Taking Stock of Your Hunting Guns

Expert gun builder and gunsmith Kerry O’Day examines one of the custom built, lightweight big game rifles his company MG-Arms produces.

It was too hot to think about hunting. Nevertheless, a few weeks ago, I fast-forwarded my thinking to bird hunting season. That’s quite a revelation for me as well as for a lot of other bird hunters, I know. During this time of year, many sportsmen get busy with late summer activities such as fishing, boating, and last minute family vacations. They wake up one morning and realize that the opening of dove season and the kick-off to the shooting seasons is only a few days away. I speak from long years of experience.

The thing that jogged my thinking into reality was when I happened to retrieve a sleek side-by-side 12 gauge Browning from its hiding place. In looking at the trim lines and engraved receiver, I had pledged that this year I wanted to take it where it belonged – to the hunting fields, shooting at upland birds. Although I had owned it for many years, the reason for the non-use was that the shotgun needed some reworking and a little special care to elevate it to a classic upland bird gun.

I knew just who to call. I contacted long-time friend Kerry O’Day, who owns MG – Arms (formerly Match Grade Ammo) at 281-821-8282 to explain what I needed. When I arrived at MG-Arms on Treaschwig, Kerry’s eyes lit up when I handed him the shotgun. “I’ve always had a weakness for good looking side-by-sides,” he said, as he examined the gun. “I’ll take special care of it for you.”

I asked him to re-choke one of the barrels to an improved cylinder and to install a decelerator-type recoil pad on the stock to reduce a little kick during an afternoon of shooting. O’Day also agreed to polish the shell chambers and clean the barrels to put the little shotgun in top-notch hunting condition.

If you own guns like most outdoorsmen do, finding and keeping a good gunsmith is as important as having a good mechanic, a good dentist, or a good woman, but not necessarily in that order.

When placing a gun in the hands of a gunsmith, you are entrusting someone with a favorite hunting firearm, which may have considerable monetary value as well as an irreplaceable sentimental value. You need to make sure that the person is not only knowledgeable and qualified, but also trustworthy. Avoid the “shade tree” type gunsmiths at all costs. You usually get what you pay for. When talking to the person who will be doing the work on your weapon, don’t be shy about pressing for details on their experience and qualifications.

Kerry opened his full service arms business over 20 years ago and has been working on guns most of his adult life. He and his wife Carol are both dedicated big game hunters, and both have Safari Club International and Boone and Crockett record trophies to their credit. It is only logical that they hunt with the sporting arms they custom build.
Gunsmithing and repair is only a small part of the O’Days’ business. A significant portion of their service is building custom made high caliber but lightweight hunting rifles and large caliber pistols used to hunt big game. Each year, they take orders for custom-built firearms from customers all over the world. They also build custom gunstocks carved from wood or molded from synthetic materials with detailed finishes.

Another service MG-Arms offers is custom loads. Ammunition is hand loaded to the customer’s specifications for his or her own gun. The loads are tested, sighted in, and a data sheet is printed out recording their specific performance and accuracy.

Most gun owners know that the main reason firearms jam is because they are not being kept thoroughly clean. A build-up of dust, moisture, oil, and gunpowder residue is the cause of most malfunctions. Especially for gas operated semi-automatics, the vat bath type cleaning using solvents and oil is a good way to insure that they are clean, says O’Day.

Many hunters are guilty of putting off retrieving their guns from the closet, dusting them off, and getting them ready for a hunting trip until just before the opening of hunting season.

Take the time to get your guns ready for the fall before the crush of the crowds of last minute sportsmen overwhelm local gun shops, even if all of your guns are in perfect working order, you may need a scope mounted, a recoil pad installed, or a trigger pull adjusted. Any customizing to your favorite firearm takes time. If a hard-to-get part has to be ordered, it may cause an extra delay. Don’t expect an overnight miracle.

Now that I have my side-by-side shotgun back looking and working like new, I’m ready for the bird-hunting season. I’m also ready for some cooler weather.