This video is an excellent opportunity to get a glimpse inside an actual gunsmithing school. The room where the gunsmithing work is done is huge and contains hundreds of different gunsmithing tools.
The master gunsmith, Gary Holloway, from the prestigious Pennsylvania Gunsmith School, does a great job of explaining the kinds of things a gunsmith would work on in regards to restoring a gun. Things like mildew, rust, pitting, dents, and worn surfaces can all be removed or restored by a gunsmith who knows what to look for and how to use the right tools.
This particular video focuses on the students using hand tools to learn what needs to be done prior to moving into using power tools.
And for those of you who like to read, here is the transcript of the above video:
Gary: This is typical of firearms that come in and you can see that this gun has been out in the barn or out in the garage. Can you see the fungus that’s actually growing in to the finish on the wood? You can see the rust pitting. You can see scratches. There are some dents in the barrel that will need to be addressed right here where it has been dropped.
The bottom, that’s typical of the trigger guards that come in to the school and you can see the amount of rust and wear where people have handled it for years and years. This is field wear where people have used this firearm, carried it for years, hunting or in their performance of their work. This had been out in the barn. The firearm suffered a lot of neglect. So he’s trying to restore it and get it looking back like it did when it left the factory, if not better. They’re going to pick out and know all the flaws in the firearm that maybe the customer would not be aware of.
You can see the rust pitting in the barrel but the true crown, the area that affects the way the firearm performs is right here, right where the edge of the bore comes out and meets the rounded surface of the crown. As I rotate it and look at it in the light, I can see the flaws and he is learning to see them now too.
It needs a little bit of work right here, Nathan. OK. Just a little mark right here. You see this mark and this mark? Those will come out.
When he’s done with his final polish, it will be smooth and shiny and then with the bluing put back on it, it will look brand new because they have to learn how to take them apart, do all this tremendous work, refinish them completely and put them back together without scratching them; and if they scratch them badly enough, as a teacher, I won’t grade their work. I will have them totally take it apart again and redo it and try it again.
Student 1: One simple mishap is putting a pin back in and the punch slides off the pin and scratches the receiver. Now you’re back to square one without a receiver. You have to start it all over again. So you really, really have to take your time. When you tear it down, you don’t want to lose parts but you can be a little bit more sloppy. This, there’s no room for error whatsoever. None.
Gary: Like I did earlier, we were looking at a barrel and I was showing them how to [0:03:07] draw a file and work around the lettering to get some of the extra pitting out of here without destroying the lettering which takes away from the value of the firearm and the interesting – because the stampings on these barrels and everything, it’s what makes the firearm what it is. If I remove it, then we no longer know that it’s a Stevens firearm and what the caliber is, where it was made.
We want to leave that on there. Learning to do it so that it’s all intact and it doesn’t look like it was destroyed because I want their work to be of such quality that people who look at it are impressed. When they’re done refinishing a firearm and they give them back, a lot of people are tremendously pleased because when the firearm came in, it could have been literally rusted and showing definite signs of neglect and they get it back and it looks better than they can ever remember it looking in their lifetime.
We’ll walk over here and we’ll take a look at one that just got finished today. The barrel was literally covered in rust. The entire barrel was rusted completely. Bright red and brown rust crusting the entire surface of the barrel. I’m just teaching them right now in semester one the metal preparation and the metal work, the metal finishing.
So what he had to learn to do was get all of the bad rust off of here, all the pitting and then polish it, the entire barrel, and this was all done by hand. This was not machine-done. We take baby steps. If I can teach them to do this metal preparation by hand, when we move on to using power tools, the buffers and grinders, now they’re able to blend both handwork and the power tool work to get an even better finish but they understand the skills necessary to do that work. It doesn’t seem like much but something as simple as a trigger guard like this, completely rusted and pitted and to be polished by hand with all those irregular shapes.
Student 1: I’ve pulled it apart and cleaned it up and even after just the initial clean-up, it looked tons better and I don’t even believe it’s the same gun. I’m the one that did it, quite honestly. He has been doing this I couldn’t tell you how many years. So if you can get Gary you’re in good shape.
Gary: If I set the bar here, I want them to reach that bar. I’m going to set the bar another notch higher. I want them to strive for the best that they can be but if you can still take an old military Mauser or rip it down and just take the action, rebuild the action like a commercial Mauser, re-barrel it, restock it, make it look like a $10,000 gun, that still the success that goes into building something like that is immense.
Yes, there’s the monetary gain in just like any profession but there’s a lot of sense of accomplishment and pride in the fact that this is a very unique job and that when you’re one of the few that can do it, that sense of accomplishment is quite nice too.
This is really enjoyable because I do enjoy coming in here everyday. I enjoy all the things that are going on. It’s always interesting. It’s always new and refreshing.