This has always been a problem for me in here the People’s Republic of California. This in spite of the fact that California has a very large Gun Owner population.
Here is what my general experience has been like for the past forty plus years.
In that there are very few real gun shops out here if you do not count the chain stores like Turner’s, Bass Pro Shop etc.
There are also what are called Restoration Experts. These are the folks who can turn Grandpa’s Rusted out “Yellow Boy” back to what it looked like when it 1st came out the New Haven Factory.
But let me warn you beforehand. You had better be prepared to be able to fork out some serious cash for their services. Because they are the top of the line. Since as is with everything else that is the best. It never comes cheap.
What I have also found is that unfortunately most of the Mom & Pop Gun stores do not have a in house smith. But they will send out you firearm to somebody else.
Now this has been a hit and miss formula at least for me. Sometimes it works out just great and a lot of times not so well.
Also I have found for most of the times. You can count upon the fact. That one will have to wait a very long time to get their gun back.
Also while I myself have never had one of my toys stolen. Some of my friends have had theirs “lost”. Then they faced a huge hurdle to either get their gun back or get compensated for their loss.
To say it was a mess would be a real understatement.
So here is a few tricks that I have learned over the years. Hopefully they will help you also.
Generally except when it gets way too hot out here. I try and go to the various ranges in the area.
While there I will keep my eyes open and see who else is around. Especially the Old Timers. After a while you can kind a figure out who they are.
You then at the right & proper time. Try and start up a conversation with them. About the firearms that they have brought with them. Most of the time they are happy to talk to someone else if they seem genuine and polite.
Now if they have something really special and not something you generally do not see at the range. I ask them if I could fire off a round for which I always offer to pay for.
Usually about 9 out of 10 times the guy will generally let you fire one off for free. I then either then buy him a coke or something afterwards.
Then I try and pick the old boy’s mind about his gun. That and if he knows about any good gunsmiths in the area.
Most of the time, I have found the same names keep showing up. Which is both a great thing and a bad thing.
The great thing being that usually the Smith is pretty good. As I have found that word of mouth is always the best advertising.
The bad thing is that they are probably as busy as a whore on payday. So you can generally forget a quick turn around. Unless it’s something real easy to do or you bribe them with some extra money.
If you are that kind of person. (Think Ray Donovan)
Some other thoughts about Gunsmiths
Now a lot of folks are really shocked at how much a good one costs. I myself do not have such a problems. Since I know that what I am buying is not really the repair of the gun.
Instead what I am buying is the person’s experience, use of his tools, their overhead, smarts, connections to get the parts needed and usually a huge inventory of parts and tools of theirs.
I have also found this out the hard way. That most of these folks are some “real characters”*. So it really pays to be nice to them.
*Translation into Queen’s English. That some of these folks are some real grumpy bastards. But that’s how the cards lay in this game.
Bottom Line – All I can say is good luck and go hunting on this issue. I hope that this helps somewhat.