances? How to load and discharge a firearm is a very important lesson. Review potential problems such as jamming and provide solutions about how to fix those issues. You should teach them how to clean and care for a gun that is not in use.

A local gunsmith may offer classes geared towards teaching children how to care for their guns. Teaching children to be comfortable around guns is important. Teaching them now to be gun-smart is necessary. Even for small kids, you can teach them fundamental safety lessons such as why eye and ear protection is needed. Teaching kids when they are young makes it easier for you when you get into more advanced lessons. A good tip is to make a list that you continue to reinforce with your children. Those can include rules adapted from Off the Grid News, such as:

  • Where to point the muzzle
  • Every gun is loaded even when you think it is not
  • Never load a gun unless you are about to shoot it
  • Think about consequences such as what is beyond your target, and the possibility of ricochet
  • Eye and ear protection is a must, even if you are not shooting the gun
  • How to move when carrying a gun
  • Keep the muzzle under control and clear at all times
  • Respect your gun, safety, and other people and their property

As kids get older, consider how to amend this list for shooting at a gun range. A good tip for teaching kids how to shoot is to use only single-fire guns. Once the focus on gun safety is a firmly ingrained habit, then you can focus on accuracy and self-defense.

Self defense situations and training

It is impossible to train to consciously shoot someone such as a home intruder, yet people do shoot and defend their homes. There is a moral barrier that most of us must cross to willingly shoot a gun at a person. Understanding when that is necessary – and there are plenty of times when it is necessary – and when it is not is something that requires a lot of preparation. A good gun owner values life. So how do you go from teaching children how to care for guns to how to defend a home against intruders?

The first step is to make them proficient with shooting and handling a gun. A person who can handle a gun is much safer to deal with in all types of situations. One of the first things that must be taught is that if necessary, it is okay to shoot an attacker. Children, especially, may hesitate if they feel they may get into trouble. By sitting down and talking about when deadly force may be needed helps eliminate hesitation. Another good tip is to discuss how to warn another person that you may shoot them. This helps prevent shooting siblings or other family members who are breaking into their own home.

Target practice is also recommended. Being able to hit a target from close range is important because in a home the field– or aim – is diminished. The more a person is familiar with shooting, the better. In closing, remember that fundamental skills save lives, even if you have to shoot an intruder. Knowing how to care for and respect a gun is a valuable lesson. It is part of our heritage too.

 

How To Choose Hearing Protection For Your Shooting Sessions

January 11th, 2016

yellow ear plugs isolated on black background

How To Choose Hearing Protection For Your Shooting Sessions

Protecting your hearing is a must – but you also need to be able to communicate with your fellow hunters and hear the light footstep of a deer on the forest floor. Hearing matters for more than deer; the fastest and easiest way to locate a turkey is to listen for the chatter and gobbles coming from a Tom – cover your ears too early and you’ll have to go without a turkey dinner this spring.

Hunting differs from a trip to the gun range; you can expect rapid, regular firing at the range and pick the ear protection that offers the fullest degree of coverage. While a rifle or long gun is generally not as loud as a pistol or revolver, it is still loud enough to cause damage. Since you’ll still need to use your senses as you hunt, picking ear protection is a little more tricky. What protection do you need, and when should you use it?

Some assume that since you are only firing occasionally, you can do without protection, but even a single hunt has the potential to cause permanent hearing damage, according to the American Speech Language Hearing Association. Learning more about how hearing damage works and the science behind ear protection can help you protect your hearing while you hunt; whether you are furthering your own firearms skills or helping a young person get started, hearing protection is an important part of gun safety.

The science behind ear protection

We measure the sounds we hear every day in terms of decibels (dB); normal human speech registers at about 60 dB, while your car engine could range from 70-90 dB. Sounds that are over 100 dB have the potential to damage your hearing over time, while single instances of loud noise over 140 dB can cause permanent damage. A .22 rifle shot is over 140 dB as are virtually all shotgun, pistol and revolver shots.

Since all gunshots surpass the safe level for human hearing, it is essential that you use protection any time you fire a weapon. Protecting your hearing should be considered part of basic gun safety. Some hearing protection options are better than others when it comes to hunting; the right choice for you depends on your personal preferences and budget.

Gun safety tips: Ear protection options

Ear plugs

Made out of a soft, compressive foam, inexpensive earplugs may be all you need to muffle sound and protect your hearing. Earplugs have several advantages – they are cheap, readily available and disposable. While earplugs certainly help protect your hearing, they do have some significant downsides. If you do not like things in your ears, you won’t like earplugs. They also dampen all sound, making it more difficult to tell how much noise you are making and if an animal is near. They can also be difficult to insert when your hands are cold – you need to roll the foam into a tight coil to insert them into your ears.

Passive ear muffs

They look just like a pair of headphones, but passive ear muffs add an extra layer of protection as you hunt. Designed to mold to your head and cover your ears completely, this style of ear protection is more expensive than ear plugs, but provides more protection as well. Passive ear muffs block all sounds, so you won’t be able to hold a conversation or realize how much noise your group is making while wearing them.

Electronic ear muffs

Probably the best option for hunting is also the most expensive. Electronic ear muffs selectively filter sound, so you can have a conversation, hear that distant gobble or realize how much noise you are making as you stomp around getting set up. Electronic muffs dampen the sound of a shot considerably, protecting your hearing while allowing for effective communication, making them the ideal choice for hunting. If you are serious about hunting, then a set of electronic ear muffs is an essential part of your kit.

Using hearing protection

Setting up

Unless you are wearing electronic ear muffs, don’t put your hearing protection in until after you’re set up in your spot; the deer in the area can hear you even when you are trying to be careful. If you cover your own ears you may end up making a lot more noise than you intend to as you scope out the area, set up or climb into a blind. Set up the day before if possible, or add your ear protection after you’ve settled into your spot. The deer and other animals in the forest already have superior hearing to yours; dampen your own senses and you could scare anything worth bagging away from your site.

Hunting alone or with a group

If you are out on your own, then simply remembering to insert ear plugs or don the dampening headphones may be enough, if you are not using the electronic versions. Hunt with a group or even a single partner and your needs become more complex. A gun fired near you has the same impact on your hearing as one you fire on your own, so communication is a must. Choosing ear protection that works full time to protect your ears is best if you are hunting in a group; you won’t have to worry about loud and potentially damaging surprises.

Protect your hearing every time you hunt

The best hearing protection in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t use it. Make a commitment to tracking down and acquiring the best protection you can find – and to using that protection every time. Ear protection should be as important as caring for your firearm and choosing the right site. Protecting your ears now ensures that you’ll still be able to hear the subtle rustling of a turkey in dense brush – or the loud gobbling of a Tom looking for hens – for years to come.

10 Things To Remember When Planning Your Dream Hunt

January 11th, 2016

Preparing for the hunt in a forester cottage

10 Tips to Successfully Plan Your Dream Hunt

We all have them — lofty ambitions for the hunt of a lifetime. But do they need to remain only in your dreams? Absolutely not! Every year, hunters experience the thrill and adventure of taking down a trophy. A dream hunting expedition comes down to one thing – planning. In this article, we discuss ten things that turn an average hunt into the hunting excursion of a lifetime.

Successful hunting is all about planning. You can’t just hop in the truck, head for the woods and bag a trophy buck. That kind of hunting excursion is mostly about luck. Sure, luck plays a part in most hunting ventures, but how much luck impacts your adventure is somewhat controllable. A few of the thing things that we discuss includes equipment and supplies, using guides, and tips on how to plan a dream hunt. This is not a species-specific hunting article, so whether you want a trophy whitetail, elk, bear, or even big game like elephants or lions, the information in this article will be usable for you. Let’s begin with the first order of business — equipment.

  1. Hunting equipment — It all boils down to quality

Hunting equipment is a set of tools, and tools are supposed to stand up to the abuse. The quality of your equipment is a key component to the success of your hunt. A good example is your gun; it won’t do you much good if it jams. It won’t do you much good if the optics are not spot on and you cannot see your target. It won’t do you much good if it is not powerful enough to allow perfect-ranged shots. Invest in a quality rifle or shotgun.

For many of us, that may mean a customized rifle that is built to fit your body and your shooting style. If you are not ready for a customized gun, then take your existing guns to a gunsmith who has been to school and let them service your rifle or shotgun. If you are the DIY type of hunter, and many of us are, consider taking a gunsmithing class or enroll in a gunsmith course. Most of us were taught to care for guns by our dads, but you’d be surprised about how many little tricks you can pick up from a gunsmith about the care of firearms.

What other hunting supplies might you need for a trophy hunt? Treat all equipment as though it is your gun because many hunts are ruined by a $0.03 part that broke. Don’t let that hunter be you.

  1. Know your target

It is one thing to say you want to target a trophy elk, and it is quite another thing to be able to find one. This is where we downplay luck and up-play skill. Learn about the animal you hunt and get to know it intimately.

  • What do they eat?
  • What kind of habitat do they prefer?
  • What are their defenses?
  • How well do they hear?
  • Is their vision better than yours?
  • Is your rifle or shotgun going to do the job to overcome their defenses?

These are just a few of the questions that successful hunters answer when they chase trophy game, especially when chasing a predator. Know your prey like you know yourself.

  1. Safety is always first

Hunting accidents, self-inflicted gunshot wounds and the rest of that long list of miseries are all preventable if you take safety into consideration. There are freak accidents where a limb falls out of a tree and takes you down — an act of God.  Most hunting accidents do not involve God, but rather poor safety policies. Nobody wants to limp home because they shot themselves in the foot, but it happens. Even former Vice President Dick Cheney shot his hunting partner accidentally. Be safe about how you hunt, and how you care for your equipment.

  1. Expect changes

A good hunter is versatile and adaptable. The environment in which you hunt is not going to adapt to you; you will have to adapt to it. You are going into the wild, and the wild is “wild.” Expect conditions to change, especially the weather. Pack your bag for all of the unexpected events. That includes staying longer than planned, lighting, extreme weather, and physical issues such as fatigue, pain, and even allergies. There is a lot that changes in the bush, including one of the most impressive predator groups –  insects (ticks, mosquitos and chiggers).

  1. Use a hunting guide

Good hunting guides are worth their weight in gold. The benefit is that they know the territory and they know the game. They help you overcome the learning curve that you cannot overcome by time, reading or watching videos. What they know they learned from personal experience on the land you’ll be working. They also understand what types of hunting supplies you’ll need, the conditions you’ll face, and what the physical and mental requirements of your hunt will be. A good guide helps make your hunt successful.

  1. Practice patience

How many of the “ones that got away” got away because hunters were impatient? Patience, they say, is a virtue, and that has never been truer than when hunting. Practice being patient until you master that skill.

  1. Lose the ego

Hunting is not about you. Hunting trophy game is about building a relationship between yourself and your prey. Most anyone can walk up to an elephant and shoot it. We read about that all the time on social media. To find a monster bull elk or moose is quite a bit different. It is like a dance, and you cannot afford to step on your partner’s toes. Hunting is about skill. You can be prideful after you bag your target. To get to the point of squeezing the trigger occurs more often when we leave our ego in the truck. Be humble and patient and increase your chances for success.

  1. Evaluate your presence

Do you smell? Can your prey smell you? Are you wearing scents? Even those manly scents from underarm deodorant and toothpaste can alert prey long before you even see them. This is an exercise in evaluating how well your actions and presence stack up against the defenses of you prey. Sight, sound and smell are just some of the tools that trophy game use to stay alive. We are foreigners in their territory and therefore, we stand out like a sore thumb. Evaluating your presence in their territory allows you to compensate or adjust your actions to overcome their defenses. Big trophy bucks did not grow up to be big trophy bucks because they were dense. These are smart animals with keen senses. If you want to bag one, you have to match their presence in their territory.

  1. Be willing to learn

None of us knows everything, even if we are good at hunting. Think of things in grades — amateur, novice, sufficient, master, guide. Where are you in this lineup? Even the top tier of hunters have things to learn and skills they can improve. A common improvement is how to squeeze the trigger. Eliminating shooting errors is a big part of being successful as a hunter. To hunt the top tier of prey you need to be the best hunter that you can be, and that comes down to skill. Be willing to learn and willing to put in the time to improve.

  1. Learn the art of movement

Tracking game requires movement, and that means sound. Learn how to move slowly and how to make each movement with purpose. There are skills that you can learn that help you step softly or creep along the ground silently. Being able to move properly is a key component of hunting. It is not very likely that you will just walk through the woods and drop a trophy buck from 50 feet.

Hunters need to be flexible, able to bend, squat, and stand for long periods and then be able to move quickly, accurately and purposefully. If you’d like to evaluate how you move, consider taking a Tai Chi class. Tai Chi is a Chinese art, and it teaches balance and movement. Tai Chi will surprise you with what you will discover about yourself.

These ten tips address the entire realm of what a hunter is and offer insight into how to improve yourself so that you fit into the role of a top predator. Whether you shoot bullets or arrows, the best of us got there by practicing and improving. Skill wins over luck, and building skills require work. Master these and you’re well on your way to your Dream Hunt.  Happy hunting.

Gunsmith’s Guide: How to Choose a Shotgun Shell for Your Next Hunt

November 16th, 2015

choosing-types-of-shotgun-shells-for-hunting

Hunters often favor shotguns because the firearm option is extremely versatile. However, this has resulted in an immense and complex ammunition market. When shopping for shotgun ammunition, you’ll come across thousands of different types of shotgun shells that offer diverse results. With the right ammunition, you’re more likely to be an effective hunter.

Shotgun gauge sizes

According to gunsmithing experts, the first step to buying the right shotgun ammunition involves choosing the best gauge. In the firearms industry, manufacturers measure shotguns in gauges as opposed to calibers. The term “gauge” defines the barrel’s diameter while the number refers to the lead weight that will fit inside a gun’s barrel. If you buy a 12-gauge shotgun, then 12 equally sized balls made from one pound of lead will fit inside the weapon. As a result, a 20-gauge shotgun is smaller than a 12-gauge.

In the past, people made their own ammunition from purchased lead pieces. An exception to the gauging measurement in shotguns is the .410, which is a small firearm that manufacturers measure by the bore size. If you were to measure it in traditional gauge size terms, it would be a 68-gauge.

Hunters use shotguns to bring down fowl. Also, most hunters choose shotgun shell gauges in smaller sizes for clay target shooting and to hunt small creatures as well as game animals. Larger gauges are best for shooting clay targets. In addition, experts recommend large ammunition for home defense and for hunting big game species like deer and turkey.

Shotgun shell length

Within their corresponding gauges, shotgun chambers are available in different lengths. Keep in mind that even if it’s the proper gauge, it is dangerous to use a shell that’s too long for your shotgun’s chamber. To maintain your personal safety and the security of bystanders, don’t use shells that measure longer than the gun’s guide recommends. However, to shoot with greater accuracy and power, buy the longest types of shotgun shells that are safe to use in your gun.

Types of shotgun shells

Gun enthusiasts refer to the cluster of tiny pellets that you shoot out of a shotgun as shot. In gunsmithing, ammunition manufacturers make shot from pure lead, but they may coat it with other substances like copper, steel or bismuth.

Birdshot is the smallest type of shotgun shell available with letters depicting larger shot sizes. The largest is buckshot, and you’ll want it on hand to hunt deer, vermin or for self-defense. To hunt game birds like woodcock or grouse, select a small diameter shot size like 7 ½, 8 or 9. If you intend to hunt squirrel, duck, rabbit or pheasant, use a 4, 5 or 6 shot size. Large shot sizes include 1, 2 and 3 along with B, BB and BBB.

Other large shot sizes are T, F and FF. Use these sizes for long distance waterfowl hunting based on your preferences. Larger pellets retain their rate of speed and hold enough power to complete rapid kills when you’re shooting at distant ducks and geese. Along with deer, you can use buckshot to bring down a coyote or a fox.

Shotgun slugs

Slugs are another type of shotgun shell. A shotgun slug is a single projectile that most hunters use to take down big game animals like deer or even bears. Slug shotguns come in two different forms — smoothbore or rifled. These terms refer to a gun’s barrel. A smoothbore barrel is a traditional shotgun feature, and you’ll generally use this kind of barrel to shoot pellets.

To shoot big game with a slug shotgun, you’ll want to invest in a gun with a rifled barrel. A shotgun with this type of barrel has grooves and twists that create a spinning and stabilizing action when you release the slug. These barrel features increase accuracy. Shotguns that shoot slugs are specialized firearms, and they are in a separate category.

Nontoxic or lead-free ammunition

Because of environmental concerns, a number of states and regions ban hunters from using lead ammunition. Fortunately, manufacturers offer nontoxic shotgun shell types, also called lead-free ammo or green ammo. These include steel, bismuth, tin and tungsten-polymer materials. Tungsten-iron and tungsten-matrix are also environmentally friendly.

A few final considerations

Choose shotgun shell types and sizes according to the kind of game you intend to hunt. Use caution regarding the length of your ammunition, and while hunting, be sure to use a quality gun that inspires confidence.

Gunsmith’s Guide: Reloading Ammo vs. Buying Ammo – Cost Saver or Time Waster?

October 20th, 2015

Gunsmith's Guide: Reloading Ammo vs. Buying Ammo – Cost Saver or Time Waster?

Gunsmith’s Guide: Reloading Ammo vs. Buying Ammo – Cost Saver or Time Waster?

Top 4 things smart shooters need to consider

Whether you’d like to save money or just want to learn as much as you can about shooting and gunsmithing, reloading your own ammo may be the way to go. Most shooting enthusiasts eventually grapple with the ammo reloading issue. On the one hand, reloading bullets instead of buying commercial ammunition is often more cost-effective. On the other, it is a fairly time-consuming endeavor. Many enjoy the process itself, however, so this is less of an issue. The question is: Where do you fall on the scale? Does reloading your own ammunition make sense for you?

Ammo reloading: Who does it?

People who reload their own ammunition typically fall into one of two groups. The first is made up of people who shoot a lot. Members of gun clubs, for instance, go through lots of ammo, so the savings involved in loading their own is compelling indeed. The second is made up of people who are determined to be the most accurate shooters possible. They believe loading their own is the only way to make the most of their firearms.

If you meet the following criteria, you’ll probably like reloading your own ammo:

  • Detail-oriented — strong attention to detail is a must
  • Mechanically inclined — you enjoy tinkering with things and figuring out how they work
  • Patient — the work is, in some ways, pretty painstaking
  • You have spare time — this one speaks for itself

Top 4 reasons to load your own ammo

Even if you meet the criteria above, you may be unconvinced about the merits of ammo reloading. Consider these advantages:

  1. Save Money. This one is a little up in the air. Reloading some types of ammo can, indeed, save you money. The typical 50-count box of commercially produced 44 Magnum bullets will set you back by around $40. Reloading your own ammo costs around $13, so you stand to save a hefty chunk of change. The savings aren’t as significant for other types of ammo, however. In some cases, it may even cost you more to load your own. If savings aren’t your primary concern, though, this may not matter to you.
  2. Improve Accuracy. Commercial ammunition must adhere to specific safety standards. It must be able to perform properly in the majority of firearms, so it’s not always loaded to the levels of velocity that are required for superior performance. Also, bullets must be seated far back enough in the brass to fit just about any magazine. Many believe accuracy is improved when the bullet is seated a little farther out. More importantly, by reloading your own ammo, you can use components that work for your exact gun and that perform properly for your desired application.
  3. Have Fun. Many people reload their own ammo simply because they enjoy it. If you’re curious about the mechanics behind shooting, you will probably enjoy the process of reloading your own ammunition.
  4. Shoot More. Have you ever felt like doing a little shooting, realized you were out of bullets and decided against it? That’s a pretty big letdown, and you can avoid it by keeping the ammo reloading supplies you need handy. From that point forward, you won’t have to run out to buy commercial bullets anymore, and you will be able to shoot more often.

The costliest part of reloading your own ammo is typically buying the equipment and supplies you need to do so. For shotgun reloading that means a reloading press, but you’ll need a lot more for a pistol or rifle. Used equipment is available, however, and gun clubs often offer great discounts on supplies too. Moreover, you can start with what you need for the caliber you use the most. If you enjoy reloading your own ammo, you can always invest in more dies for other calibers later.

Learn about ammo and the broader world of gunsmithing at the Colorado School of Trades. Our career counselors can help you decide if being a professional gunsmith is the right path for you.

 

Gunsmith’s Guide: 5 Tips for Choosing the Best Hunting Rifle

October 5th, 2015

Rifle

When it comes to a successful hunting trip, there’s nothing more important than choosing the best hunting rifle. Whether you’re heading out for the first time or the fiftieth, it’s all about choosing a rifle that fits your hunting style and the game that you’re pursuing. We build and repair a lot of awesome hunting rifles here at the Colorado School of Trades. Here’s a quick primer of what we consider when we’re looking for a hunting rifle.

1.    Do the right research

Buying a hunting rifle means doing research and reading hunting rifle reviews before you head out to shop. Decide which models you’d like to look at, then read up on them. Consult manufacturer websites and online forums. Use other information sources as well. Talk to knowledgeable friends or ask a gunsmith you trust if he has any opinions about a particular rifle. Trust me, he will!

2.    Choose the right hunting rifle cartridge

The rifle cartridge, which many people simply call the bullet, is central to any hunting trip. It’s also central to any hunting rifle. Remember that every gun is designed to shoot only certain cartridges. You’ll need to think ahead if you’re going to be hunting very large game, as you may need a rifle you won’t find in a basic hunting collection.

If you’re new to hunting or are looking for a basic hunting setup, consider a gun that’s designed to shoot a .30-06 Springfield, .308 Winchester or .270 Winchester. For small game and varmints, many hunters go with a basic .22 or .223 Remington. Choose a cartridge that has enough power to take down your game with a single shot.

3.    Determine an action plan

The rifle action is responsible for kicking out fired cartridges and loading new cartridges into a rifle’s chamber. When it comes to actions, hunting rifles are designed to fire either single shots or repeat shots. Choosing the right type of action is largely a matter of preference. Some hunters like single-shot rifles, which increase the pressure to make an accurate shot the first time. Others prefer repeating rifles, which decrease pressure and are an ideal choice for newer hunters.

Single-shot choices include rolling-block, break-open, trapdoor and falling-block action rifles. Repeating choices include pump-action, bolt-action, lever-action and automatic rifles. You’ll only be able to determine which is best for you by spending some hands-on time with different rifles.

4.    Evaluate materials

You’ll find hunting rifles at a variety of price points, which is good news. However, it’s essential to know what sets the good-but-affordable rifles apart from the just-plain-cheap rifles. You can avoid a bad investment by choosing the right barrel and stock materials.

Most hunting rifles feature either stainless steel or carbon steel for the barrel and other metal components. Carbon steel is cheaper, but it’s more prone to rust than stainless steel. If you keep up on regular rifle maintenance, this shouldn’t be a deal breaker. In terms of the stock, you’ll likely be able to choose from wood or fiberglass. Both are good choices so long as they’re well maintained. When it comes to wood, it’s also important that you choose a good species. Stocks made from materials such as walnut may be more expensive than other wood choices, but they’re also more durable.

5.    Budget for rifle optics

Many a hunter has fallen into the trap of buying a great rifle and then having no money left for a rifle scope. Think ahead and budget for your optics so that you’re not stuck with a rifle you can’t use. In terms of budgeting, you can plan to spend between 50 and 100 percent of what you spent on your rifle on a scope. If you already have a suitable scope, remember to mount it, site it and get comfortable with it before you head out to hunt.

Working with a trained gunsmith is the best way to find the hunting rifle that fits your every need. The skilled gunsmiths at the Colorado School of Trades can help provide you the education you need to become a gunsmith who is capable of building the perfect hunting rig, too.

Guest Article: CST Gunsmith Graduate and Instructor Revisits Colorado School of Trades

October 5th, 2015

D’Arcy Echols is a professional gunsmith and studied gunsmithing and graduated from the Colorado School of Trades. He built rifles by day in his own gun shop and was an instructor teaching the stockmaking course by night for CST. Echols gave the CST students a presentation of his involvement in gunsmithing over the past 30 years and evolving the role of the custom rifle maker.

 

D'Arcy Echols Gunsmith Presentation at Colorado School of Trades

Just before the Memorial Day Weekend I spent a day at the Colorado School of Trades giving three one and half hour presentations to the student body. I am a graduate of the School of Trades and was also an instructor for three years while I lived in Denver. I built rifles in my shop during the day and taught in the Stocking Making Dept. at night. I do remember having to monitor approximately 60 stocks being made at any given time as a real challenge. It was also a great learning experience for me to keep all those balls in the air. I don’t remember having to sleep at that age.
colorado-school-of-trades
The core of my presentation was geared towards my involvement in the trade for the past three decades and the evolving role of the Custom Rifle Maker today. I also addressed the past, current and future outlook for someone wanting to enter this profession from my point of view. My intentions were to ladle out the some honest realities for those in attendance.

The Power Point Presentation contained 115 images that visually walked through many of the procedures used to build both my Legend and Classic Rifles. I discussed a variety of themes in regard to form, function, accuracy and marketing. I touched on the importance engineering, design, jigs, fixtures and techniques required for this line of work and how the majority of this tooling would need to be made as it would never be found in a Brownells or Midway catalog. While brief at best, the subject matter did give the audience a glimmer of what to expect in this profession. I can assure you it was not all peaches and cream. I hope it clued up and gave insight to some of those in attendance that may want to travel this same road. In the words of Angus & Brian Young “It’s a long way to the top if you want to Rock & Roll”.

During a break for lunch I walked onto the floor and as usual made a nuisance of myself. One thing was apparent and that was the administration had elected to step up and invest in some very nice equipment for the students. I was impressed with the machine improvements, noting the addition of CNC machining centers and a CAD design area set aside for the students to design a part in Solidworks, program the part and then make that part. The welding section has wisely gone to teaching the use of TIG, a paint booth was in place for painting fiberglass stocks and they hope to install an oven for baking Cerakote soon.

CST Photo 2

Walking among the benches it was apparent that little had changed in regard to the “hands on”part of the education. A lot of ground was being covered, as elbows and hands shaped, bent, beat, blended and transformed blocks of steel, wood and various synthetics into the finished projects. I didn’t see anything at that time that looked as if it needed life support which is a testament to the instructors.

Gunsmithing Presentation
I do feel that these trade schools should be much longer in duration akin to those in the Europe but the educational systems and funding are radically different in each case. Apparently most graduates will be hired by companies such as Gander Mountain, Bass Pro, etc, others will become employed by smaller sporting goods stores or independent gun shops while a few others are considering traveling as contract armorer’s for the military. I wonder if I could get a gig checkering M-24’s ?

Gunsmithing Workshop

I have stopped and visited CST every so often to make sure it was still there, looked, smelled and sounded the same. It does and I still feel a connection to this institution.  For me it was the key to the door that has carried me a long way. My hat is off the administration, instructors and students and I thank them for their recent hospitality and interest.

Gunsmith School Presentation

10 Benefits of a Career in Gunsmithing

September 21st, 2015

10 Benefits of a Career in Gunsmithing

Have you ever thought about becoming a gunsmith? Gunsmithing careers give you exciting opportunities to work with firearms in different ways. In the course of your work, you may find yourself creating, repairing, customizing and designing a variety of guns. Careers in gunsmithing can prove rewarding and fascinating. The following are 10 benefits that a gunsmith career can give you.

1) If you have an interest in firearms, a gunsmith career will provide you with meaningful work that you enjoy. Instead of treating guns as a hobby, you can get the satisfaction of earning your living from them.

2) Careers in gunsmithing don’t require expensive, lengthy university studies. You can get started as a gunsmith with a high school diploma and acquire the necessary skills through courses offered by a high-quality trade school.

3) You’ll develop important skills throughout your gunsmith career, including drawing, math and the use of various tools. Depending on where you work, you can also gain experience in customer service and in running your own business. Should you ever wish to change career paths, your skills as a gunsmith could prove useful in other lines of work.

4) Gunsmithing careers offer a variety of possibilities for where you can work. Maybe you’ll be employed by a gun shop or sporting goods store. Maybe you’ll get hired at a factory or work with the military and police. Establishing your own business is another option. You can choose the kind of work environment that suits you best.

5) Careers in gunsmithing give you the opportunity to become a well-paid expert. For example, you can specialize in producing certain kinds of firearms or develop expertise in restoring guns from a specific historic period. As you cultivate your reputation over time, you’ll be able to demand higher prices.

6) Self-expression can play an important part in a gunsmith career. Beyond giving you a choice of work environment and specialization, your career presents opportunities for expressing your personal vision about firearms. If you have artistic talents, part of your work may involve adding engraved designs and other decorative touches to your guns.

7) You’ll appreciate the mental challenge offered by careers in gunsmithing. Gunsmithing careers call for alertness, mental flexibility and ingenuity. You’ll need to solve problems and anticipate difficulties for your customers.

8) Individuals working in gunsmithing careers are called on to improve their customers’ safety. When you work with high standards, you help protect people from the risks of shoddy, poorly maintained firearms. You’ll enjoy a sense of satisfaction knowing that when you produce, inspect or repair a gun, you’re playing a role in reducing the chance of a customer suffering an accident.

9) Careers in gunsmithing offer you the chance to share your knowledge and enthusiasm about guns. Whether you’re selling a gun or explaining its history or safe usage, you’ll get to connect with people and share your passion.

10) If you embark on a gunsmith career, you’ll likely enjoy job security. Given the popularity of firearms and people’s practical need for high-quality guns, your skills will be useful throughout the country.

For further information about gunsmithing careers, be sure to visit the website for the Colorado School of Trades. With its reputable and thorough training program, the school can prepare you well for a rewarding career as a gunsmith.

How To Find A Reputable Gunsmith

September 18th, 2015

If you own a quality rifle or pistol, an antique gun or a specialty firearm, you need a reliable, experienced gunsmith who has graduated from a top gunsmithing school. It is essential that your gun operates correctly each time you pull the trigger as your very life may depend upon it. In addition, a graduate from a top gunsmith school will know exactly which parts are needed for repairs, and he or she can suggest aftermarket parts and additions. The only problem is finding a professional who has successfully attending one of the leading gunsmithing schools in the country and who meets several other important qualifications.

Federal Licensing and Insurance

Even though completion of a gunsmithing school is essential, the most important criterion to be met by a potential smith is federal licensing. He or she must be carrying a valid federal firearms license (FFL). Otherwise, the shop is operating illegally, and you could find yourself in big trouble. Your guns may be confiscated by federal authorities, and you may be subject to charges. The license should be displayed by the gunsmith in a conspicuous location, and you can check online for its authenticity and expiration date.

The second qualification that an appropriate gunsmith must meet is to carry insurance. Your firearms are important to you, and it would be a shame to lose them to theft, fire or other disasters. Always verify your gunsmith’s insurance, and check to see if he or she is bonded, which protects you from accidents or negligence.

Gunsmithing Schools

While many gunsmiths are completely self-taught or have learned their trade informally through the years, neither of these gives you any verification as to what they know and what they can do. Only someone who has graduated from a gunsmith school can provide any sort of verification.

Gunsmithing schools help potential candidates obtain or hone all the skills that are required to be leaders in their trade, but not every gunsmithing school is equal. It is a great idea to ask a gunsmith which gunsmith school he or she attended, and once a diploma or certificate of completion from a gunsmithing school is provided, you may want to do some research on the institution.  

Several types of gunsmithing schools are available for students seeking a gunsmith license. Some of these gunsmithing schools are run by the military or police agencies and are not open to the public, but a gunsmith school for civilians can provide the same or even a higher level of education. This makes researching the gunsmith school of utmost importance.

Reputation

In addition to asking about the gunsmithing school, you can learn a lot about your smith though his or her reputation in the community. A quality gunsmith will have positive reviews online and from other local gun owners. A great way to start this process is by asking around at local gun clubs and shooting ranges.

ou will also want to find out how long the gunsmith has been operating his or her shop, and you can ask directly about further references. In most cases, you will find there is a very good reason why a gunsmith has an established shop that is always busy with loyal clientele.

Gunsmithing Services

The final piece of information you will need in order to determine whether you have found a reliable smith for your guns is whether all services are performed in-house, and if not, to whom are they going and why. While it is generally recognized that a gunsmith will not be able to perform work on every type of specialty firearm in existence, he or she should not be farming out standard jobs to other shops.

Founded in 1947, the Colorado School of Trades (CST) has been a gunsmithing training destination since its inception. Our gunsmithing school enjoys a worldwide reputation built on a nearly 70-year history and a long list of successful graduates recognized by top Gunsmith employers everywhere. Find out more about a career in gunsmithing by visiting our website.

How To Care For A Firearm

September 16th, 2015

Proper care of a pistol or rifle is the key to keeping it in good condition. Although most firearm owners are comfortable cleaning their own rifles or pistols, some still take their firearms to a gunsmith or gunsmithing enthusiast for extensive cleaning. Aspiring gunsmiths should know how to clean a firearm. This is one of the first lessons taught in gunsmithing school.

Safety First
One of the most important rules of safety for gunsmithing is to always treat the firearm as if it is loaded. Point it down and away when cleaning it or inspecting it. While a gun owner or a gunsmith may become lax as they develop cleaning routines, it is important to remember eye protection when using solvents or chemicals. This is covered in gunsmithing school. Make sure the safety is on and the firearm is unloaded before inspecting or cleaning it.

Cleaning A Pistol
When the chamber is empty, partially disassemble the pistol according to the owner’s manual. Use a bore brush attached to a cleaning rod to scrub out the inside of the barrel. Add some solvent to the brush, and scrub out the barrel a few more times. This is one of the most important parts to clean. After doing this, replace the bore brush with a patch holder. Run it in and out of the barrel a few times, and repeat the process with new patch holders until they come out mostly clean. Use a light to look inside the barrel. If there is additional fouling, clean it again. Always make sure the firearm is clean before storing it away. For revolvers, clean the barrel and each of the chambers.

After the pistol is fired, the residue from the ammo can build up inside of it and cause corrosion. It is a good idea to clean a firearm regularly if it is used often, and a handgun that is fired occasionally and then stored should be cleaned immediately before storage. Follow each cleaning with proper lubrication. The areas and amounts of lubrication to use depend on whether the handgun is a revolver, single action or double action.

Cleaning A Rifle
One of the most common duties of gunsmithing is cleaning a rifle. It is similar to cleaning a handgun. However, not all rifles are the same. Gunsmithing enthusiasts should use cleaning patches, a cleaning rod, solvent, rust protector and any necessary disassembling tools. Hoppe’s No. 9 bore cleaning solvent is a good choice for any gunsmith. Be sure to clean the gun correctly according to the owner’s manual. Most rifles open with a latch on the back of the upper side. Remove the bolt, bolt carrier and gas tube. Use the cleaning rod and bore brush with solvent to clean the barrel from the back. Put the rod all of the way down, pull it back up and avoid using a fast back-and-forth scrubbing motion. Do this a few times. Do not enter it from the front. Follow this step by wiping the barrel with cleaning patches. Some rifles such as those made by Mosin Nagant have special cleaning instructions, which are covered in gunsmithing school. Lubricate the rifle when finished.

Storing A Firearm
Firearms should always be kept in a locked place when they are not in use. This is important for any responsible gunsmith. Safe, lock box and other storage options are covered in gunsmithing school. A gunsmith must always keep a firearm safe while it is in his or her care.

Founded in 1947, the Colorado School of Trades (CST) has been a gunsmithing training destination since its inception. Our gunsmithing school enjoys a worldwide reputation built on a nearly 70-year history and a long list of successful graduates recognized by top Gunsmith employers everywhere. Find out more about a career in gunsmithing by visiting our website.