Have Tools — Will Travel

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National Guard and AMU gunsmiths are kept busy helping repair guns during
matches all over the country. They also repair “civilian” competitors’ guns but the
parts are supplied by the shooter — labor is free.

Most gunsmiths who hang a shingle tend to have very spacious workspaces, room to roam, maybe pace once in a while. Not so for the Military Gunsmith.
At Camp Perry I got a firsthand look at the hard work service gunsmiths perform in portable trailers. The U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit based in Fort Benning, Georgia and National Guard Training Center based in North Little Rock, Arkansas are two of the best mobile gunsmith shops in the country.
Each year moving from major matches like the Bianchi Cup to Camp Perry and many in between, they provide gunsmith support to their unit’s shooters as well as civilians. At the NRA Pistol Championships at Camp Perry, Ohio in July over 500 pistol shooters participated for a week.

During the week military gunsmiths like Sergeant First Class Craig Nelson of the USAMU will see almost 100 guns a day. He and Brad Throlson, who retired from the unit but came back as a civilian employee will repair extractors, tune triggers and replace parts on many pistols from the 1911 to High Standard 22’s to the Beretta M9. Civilians must provide their own parts, which can be bought on a well-supplied commercial row. The labor is free.

The AMU that has been servicing the National Match competitor since 1906 has evolved from a tent and bench to a state-of-the-art 5th-wheel trailer equipped with a drill press, sander and small TIG welder. Most of the work is meant to be repairs so no heavy machining or lathe work is available. The two smiths have rigid benches and strong vices to handle repairs. Every hand tool is in neat drawers.

Gunsmiths often work fast to fix guns for competitors who need to shoot soon!

Old School Hand Work

Sergeant Dan Norwood of the National Guard is in his 29th year of working support for Camp Perry. He travels around the country supporting Guard pistol and rifle shooters across the country in service and interservice matches. Assisted by Vermont National Guard Sgt. Bill Fisher they will work on about 30 guns a day from 8AM till about 6PM. Most of the pistols are 1911 variants, popular with bullseye shooters. Triggers are weighed in competition so checking them and adjusting the pull weight is the most popular task in the shop.

At the trailer window a woman who is having function issues with her Ruger MKII talks it over with Norwood who makes notes and fills out a repair ticket. The woman will need it fast. She shoots in a few hours. Norwood puts it up for repair next. To his left, Sgt. Fisher is working on a Smith and Wesson .38 revolver having trigger creep. One of the side plate screws is too tight and causing drag. He makes some adjustment and sets the screw with LocTite.

Outside, service members who use the trailer as a kind of base camp are cleaning guns in portable parts washing tanks for the next day’s matches. Civilians and service members recount the scores of the day. On the outside of the National Guard trailer members hang “clean” targets scoring 100. The same is happening at the AMU trailer.

Armorers Row, as it’s called, is always busy. It seems if it’s going to break, it’s going to break during the biggest match of the year.

KGB Customs and Bunker Arms came up with this nifty solution to solve the
Novak/BoMar sight fitting issue. Available just as the base or as the complete sight.

Sight Sense

New fix, old problem. In 1911 work, many times a client wants to switch from a fixed rear sight to adjustable target style sights. Novak being the most popular fixed sight and BoMar being the most common target sight, are not compatible. BoMar did make a sight at one point that was a direct fit for the Novak-style cut, but it was rather large and clumsy.

Now two smiths have come up with a better way. Karl Beining of KGB Customs, and Brandan Bunker of Bunker Arms put their heads together, designing a streamlined base, which, with some mods to the slide, sits low and looks proper. It does require machining the slide for the base, but the final result is excellent. It’s available as just the base or as a complete sight.

For more info: www.bunkerarms.com; www.kgbcustom.com

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