Custom Gunmakers Guild’s Campaign Puts a Spotlight on American Craftsmanship

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For more than 25 years, the American Custom Gunmakers Guild has promoted the artistry of fine firearms. This year the Guild launched a national campaign to educate the public regarding the remarkable craftsmanship, quality and beauty of the handiwork of its members. The theme is “Plan Your Perfect Custom Gun.” For details, visit

At a time when American jobs are moving overseas, most consumer products are disposable and even advanced electronic devices become obsolete overnight, it’s rare to find something designed and handcrafted not only to last, but actually become more appreciated as time goes by.

Among those who offer just that are members of the American Custom Gunmakers Guild (, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing public awareness about the art of custom gunmaking.

To help tell their story, the Guild has launched a national campaign to promote the artistry of fine firearms for those who appreciate craftsmanship, quality and beauty. The campaign’s theme is “Plan Your Perfect Custom Gun.”

“To some people a firearm is an extension of one’s personality, a place for personal ideas to become reality, a source of pride and pleasure,” said ACGG Executive Director Jan Billeb. “True artistic beauty can be expressed in wood and steel, making an investment in a custom firearm a case of the sum being more than the addition of the individual components.”

But the path from dream to reality is a journey best made with the help of experienced craftsmen, Billeb added. That’s why those who want to join ACGG must go through a rigorous process to ensure they meet the Guild’s high standards, and that includes submitting multiple examples of their work to be peer-reviewed prior to their acceptance as a Regular Member. (http://www.ACGG.Org)

Guild members represent a variety of talents: For example, Steve Nelson of Oregon does both the metal and stock work, creating a custom firearm from start to finish, while others, such as engraver Bob Strosin, Wisconsin, and stockmaker Ralf Martini of Canada, specialize primarily in one phase of a project.

Either way, working with an experienced gunmaker can help facilitate the process, said Jim Blair of Wyoming.

“Some people always know what they want to do – some have no idea at all,” Blair said, adding that it’s best to “sit down and talk with them, work with them and find out what they like by showing them examples.”

Author and gunmaker Stephen Heilmann, who lives in California, put it this way: “There are many phases to having a custom gun built. There are a variety of rifle actions available, many fine old shotguns just waiting to be made over. There is also a wide selection of very high quality barrels, triggers, etc.”

As part of its “Plan Your Perfect Custom Gun” campaign, the Guild is offering a number of supplemental aides to help anyone considering a one-of-a-kind custom firearm. They include:

DIRECTORY: “Custom Firearms Artistry: Membership Directory,” a 90-plus page publication that highlights Guild members and their particular specialty. The price is $24.95, including postage.

WORKBOOK: “Realizing Your Dream: A Client’s Guide to Building a Custom Gun,” a comprehensive, 60-page workbook that details the process of commissioning a custom firearm. The price is $24.95, including postage.

DVD: “An Introduction to Custom Guns” narrated by Jack Belk. This 105-minute presentation painstakingly shows what goes into planning and building custom rifles and shotguns. Price for the DVD is $35, including postage.

“Realizing Your Dream,” the membership directory and the DVD can all be ordered at For more information, call (307) 587-4297 or send a fax to (307) 587-4297.

ABOUT ACGG: The American Custom Gunmakers Guild (ACGG) advances the art of custom gunmaking by increasing public awareness and appreciation for quality custom firearms and promoting custom gunmaking as an accepted art form. The non-profit organization was formed in 1983 by a group of avid craftsmen who came together to create an association to promote the artistry of fine custom firearms.

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