But for certified gunsmith Nick Bauer, it’s all he needs. Even if the shop does seem smaller when he walks his tall, lanky frame into the room.
“My whole goal with Beeville Armory was to have the kind of gun shop that my dad went to,” Bauer said. The days when a gun owner went to a shop to get his or her basic rifle or pistol tricked out with custom features are rapidly disappearing.
“Everything comes out of the box now,” Bauer said. “In the old days, Colt made three variables of the 1911, and customers took them to a gunsmith to get the custom work done.”
Now, there are so many varieties of that historic handgun on the market, a customer can get pretty much what he or she wants right at the store.
“Not everyone appreciates craftsmanship the way I do,” Bauer said. “You buy a pistol and go. I want you to have everything you want in a gun.”
“I’ll load ammunition with you. I’ll sit at the bench and shoot with you, and we’ll figure out what it takes. Real shooters really appreciate that,” Bauer said with a serious look. “Your gun store doesn’t have a lot of me any more.”
The Beeville Armory owner said he has shooters, customers in their 70s and 80s, who still remember the days when gun owners depended on their gunsmiths. They remember the legendary Byron Dugat, who worked in his shop in Beeville and turned out the kind of custom work that real shooters loved.
“I’ve appreciated working on his guns,” Bauer said of Dugat.
“They are my best customers,” Bauer said of the older customers he has here. “People had a connection with their guns.”
A native of Nevada, Bauer started gunsmithing about eight years ago. After growing up in a shooting family and tinkering with mechanical things for years, he decided that was what he wanted to do.
He enrolled in the gunsmithing course offered by Penn Foster Career School and graduated from the course. He is now certified by the American Gunsmithing Association and is a member of the American Pistolsmiths Guild.
He is Glock Certified and certified for work on both semi auto and revolvers made by Smith & Wesson.
“I do Ruger authorized warranty work,” Bauer said.
“I’m not a retail guy,” the gunsmith said. He will do some special order retail work which he details at www.beevillearmory.com.
Also, a lot of his business these days comes from out of state.
Bauer said he decided to move to Texas in 2004 and already had his eye on the Beeville area. He had visited his mother in Mathis and knew this part of the state.
Gunsmithing was a sideline business for years while Bauer worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and then drove a truck. In August of 2010, he decided to go full time into the business, and he opened his Beeville Armory in his home at 903 N. Ave D.
Nowadays, he has to see customers on an appointment basis, mostly in the evenings and on weekends.
The problem with meeting with customers is that conversations often end up taking an hour or more of his time, because shooters always have lots of questions.
“I enjoy this,” he said. “But if I was available all the time, I wouldn’t get any work done. It’s me. I have an assistant, and I have an office manager.”
Bauer said the lack of good gunsmiths has led to the creation of what he calls the “You Tube gunsmith.”
Those are gun owners who watch videos on the internet and decide they can do the same modifications to their firearms that the guys on You Tube do.
Gunsmithing may look easy on the internet, but in practice, it is not always so simple.
“This can kill you,” Bauer said, pointing to the hammer end of a 1911 pistol he’d built. “It can kill you on this side as quick as it can kill you on that side,” he said as he pointed to the muzzle.
“Let me be the one to take the risk. That’s why I have insurance. That’s what I’m about.”
Bauer specializes in the 1911 design perfected by John Browning, and he enjoys building the pistols from the ground up.
But like any good gunsmith, Bauer works on just about anything. He has his personal M4 carbines, AK-47s, pistols and rifles to show prospective customers. Photographs of many of those custom guns can be seen in the gallery on his website.
“I do build AK-47s from the ground up,” he said.
One build he is particularly proud of is his target rifle, built on a 1942 Mosin Nagant receiver with a barrel he took off a Czech-made machine gun.
“The machine gun shot the same 7.62x54 round that the Mosin Nagant shoots,” Bauer said. He had to do a lot of work on the barrel to mate it to the receiver but the effort paid off greatly.
The work included milling down the thickness of the barrel. But he kept it heavier than the stock Mosin barrel. The original barrel on that rifle is designed so thin that it tends to “whip” when fired. The heavier barrel fixed that problem, and Bauer can now fire a three-shot group in less then three-eights of an inch from a bench at 100 yards.
Bauer recently renewed has his Class 3 license and can sell the suppressors, the short barrel rifles and shotguns. “I could build that stuff before, I just couldn’t sell it,” he said of the Class 3 products.
The gunsmith said he recommends that serious shooters think about getting some of their rifles suppressed, especially if they intend to shoot with their children. It makes it safe to shoot the guns without hearing protection, and a father can talk to his son while shooting without having to take out his ear plugs.
Like a lot of Texans, Bauer considers shooting “a way to get your family together. The sport of it is great.”
He also offers private instruction for new shooters, although the classes are expensive. “It’s really cool to get people into this, and that’s one of the reasons I started Beeville Armory.”
It was that attitude toward guns and shooting that brought the Bauer family to this part of the country.
“I enjoy the freedoms we have in Texas. Texas is kind of like the last stand.”
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.