Yes, guns. In California. Who knew? Mad Duo
Small American Business: West Coast Gun Works
With all the crazy shit going down in California right now regarding firearms ownership and restrictions that continue to become more ludicrous, one might think owning a gunsmithing business (or any gun related business) in the state of California would be, let’s face it, bad for business. However, in a 4000 square foot shop in Stanton, California is a growing gunsmith business with a clientele of military, law enforcement, sport shooters and enthusiasts/collectors.
“For about five years, our business was mainly basic gunsmithing. There was no customizing at that point, it was more of the ‘my trigger doesn’t work’ or ‘I found this rifle in my grandfather’s attic can you restore it’ jobs.” – Mike Albor / West Coast Gun Works
The basic gunsmithing duties the shop performed brought them more customers due to word of mouth. They began to get more restoration work, then began to fabricate replacement parts in house. This led to a customer seeking work on a AK. The shop began fixing AKs, and then came customers looking for custom builds. No shop in the immediate area was working with the AK platform, and this niche focus brought in more customers. With every build they explored customizing the platform to meet customers’ requests, which led to more people looking for custom work.
“Besides the restorations, we began working with AKs because no shop wanted to work with them, for whatever reason. We began normal gun smithwork on the platform and from there customers started asking for custom builds. Our goal was to get more into the custom work. I always messed with my own guns, trying different things, full rebuilds and fabricating parts.” – Mike Albor
The customizing aspect of the gunsmithing business began to take off for the entire gun industry, from stippling frames to improving triggers. It wasn’t a surprise when loyal customers at West Coast Gun Works came looking for ways to improve their firearms or customize it to meet their needs.
“The tipping point for us was when I did some work for a friend who worked at a popular range near here. People at the range would ask him about the work on his gun and he would refer them to us.” – Mike Albor
With word of mouth driving the business, it was no surprise when West Coast Gun Works turned to social media, especially Instagram, and the company saw rising interest.
“We don’t do any type of advertising. Besides word of mouth and relationships with good people, we only mess with Instagram and little bit with FaceBook. Yeah we have a website, but that’s about it. Friends and word of mouth really drive the business.” – Mike Albor
I asked what separates West Coast Gun Works from custom shops and DIYers who go crazy with the soldering iron and have access to anodizing equipment.
“We do things different. Like, we’ll take down the whole gun, and look at every little part to see what’s touching what, what engagement needs to get cleaned up, what’s positive, and what’s negative. We’ll go through it and make sure everything is right, nothing drags, and then check spring rates. We don’t cut anybody’s springs. We usually just replace the spring, and give them their old parts back. They can see what was changed out, what was touched and what was not. I guess we just take a little more time. It’s all about the details, some visible and some you just have to experience.” – Mike Albor
From there West Coast Gun Works began experimenting with slide work, and they just didn’t cut the slides for looks. They experimented and tested with professional shooters and law enforcement to find the right mix of function and performance-enhancing improvements.
“Honestly, we took a lot of time finding just the right cut and serration patterns to deliver something focused on function. In this new era of Instagram, people are focused on the looks. They need to realize you can only cut so much before the slide will blow right through and be damaged, or worse, unsafe.”
All this work has led West Coast Gun Works to custom triggers, a custom AR build and eventually whole packages you can purchase in the near future. With this market taking off, they’re launching a new brand called Insidious.
(West Coast Gun Works .308 photo by: JF Comfort)
“Insidious is going to be more of our custom stuff, more of the packages. So if you want a full slide, we’re going to have packages that have your slide, all the internals, sites, barrel, guide rod. All you have to do is drop it into your gun, then if you upgrade the package, you’ll get the trigger, the bar, the connector and the spring, so all you have to do is supply your frame.” – Mike Albor
Insidious is set to launch some time in August.
West Coast Gun Works has built themselves a nice-sized business that includes full restorations of classic firearms to custom works for today’s professional or enthusiast. Sure, times in California are sketchy at best for the firearms industry, but that doesn’t seem to stop West Coast. For more information, visit their website or Instagram feed.
Imagery from around the shop, courtesy West Coast Gunworks:
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