The use of current technologies (such as computers and cameras) in Gunsmithing would seem to go hand in hand, however, because of fear, different methods of working and learning, generation gaps and individual special interests, these technologies are sometimes over-looked and feared instead of being embraced. Many times, it is merely laziness that is the limiting factor in learning and fear is but an excuse. If making a job faster, safer, and easier is not “your cup of tea”, you could just lop off a couple of fingers from your hand and this should balance out any ideas or concepts that could help you out in the future.
OK, OK, I was just joking, but now that we see how silly it is to limit our ability to make a job or task easier, we can do simple things like ask for directions when we’re lost, take time to find the right sized tool for the job, or ask a question of our elders or peers without our ego getting in the way. The following tips may be useful in diagnosing a problem, correcting your shooting style or sharing knowledge with your clients or colleagues.
The first tip is to buy some type of digital moving picture camera. Many of you may think, “Easy for you to say”, but chances are good that you already own one and have not taken the time to use it. Most every cell phone has at least a digital “still” camera and most will shoot little movies. This little camera can go a long way to help you record at the range what you want to analyze later, such as a three-point bind or other type of jam. Take a picture of the jam and you will be amazed at the details that jump out at you back at the shop when you have the time to really look at where that cartridge or empty case is that has caused the problem. This way you do not have to remember all of the very important details like how the case was resting on the slide face, or if the base of the cartridge was on top of the extractor. If the human mind were always capable of remembering such details, our court system would not be so backed up.
Now that you are, hopefully, convinced of technology’s value to our Gunsmithing interests, let’s look at the idea of using a digital camcorder at the range when test firing. So there you are at the range with a pile of pistols, revolvers and long guns with a variety of phantom problems. Let’s add that it is a bitter cold day, the range is outdoors and taking handwritten notes becomes truly painful.
In this situation the camcorder can be a good friend. Set the camera (preferably on a tripod) at an angle at which it can capture either the stance of the shooter (if the client has come to the range to diagnose the firearms problem) or stationary bench rest shooting device. This way you can factor into the equation the possibility that the shooter’s grip, short stroking, riding the slide or other poor shooting habits are adding significantly to the problems. You will also want to make sure that you are recording the trajectory of the spent cases, as this can tell us quite a bit about extraction and ejection.
With the camcorder we can capture not only the motion of the cycling of the firearm but also the sound. The sound of our range session might just convince a friend or client that their reloading skills need some quality control. This scenario can also give you a chance to win America’s Funniest Home Videos if you’ve captured a case blowout and the jig your client danced as the rest of the 9mms touched off in the magazine well.
Now that we have gotten over the fact that we may have looked like a “poser” to the other shooters as we filmed ourselves shooting all day, it is now time to convince the other shooters that you are a nut job too by talking to yourself.
Make sure that as you are test firing the weapons you are taking verbal notes for the camera (like a coroner’s verbal notes they make during an autopsy). If the gun jams, zoom in with the camera for a closer angle and verbally make notes of what you are seeing as the initial problem. Maybe it is something that you felt or heard when you fired that round. When you are back at the shop watching and listening to the recording these verbal notes will be very useful. You can also use a black felt marker to number the cartridges you are firing so that you can check a specific case for markings, nicks or burrs if the gun was having extractor problems. Then when you review the recording you can match them up.
Most of us have computers in our shops, even if they perform our accounting or other non-firearms related tasks. Well, once we get the footage back to the shop from the range, our fun with technology is just beginning. We can download the images from the camera to the computer. From here we can use editing software to easily zoom in, slow down, or take still pictures of our test firing session. Common sense tells us that we can use this information to troubleshoot problems or disprove our customer’s “theories”.
We can use our camera and current technologies in other ways to help service our customers. If business is slow or you have developed arthritis and cannot tend to your trade any longer, you could include consulting as part of your shop’s services. Clients from all over the world can instantly e-mail you pictures or footage of their problems. You can then check conditions of parts, engagement angles, cracks, etc. to see if the firearm is even worth being sent in for repair, thus saving the client and you time and money.
Large corporations utilize this type of technology (high speed cameras and computers) to study tolerances of machined parts, to safely study critical failures in design, to meet mil-spec standards and beyond for both legal and financial reasons.
Pictures of rare firearms can be quickly transferred to you for estimates or general appraisals. Remember all of that footage you took of the firearms during testing? If you own a busy shop you will quickly archive a lot of footage of various firearms. We can now compile this information, edit it, sell it or upload it to an informational website, sharing some of the knowledge that we’ve painstakingly acquired.
Remember “A picture is worth a thousand words” and I’m sure a moving picture is worth exponentially more. If you supply actual pictures and documentation to your clients, this could give you a competitive edge in the marketplace, but that is a topic for another article.