Bobby Tyler Artisan, Gunsmith and Founder of Tyler Gun Works
I had the opportunity to have a conversation with Bobby Tyler last week and it really was the highlight of my entire week. Bobby Tyler is a gunsmith and honestly an artisan. While Bobby was in gunsmithing school, he found his passion in working with metal and as a part of that process he started looking for someone to help him learn case hardening and found the one person who could help him and through months of conversations Bobby bought his business, started Tyler Gun Works and began a process of tweaking his methods to create artisan level case hardening on both a custom level and a production level for clients like Henry Repeating Arms. Here is our interview with him.
Bobby, where did you grow up?
I grew up in the small, West Texas of Seminole. It is located between Lubbock and Odessa, Texas.
How did you get interested in guns and hunting?
I grew up in a household that had a love and passion for guns and hunting. Quail hunting around our house was a way of life. Now, we enjoy hunting, shooting, and outdoor activities as a family.
Where did you go to school to learn gunsmithing and what did you learn?
I began my college career at Texas A&M University. I was an active crew chief of my dorm in 1999, when the bonfire fell. After this tragic event, I decided to pursue my passion in gunsmithing. I attended Colorado School of Trades in Lakewood, Colorado. I obtained my Gunsmithing Degree as well as completed many Armorers Courses, such as Smith & Wesson, Colt, Sig, Remington, Beretta, and Glock. While attending CST, I found that I had a natural ability and desire for metal finishing.
How did you get involved in case hardening?
I had projects piling up in my shop needing color case work done. In my search to find someone to meet this need, I began to ask myself this question, “Why doesn’t someone do this for the public?”. This is one question you should never ask yourself, unless you are ready to step up and do something about it. Over the next few months in my search to track down the one guy in the United States who used to provide this service, it became clear to me that this service was needed in the firearm industry.
Over the last couple of years your business has boomed through working for big clients like Henry Repeating Arms. How did your relationship with Henry begin and what is it like working with them?
We have been blessed beyond measure to have some of the clients in the firearms industry that we have today. Our first big client, Henry Repeating Arms, was really the company that gave us our first big break. The people involved with Henry have been some of the most professional and ethical people that you could ever ask to work with.
Your business does a lot of small custom projects, tell us about some of that work.
At Tyler Gun Works each project we take in receives the same care and attention to detail, whether it is on a pallet, or in a small package. We work in very close relationship with each of our customers and treat each individual piece as if it were our own. Our projects include a wide variety including 1 of 1,000 Winchesters, 1911’s, Double and Single Action Revolvers, and some of the finest classic shotguns to date. Along with our bluing and color case work, we also offer specialty finishes such as niter bluing.
What advice would you give to the person who is looking to refurbish an old family heirloom?
This question has been debated at great length and no conclusion has been reached, so let me offer my opinion. As an accumulator, shooter, collector, and restorer of fine firearms, we find that most all firearms are able to be restored, barring fire damage. It all depends on how far you want to take it. This is a much deeper question than first meets the eye, to which the answer everyone will not ever agree on. You can’t generalize every situation, and it should be judged on its own merits. The question we must ask is whether you are talking about the re-bluing of a firearm, or a professional restoration that will meet or exceed factory standards. Restoring an item is defined as “bringing it back to its original, or unimpaired condition.” A quality finish depends on the proper preparation and treatment of the metal. We take a number of important steps during the restoration process to ensure bluing of the highest quality. Maintaining the integrity of the firearm is our main goal. Keeping the proper separation of the flats and the rounds and preserving all the screw holes is a must. There is a big difference in hand polishing every small blemish out of a particular area instead of using a buffing wheel. Crisp lettering and roll marks are very important and make the difference in whether you made the right decision on whether to restore or not. Having said all that, now for the big question. How do we know when it’s time for a restoration? Do all old or worn firearms need to be restored? Absolutely not! There are firearms that need to be left alone. Some firearms would benefit more from a preservation service rather than a restoration, but those are few in comparison to the overwhelming majority of guns that are “restoration candidates.” If a firearm is badly rusted, finish missing, or the overall condition is no longer acceptable, it becomes a great candidate for restoration. If it is a rare gun, and the condition is so bad it cannot be displayed, then it might be one for consideration. A true, professional restoration is an investment into your firearm. Bluing and color casing for the purpose for custom build are fun, and the sky’s the limit. Always decide what your goals and your budget are before starting this process.
What advice would you give to others who are looking to learn gunsmithing?
Someone attempting to enter the gunsmithing industry must do so with hard work and extreme integrity. Most successful gunsmiths that I know found an area that they were talented in and specialized in that area. This trade has been around since the 1700s and preserving this occupation is of great importance.
I saw on your website that you build tomahawks. How did you get into making these?
I love history and tomahawks are intriguing to me. We decided to produce a line of tomahawks that are true to their roots. Most all of the tomahawks we send out of the door are an original design or pattern and are inspired by history. They are even the proper length and weight that they were originally. Being able to add the Color Cased heads gives us the opportunity for someone to own a tomahawk that looks like it would’ve been made in the late 1700s or early 1800s. In doing all this, our goal is to keep these affordable where individuals can add a piece of history to their collection.
In talking with you early, you told me about your tremendous faith and Christian life. How has that influenced your life and your business?
I would like to start off by saying that I give the glory to God for all the success that we have today. I also believe everyone is given a God-given talent and through obedience and perseverance, I am blessed to be able to use mine on a daily basis. We strive for honesty and integrity in every business transaction we conduct, and do our best to be a Christian example to those around us.
How can people find you and follow your business?
We are available by email, website, and also have a business Facebook page. One other thing we offer that most don’t these days is a good old-fashioned phone call. When dealing with something as important to us as our guns, sometimes it’s nice to be able to know that there will be a voice on the other end of the phone. A voice that actually cares about what they’re doing enough to talk to you. We know that you can always pay someone to work but you cannot pay someone to care. Here at Tyler Gun Works, we care about everything that goes out of our door!