(PA) Danville's Kevin Cram known for his custom sport firearms


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Drizzt
May 6, 2006, 03:13 AM
Danville's Kevin Cram known for his custom sport firearms
By Connie Mertz
For The Daily Item
April 30, 2006

It was a progression of events that eventually led Kevin Cram, of Danville, to start his own business, Montour County Custom Rifles, in the spring of 2004.

Graduating in 1998 from Columbia-Montour Vocational Technical School, Cram learned the basics in machine technology. Later, at Penn Tech in Williamsport, he majored in automated manufacturing.

"I've been a machinist for 10 to 12 years," Cram said, noting that his expertise brought him employment in machine shops all over the area.

"I grew up with a family who were long-range shooters. I hunted with my grandfather, Don Auten, of Danville, who introduced me to long-range shooting," Cram said proudly.

An avid long-range hunter, he said, "I got my first spike buck when I was 12 at 750 yards, and I was hooked from then on."

"It was normal for us to shoot from 400 to 750 yards."

It was while he was employed at a machine shop in Jersey Shore that he was introduced into competitive long-range shooting.

"I went along with the guys for a weekend of 1,000-yard competitive shooting. It is the original Pa. 1,000-yard Bench Rest Club around Bodines, but it's usually referred to as the Williamsport Club.

"I have always been a competitive shooter," Cram said.

He found that he did very well at 1,000-yard shooting, even winning some of the time. This led him to purchase his own gun in 1999.

"I wanted a custom gun, and I knew what I wanted," he said.

His employer at the time allowed him the use of the machine shop after hours so he could work on his guns.

Cram became acquainted with Kenny Ridenour of Hagerstown, Md., also a member of the Bench Rest Club. He owned a shop and offered Cram the opportunity to purchase his machinery to make custom long-range rifles.

"He was an older fellow who did this as a hobby and he knew my interest," Cram said.

"It's much cheaper making these guns when you have the machinery," he admitted.

From working in machine shops, he knew exactly what he did and didn't want. "I wanted good lighting and I wanted enough electrical sockets to support the machinery," he said.

In a matter of months, Cram had converted a portion of his garage into a machine shop.

"My dad thought it was a big mistake for me to paint my walls white," he said.

But after a few years of use, his walls remain white; in fact, for a machine shop it's immaculate. There is no dust anywhere, and everything has a place.

"I like to keep stuff clean."

Cram's job description is a bolt-action rifle smith. "I'm not a gunsmith. I am self-taught and I don't work on other guns," he said.

"I specialize in building custom rifles. I build them from scratch."

What usually takes the longest is not the actual work, but the ordering of parts. "I tell my customers it will take at least six months. In fact, I just got in parts that were ordered in December just this week."

Barrels and stocks must be ordered and this can take from one to three months. "The most popular bench gun for long-range competition is a 6.5-.284. For hunting, the 300 short mags are common.

"Actually, there's little difference between the 300 short mags and a 30-06. You're shooting the same bullet, more or less."

He quickly admits that the most challenging part is the stock work. "The stocks are rough cut and they must be sanded down with inletting. And this is the best-looking part of the entire gun," he said.

"Once I have all the components, it probably takes me about a week to custom build a gun."

When shooting or hunting, two people are needed. One watches with a spotting scope affixed to a tripod. Long-range scopes vary in power. He uses a Leopold Vari X III with 8.5-25 magnification. The other person does the shooting. Spring is the time for hunting woodchucks, and Cram does this as often as his schedule will allow.

With hunting comes safety precautions. "Use common sense," he advises. "Be sure of the backstop."

When deer hunting, a range finder is another piece of valuable equipment. Long-range shooters also need a ballistics drop chart to determine the velocity and sight adjustments.

"Of course, weather plays into it as well," Cram said.

He encourages anyone who has an interest in long-range shooting to attend the Bench Rest Club.

"This is good place to start picking up pointers. If you show up, there are guys who will even loan you their gun. They are there to help."

Cram would like to eventually go full-time into his business.

"I enjoy shooting and it's a perk to enjoy it as a hobby. When I see all the components come together and see the finished product, it makes me love hunting and shooting all the more."

For additional information, visit the following Web sites: montourcountyrifles.com (Cram's site); pa1000yard.com; precisionlongrangehunter.com; accurateshooter.com and benchrest.com

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10 Ring Tao
May 6, 2006, 04:05 AM
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