‘My Gunsmith Says…’

I’ve put off saying this for about ten years, but it’s gotten to be too much.  “Sorry” to you good gunsmiths.  I know you’re out there.  I’d say that you know who you are, and I’m sure you do, but the problem is; the bad ones also think they’re the good ones.  They’re super good, even.  That’s always the way it works.  I began to realize this some time in the 1970s when I was in the early stages of my career as a musical instrument mechanic with an alternate career as a live sound mixer (“technician” or “engineer”, respectively, for those who feel it needs to sound exciting and hard to reach).


The really smart sound engineers could quote you all the specs of every piece of gear they had.  They could recite from memory the center frequencies of all 31 bands of a graphic equalizer, for example.  After they had everything all set up and the system response tweaked using the pink noise generator with the front-of-house EQs, monitor EQs and active crossovers, when the performance actually started (which is when the real job of actually making it all sound good actually begins) they’d turn around satisfied, sit down, and have a sandwich and a little chat about sweet nothings.  Man, those guys were really smart, and they often made sure everyone around them understood that they were smart.  Why, they went to college, and stuff, don’t you know?


It seems we get an inordinate proportion of failed or stalled UltiMAK mount installations, an inordinate number of misunderstandings of how the system works, from, you guessed it– gunsmiths.


Apparently, they know and understand far too much to be bothered with reading and following the instructions.  Even when they contact me about this or that perceived problem, they are too smart to accept my explanations.  They, you see, understand mechanics better than the person who designed the system, built the first prototypes using hand tools and common power tools in a musical instrument shop, did the majority of testing, wrote most of the patent claims, and used the system for over ten years.  They tell me all the reasons why it can’t possibly, ever work, why my hands-on experience is wrong, why the experience of over ten thousand users of a single model is all wrong, and how I’m being a dumb jerk for suggesting they might just go ahead and follow the simple instructions to the letter anyway and then see how it goes.


Since an inordinate number of damaged mounts have come from such gunsmiths also (again, because they are smarter and more experienced) I have to wonder how many of them go on to become politicians, city administrators, professors, or left wing community organizers.  There is an uncanny set of parallels.

10 thoughts on “‘My Gunsmith Says…’

  1. It is not just gunsmiths. There are people who are really and simply better then the rest of us. I had one of them tell me, quote: “I don’t have to follow instructions, I’m an expert.” He was serious, too. I was stunned by the grandiosity of it.

    Just as a minor note, some of the engineering profs at UI do not fit the mold.

    “If all else fails, follow the directions.” said a grade-school math teacher of mine.

  2. Damn. I mean, that’s hard to understand. Not exactly a genius here, but I had no problem putting a Ultimak on my .30 Carbine.

  3. I have heard many good things about U of I engineering. Chemical and electrical specifically. Our longest term employee at the musuc shop was a U of I EE grad. I spoke with Malcolm Renfrew at length before he died, about the patenting process. Capital fellow. ubu would think him a horrible monster, which is another way of saying he was a good man.

  4. Firehand; that’s because you see simplicity for what it is.

    A smart person would be second guessing the design, reinventing the wheel into something impossibly subtle and complex, and then declaring it a silly and unusable concept.

    Why, that carbine mount doesn’t even fit into the factory receiver cut, nor the barrel band, the way a handguard should, and that cantilevered design will allow it to permanently deform under the massive G-force of the mighty 30 Carbine recoil. I’m not making that up either. Though I am embellishing it a bit, I’ve been told all these things and more, and often, by smarter people. Really, I am so dumb I should probably crawl into a ditch, curl up into the fetal position, and die for the sake of Mankind.

    The AK mount, with its small gap front and back, will change the gas system pressure and cause cycling problems (but the AR gas system, which totally disengages the carrier key after ~20 mm of travel will work perfectly. Ditto for the SKS, M-14 and Mini-14) hot gas will leak out and literally cut your optic like a plasma cutter, and the aluminum mount body will melt (but an aluminum AR receiver, attached directly to the barrel, is a design made in heaven).

    The reason you mount an optic on an AK, you see, is so you can bump fire magazine after magazine after magazine as fast as you can without aiming. Before it melts, the AK mount also will suffer from deformation due to the punishing 7.62 x 39 recoil (while a much thinner aluminum scope tube won’t) and the optic will be jangled to pieces from the barrel shock. I was just told the latter today, and that the clamping system could not possibly hold the mount stationary (but an almost identical system [scope rings] will hold a long, heavy telescope onto a shoulder-fired 50 BMG rifle, no problem).

    The smart people know all this stuff, and they can’t wait to tell me, you know, to help me out.

    And when it comes to things like socialism, corporations, greed and AGW, I’m also regularly corrected by the smart people.

    So yeah; I have a pet peeve against people who feel the need to tell me that their ideas are more valid because they come from smart people. As I’ve said before; by the time someone feels the need to tell me they’re smart, I’ve already come to the opposite conclusion.

    Now we have a swarm of really smart people in the Whitehouse. They’re smarter than over 300 million Americans, combined. Damn, that’s smart! Further, that super smartness gives them the right, nay, the responsibility, to tell the rest of us what to do and how to do it.

  5. Given my one and only experience with a gunsmith left me with an AR-15 that I can not in good conscience sell due to damage from said “gunsmith”, pisses me off every time I see it in the safe, and I am not entirely certain is even safe to shoot, I sympathize.

  6. “. . . that super smartness gives them the right, nay, the responsibility, to tell the rest of us what to do and how to do it.”

    Look up the word bigot in Merriam Websters Collegiate dictionary. The first definition defines the above quote perfectly. Got a neighbor here who fits the definition. And guess what, she voted for the zero.

  7. Lyle.
    I’m a member of the “AK Forum”, generally if anyone there has a problem with the Ultimak, I will tell them to call you guys… I hope they are not causing you too much trouble.

  8. I RTFM’d the M, looked at the diagrams and pictures, used a feeler gauge, and it fit perfectly “good” the first go-around, but I adjusted it to fit perfectly more perfect. I have listened to the super-smarty guys at my gun-club who work for NASA and have PhD’s in Physics with $1,000-sniper optics argue about trivialities and shoot high-score. Okey-dokey pal I was just an Anthro major.

  9. Gun “experts” are a constant source of amusement for me. I once had a gun shop employee (not a gunsmith, but a helper) carefully explain to me that .303 British and .30-06 are the same cartridge, and completely interchangeable.

  10. Hard experience has taught me that generalist gunsmiths who offer a wide range of services are usually mediocre at all of them. Use them only for simple, routine services. If you just want a factory scope mounted on your factory rifle, or a shotgun stock swapped out, then they are probably fine. (But why not do those tasks yourself?) Woe to you if you go much beyond that.

    For serious work, find a guy who specializes in the exact gun you want worked on, and/or the exact kind of service you seek. That is your rule of thumb.

    For S&W revolver gunsmithing, find a dedicated S&W revolver guy. Have him tune up your S&W revolvers. Don’t have him tune up your CZ target rifle, even if he advertises that service. Don’t have him build you a custom 1911. For your Garand, find the Garand guy. Etc.

    Making it worse, these real-deal, skilled, specialist gunsmiths are usually older dudes who haven’t needed to advertise in years and don’t care much about the Internet. So word of mouth is your best hope. And reading specialty publications.

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