SHOT Show is an experience. You get to meet lot’s of interesting people. And get mugged by them.
Tuesday evening, I was strolling through the Sands expo complex with the rest of the My Gun Culture literary assault team, minding our own business, when suddenly I found myself in a choke hold. OK, so I was in condition white. It was SHOT Show and I was arguably on the safest real estate on the planet at the time. Gimme a break. Anyway, a voice whispered in my ear “Give me all your money!”
If it wasn’t for the fact that I was surrounded by 61,000 gun totin’ folks I could have been the next story on CSI Las Vegas. That and the fact that the mugger was none other than Rich Wyatt of Discovery Channel’s American Guns.
You see, we had the opportunity to interview 3/4 of the Wyatt family earlier in the day. Apparently, Renee Wyatt had to stay home and mind the business so Rich, Kurt, and Paige could go to Vegas and blow the family nest egg at the craps table. And I must have offended Rich in the process, hence the threats on my life. But all ended well.
Let’s review our discussion earlier in the day:
My Gun Culture: Rich, Can you tell our readers how on earth you ended up owning a gun business? Did you start from scratch or buy an existing business?
Rich: In eighth grade in English class in Connecticut I wrote a report about this gun shop I got right here, right now. And then I followed my dream and went out and went to gunsmith school, and became a gunsmith. My Dad told me not to do it. Then I realized I couldn’t make enough money being a gunsmith. And then they wouldn’t let me play with machine guns, so I went to the police department. Then all these things kept happening in my life and next thing you know now I got the gun shop. I couldn’t make enough being a one gunsmith, one shop so I got 7 full time guys fixing guns. I’ve got lots of guys doing wild things – sales, training, buying / selling, and building guns. Now we have something that’s producing the income that my family needs for us to get by.
My Gun Culture: So just to clarify, did you start Gunsmoke or buy an existing business?
Rich: I started Gunsmoke. I’d worked with other shops and I had done different things. I worked with Colonel Jeff Cooper you know. Colonel Cooper was my mentor and I couldn’t believe I got a chance to meet him. I couldn’t believe I got a chance to teach with him. And so Gunsmoke was started originally to teach classes with Colonel Cooper when he left the facility he was at in Arizona. But anyway, we needed to set up a corporation to do that, so that’s how Gunsmoke got its legs. Colonel Cooper and I traveled, we hunted in Africa, and our families were great friends. You know Gunsmoke started basically in the back of a Suburban loaded up with Galco holsters and books. Finally, I was like we need a building to put all this junk in, so we went out and got one. And it just kept growing from there. And then I was like, wow we got all this stuff, we need a TV show! So we got a TV show. And now we’re just rockin’ it and having a good time!
My Gun Culture: So your business Gunsmoke is famous for being able to build a gun from a block of raw metal. If we walked in with a 20 pound block of cheese, could you fabricate a fully automatic Cheese Wiz dispenser?
Rich: We will make you the finest sandwich you’ve ever had! It will be the best grilled cheese you have ever, ever eaten. And besides that, it will be an artistic feat beyond anything any chef has ever prepared.
My Gun Culture: So Paige, I’ve got something in common with your dad. We both have beautiful daughters and that is a big , big problem for a dad to have right? It’s kind of thing when a prospective date comes over to the house that most dads make it a point to be cleaning the shotgun on the kitchen table or whatever. Given that your dad is, umm, a bit more tactical than average, and builds barrage weapons and cannons and the like, how does he kick it up a notch?
Paige: Just having the TV show already gives guys a little bit of fear because it’s not mysterious. They don’t wonder…”Does your dad have guns?” It’s more like, “Oh crap, your dad has guns!” There’s no question about the fact that he’s fully loaded. Guys do get nervous and I have to explain to them that it’s OK and he’s a normal guy besides the fact that we own a gun shop. Guys get scared, but he’s pretty nice if they pass they test. I don’t really know what the test is as I have to leave the room! There’s little things that guys have to do to pass…
Kurt: Yeah, like be a guy!
My Gun Culture: Who’s worse when it comes to grilling your dates? Your dad or your brother?
Rich: Paige is very lucky because Kurt’s bought his own place and lives on his own. And so he’s not there, but he does make celebrity appearances in case I’m having a little trouble with one of these guys and then he handles the heavy lifting.
Kurt: I’m the cleanup crew.
My Gun Culture: Kurt, I went to high school. I definitely did not have a single engraving class in high school. Ever. I had English, Geometry, and classes like that. So tell us how you learned to engrave guns.
Kurt: I had always doodled on paper and messed around with that kind of stuff. I never actually thought that I would come up with a career out of it. I did plenty of art classes in school, but obviously nothing geared toward engraving. It was actually dad’s idea. He asked if I had ever seen any engraving and would I be interested in it? I said sure – absolutely! He packed me up and shipped me off to school for it. The rest was history. I fell in love with it as soon as I actually started engraving. I took a basic engraving class out in Kansas. It was a great, great experience for me, and I love doing it.
Paige: There is one thing about engraving. I did try to engrave my name once. I couldn’t even do a straight line. It is extremely difficult and he does a great job.
My Gun Culture: Ok so we need a secret scoop for our readers. Judging from my own experience, I’ve run tools right through my hand. Have you ever done that?
Kurt: I’ve not yet put an engraving tool through my hand but I’ve definitely screwed up!
Rich: And he’s messed up some engraving too!
My Gun Culture: The SHOT Show is all about business – everybody’s doing deals. We happen to have at our house – hold on to your shorts here – we have an extremely rare and valuable Mosin Nagant. It’s got to be worth 90 bucks at least. It’s my son’s, but he’s away at college, so I’m thinking about maybe offering you a trade. I saw you build that custom sniper rifle that was over the top with the flames. I’m kind of thinking I want one with a World War II Midway battle scene on it with Zero’s and Corsairs in a dogfight over the Pacific. So what do you think? Even trade?
Rich: Even trade? Yeah, we’ll do it.
Kurt: In dad’s famous words, so how do you want to take care of the balance?
My Gun Culture: So while we’re on the topic of barters and trades, what’s the craziest trade deal you ever did?
Rich: I traded a guy for a live rattlesnake one time, which could be illegal in some states so I won’t say where I did it. Then I shot it and made it into a belt. That was a weird trade. But my best trade is going to be my next one.
My Gun Culture: We’ve got an ongoing debate going on in our office and maybe you guys can help settle it.We’ve had all sorts of industry figures weigh in on this. Is the MK19 Automatic Grenade launcher appropriate for home defense? My wife worries about the blast radius but I like the horsepower. Thoughts?
Rich: Here’s the problem. The only reason I wouldn’t use it for home defense is that it’s too difficult to move around in the night. I want to be able to get that gun on somebody so my home defense gun would be an 870 shotgun. Because everybody ‘comprendes’ a 12 gauge!
My Gun Culture: We don’t want to make you feel bad, but Top Shot Champion Iain Harrison recommends a 105mm Light Gun, which the British army uses.
Rich: Well I’ll tell ya what, while Iain’s whipping that thing around I’ll have 5 or 6 shots off with my 870. It’s not he who has the best guns that wins, it’s he who hits the first that wins! And that’s gonna be me! The best gun is the gun you’ve got with you.
Kurt: Anytime anybody comes into the store and asks about a home defense gun we whip that pump action shotgun out and rack the slide and they say ‘All right, I understand!”
Paige: If it’s for your wife, at least make it pink!
My Gun Culture: It looks like everyone in the family carries a 1911 from the pictures I see. Can you each tell us about yours and what makes it special?
Rich: Of course! First of all, I carry the coolest 1911 on the planet. It’s got flames on it, it’s got skull and crossbones that Kurt engraved, ivory stocks, Jeff Cooper slim line pistol, dehorned, Novak sights, you know – everything. It’s a great gun. And I also carry a 5 shot Smith & Wesson revolver just in case I need to fill my other hand.
Kurt: 1911 full size 5 inch with a Galco holster and also a 5 shot .38 with a Galco holster. Mine’s tricked out just like dad’s but a little bit different and that’s the great thing about a 1911 is that you can customize the heck out of them. Mine’s got all the same stuff that you need to make it a fine fighting firearm, but I did the custom engraved grips and I’ve got the two tone going with high polish so it’s nice and bright and it looks cool too. Same deal with the secondary firearm. Of course we customized that too – lighter trigger, bob the hammer, all that good stuff.
Paige: I have a little different 1911. Mine is a Colt Defender. It’s a 3 inch barrel instead of the full size. I had to prove to my dad that I could carry the gun. It took a while – I had to pass tests again, so I haven’t been able to really do anything to it yet. I’ve got new stocks, safety, dehorn. Mine is a bit smaller for me as its easier to carry on my hip.
Rich: One last thing. A lot of people ask and see us and say “Hey, your gun’s cocked…” Duh! That’s how it’s meant to be carried. And then a lot of people ask “How is Paige allowed to carry guns?” What do you live in a communist state? This is America we live in! She’s our daughter, on our property – it’s legal for her to carry guns. And if you can’t figure that stuff out man, grow up. Let’s not let people think that it’s OK not to carry guns. It is the best to carry guns. If you’re not carrying a gun right now, it’s a tremendous mistake!
We would like to thank the Wyatt family – all four of them – for tolerating our invasive and rigorous questioning. They were good sports – and quite entertaining!