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Sometimes it’s cheaper to do it yourself
“How to sell it to your wife”

Lets start out by discussing the real issue. Anyone that’s considering getting into home gunsmithing should have a realistic understanding of the costs involved. So with that in mind let me just say this….it’s NOT cheaper to do it yourself….no wait it IS cheaper to do it yourself……no wait SOMETIMES it’s cheaper to do it yourself. Hhhmmmm confused yet. Lets clear this up shall we.

When I first decided to start doing my own “serious” home gunsmithing I wasn’t really sure if it was going to be cost effective or not. I sat down with a calculator and a stack of catalogs and started running the numbers. I’ll explain what I found out so you can decide for yourself if you want to get into this fun stuff. Understand that all my figures are based upon the Actual project that I completed in October when I built 2 custom Sistema 1911 style pistols. I have the receipts to prove my math gang !

I started with basically nothing, so you can adjust my figures to reflect your starting point. I began with only a small workbench and some very basic hand tools (generic stuff, not gunsmithing tools).

It was going to cost me a whopping $2486.77 to build one custom hand-made pistol. This would include having to purchase every conceivable tool including a milling machine…ouch ! I’m not made of money so the idea of having 25 hundred wrapped up in a single gun was pretty scary to me. Hey what if I totally suck at this gunsmithing stuff and I screw up the gun…..

In this scenario I would have to buy all the tools, machines, parts etc, and all I would have to show for the money would be one pistol, the tools and a great learning experience. (plus a lot of fun of course). Even so I just couldn’t justify the outlay.

I have seen some nice 1911’s (Ed Brown, Kimber, Les Baer etc) that sell for around 1500.00 bucks and they are (in my opinion) very nice indeed. I could see myself buying a high quality pistol some day….yep, I like the toys and the custom touches that these high end pistols have. Stuff you just don’t see on a base model Colt or Springfield. So the idea of having 1500.00 in a pistol didn’t scare me all that much. Particularly if I didn’t have to pay that all up front. Add into the equation all the tools, machines, fun and knowledge and ok I’m sold. I’ll pay-as-I-go until I get to 15 hundred bucks…IF and only if, I also get all those other things with the deal. Understand that after you buy the tools….you don’t have to do it again, and you get to “keep em”….hahaha

So, I had a realistic “Goal” in mind. I wanted to be into a custom 1911 with every single conceivable option (you know a real beauty) for about 15 bills. I also decided that I couldn’t spend more than 500 bucks in any one month time period….and much less most times. I broke everything down into imaginary “shipments” and totaled how much each one would cost. Then I decided on a time line. EXAMPLE: I need the milling machine before I can cut front cocking serrations…..but I won’t be ready to do that for a while, so I’ll start slowly (and cheap) and see how it goes. I can stop at any time, and just “keep what I got” or I can choose to move forward. The key here is to break-up your project in such a way that you can stop at any time and still have a fully functional pistol. If you decide to stop….you simply keep the tools that you have gotten so far, and you wait to see if the pistol is what you envisioned……if not. Move to the next level.

Ok…so you now know what was going on in my mind and what my initial plan was. Here is how the math had to work. It would have cost $2486.77 to do one pistol. Or it would cost $3020.29 to do two pistols or it would cost $3553.81 to do three pistols. (all these numbers are to build MY PERSONAL “dream gun” you should visit my Sistema project pages to find out what I built…your dream gun will probably be much different. Your parts choices etc…. Just suffice to say that I spared no expense on my dream guns. They have S&A magwells and even those ridiculously expensive Carbon Fiber grips….you’ll save money if you decide on something less exotic. With the above numbers it would mean that I have to build 2 guns (3020.00) in order to come out to 1500.00 per gun (my goal)……ok…fine with me, so I get 2 guns not just 1 hahahah.

In all my math equations I came to the same answer every time. You break-even at 2 “highend decked out” pistols, or at 3 “very nice” custom shooters. So before you go full tilt boogie into this stuff, ask yourself this question. Do I want to do at least 2 guns ? (eventually, not necessarily at the same time like I did) If you answer no….then you are better off paying a professional gunsmith to do the work for you OR you should buy a Les Baer. But remember, you will be giving up the other stuff I told you about….like all the tools, knowledge and fun…..they are worth an awful lot, believe me.( Come on...who out there said NO they don't want at least 2 more guns someday?)

After you do those first “break-even” guns…all the rest are so much cheaper to make. I can now build a hard-core bad a$$ pistol for under 500 bucks, and I don’t mean a basic no frills thing either. So keep that in mind.

Don’t let all this scare you away. You DO NOT have to try to come up with 3 grand all at once (heck I’d have never been able to do that). You just pay as you go. The biggest check I ever had to write was for 527.00 (in one lump) and that’s only if you decide to go all the way and get your own milling machine. Spread it out over several months and you’ll find out that it ain't that expensive. I don’t know of any Gun Dealer anywhere in the country that would have allowed me to buy 2 custom pistols over time a few bucks here and there, while having them in my possession all the while. Makes you think huh? Come on you KNOW you want to try it……if I can do it you can too. (you really can).

Ok, so is it really cheaper to do it yourself or is it cheaper to have a professional do it. The answer is:…….

YES (haha)
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