Monthly Archives: September 2011

Budd Gardstein – Jewish Gunsmith

A gunsmith is a person who repairs, modifies, designs, or builds firearms. Good gunsmiths have encyclopedic knowledge of firearms and their components, metallurgy, woodworking, machining, and history. Today we meet Budd Gardstein, a Jewish gunsmith and learn more about him and the work he does:

1. Where did you grow up, and where do you live now?

I grew up outside of White Plains N.Y. I now live in Laurel County Kentucky, in the southeastern part of the state bordering Tennessee and West Virginia. Here, kids walk the hills and streets with .22 rifles, 20 gauge shotguns, and fishing poles and nobody thinks anything of it. It’s a different world and I love it.

2. What do you do for a living?

As a gunsmith, I repair and restore guns, whatever my customers need: repairing broken stocks, hand-fitting custom scope mounts in the machine shop, and fine woodworking. I also do blacksmith work. Lastly, I am a certified Kentucky Firefighter– as a Gunsmith-Blacksmith I work to keep the guns firing hot all the time, but as a Firefighter I work to go to the source of the fire and fight it to put it out!

3. Who introduced you to firearms? How old were you the first time you went shooting?

As an adult, through military service. I served 4 years in the Air Force, including a year in Vietnam.

4. How did you get involved in gunsmithing?

It started by wanting to work on my own guns, and with a lot of effort I expanded out. I went to school in the days when they had shop classes. I took mechanical drawing, drafting, wood shop, metal shop, auto mechanics, and machine shop. Literally, anything I could get my hands on. I have always been working with my hands, and of course, I love good tools: Both hand and power. I learned well, adapted well, and I improvise as needed. To put it bluntly, I can fix almost anything.

5. Are you involved in any shooting clubs or sports? Have you earned any awards or classifications?

I do participate in Single Action Shooting Society (SASS “Cowboy Action Shooting”). But here in the Kentucky Hills people shoot as part of everyday life.

6. What do Jewish family members and friends think about your gunsmithing and gun ownership? How do customers and shooting buddies respond to your being Jewish?

I do not have much interaction with other Jews in the area. My customers have no clue about Judaism, I don’t think it crosses their minds one way or another.

7. What do you like most about your job?

I work on people’s guns that are their dreams. Some of the projects that come here have been in the family for generations, and have stories and emotions attached. Many are being given that special attention so that they can be handed down to grandchildren. We talk with everyone. We coined the phrase “Junk or Heirloom? You Decide, We Repair. I heard years ago “The Difficult We Do Immediately, The Impossible Takes a Little Longer”. One of my Blacksmith books talks of a man’s concept of “you have to be more stubborn than the iron”.

Many of the jobs that come here wind up more complicated than thought of at first. Often customers bring or send me guns that appear Dead On Arrival. They might be rusted solid, broken, missing vital parts. Some have not worked in a generation. Some would say that these are impossible jobs, some would not even talk with the potential customers. There is a lot of satisfaction in bringing a dead gun back to life. We are problem solvers. People’s treasures come in with all sorts of problems, and we talk with them. We try very hard to make the broken dream whole again and come true. The smile on the clients face shows me that we made the dream come true. That is very satisfying.

8. Have you ever done any gunsmithing work on a firearm with any sort of Jewish connection?

I don’t remember if I worked on Jewish guns, but I have worked on UZIs and clones.

9. Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers? Interesting stories, words of wisdom?

The biggest thing we should ask ourselves is what is our attitude towards defense of ourselves and others? Do we assume that people around us are safe, or should we be prepared for the enemy and other dangers at any time, as Torah tells us? And what about the safety of others, are we people who depend on others and just rely on 911 in an emergency, or should we be the answer? As a firefighter, we run in to fire when others run out…isn’t that part of what being Jewish is all about?

Check out Budd’s web site ( which I’ve added to the links at the right. If you need a gunsmith, give him a call!

Saving Shekels with a CLE .22LR AR Upper

I’ve written before about the cost of ammunition for high power rifle competition, coming in at $0.25-0.30 a round. Match grade smallbore (.22LR rim fire) ammunition, by comparison, can be had for $0.08-$0.10. “Practice grade” smallbore ammunition can be had for $0.03-$0.05. Shooters of various disciplines seek out rim fire ammunition to practice with because it’s cheaper, quieter, and has less recoil. In the case of high power rifle practice, savings are amplified by the saved barrel life on a match rifle, which may only have a “match grade” life of a few thousand shots. In contrast, a smallbore barrel lasts practically forever–hundreds of thousands of rounds.
For those unfamiliar with the AR-15 rifle platform, it consists of two main sections: 1) an “upper” which consists of the barrel, bolt carrier, and upper receiver, and 2) the “lower” consisting of the serialized receiver, trigger group, and butt stock. The upper can be removed and replaced with one of a different configuration, or even a different caliber. So one option with the AR-15 is to have a dedicated .22LR upper. Another less expensive option is a .22LR conversion kit, which uses the existing upper and barrel. Conversion kits are fun, and perfect for some disciplines. But their accuracy is nowhere near as good as dedicated .22LR upper with a match chamber and a twist rate (1/16) intended for .22LR as opposed to .223 (1/7).

I’ve had a .22LR Service Rifle upper for my AR-15 from Compass Lake Engineering for roughly a year. In the past I used it to practice rapid fire sitting and prone stages with a “practice grade” rimfire ammunition, Eley Sport. It would produce good groups, but random fliers would appear, which I would just ignore. But having recently started with NRA Smallbore Prone matches, I began to wonder what kind of results I could get shooting prone with the same ammo I use in my bolt action Anschutz smallbore rifle, Wolf Match Target. So I decided to use the recent Labor Day holiday to give it a go.

All of my testing was performed from the prone position with a sling. The results were outstanding, yielding great 50 yard groups as shown above. I only had time for one 100 yard go, but again the results were outstanding. The target below is somewhere between 15 and 20 shots in a medium right-to-left wind. The lone 8 was caused by me figuring out the windage adjustments are not as fine as the Anschutz sights, but once I got it dialed in I was able to hammer out 10s. With better wind calls I’m sure the 9s will merge into 10s.

I’m so pleased with the results, I’m going to use the CLE .22LR upper with my AR-15 instead of my Anschutz at this weekend’s smallbore prone match! In theory, it should be harder to shoot well for several reasons. For one, the shorter sight radius, which is the distance between the front and rear sight. In theory, the longer the sight radius the more precisely one can aim. Also the CLE has coarser sight adjustment clicks than the Anschutz, as I believe my Anschutz has the older 1/6 minute clicks whereas I know the CLE has 1/4 minute clicks (which seemed to match my need to use roughly 20 clicks on the CLE to come up from 50 to 100 yards, versus 38 clicks up on the Anschutz sights). My AR lower has a 5lb. trigger, although it’s a 2-stage trigger with about a 1lb. second stage let off, wheras the Anschutz second stage is probably about half that. Lastly, the CLE uses a Service Rifle front post sight, compared to the Anschutz being outfitted with adjustable iris apertures.

But all that theory aside, because I spend so much time practicing with the AR-15 as opposed to my smallbore rifle, everything feels more comfortable and familiar.

Kehat Shorr – Jewish Marksman and Munich Massacre Victim

September 5, 1972 is a day Jews must remember forever. On that day terrorists took 11 Israeli athletes hostage at the Munich Olympics, and ultimately killed them in what has been called the Munich Massacre. Today, not many Americans (and surprisingly some American Jews) have forgotten this barbarous act committed by Israel’s neighbors.

One of the athletes killed was Kehat Shorr, described in a memorial site as follows:

Kehat Shorr, an expert marksman, was born Feb. 21, 1919 in Romania. At 53, he was a civil servant in Israel’s Defense Ministry, living in Neve Sharrett, a suburb of Tel Aviv, with his wife and daughter, when he attended the 20th Olympics in Munich in 1972 as a marksmanship coach.

Shorr had participated as a coach in several previous Olympics, and was himself several times a marksman national champion in Romania. When he made aliyah to Israel in 1963, he founded the marksman discipline in Israel and became the national coach.

Shorr, along with 10 of the delegation, were taken hostage by members of Black September, a Palestinian terrorist organization in the early hours of Sept. 5. Two teammates were killed in the initial assault, while the remaining nine were machine gunned during a two-hour firefight between German police and the terrorists at Fürstenfeldbruck airfield, 12 miles outside of Munich.

During the tense negotiations between the terrorists, who sought the release of more than 200 prisoners from Israeli jails, Shorr appeared once at the window of the apartment where the hostages were held. That was the last time he was seen alive.

In June of 1941, Romania, as part of the German Axis, joined the invasion of the former Soviet Union. Shorr was marked for internment, but managed to hide in the Carpathian Mountains with other Jewish partisans who made periodic raids on cities to rescue other Jews in hiding.

Another article provides this account:

He was 53 when he died. He lost a wife and a daughter in the Holocaust.

He was born in Romania. He devoted himself to shooting, and his achievements were impressive. He immigrated to Israel in 1963 and settled in Tel Aviv. He joined the “Hapoel” team and quickly became its coach.

Shorr devoted his time and skills to training young marksmen. He contributed significantly toward raising the standard of marksmen in Israel, thanks to his organizational and professional aptitudes.

He trained the national team for the Twentieth Olympics Games in Munich.

He was buried in Kiryat Shaul’s cemetery.

Please take a moment today to remember Shorr and all of the victims of the Munich Massacre.

Martin Joseph Fettman – Astronaut and Jewish Marksman

According to Wikipedia, at least 13 Jews have visited space, and Martin Fettman is listed as one of them. According to his bio, he’s a Veterinary Pathologist, and with regards to space travel:
Fettman was selected as a NASA payload specialist candidate in December 1991, as the prime payload specialist for Spacelab Life Sciences-2 in October 1992. He then flew on STS-58 in October 1993. Since the flight, he has made over seventy public appearances representing space life sciences research before higher education, medical, veterinary, and lay organizations, and visited over twenty K-12 schools around the United States and Canada. He is presently a member of the NASA Advisory Council Life and Biomedical Sciences and Applications Advisory Subcommittee.
But most importantly, according to his NASA bio, his recreational interests include “pistol marksmanship.” Mazal tov!