View Full Version : American Custom Gunmakers Guild Show

02-03-2008, 12:08 PM
I got back from the annual exhibition in Reno this week. What a treat for those who enjoy sculptured thin shelled walnut and sublime metal work. I submitted some examples of my work for approval and I'm thrilled to have been accepted in both metalsmith and stockmaker categories. It was a truly humbling experience to have those who's work I've admired for many years accept me into the guild.

For years the guns that the makers of the guild have produced have fit into a very narrow range of style. You'll rarely see a monte-carlo or thumbhole stocked rifle at the show. No laminate or synthetic stocked (black) rifles are seen in the show. THIS COULD CHANGE. There was a question posed to the members during the annual meeting about the possibility of somehow changing the by-laws to allow a new category that centers completely around accuracy. WOW, that really got some strong opinions flying around the room. There were arguments both for and against. I couldn't believe how quickly some of the older members let their opinions be known. It was very apparent that this is a very hot button issue. I'm one of the younger members in the guild and I'll be 42 this year. Many of the great gunmakers in the guild are in their retirement years and are very sure of their convictions. I'm not sure where I stand on this hot topic yet. I do see the membership of the guild changing much in the years to come. The by-laws are voted on by the members of the guild.http://www.acgg.org/

Here's some pics of some of the work I submitted.

Butch Lambert
02-03-2008, 01:39 PM
James is a new member to our forum. I have known him for a while. His metal work is superb. He does BR quality chambering on his rifles. He is a true machinest and has CNC equipment. James has done some work for me[ half Octagun barrel and custom hinged bottom metal] and I hope to have a stock job for him soon. He has the best stock duplicator around. It was a product of ideas from many years at Dakota and using other duplicators. I'm very happy that he frequents our forum.

02-03-2008, 01:48 PM
work, Gunmaker. And I'm sure the pics don't do it justice either. As they say, the perfection of the smallest details is what they're looking for. You are to be congratulated.

I know one Guild member, from our attendance at gunsmith school back in the '70's, and he's been with it since almost the beginning. He chose the "starving artist" route and perfected his craft, while I got "another job" from which I retired a few years back... am now playing "catch-up" but will likely never reach his (or your) level of perfection. I can appreciate what went into your efforts, though.

I'm concentrating almost entirely on barreling and chambering for the time being... and have had to do a lot of catching up there too, since techniques have advanced and become a lot more precise since I first "learned." I used to be a decent (but not ACGG quality) stocker and checkerer, but time and inactivity have taken their toll there... oh well.

As to whether "accuracy" should be a category of ACGG membership or not, I think the question revolves somewhat around whether you're recognizing work with machinery, with hand tools, or a combination of both. So far, the guild seems to care about both, but with the emphasis being on the exquisite handwork and finishing evident in their current products. Perhaps the stocking and restorations take more handwork, while the metalsmith category demands both, perhaps in equal measure....

So you take your pick, I guess. One factor will be that in order for Guild membership to "mean" anything, they will have to maintain their high standards... and that would pertain to the 'smith's personal abilities as a craftsman maybe more than to the amount / quality of the machinery and tooling that he might be able to afford. How much time and training does it take, for example, to put a chamber in a barrel within .0002" or .0003" versus how much to become an expert (and artistic) wood worker or engraver or restorer?

Another factor of course, and you hit the nail on the head there, is the aging of the membership / ultimately declining or static membership numbers. I suspect that a lot of the younger members in the trade (and likely a lot of the older ones too) tend to be more machinery oriented and maybe not as willing or able to undertake the years of training and practice (and low pay...) it takes to be an "artist" in either wood or metal... just a sign of the times, I suppose.

So how do you reward and recognize high quality, more or less "keep up with the times," and yet not so dilute membership requirements as to render membership less meaningful without unduly discouraging it all together? Perhaps something like a journeyman to master level of membership progression might work. I'm glad I don't have to make that decision. Good luck!

02-03-2008, 02:15 PM

Very nice work!!!!!

What a super piece of wood. No matter how many nice pieces of wood you see they always astound me with the color and figure that some have.
What a blank like that run ??

Your metal work looks so crisp and clean a fine job.



02-03-2008, 02:17 PM
How long have you been doing this?

As for the accuracy question, if a gun was that pretty, who would care how it shot.

02-03-2008, 03:06 PM
Impractical, but very nice. Unfortunately the nicer the stock/metal finnish is, the easier it's scratched. Great job.

Shoot well

02-03-2008, 04:12 PM
Thanks much for the kind words. I graduated from my third year at Trinidad State Junior college in '92 and have been working in the background for other small semi-custom rifle manufacturers for many years. I did take a "real job" for a while to get some great pay and bennies and have a few kids. Boy was that expensive. I'm now back at it full time working in my own shop & sticking my own name on the work. The wood on the 244 Rem would retail around $1500+ for just the price of the blank. To put this into perspective, one of the members sold a spec rifle in 500 Jeffrey he built on an old military Mauser that he had listed for well over $80,000. Yes, that's the right # of zeros. His work is truly top shelf. Wasn't all that fancy with over done engraving, just done VERY well using a Krieger barrel and a well laid out quarter-sawn piece of English Walnut. Another one of the guild members has a booth over at the SCI show and sells synthetic stocked hunting rifles for over $13k. This doesn't include engraving. (No black guns allowed in the guild show as of now.) While I'm just a new guy, it's good to have something stellar to shoot for. Responding to the impractical comment, most of the rifles that guild members build get hunted very hard. You have to bring dummy rounds to check the feeding for guild application as both stockmaker and metalsmith and they get tested by many of the members that vote. These people aren't in the business to do some very dedicated and detailed work on rifles just to have somebody throw them in the back of the safe. Most of their clients have very little interest letting them collect dust. Would you purchase a Porsche or Ferrari and never drive it? I'd burn as much fuel as I could in the shortest amount of time possible. Kind of makes me miss my '69-442.


Boss Hoss 540
02-03-2008, 04:14 PM
Very nice and practical for me----too may ugly rifles out there(I have a safe full that shoot tiny holes)! I was at the show Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I bet we crossed paths many times. Spent a lot of time looking at my new rifle that Chuck built and getting my next project lined up with all of those that need to be involved even got the blank bought. Funny you should bring up the new category------if it had been approved then someone I know would not be doing his GUILD project the way he is!!!! You are correct that this is a very big issue and not likely to change in the next few years and I am on the fence about it after seeing the work at the show. The work you presented takes Orders of Magnitude more TIME and Different SKILLís than building a SS and fiberglass rifle. I have seen with my own eyes one of the best in the business build a complete rifle from, chambering, fluting, fabricating the brake, polishing the barrel, inletting the stock, bedding the stock and gluing the action, fitting the trigger and making all final adjustments in 14 hours!!!!!!! Took it out and still kicked butt with it the next day!!!!!!!!!!!!

My first Guild show and will not be my last as I enjoyed it Much More than any of the 20 SHOT Shows I have attended.

One question----why no ebony on the forend???

02-03-2008, 09:35 PM
Impractical, but very nice. Unfortunately the nicer the stock/metal finnish is, the easier it's scratched. Great job.

Shoot well

My impractical ment that it's very nice work and unfortunately everything seems to damage it. For some reason everything shows up magnified 10 times. I've used to have a nice rifles in the past and everytime I've used them I couldn't believe just how many dents and scratches they had accumulated. The more I've looked after them, the more damaged they got. I've sold them all just because of this very reason. My present rifles don't look as half as nice, but I never see a dent or a rusty finger print mark on them. Don't get upset about my comment, youv'e done an exelent job.

Shoot well

02-03-2008, 10:02 PM
Its easy to see why you made it into the guild your work is fantastic.

02-04-2008, 11:25 AM
One question----why no ebony on the forend???

It's my personal rifle and I didn't want to shape the schnable out of ebony.

Kent Owens
02-04-2008, 11:46 AM
Beautiful work. I love great wood and classic stocked rifles. I wish you the best as you carry on the tradition of building great rifles to be appreciated for years, and generations to come. Congrats on making it into the guild. That's a big thing, and work such as yours deserves to be there with the other top artists's work.

Dennis Sorensen
02-06-2008, 06:41 PM
Thanks much for the kind words. I graduated from my third year at Trinidad State Junior college in '92


I am sure all of my old instructors were retired by then. I graduated in '67...

... did Ed Shulin ever stop in and visit any of the stock making classes? ... he was my instructor back in 66-67and did fantastic stock work ... he would have been very impressed with your work.


02-06-2008, 08:34 PM
Shulin was my instructor for stockmaking. He was a lot of fun and a great teacher. Always good for a laugh. He made it look so easy & fun. He retired the year after I left. Leonard Bull was the bench metal instructor and Harold Thomason was the third year instructor. The were all ready to retire when I went through. I must have wore them out.

02-06-2008, 08:44 PM
on Ed Shulin. A great guy and a wonderful instructor. Had him in 73-74 for stockmaking and checkering. I still have and use the chisels and scrapers we forged and draw filed before we could touch a piece of wood. Great memories....

02-06-2008, 09:07 PM
Man, that's some beutiful work. Very few can accomplish the feat you just did.

Dennis Sorensen
02-06-2008, 09:43 PM
Ed and Lee almost adopted me I think... I was at their place often on the weekends... I even carried their first child home from the hospital... Ed even skipped a Friday class with a few of us and went to a week end rattle snake hunt in Oklahoma. I have been down a couple of times to visit but it has been a few years now. Nothing but good memories.

02-06-2008, 10:07 PM
That is truley some great craftsmanship. That is a magnificent organization. I've been very lucky to be the custodian for one of the guild project guns done by Heillman-Helmsley a few years back and it is treasured. Congrats.

02-07-2008, 11:16 AM
Once again, congratulations on acceptance into the ACGG. What is the lpi on your checkering, 28? Looks great!
As for plastic stocks and accuracy being another catagory, I always saw the guild as being an artistic based organization. One based on keeping the "art" of the gunsmithing trade alive. I don't see that this leaves any room for plastic stocks and accurate rifles that look ordinary but shoot very good. It's kind of like having to allow girls into the boy scouts just because. I'm certainly not opposed to accurate rifles, I love accurate rifles, but there is a place for everything and I don't see that type of rifle in the guild. Yes, I'm over 60 years old, but I have a fast car, an accurate rifle and a pretty rifle. Love them all.

02-07-2008, 11:45 AM
What is the lpi on your checkering, 28? Looks great!

Thanks. The checkering on the 244 is 24 lines per inch. IMHO it's a good balance between too coarse and showing off. Much finer on a working gun and it starts to lose it's purpose.

As for the possibility of mixing new types of firearms with the current guild style... Maybe a good alternative would to have a sister guild like AAGG. American Accuracy Gunmakers Guild. Not sure what the parameters for admission would need to be. There's not any more room in the hall that the guild show uses now, but Reno has plenty of space. Maybe an accuracy "sister" guild with an annual show in a nearby hall would promote both styles of rifles without stepping on anybody's toes. And, bring more clients to Reno interested in top quality firearms that vary in style. There are three guilds that show at the same time now. Engravers, knifemakers, and gunmakers. The SCI show brings clients from all over the world to Reno. SCI starts on Wed. and ACGG stars on Fri. On Sunday the SCI is closed and many that come to Reno for SCI stay an extra day to see the guild shows. As some have posted they have many different styles of rifles in their collection!

by the way.... I saw Speedy G at the ACGG show.... Is he jumping fence?:D


Boss Hoss 540
02-07-2008, 12:32 PM
Hmmm where did you see him? If it was at Chucks table then we might have met. Jumping fence is a good one I will ask him that!:D

You know you might have a good idea there!!!

02-07-2008, 12:36 PM
[QUOTE=gunmaker;384144]Thanks. The checkering on the 244 is 24 lines per inch. IMHO it's a good balance between too coarse and showing off. Much finer on a working gun and it starts to lose it's purpose.

I remember restoring on an old European shotgun with 32 lpi checkering. After using all types of magnification and lighting to "snuff" up the checkering I had to wonder too why anyone would actually do anything that fine.

02-07-2008, 12:54 PM
Hmmm where did you see him? If it was at Chucks table then we might have met.

Yep! I was chewing the fat about duplicators.

Looks like TSJC is getting some more depth in it's faculty!

Boss Hoss 540
02-07-2008, 05:55 PM
YES that is a fact!! Did you see my rifle---it was the first one on Chucks table? Looked a long time for that blank..