Sunday, September 13, 2015

'Ramblings of a retired gunsmith'

While looking online for disassembly instructions for my newly-acquired Winchester Model 370, I stumbled across the Web site of Leeroy Wisner, a well-known and highly respected gunsmith and machinist of the 'old school'.  His firm, Wisners Inc., is still in business, operated by his son and daughter-in-law.

Among Mr. Wisner's many reminiscences is a page devoted to firearm related articles.  One of them is titled 'Ramblings of a Retired Gunsmith'.  It contains many anecdotes and stories of some of his more memorable experiences.  They kept me reading (and chuckling) for some time.  Here's a brief selection from that article.

(15) Before Christmas one year a young man from a small neighboring town shows up with a crudely sporterized 1917 Enfield in 30-06.  About 6" of the nuzzle was missing, and what was left there kind of looked like a crude bayonet.  This young man was not known for being a bright scholar, but more like a poacher as he had run ins with the law previously.

I got out of him that he was poaching one COLD night and when he fired, it kicked hard and lots of fire in front.  He did not hit the deer and when he reloaded, took aim, he could not find the front sight, (which was totally gone).

He remembered that one of his young nephews was playing with color crayons and his gun was standing in the corner.  Maybe so???

OK, I happened to have a used military barrel that I installed and he was a happy camper.

(25) I was doing a lot of rebluing at the time of the 1980 Mt St Helens eruption.  I turned out many reblue jobs before hunting season, but many came back complaining that my reblue job was no good and did not hold up.  Those guys did not understand.  With all the fine ash on all the leaves, it acted like sandpaper and just wore off the stock finish and blueing.  And in this ash mix was fine sulfur.  Water from the rain and sulfur on the tree leaves make sulfuric acid.  This acted like a blueing stripper.

How I recognized it was that hunting season, I came back to the shop after a rainy morning hunt.  I sat my gun down and took off my raincoat, and shook it off.  The next day I saw on the blue of this gun, places where those raindrops from the shook coat, had totally removed the blue from the metal.

(30) I had a customer bring in a Browning Superposed shotgun that had been recovered  from being in a river for a year.  Rather rusty on the outside, but the bores were sanded in and survived quite well.  The wood's finish was all gone and the wood itself faded into a gray color.  He wanted me to restore it to "Shooting" condition, with nothing done to the exterior of the gun.

The reason was that he was a trap-shooter and used the same gun for trap.  He wanted this gun restored so he could dress up as a hillbilly, floppy had and chewing on a grass stalk, then enter a trap shoot with it.  He was pretty good with his regular gun, so this one would be so close that he felt he may be able to trick some hot shot outsiders in to a good bet.

There are many more like that at the link.  Fun to read for firearms enthusiasts.

Mr. Wisner's entire Web site is entertaining for those who enjoy fishing, messing around in boats, shooting, and the reminiscences of an 'old school' gentleman who's lived a full life, and lived it well.  I'm grateful to him for recording his memories for posterity.  For those of my readers who enjoy the same subjects, you'd better bookmark his site.  You'll be returning there often.



Gorges Smythe said...

I used to know a gunsmith whose tales kept me in stitches. He's gone now, but I'll always remember him.

Unknown said...

Did you find the information on the 370 that you were looking for? I'm interested in the same.

Eric Wilner said...

Hmmm... #7 seems to tie in with a long known, but not well explained, issue with light loads in large cartridges, though I'd never heard of it happening in a pistol-sized cartridge nor with a fast-burning powder. (This being vaguely remembered from many years ago.)

Peter said...

@Unknown at 1:59 PM: Yes, I did. See:

Old NFO said...

Wow, quite the time sink there... :-)