Shooting Sports USA - June 2009 - (Page 16)

Day a Master with “With so little being written about custom gunsmithing, all the information to be learned is done so by word-of-mouth.” Let’s spread the word. A Gunsmith By Chip Lohman, Managing Editor photos by lloyd hill I n March, senior NRA photographer Lloyd Hill and I journeyed to Cartersville, VA, to meet with a distinguished member of an elite society. Driving past Civil War battlefields and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello home, I was reminded of the rich history of this part of the country. Echoes of the Declaration of Independence and musket fire seemed a fitting prelude as we drove out to spend the day with a master gunsmith, 25 years in the making. I first met this retired Army veteran at a bullseye pistol clinic in Virginia Beach where I learned of his long association with the renowned U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit. Formed in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the AMU produces some of America’s best competitive shooters and custom gunsmiths. The AMU’s custom firearms shop produces top-quality, match-grade rifles, pistols and shotguns, and much of the AMU’s ammunition. Shop personnel conduct weapons research and development, including testing the M-21 and M-24 sniper systems; special-reaction team rifles; and testing and maintaining the Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle. While working at the AMU in 1994, our host for the day received the assignment to build a match-grade, M-9 Beretta 9 mm service pistol. After many months of research and development, the match grade M-9 became a reality under his watchful eye. With such a resume, it won’t surprise you to learn that today, David Sams is a licensed gun manufacturer, equipped to do virtually anything with a gun that a customer might specify, including the design and fabrication of a matchgrade firearm. Hill and I made the two-and-a-half-hour trek to talk with Sams so our readers might better decide for themselves whether such services are justified for their own competitive needs. In the past, the particular “recipes” used by top gunsmiths were closely guarded and competitors didn’t talk much about the custom aspects of their equipment. Perhaps because of their military background, Sams and others like him are anxious to pass along the lessons taught to them by their mentors, thus perpetuating and hopefully improving the trade. Innovation is important in any trade, but Sams feels strongly that gunsmithing also relies heavily on tried-and-true methods and critical specifications required for a firearm to function reliably and accurately. According to Sams, such experience comes from both successful and failed projects along the way: Hence his motto of “quality instead of quantity.” At the start of our day with Sams and his wife Rhonda, who runs the front office, I asked him to share his insights about the industry and what to look for when selecting a gunsmith to build a match-grade gun. As is often the case, asking the right questions can be critical to finding the right answer. What is your general assessment of the custom gunsmith industry today? With so little being written about the subject, especially in the bullseye world, all the information to be learned is done so by word-of-mouth. That leaves too many competitors in the dark about custom gunsmithing. Probably because of my military background where we pooled our resources and 16 • SSUSA COPYRIGHT 2009© NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION June 2009

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Shooting Sports USA - June 2009

Shooting Sports USA - June 2009
Shooter's News
Product Focus
Shooter of the Month
Score Sheet
A Tyro’s Guide To Camp Perry
NRA Short-Term Gunsmithing Schools Program
A Day With A Master Gunsmith
Coming Events
Member Info.
Classified Ads

Shooting Sports USA - June 2009