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Commissioning only Parts of My Gunsmithing Project – Yes or No?

Every now and then we get a request for doing a partial job on a project. Most of our clients love to tinker with their firearms – and as long as safety protocols are in place and quality is monitored, state and federal laws observed, there’s nothing wrong with that! It is very common among gunmakes to specialize in particular types of work. Some gunsmiths are metal workers, others are fabulous wood workers. When that happens, it is very common that pars of the project are contracted out. When we are approached by a peer for parts of projects that they do not have the experience to do, we know that due diligence had been done from both sides and both parties have the knowledge necessary to work with firearms. This article does not cover this kind of situation. Rather, we will specifically address the situation in which a firearm enthusiast is working on his own firearm, and he requests the partial service of a gunsmithing shop. Throughout the years, we have worked on a great number of partial projects, the rest having been done by the owners. From a gunsmithing shop’s perspective, the tough part to manage in a joint project with the client, is that we never know how much our clients know about firearms or gunsmithing, firearm cycling, materials, etc.. In our experience, when the owner does a part of the project and our gunsmiths work on another part, the turnaround time and the cost of the project rises - it doesn't decrease, as expected. This is because of a few factors: - sometimes we need to hand back and forth the project between us and the client a number of times, until the project is finished; this increases the turnaround time substantially, because we cannot schedule the project in our project rotation, as we never know when the project makes it back into the shop for the next stage; - when we increase the cost of labor, all projects that are in the shop lock in the current prices; projects that we only do partial jobs on do not follow the same pattern. Every time a project is released, we bill the work that was done. That way, if the customer decides to halt the project, our services are paid for and there’s no outstanding balance; when the project comes back in, it is a new entry, with a new project number assigned, and a new contract; - every time the project comes back in, we need to double-check want was done by the client, and make sure that our gunsmiths are not injured while taking over the project and picking it up from where the customer left it. For liability reasons, we cannot ever assume that what was done was done right. After all, we are working with controlled explosives and we don’t know how much the client knows about the field; - every time a project comes back in, we also need to verify that the customer had not altered the parts of the projects that we had previously done. This might come as a surprise, but just like people have the tendency to ignore red flags when it comes to their health, they do the same in regards to their firearm; about 95% of the firearms that come through our shop had been modified by our customers; which is fine – however, we need to make sure that what we did in the previous stage had not been modified or if it had been, the alteration does not represent any risks; - in about 85% of the cases, in our experience, we need to redo at least parts of the project that were done by the customer - and it can be really challenging for clients who have a somewhat solid amount of gunsmithing knowledge - but not as in depth as required - to recognize that parts of what they did is incorrect and it needs to be re-done. It is also time-consuming for us to determine what level of knowledge our clients have, and to provide them with enough background to understand why what they did is incorrect. The process of "re-doing" what was done, and the time spent explaining to the customer why we will not go forward with the project without re-doing parts that had been done by the client, will end up costing more than the actual "doing. We – like most gunsmithing shops - charge hourly rates. Any amount of time our lead gunsmith needs to spend in explaining to a client why parts of the project need to be redone is charged hourly rates. - another serious concern is the wrapping up of the project. Say we do the metal work only, and a customer does the stock work, bedding including. A poor bedding job can easily turn a stellar action into a “plinking” gun. If we are not the last ones working on the firearm, but the customer is, and if God forbid the work that we did on the firearm is altered by the customer and injury or death occur upon using the firearm, there might not even be a way to determine who’s labor caused the accident; We are always happy to help within the confines of our policy. We have developed this policy because we know that working on a firearm is so exciting, and we actually support gun work knowledge to be freely shared. Everyone should know how to safely use, clean and unjam a firearm. However, state and federal laws, firearm safety protocols and quality assurance are absolutely a must. And for us, as professionals, a solid policy needs to be in place. This is why we have adopted the following policy, with the help of our legal team: "PARTIAL JOBS We prefer to do jobs from start to finish. In case we do not have the opportunity to do the jobs from start to finish, but parts of the jobs are done by owners / gun enthusiasts, we do not take any kind of responsibility for the quality of the project. We encourage the development of a culture that fosters personal interest in firearms, but always with the clear understanding that any complaints about a project are null if the customer does any amount of work, as minimal as but not limited to, assembly, disassembly, field stripping or dry firing of the firearm. Customers who work on their firearms (including maintenance cleaning, assembly, disassembly, parts change, etc.) waive any legal right to complain about the quality of the work. If any customer’s actions require us to solicit legal counsel, the customer will pay the cost of all our legal needs regardless if they start legal action against us or not. These costs will include but are not limited to all our attorney fees, consultation costs, court costs and lost wages of the shop." In our case, the same policy applies when we are commissioned a part of the project and another gunsmithing shop is commissioned another part of the project. One of our most focused efforts in developing Brubaker Arms was to develop a plural-disciplinary shop, so we can offer any type of gunsmithing service on any type of firearm available on the market. That way, our customers get the same level of quality for metal work as if they would commission their metal work to a gunsmithing shop specialized in metal. They get the same quality in wood work when they commission our shop to do the wood work as if they work with a gunsmithing shop specialized in wood work. We did our best to eliminate the need for collaborations between our shop and other shops by offering prime quality work and tooling up for both metal and wood work, finishes and obsolete parts manufacturing. We are truly a one-stop gunsmithing shop. Hence, we do not offer any warranty on projects that are commissioned partially to other gunsmithing shops. What we recommend, as a general safety rule is, if you feel comfortable enough to do a gunsmithing project yourself, do it from A to Z. If you do not, don’t do parts of it. Call your local trusted gunsmithing shop and commission the entire projects. If you are willing to ship your project out, there are a number of solid gunsmithing practices that offer, like us, complete firearm services. Your choices increase significantly if you are willing to ship out your firearm. If you are considering shipping out your firearm, here are a few tips and suggestions for safe packaging and shipping your firearm: How To Pack And Ship Your Firearm When it comes to safety, even if you would somehow be able to hold a gunsmithing shop liable for something that cannot be proven that is directly their responsibility (like the failure of a joint project), the cost might not be worth it. Think it through. Below, an example of a Winchester 21 full restoration at Brubaker Arms Manufacturing, presented by our Restoration Department.

Winchester Model 21: It was constructed of Winchester’s Proof Steel, a chrome-molybdenum alloy with a tensile strength of over 90 tons per square inch. During its development, a total of nine design patents were issued. Over the life of the Model 21 about 30,000 guns were made with an additional 1,000 or so from Winchester’s custom shop. It was chambered in 12-, 16-, 20-, and 28-gauge, plus .410. In this video, we familiarize our audience with the type of restoration work that we do here at Brubaker Arms Manufacturing, Restoration Department.

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