There are a number of things that contribute to a viable business partnership such as good people, good products, and good ser-vice. On April 1, 2021 Gunsite Academy announced a re-organized Gunsmithy operation at the 45 year old world renown training facility. I was fortunate enough to attend the opening ceremonies, and having participated in numerous events at the Arizona location over the last two decades, I can unequivocally state that two of the three needed ingredients are a slam dunk. The top level players include Ken Campbell, Gunsite’s CEO; Bobby Tyler, owner of Tyler Gun Works; and Dave Fink, owner of Fink’s Custom Guns. If you’ll permit me, I’ll keep it simple by resorting to old west terminology; these three guys are “straight shooters.”
Their number one priority is the student’s gun.
If it breaks, they will fix it as quickly as possible.
I’ve also personally experienced the exceptional quality of product created by the three different organizations. The work coming out of Tyler Gun Works and Finks Custom Guns is outstanding wheth-er it’s a relatively simple repair, building a custom gun to a cus-tomer’s specifications, or applying exotic coatings and engraving on customer owned firearms. Tyler Gun Works is known national-ly for its special coatings and recently sponsored a nation-wide engraving contest prior to offering custom engraving work as part of its in house capabilities.
Located close to Gunsite in Chino Valley, Arizona, Dave Fink has done some excellent, quick response repairs and custom modifi-cations for a number of folks (including me) who attend training events at the Academy.
And as for Gunsite Academy? The completion of 45 years in busi-ness as the world’s premier training facility teaching citizens how to defend themselves and their homes with firearms says it all.
To me the challenge was how to ensure good customer service to a limited number of “captive” clients and still make a living. Gun-site students put in a long, arduous day that requires a 100% re-liably functioning firearm. If a student brings an untested and/or faulty gun that breaks, the weapon must be fixed or replaced immediately, because the schedule does not allow for make-up of any time lost due to equipment failure. It’s like sounding “General Quarters” on a ship; battle stations are manned instantly. That said, Dave has built a following, and Fink’s Custom Guns is now the official Gunsite smithy website. It’s like the old slogan, “If you build it, they will come.”
It’s actually a fairly simple step-by-step approach, and some of the key steps had already been taken by the time we reached Gunsite. First, the existing smithy facility was renovated including complete electric rewiring, new flooring and refinished walls in the entry/office area, and new “tool friendly” peg board walls in the shop.
Secondly, two experienced gunsmiths have been hired by Dave and will be on duty at Gunsite during weekday classes. Dave and both resident smiths are competitive shooters and have more than a casual awareness of what can be expected when a gun is subjected to hundreds of rounds of ammunition in a Gunsite week. Their number one priority is the student’s gun. If it breaks, they will fix it as quickly as possible.
They will also have and maintain rental guns to insure students have a reliable weapon to complete the class. Should you want some custom work performed on your weapon, they will be happy to oblige, but don’t expect to leave them a gun for engraving ear-ly in the week and have it finished by Friday. Some modifications can be accomplished while you’re on site, but keep in mind, prior-ity one is getting every student through the week.
In any partnership it’s important to have a clear allocation of re-sponsibilities, particularly when working locations are separated by geography. Tyler Gun Works is located in Friona, TX roughly 800 miles from Gunsite while Fink’s Custom Guns is on location at Gunsite. Bobby Tyler employs about ten full time employees while Dave’s work force consists of him and the two other gunsmiths at Gunsite. Tyler Gun Works resources are available as and if re-quired for Gunsite, but it is Fink’s Custom Guns that provides the “boots on the ground” necessary to get every student through every class with a working firearm.
Long term projects can cycle through both locations (Gunsite and Texas) to best utilize the talents and resources necessary. The new operation provides the flexibility to immediately apply the la-bor necessary to get through the busy week at Gunsite while al-lowing private party work to be done either on or off site as time permits.
To me the new arrangements appear to be a win/win for all par-ties involved while offering Gunsite students opportunities for personal custom work that might not have occurred to them ear-lier.
The down side? Having seen some of the custom work done by both Bobby and Dave, my firearms’ budget is going to take a big hit in the next year!