The Proud Tradition of Gunbuilding in the Garage

I think that today in America  (and probably in many other countries) we have a misconception of where new ideas come from, especially among younger folks like myself. We tend to think that products are made by companies, and the individual craftsman or inventor is absent from the equation somehow. Apart from people actually directly involved in manufacturing businesses, we have a sterilized notion of things springing complete and prepackaged from the back room of a WalMart like Athena from Zeus. In addition to fostering a lack of understanding of how things are actually made, this notion also does a pretty good job of stifling our creativity. If there isn’t some reasonable expectation of possible success, how many people are willing to take on a project like a new design or invention?

We would do well to remember that in the field of firearms, virtually all of our really significant designs have come not from corporations and committees, but from individuals (often hobbyists) working in basements and garages. Eugene Stoner handmade his first aluminum rifle on a mill in his garage. Hiram Maxim got build his first guns in a borrowed workshop at an electrical company when he got bored. John Browning got his start in the back of a little Utah gun shop. These men got an idea and just ran with it, knowing that there is always a better mousetrap waiting to be built.

We have so many advantages today over some of those early pioneers in repeating arms, it’s a shame we don’t have more grass roots firearms designers. The advent of affordable CNC machinery means that the serious enthusiast can create today what would have taken a whole factory full of machine tools a hundred years ago, and computerized drafting and tool programming software allow incredibly flexibility in design. We have taken the biggest hurdles away from the amateur builder – the capital requirements and the need to spend years honing drafting skills. Yes, setting up a good home shop is still expensive, but no more than having a serious fishing boat or restoring classic vehicles.

There are several good forums our there for folks who want to pursue home firearms design, and I think more people ought to take up the hobby. The next great gun will come out of someone’s garage, and we just might help keep our firearms rights intact a bit longer by making the practice more mainstream.