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Does a gunsmith have a ethical or professional obligation to inform or advise customers of the disadvantages to desired mods to their firearms?

In the Other Guns section we've been discussing a rather radical porting job on a .327 Ruger revolver. The general consensus is the work done probably offers no measurable advantages and probably drops the value of the gun significantly.

Another example is the episode of Sons of Guns in which Will Hayden sells Jessie James a BAR and totally rebuilds the gun beyond the point to where it can be restored back to original condition. The only advantage I saw from the modifications were their rechambering the gun to .308, but that is a push to me. I can think of many disadvantages, with the first being the rarity of operable BARS, secondly is the esteem collectors hold for the BAR, third is the tremendous reduction in value to the weapon regardless of the cost associated with the modifications. Not once in the episode did Will Hayden advise Jessie James of the disadvantages.

I cannot be certain the gunsmith who performed the porting job on the revolver advised against the work, but we can see the work was done. In the Jessie James example, the gunsmith never offered a pro or con discussion prior to the work. As an insurance agent, a good, ethical professional will offer clients a discussion of the pros and cons of the insurance services desired. #1 it's the right thing to do, #2 you prevent your customer from coming back to you with, "Why didn't you tell me I did not have this coverage?" There are good reasons why we have E&O insurance for insurance agents, CPAs, and attorneys.

For our gunsmith friends, do you abide by any professional code of ethics learned from school or training? Everybody else, what do you think?
 

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I ride both sides of the fence, being a mfgr, smith and consumer. The ethics code in general, to me at least, is relating the fact that the weapons(s) which are brought to me or being considered, are safe and operational first and fore most. I realize the concern that you mention towards the value or merit in which a customer may inquire about cetain mods to a particular firearm. With that being said, I only advise on the end result, making sure that the customer is well aware of the changes and effects that are being made to the said firearm. I try to leave personal feeling out of the practice as this is not my firearm, and the conditions are not mine to question. I think of it this way, I have a dollar in my pocket. This dollar is only mine because I possess it, but belongs to everyone who can obtain it. If I choose to shred it and render it useless that is my descion. But the consequences that follow are also mine.
 

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Well, I kind of lean towards "the customer is always right" code. If some wants a Thompson SMG painted pink with blue angels on it...so be it...it's work for the gunsmith. Like the pink Hello Kitty pistol we've seen.

Or cutting the barrel shorter on a valuable shotgun...which I'm thinking of doing. It's my gun...can't I have it done? I don't care what a gunsmith may think it does for the value. I will listen if he says I could get in trouble with the law...or the mod is dangerous...but I don't want his opinion on what I'll do to the value. This shotgun will be more use to me with a shorter barrel, that's value in my book.

Look at all the Harley's that have been chopped up over the years to make "choppers"...totally ruining the value on the down the line for someone looking for a classic.
 

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I feel it is my job to do my job well. That includes giving some opinion in some cases. If i'm going to a COD job and the homeowner obviously is not familar with concrete, I'll put my two cents in. Often prefaces with an "I dont' want to offend, but have you worked with concrete before?" type question. If I'm showing up to a crew of pros I might suggest a different way of aproching the job, but as long as thier way is safe, I'll concede to thier wishs. When a costomer proves themselves to be a jackazz, I do what they want without comment, but within what I feel is safe.

If I were a gunsmith, and a guy came in and told me about all his guns and all the work he has had done, I would not talk him out of what I felt would be a safe but dumb job. If a guy came in with is grampa's gun and had been told by a friend to get X done, I'd feel obliged to discuss the issues pros and con.

Remember, the first thing a good salesman sells is himself.

Lop
 

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I think a gunsmith should advise on, and most of the time refuse to complete, work that would create a safety issue. But this can be a gray area. Lightening a trigger pull could be considered a safety issue, but gunsmiths should do that if requested. If normal work like this is requested to be taken to the extreme, the gunsmith should advise and get customer consent and understanding down in writing. Giving the customer a 0.2 lb trigger should only be done with everything down in writing.

When it comes to customer stupidity/cosmetic/value issues - let the customer be as stupid as they want. Do what they ask.

As a corollary: Personally, I think "low rider" (or "significantly lifted") cars with solid black windows and 15 gigawatts of audio power going into 70 inch speakers is insanely stupid. But there are a significant number of people who must feel this "adds value", judging by what we observe on our roadways. If they want to be idiots, nothing you can do will stop them. So let them do it, or pay you to do it for them.
 

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Not once in the episode did Will Hayden advise Jessie James of the disadvantages.
Maybe it was edited out of the episode? I wouldn't know, I hate the show and avoid it.

Obviously, if the mod is potentially illegal or potentially dangerous, then you have an obligation to ensure the customer is fully informed.

As for reducing value, here's my take on it. I think the smith should warn the customer that the mod could reduce the value but should also assure customer that, provided the mod is safe and legal, he will do the work if that's what the customer really wants. Think of duracoating an early run Colt SAA. It's the customer's gun and, ultimately, his property. He can melt it down for a paper-weight if he wants. It'd be sad, but it's his property.

Several years back I had a friend on another forum acquire a Bronze Age dagger. No, literally from the Bronze Age. 3-5,000 years old. A literal Museum Piece. Of course, it was covered with the green-white patina that protected it from corroding to nothing for 3K+ years. He offered that he wanted to clean the patina off so that it looked like it did when first poured. I advised him against it in the strongest possible way. It would severely damage the resale value, damage the intrinsic value, and open it to destructive corrosion which could ultimately rob humanity of an irreplaceable prehistoric treasure. He understood, agreed that all of these things could happen, and then went ahead and cleaned it anyway. I nearly cried. But it was his property.

He shined it up real nice though. :(

Peace favor your sword,
Kirk
 

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While I'm not in the gunsmithing business, I am in a business where everything I do is custom and particular to the individual customer.

I get requests for all kinds of strange stuff and I feel obligated to tell customers both the upside and downside of each and every request they make so they can be fully informed of the ramifications of their requests.
 

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Another example is the episode of Sons of Guns in which Will Hayden sells Jessie James a BAR and totally rebuilds the gun beyond the point to where it can be restored back to original condition.
In defense of Red Jacket, according to an employee who posts on another board, they didn't do anything to permanently alter the BAR. It can be restored to the condition that it was in before the modifications.

http://www.zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=107&t=75648&start=648

Otherwise, I'm just as disgusted with people that want to trash historic firearms.
 

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I had two inexpensive weapons slightly damaged in a house fire. I asked my LGS to refinish the two weapons. A rifle and shotgun that belonged to my brother and myself when we were teenagers. He advised me that the work I wanted done would not enhance the value of the guns. I thanked him and told him that the value of these guns was not monetary. He refinished them, they look like new, and I still have them.

Life is short, be happy
Jack

Teenage years were over 55 plus years ago.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
In defense of Red Jacket, according to an employee who posts on another board, they didn't do anything to permanently alter the BAR. It can be restored to the condition that it was in before the modifications.

http://www.zombiehunters.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=107&t=75648&start=648

Otherwise, I'm just as disgusted with people that want to trash historic firearms.
Thanks for sharing Spikejerk. I am glad the BAR wasn't modified beyond return.

I like JohnCannon's post in which he said, "You just don't mess with transferable machine guns any more than you mess with DaVinci paintings. Sure, they might have put it in a new frame when moving it from one place to another, or after decades, or painted the wall it hangs on, but the canvas and paint is not touched."

I agree that anyone can and should be able to to modify their possessions within safe perameters, but that doesn't mean the changes are the best options. While I can understand Rick's view about modifying his shotgun, I really believe an ethical gunsmith would consult with you the downsides first. Then if all has been considered then the work can proceed. BUT, a BAR is a significant piese of military history, and there are only a finite number remaining in full-auto condition, just as there are a finite number of Da Vinci paintings.
 

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BUT, a BAR is a significant piese of military history, and there are only a finite number remaining in full-auto condition, just as there are a finite number of Da Vinci paintings.
This wasn't in stock condition. It had already been converted to pistol grip and given a semi-auto/full auto selector (instead of the slow auto/fast auto selector).
 

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M1918_Browning_Automatic_Rifle

The selector originally said "safe", "F" for fire and "A" for automatic.


The Belgian version made for the Polish Army had a pistol grip. And was produced in caliber 7.92x57mm Mauser.
All the BARs I've seen were safe/slow auto/fast auto style, but my encounters with the BAR have been few so I'll accept that I was wrong there. Though I am sure the mount for the pistol grip was aftermarket (too long for the monitor, and too slanted for the Polish and Swedish versions).

There's also the fact that Will said he'd never defile an original WWII gun when showing JJ the BAR he had on the wall.
 

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I'd say in any occupation that involves face to face with customers, especially the ones that don't know any better, the pros and cons of any project should be laid out.

While not a gunsmith, I deal with individuals on a daily basis on projects that are in many cases, lifelong alterations to there home. So informing them of a potential disappointment a year down the road is part of my job. Building pool enclosures is not just a slap-it-up and keep the bugs out thing. Front entryways are even harder because they become the focus of the front of the home.

Point being, if I go to estimate a home where a front screened in area is not going to look "fitting", I see it as my job to inform the customer even at the expense of losing the job to a company that's only seeing the dollar signs.
 

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Until last September, I had spent over 3 years as a manager at a Harley shop. Customers would often bring their bikes in with crazy customization requests that I knew would actually lower the resale value of the bike, but were legal and safe.

In that situation, I think that the customer is always right. We did the work without "counseling".

Cheers,
Mutha Bob
 

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Bikes, I don't know about. This ones more in haugrdr's line. But what I'm hearing is you'd do a job for a customer no matter how inane it was, just to comply. Basically, giv'em what they want?
 

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Yes. If it was safe and legal, why should I impose my taste on my customer? Depending on their vision and personality, I would make honest recommendations, but if they had their heart set on a purple Sportster, that's exactly what they got.

Cheers,
Mutha Bob
 

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If it was a rare firearm with historic value I would say the owner should be told the pros and cons but like has already been said if it is safe do as the owner wants.
In the case of the Ruger I have trashed things that cost allot more just because I wanted to try something that seemed like a good idea at the time. Guns are sacred to many but in reality most here spend more on vehicles and many treat them poorly or do expensive mods that actually decrease the value.
 

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Right. When I was in that business, it was all about doing business TODAY. I don't think the gun business is all that different: A macho product that owners are emotionally attached to and want to modify to suit their needs, wants, and personality.

Cheers,
Mutha Bob
 
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