Curious about a gunsmiths’ career path? Check out our featured craftsmen: Sam Chappell and Jacob Schuler from Turnbull Restoration to learn what life as a gunsmith looks like for them.
Jacob Schuler has been working at Turnbull Restoration for the past eight years, his gunsmithing career beginning after graduating from Pennsylvania Gunsmithing school in 2012.
Sam Chappel started at Turnbull Restoration 18 years ago as a stock maker. He has worked his way up to oversee the shop floor and teaches the other smiths his tricks of the trade.
Turnbull Restoration is a small company that specializes in restoring old firearms, specifically from 1870 to 1940. Turnbull Restoration works on: Winchesters, Marlins, Parker, Fox, and LC Smith. The goal is to bring them back to the way they left the factory. Turnbull Restoration is known for its signature case hardening and charcoal blue color.
What skills are most important in your line of work?
Jacob: Patience. It’s a learned skill. Many people don’t have it and never will, but you need to have patience before you can learn any of the other skills needed to succeed as a gunsmith.
Sam: The most important skill a gunsmith needs is common sense. You can be working on a gun that is fighting you every step of the way and you’re getting frustrated beyond belief. It’s important to know when it’s time to put down the gun and take a break.
What inspired you to become a gunsmith?
Sam: I knew I wanted to be a gunsmith from a young age. I shot in the ATA “Amateur Trapshooting Association” and was intrigued by all the different guns. Now, I’ve been working on guns for nearly 20 years.
Jacob: I've always been fascinated by firearms. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to learn how to work on guns and figure out how they work.
Tell us about a project you’re working on now:
Jacob: Currently, I'm polishing a Winchester 1886 rifle. It's been restocked and now I have to polish out the pits and dings that have accumulated over its lifespan. To do this right, it will probably take about twelve hours.
Sam: I’m working on converting a Winchester 1886 to the 475 Turnbull caliber. I’m in the stages of putting on a high-grade American Black Walnut stock and forend, then it gets polished and sent out to the engraver for gold inlay and game scenes. The last step will be adding our famous color case hardening and charcoal blue.
What firearm project you are most proud of?
Jacob: The most memorable project I’ve ever worked on was when I restored a Winchester 1892. That alone is not terribly exciting, as I've done dozens of them, but the serial number on this one was 52 — which was humbling. Aside from that, I enjoy working on any revolvers that come into the shop.
Sam: I'm most proud of being able to restock a customers’ broken stock on a Purdey Double rifle. When I took apart the gun, I was amazed at the craftsmanship not only on the outside but the inside as well. The Purdey Double rifle has been my favorite gun to work on to date.
What's the most challenging part of being a gunsmith?
Sam: The most challenging part of being a gunsmith is having to stop production when you’re really in the zone. When you get into a rhythm, you don’t want to be stopped.
Jacob: For me, the most difficult part of the job is dealing with customers that simply cannot be satisfied.
Do you order from us? What's your experience been like if so.
Sam: Yes. Something I like about Numrich is the availability of parts and how easy the ordering process is.
Do you have any future goals or plans for your career?
Sam: In the future, I’d like to continue working at Turnbull Restoration and my own shop as well.
Interested in seeing more? Follow Turnbull Restoration on Instagram and be sure to keep an eye out for our next gunsmith feature.