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Marysville shop going great guns
• LOCATION: 329 D St., Marysville.
• HOURS: 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday.
• PHONE: 633-2952; 800-948-8478 (toll free).
It might appear to be a packed field with four other stores selling guns in Marysville, but Dave Watson says his gunsmith and retail store is so busy that he often has to stop working on guns in his backroom work area to help his wife with all the customers who come in.
Dave's Gunsmithing at 329 D St. isn't a new business — it moved to the downtown area about a year and a half ago from Wheatland because of the large volume of business. "We got so busy I couldn't keep up with demand, so I had to move up here," Watson explained.
It wasn't easy for the retired Air Force man because of some of his dealings with the city, he said. "The city wasn't very helpful. I had quite a time getting my licenses."
But the building was to his liking. "It's a nice location here on historic D Street, and this store already had good security gates installed," he added.
While the security gates are a good first step in protecting the store and the weapons inside, he didn't stop there. He said he put in his own alarm and camera systems, saying, "Security is a big thing here."
In addition to all the security, licensing is another major hoop a gunsmith or gun store owner has to jump through.
"Anyone trying to get into this business has to know that the process is time-consuming," Watson said. "When I first applied for my (gunsmith) license, the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) did a background check and then they interviewed me. They came to my house and talked with me to get to know me before they issued me my license.
"Each year, I have to pay $115 for an inspection. Then I have another COE (certificate of eligibility) from the state I have to pay for. There are a couple of fees I have to pay to the California Department of Justice which also does a background check each year. And my wife, Rosemary, has to have the same thing to work off my FFL (Federal firearms license)."
Watson said that, in addition to the usual business license, he also has to get a permit from the Police Department. "We also have to have a pawnbroker license because we're selling used guns. That one's from the state, and we also have to have one from the city," he said.
But the paperwork doesn't end with the licenses; Dave and Rosemary also have to keep track of all the background checks performed on customers who purchased guns so that they are available for the California Department of Justice inspectors who make periodic checks.
"It's a lot of paperwork, but I do it because I love guns, and I love doing the trade," he said.
Guns and how they work have always interested Dave. "I grew up around guns. When I was a kid, they fascinated me — the inner workings and how they worked. I would take them apart and look at them. Then, in the Air Force, I went to different gunsmith schools."
All of that interest and training has made him a master gunsmith. To earn that distinction, he must be able to repair, modify and build firearms. He also has to know how to do factory-level repairs and renovations as well as make modifications for special uses to meet his customers' needs and wants.
"I think I'm the only gunsmith in the area who works on the old guns — those more than 20 years old. I say that because there's no money working on them," Dave said. "Nobody will touch them because there's really no money in them because it costs more to repair them because of the time. And then there's the problem of finding parts because they're not made any more."
Rosemary said there are many things she likes about the gun selling and gunsmithing business, but there is one thing that does bother her: customers who demand more than she or Dave can deliver.
"One of the biggest misconceptions is that people think we can repair their guns overnight. They think that even if it's a little thing like a broken spring. But if we have to order it, then it's up to the mail and the place you're ordering it from to get it to you," she said. "That can take weeks."
"People will come in here and complain that their gun has been here a month, but I can get behind because I get anywhere from five to 15 guns in here a week — and some of those are missing parts that I have to search all over the country for or even custom-make," Dave added. "With that volume of guns, I can't get them all done in a week."
Dave sells new and used handguns, rifles and shotguns in his store, but it's the handguns that sell the best. "It's hard to keep handguns because they sell so fast. My top seller is the High Point C9 9mm, which I sell for $180. I sell a lot of them to the ladies because they feel just like a Glock," he explained. "I can get 11 or 12 in here at a time and they're gone in about a month."
He said that people mainly buy them for protection and that it appears that the reason he sells so many is because people are afraid President Barack Obama will do something to ban them.
Talking about other weapons in his store, Dave said that he's worked on many types of rifles including the US Army's basic weapon. "The AR-15 is a gun I've had in here a lot. I've probably built about 20 of those things for customers because they want a certain barrel or a certain stock."
Less common weapons he's sold or worked on include an old British 303 World War II rifle as well as an M1 carbine and a German Mauser.
In addition to lethal weapons, Dave's Gunsmithing also sells less dangerous items. Along the north wall, Dave has fishing gear, and in a display case there are Airsoft pellet handguns for sale.
Rosemary said that people use Airsoft because they have the weight and feel of real weapons. But because of their slow muzzle velocity and the soft pellet rounds they fire, they can be used for target practice in a backyard.
Dave thinks there are two main reasons his business is doing so well. The first is his excellent work on guns and the other is his pricing.
"My markup is really small. Even for a customer who comes in to sell a gun on consignment, I only charge him 10 percent. That's all I charge. There's no storage fee."
He said he also keeps his prices low for the required background checks and even beats discount stores such as Walmart and Big 5 on prices.