Kammerdeiner opens storefront showroom to add to custom gun business

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 19, 2006

His art of gun making has led John S. Kammerdeiner into a thriving business that continues to grow.

In a small building at 1622 Carter St. in Vidalia, where he has been a general gunsmith for about five years, he opened his first storefront showroom in December, putting guns on display and drawing more customers into his business.

After only a few months in the retail-type setting, he has bigger plans &045; an indoor shooting range and a showroom three times the size he now operates, both of which he hopes to open by October.

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The new enterprise will be about two and a half miles west on Carter Street. &uot;We’ll have 10 lanes and we’ll do league tournaments and have shooting leagues, just like bowling leagues,&uot; Kammerdeiner said. &uot;There’s a lot of interest in this.&uot;

The new store and firing range will be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., he said. &uot;We’ll have firearms available to rent. People can test guns from different manufacturers to see what they like,&uot; he said. &uot;You’ll be able to rent a gun and shoot for an hour or two hours.&uot;

A range master will be on duty at all times &045; an NRA-certified officer. &uot;He will be watching the range at all times,&uot; Kammerdeiner said.

Along with the range and the showroom will be classrooms for gun use and safety instruction.

&uot;We’ll teach basic pistol, rifle and shotgun and advanced classes in those areas, too,&uot; he said. &uot;We’ll teach basic and advanced reloading and gun cleaning courses. There will be classes going on all the time.&uot;

Kammerdeiner, a Natchez native, always has loved guns. With his background in architectural engineering, he worked for a structural engineer in Dallas before he and his wife decided to move to a smaller town to bring up their four children, ages 6 to 10.

&uot;I’ve been building guns for about 10 years,&uot; he said. &uot;When we moved back to Natchez, I worked for a construction company but continued to build guns. In the past five years, it grew into a full-time business.&uot;

In his shop, he showed off a gun in progress. &uot;I’ve already done all the machine work on this, and I’m putting it together now,&uot; he said. &uot;There are about 20 pieces to a gun like this.&uot;

His standard in building a gun is meeting a .0005 tolerance in how accurately the parts are put together. &uot;The more accurately a gun is put together, the more accurate is the gun,&uot; he said.

He orders plain guns from the factory, takes off the stocks and barrels and throws them away. &uot;Then we order a match barrel anywhere from this to this,&uot; he said, showing off the barrels of different sizes. &uot;The bigger and heavier it is, the more stable the gun is when you shoot it.&uot;

One of his most expensive guns, costing the customer $10,000, includes gleaming wood stock and expensive components &045; all made to suit the personal tastes and shooting style of the owner. &uot;The owner of this gun just shoots targets with it,&uot; he said.

A custom-made gun takes about 40 working hours, Kammerdeiner said. &uot;We do about one to two guns a week.&uot;

Serious hunters like custom guns because of the accuracy they can expect from them. &uot;Target shooters like the accuracy, too,&uot; he said. &uot;There are a lot of target shooters around here, more than you would think.&uot;

The business also has begun to specialize in custom pistols, he said. &uot;The customer gets to pick every single part of the firearm, and the sky’s the limit,&uot; he said.

Kammerdeiner for about a year has taught concealed weapon classes. Some of the students take the classes as part of the requirement for getting a concealed weapon permit in Louisiana. &uot;It’s a 10-hour course,&uot; he said. &uot;But even if you don’t plan to get the permit, the class will teach you basic handgun safety, and we do emphasize safety. And you don’t have to own a gun to take the course.&uot;

Many women have taken the course, he said. And they make excellent students and also are excellent on the range, where the last section of the course takes place, Kammerdeiner said.

Education about firearms is important for everyone, he said, but especially for children. &uot;We’re going to do free lessons for children, show them how to shoot an air rifle, teach them safety and respect for guns.&uot;

Children who learn about guns are less likely to be curious about them and less apt to have accidents with them, he said.