I wonder if anyone has actually sat down and thought about what goes into our sport? I doubt it very much!
One way or another we trudge through myriads of unwanted data and guff about our sport from the Anti’s and the like, stuff that quite frankly is of little or no interest to the hobby shooter. I say hobby shooter because I do believe that we are in various camps, stalkers, professional testers, instructors or a bit of clay busting and pheasant days shooters etc etc etc…the list is so very long. But that is the crux of the question. With so much going on in our industry – if pulling the trigger is (almost) the final process of what we aim to achieve then what stands in the background allowing us to do this?
Whether a target shooter, clay shooter, deer, game, writer, tester etc etc you name it, no matter what, there is always going to be one of these chaps around somewhere in the background. They are of course the “Gunsmiths”. I would guarantee that 90% of shooters do not give them their correct title either…”oh just popping to the gunshop, just getting Joe to fix the 12g……Gunsmiths are the backbone of our sport, but sadly as a general rule we only use them as and when we have a problem!
Having been lucky enough to have used some brilliant armorers in the British Forces through to professionals in civvy street, I want to tell you of my experience with one such “Civvy Gunsmith” – he is more than that, much much more but I will come to that.
The company is Brock and Norris and the owner Mike Norris. This company and the man himself are one of the most outstanding industry specialists I’ve had the pleasure of using over the years.
I decided to write this piece to show how diverse, patient and outstandingly diligent our professional gunsmiths are – well at least the one in this article. Again I talk from my experience and do not hesitate in saying we each have favorites as we do each have least favorites.
Rather than regale you with what Mike and his team have done for me, I will just say this. In 5 years he has stripped, bedded, coated, built a new, lapped, scoped, and mended every weapon I possess and also some of those on our range too. His work is in my opinion second to none. Simple as. But let me give you a day in his shoes and then you can see for yourselves that a Gunsmiths work never appears to be done. Those guys really are the backbone (or one of) in our sport.
Mike has already been in since 5.30am as he has a big screw-cutting job on. Not too sure of the numbers but it looks like 100 or so rifles requiring his attention ASAP. Mike goes on about his work at one of his 5 machines.
These machine consist of CNC and other such wizardry…
9.30hrs: now several barrels done and the skill in making these invisible screw cuts are tremendous. Mike tells me before the end of the day he has to Pillar Bed another rifle, reset a trigger and start on a re-barrel job for a 22-250.
At this stage I would have to question my own sanity. As well as the aforementioned jobs Mike has been fielding calls (which he tries to do if possible). If not then at the end of the day he will return calls. When I say he has been fielding calls he has in effect been giving free advise to callers on Ballistics, bullets, loads, scopes, rails and another topic which escapes me. I for one think some of these callers are bloody rude! Brock and Norris is a business, and as far as I can see no other business continually gives away free advice to whoever should call. Mike however seems to take it in his stride and ploughs on. Make no mistake though, if you misuse or abuse the generosity given then be it on you own head…
Its lunchtime and you would think its time to draw breath but no. This time the shop fills up with the following:
“Just bought this rifle and its doesn’t shoot for shit! What is wrong with it?”
“What scope should I put on here for a first set up for my son?”
“Do you do any cheap deals?…….” WTF!!!!!!!!!
“Need cleaning kit, which is best?”
“Don’t understand ballistic charts I’m new to the game. Can you help?”
“Will you help me develop loads for my 338lm? This is one of 3 people on this topic….”
….And so on and so forth!. Yes Rob and Annette are in the shop but it is Mike that draws the crowd if you will.
One call came through in this timeframe asking Mike various technical stuff and requesting prices based on Mike’s advice to build data for his loads. Mike prices up all the goods he will require only to be told by the caller “thanks I will check it elsewhere for price comparisons before I buy”…how utterly rude! I go back to my previous points – our Gunsmiths are at the front of the game we play, they have vast arrays of knowledge, more than most average shooters could or would ever need in 10 lifetimes of shooting.
The day has drawn to a close and I am exhausted and I have done bugger all apart from soak in the knowledge. Mike has worked at a ball busting pace with walk ins, pre-booked jobs as well as dealing with other imponderables, all in his stride! I write this not as a testament just to Mike but to all Gunsmiths. They keep us going in the field, on the range and in our minds too. They know so much more than we give them credit for.
Its not just odd bits of pop in work such as a new trunion here and there, a couple of less pounds on the trigger, lets have a few rounds of 223…. Questions from the knowledgeable shooters through to questions from the inane seeking something for nothing!!! These professionals know about the lot. They work very hard to ensure our first shots are always on target. Many Gunmiths, Mike included, build their own bespoke weapons systems. Take it from me, Mikes are awesome!
To end I just wanted to thank all the Gunsmiths out there and to Mike and his team for allowing me to spend many hours in their company whilst I still learn a little each day. Oh and BTW just in case you might have wanted to ask – can Mike shoot? You bet ya guys! I shot with him and I’ve seen none better on sticks, at considerable range as well!