Modern Shooter: Functional Art In The Making

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Watch a master at work! Turnbull’s Tom McArdle freehand engraves an antique Winchester. How steady are your nerves?

You won’t find Douglas Turnbull’s work hanging in the Louvre, but to shooters his art is as precious as any Picasso, Monet or Michelangelo. The firearms restoration specialist and manufacturer works magic on guns, turning both the priceless and pedestrian into peerless one-of-a-kind masterpieces.

This week, Modern Shooter goes behind the scenes where the magic happens with a visit to Turnbull Restoration and Manufacturing in upstate New York. There, Turnbull’s master craftsmen tirelessly ply their art — not to mention a dab of blood and sweat — to make ordinary extraordinary. And there skill is a wonder to watch.

The steadiness of Tom McArdle’s nerve is only matched by the nimbleness of his hands in the above clip. Amazingly, the master engraver works without a net, free handing from memory a classic scrollwork pattern on an antique Winchester. This work is so intricate and detailed it would be impossible to pull off without the aid of a microscope. But McArdle practiced fingers never slip working in the most unforgiving mediums — cold, hard gunmetal.

As deft at his craft as McArdle might be, he freely admits he his simply on cog in greater Turnbull’s machine. Art is a team effort — from the gunsmiths who get a firearm ticking like a clock to the finishers who apply the company’s trademark color-case hardening, everyone chips in. And there’s no arguing the results — guns elegant enough to hang in a museum, but tough enough to bag next year’s deer.

Catch the rest of Turnbull’s incredible creations in this episode of Modern Shooter 10:00 p.m. EST Friday on the Pursuit Channel. The episode rebroadcasts Monday at 12 p.m. EST and Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. EST.


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