It all started with a Winchester Model 37, 20-gauge Red Letter Edition shotgun.
The farmer looked at the boy leaning up against the milk tank in the dairy house and asked him if he would like have a shotgun. Having previously obtained parent permission, he stepped outside to his truck and returned with a small Ziploc bag and a couple of stocks, and set them down on top of the milk tank. Looking at the 12-year-old kid again, he said “Here you go. If you can put her together, she’s yours.”
Like all boys around that age, tinkering with any object provided hours of entertainment, so this particular task promised to hold days of excitement. But the problem was, this shotgun was old, manufactured during the years when serial numbers were not required, and there were some doubt as to whether it would be safe to fire, even if he could put it back together correctly. The smart thing to do would be to take it to a professional, who could put the old gun back together and function test it safely. And so, the boy and his father loaded up and drove off to a sporting goods store in Hadley, and dropped it off there for the gunsmith to repair.
Some time went by and over the course of the next year, several phone calls were made to inquire on the status of this old shotgun. Finally, the gunsmith told them that the parts for this particular gun were hard to come across, and that if they brought it to another gun shop in Bowling Green, they might have better luck. So the old shotgun was retrieved and brought to the gun store in Bowling Green. The congenial gentlemen in this shop assured them that fixing the old gun would not be a problem if they could remove several of the stuck pins and find a replacement for one of them.
Again, some weeks went by with no word from the new gunsmith. And in similar fashion, several calls were made over the course of the next year and proved to be fruitless. Finally, on a beautiful spring day, the gunsmith called and told them that the job was done but that he had moved to new location near Cave City. The next day, they went and picked up the shotgun, bought a box of shells and went back home to put some rounds through it.
The first round fired and the little gun bucked but provided very little recoil. Triumphant, the boy opened the shotgun to eject the spent shell. Nothing happened. The automatic ejector didn’t kick out the shell, nor did it extract so he could remove it with his fingers. Puzzled, he pulled out his pocket knife, gave a quick twist and removed the empty hull. There was no evidence of any strange markings on it, and nothing inside that would have prevented proper function of the firearm. Loading another round, he fired downrange and open the shotgun again, with the same result. Assuming that this was the result of newly fitted parts, or neglect and disuse causing stagnant function, he proceeded to fire nearly half a box of shells with no improvement. Calling the gunsmith, the boy and his father were met with a number of non-invasive solutions that they could attempt before bringing the firearm back in for troubleshooting. Not impressed with the track record, the boy said, “I think I’ll try it myself before we take it back in.”
Trying all of the suggestions- polishing the chamber with fine steel wool mounted on a mandrel, cleaning the bore and action with a good solvent and oiling it well, working the action back-and-forth repeatedly until the ejector would snap open – nothing made the little gun eject the shell after it had been fired. Removing the barrel and pressing out two of the tiny pins on the bottom, he slid the ejector assembly out. There, lying on the bench for all to see, was an extremely broken spring, bent and mutilated. Playing with the action for a few minutes, he discovered that this spring provided the tension necessary to eject the shell when the action was opened. In its broken state, the gun would never work properly.
After a little research, the boy’s father found an online supplier of a gun parts with diagrams and other useful notes. They ordered the corresponding parts for this old shotgun and when it arrived, installed them and reassembled the gun.
It worked perfectly.
Outraged, confused and impressed by the amount the gunsmith had charged to do the job halfway, the boy said, “If you can charge that much, take that long and not even do a proper job, and it’s not that difficult to do after some study, I’m going to learn how to do this, get good at it and go into business.”
More research led to a list of gunsmithing schools across the country and forums and information regarding each program, its style, composition and expertise level. The highest rated school, according to all research, was the Trinidad State Junior College Gunsmithing Program in Trinidad, Colorado. This school offered daily, hands-on, interactive experience with gunsmithing tools and equipment, theory and fundamentals practice, and expansive classes on individual aspects and techniques of the gunsmithing realm in an accredited college program over a two-year span. This seemed like a big step up from some of the mail-in correspondence courses that offered little in-depth advice on tooling and equipment, and gave you no opportunity to operate any of it before making a big investment.
Photos of the town and information about the area showed it as a quaint little town in a valley with a tour tram and a good deal of history – including having the legendary Wyatt Earp as its sheriff in his heyday. Deciding on this school as the ideal institution for his course of study, he enrolled and completed the course in the prescribed two years, returning with two extremely well-made .270 Winchester rifles (a 1943 Mauser K98, completely stripped, rebarrelled and sporterized, and a Remington 700 ADL, finished in a similar manner), experience in the field of gunsmithing and a strong passion for this dying art.
After graduating in 2008 from TSJC, Seth Peters experienced a major setback when he was involved in a highway-speed vehicular tree-climbing incident that very nearly ended his life. Recovering, he went on to found ARC Precision Gunworks, LLC in 2012, and has been steadily growing our service capabilities.His long-term vision is to create a community environment for shooting sports education and competition, and custom firearms manufacturing facilities that make the process personal and unique to our customers.