GUNSMITHING: When fix­ing a gun will cost more than its value

Many will have ex­pe­ri­enced the heart-wrench­ing de­ci­sion process upon dis­cov­er­ing that re­pair­ing a gun will cost more than it is worth. Jonny Carter tells us about two such oc­ca­sions

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

The last few weeks have been full of non-vi­able re­pairs. Ev­ery gun has a value, of course, and this value, for the most part, is mon­e­tary; its sale value, re­tail value, and in­sur­ance value will usu­ally be in a sim­i­lar ball­park. A quick on­line search will give you an idea of what peo­ple are sell­ing a spe­cific make and model for, and give you a guide price. For true prices, spe­cial­ist fo­rums and auc­tion houses are the most hon­est place to look (within rea­son, of course).

Other val­ues, par­tic­u­larly sen­ti­men­tal value, are some­thing a lit­tle harder to gauge. Usu­ally, the fig­ure it would take to make you for­get the loss of a trea­sured ob­ject is the right amount. For ex­am­ple, I have a Miroku MK38 that would auc­tion for around £700. I have some great mem­o­ries with it and fig­ure around £4,000 would make me part with it – not that any­one in their right mind would pay that!

The ex­change rate be­tween ac­tual pounds and sen­ti­men­tal pounds varies from per­son to per­son, and hence the true value of a gun can­not be de­fined by any­one but the owner. So when a gun comes in bro­ken, and the re­pair out­weighs the re­tail value of the gun, there is not al­ways a log­i­cal con­clu­sion drawn, as sen­ti­men­tal­ity and per­haps in­di­vid­u­al­ity plays a part. The in­di­vid­u­al­ity as­pect comes into play with the first gun I will talk about.

Take a punt

This gun is a Vic­tor Saras­queta side­lock 28" side-by-side; we had it for sale at £450 be­cause, for the most part, the mar­ket for cheap Span­ish guns is non-ex­is­tent, and this old girl (al­though in vir­tu­ally un­used con­di­tion) had been fin­ished in a rel­a­tively out-of-date man­ner, given that it was fin­ished 30 years ago!

Gun fash­ions change over time. Most peo­ple cur­rently like long heavy guns with an oil-fin­ished stock, but back then, dyed lac­quer wasn’t looked down on by the oil fin­ish brigade (of which I am part) but viewed as a more solid and weath­er­proof fin­ish. This brown lac­quer was not com­pli­mented by a very thick, al­most paint-like black­ing job.

A cus­tomer, a much braver man than I, saw some­thing in this gun that I could not, and we be­gan dis­cus­sions about the pur­chase of the gun sub­ject to re­fur­bish­ment. A deal was done and the work com­menced: a full strip and re-oil, a sharp­en­ing up of the che­quer­ing and the bar­rels re-blued. The cost of the work equated to most of the cost of the gun! When the gun was fi­nally com­plete, and re­assem­bled, I must ad­mit, it looked su­perb and would com­pete with any other side­lock that was built closer to home. The oiled stock made the case colourhard­ened locks stand out and gave their colour new depth,

‘There is a point with old, cheap guns where the parts are no longer avail­able – one great rea­son to buy into a known brand’

and the blu­ing was just per­fect, with high-qual­ity lus­tre. The gun was still only worth £450, but it looked more like £1,500 worth, and the cus­tomer, fully ac­cept­ing this, stated: “Well, you couldn’t buy a gun like this for £450”.

Can’t let go

A few years ago, I sold a gen­tle­man a 35-year-old Ital­ian over-and-un­der from a very un­ex­cit­ing Ital­ian maker that you will prob­a­bly never have heard of. It was not in great or­der when he bought it, but it was cheap, so that was ok. This gun and I were re­united last week when it came in, re­fus­ing to open.

Luck­ily, the gun was empty when it graced the work­bench. It was one of those Ital­ian de­lights with the lock­ing cross bolt through the top of the ac­tion, (some­what like a DT10, but ab­so­lutely not of the same build qual­ity) and this had seem­ingly jammed half­way.

I tried the top lever and this wasn’t jammed, mean­ing the two had be­come dis­con­nected some­how. Pulling the stock off un­cov­ered very lit­tle, apart from that the way this gun was built was not so so­phis­ti­cated! The top lever sim­ply has a thin arm reach­ing for­ward into the cross bolt, which had sheared off. With some soft jaw grips, I grasped the small sec­tion of cross bolt show­ing it­self and, ma­nip­u­lat­ing it just so, man­aged to pull it out, al­low­ing the bar­rel to come away. There is a point with old, cheap guns where the parts are no longer avail­able (an­other great rea­son to buy into a known brand) and with this gun it was the case. What it needed was a com­plete top lever as­sem­bly, and drop­ping a new one in would have cured this gun rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sively and pretty quickly. The op­tions left be­fore me were this:

1) Ask around the trade to see if any­body has an­other from this maker, or a gun branded dif­fer­ently but in fact the same. And if they do, whether they would sell me the com­plete gun for spares, have spares in their col­lec­tion or know of any­one with a spare that isn’t worn out.

2) Fabri­cate a new part: likely the best out­come al­though the most ex­pen­sive. This would get this gun work­ing again with a bet­ter-than-new part fit­ted.

3) Weld the bro­ken part back to­gether. There are mul­ti­ple op­tions for weld­ing, in terms of weld­ing types and fix­ing pro­ce­dures. These range from the ‘stick the two bro­ken bits to­gether with weld’ to ‘cut the main body and re­place the whole arm with new, qual­ity metal’. Both rang­ing in time, cost and re­sources needed.

The prob­lem is that this gun is worth around the £150 mark fixed, and short of find­ing a spare part by the grace of god, the cheap­est weld op­tion would be £140. The gun has rel­a­tively low sen­ti­men­tal value as he has had it for just a few years, so what does he do? What would you do?

I would write it off if it was mine. It has pro­vided its money’s worth in fun, and this day is al­ways go­ing to come if you pur­chased a low-bud­get gun. But who knows! I’m still wait­ing for a de­ci­sion with this one… it isn’t mine to rea­son why, just to do and fix guns.

New age of gun fit

The method of fit­ting a gun is a won­der­ful thing, and has changed dra­mat­i­cally since gun fit be­gan.

I was re­cently in­tro­duced to the Marks­man ST2 shoot­ing sim­u­la­tor, and was left amazed by its abil­i­ties. Here is a ma­chine that you can use to shoot mul­ti­ple pat­tern plates with in­doors! This is the new age of gun fit­ting, ut­terly sci­en­tific in the way it per­forms. You can also an­a­lyse shoot­ing style to as­cer­tain the best type of fit, given that ev­ery­one shoots and mounts dif­fer­ently.

I was so amazed that I have bought one for the shop, hope­fully al­low­ing us to give an even more com­plete ser­vice.

Go and have a play on one, you will be amazed what you learn about your shoot­ing!

The gun­shop trans­formed a cheap Span­ish side-by-side to the de­light of the owner Once com­pletely re­fur­bished, the gun could com­pete with any other side­lock by a British maker.

Some­times, more than a squirt of oil is needed!

Disas­sem­bling this over-and-un­der re­vealed a bro­ken lock­ing cross bolt

Com­plex re­pairs can cost much more than the value of the gun

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