How to choose a gunsmith?

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John G

Dec 24, 2002
Western NY
I'm thinking of having some work done to one of my shotguns, and the gunsmith I went to a few years ago (for a repair on a Colt pistol) has retired. There are three shops within short driving distance. I've met all three shop owners, done business with two of them. All three are nice enough, and have been in business for years, but that doesn't mean they'll do the best job.

Should I ask to see examples of thier work, or just go with the cheapest offer? How does one choose a good gunsmith?

Thanks for the advice. :)
I would ask for example of previous work...rememebr that they are there to serve you. If they don't want to deal with having to show you anything, i wouldn't deal with them.
I would ask other people (word of mouth) for their opinions. I can often get responses from others in my state in the "Hometown" forum at From my experience, "credentials" mean nothing. Also, most Gunsmiths can do some good gunsmithing for show- whether they will do a good job on your firearm is another story.
Just like doctors, some gunsmiths specialize. So a gunsmith who knows AR-15's inside and out, or can make a 1911 pistol sit up and talk can really screw up a revolver. I would ask around at gun shops (not ones run by one of the gunsmiths, of course) and see who they use. They may not tell you, but sometimes an expression tells a story.

Also, talk to the gunsmiths and see what they work on and know. If possible, give your first choice a simple job that would be hard to mess up and see what happens.

May I ask what the shotgun is and what you want done? If it is a mass produced shotgun with a common job to be done (safety changeover, perhaps) most gunsmiths should be able to handle it. If it is something like soldering on a rib or replacing barrels on a double, have it done by a specialist in that kind of work. Most gunsmiths don't have the specialized equipment or the experience to tackle that kind of thing.

The shotgun is an old model 37 Ithaca, I'm looking to have it shortened, have a new front sight attached, and maybe some work on the action. Nothing too extensive, but I'd like decent work for a reasonable price.
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