In the 1983 movie, A CHRISTMAS STORY, Ralphie got a BB gun. In my 1950 Christmas, I got a BB gun. It was my all-time favorite gift since it overshadowed every other single Christmas present I opened as a kid believing in the big guy with the white beard and fur-trimmed costume of red and snow white. Even when I was too young for such logic, I marveled that the old boy never got a speck of soot slithering up and down those nasty chimneys all over the world. What a concept!
In mid-December past, one of my favorite customers came calling. He’s an older gentleman (several high-school graduation years after mine!) who, with a bit of work in the makeup department, would pass for Santa Claus. Gene is a primo gunsmith. He takes old broken down pistols and rifles and renews their life with his ‘smithing magic. Often, he’ll bring one he’s restored to like-new for a name or sentiment the customer wants on it.
He brought in these four Daisy Red Ryder BB guns to be personalized for one of his customers giving them to youngsters in his family. When I picked one up I knew THIS was not my father’s BB gun from the 50s! It was lighter. The metal was thinner and the wooden parts were plastic. Yes, I found the ‘Made in China’ stamp on it.
Gene told me where he wanted the inscriptions. I used an Ultra-Fine Sharpie red marker for the baselines on each. I chose a used #3 round carbide, ‘eyeballed’ the space available, and, pardon the pun, shot from the hip to determine where to begin his words so they would fit the available space. Knowing this would not be good quality sheet metal to engrave, I tip-toed lightly into the first word on the first gun to see just how soft the metal would be. Soft it was!
When the first one was done, I knew exactly what to expect on the others. Each took about 2-1/2 minutes; can’t race through the mushy metal or the bur can bury itself in a flash. Used a cotton ball and a drop of alcohol to gently rub away the very end of the first baseline…just to be sure nothing would melt! All went perfectly.
Gene was doing this as a favor for his customer and I knew he needed to make a bit for his trouble so I charged him $20. for each gun. He shelled out 4 twenties and smiled.
BOTTOM LINE: There’s a gunsmith somewhere near you. You may have no idea who or where, and there may be several. Guaranteed, you’ll get ongoing business from them if you can do the work.
There are three within minutes of my Studio and they all found me. Ask the local sporting goods store, shooting club, friendly cop on the corner. Any of those folks in the business of guns will tell you where those guys are. I do a brisk business and I’ve never hustled them. When they have a customer who wants a special inscription, they’ll find you. They can build and re-build the most complicated firearm but they can NOT inscribe beautiful Calligraphy to make their work even more special.
Two years ago a detective in the local sheriff’s office brought a pistol with a message to be engraved on the side of the gun. It was a wedding gift for the young man about to marry his daughter. In so many words, it was a strong reminder exactly what the pistol was for and he’d better not fail to keep darling daughter safe.
Make friends with a gunsmith or the local sheriff and be ready for a whole new market for your skills.