Lassen College Gunsmithing

Do you want to work on your cowboy guns?
by Kazarah Jane SASS Regulator #5734

Have you ever had the hankerin to know what is inside those cowboy guns of yours? Well, you can learn about all those 'giblets', as instructor Bobby Chavez puts it, in the Cowboy Action Short Gun (pistols) and Cowboy Action Long Gun (rifles and shotguns) gunsmithing classes taught at lassen Community College.

The instructors realize that not all of the class attendees intend to become gunsmiths, so don't let that aspect deter you from considering attending one of the schools gunsmithing classes. Besides their NRA sponsored 1 week summer gunsmithing classes, lassen Community College offers a wealth of gunsmithing class during their regular school year. A few years ago they realized that most people who want to take gunsmithing classes can not afford to take an entire semester off work to attend one class, so they changed the format of their regular classes to be 50 hours per week in length. Just right to accommodate a 1 week vacation. There are a few night classes.

This summer Coso Kid and I attend two classes, Cowboy Action Shooting Long Guns and Cowboy Action Shooting Short Guns. Fortunately the school scheduled the classes back to back. These classes were not offered in 2005, so we were determined to attend both cowboy action gunsmithing classes this year. With the political climate the way it is in California, we can't be certain how much longer the school will be offering gunsmithing classes.

The gunsmithing classes generally start off with a short history of each gun. Then the instructor explains how the gun operates, how each part functions, and what the critical surfaces are. The rest of the day is spent dismantling, fixing, slicking up, and reassembling the firearms you brought with you, or in some cases, a gun someone loans you to 'get fixed for free'.

The cowboy short gun class covers Colts, Colt clones, and Rugers, Even though I love my Rugers, I have to admit the Colt clones are easier to work on. Even though there are several manufacturers, most of the Colt clones are essentially the same. Head space, end shake, cylinder gap, timing, and hammer and trigger 'adjustments' are covered. Students fixed problems with headspace, end shake, and timing on their revolvers. Forcing cones were checked and the students cut the forcing cones to factory specifications. Everyone in the class had a revolver that needed some kind of work. Then Mr. Chavez covered slicking up the revolvers for Cowboy competition. As the instructor said, if nothing else, the class will make you an informed consumer, and give you something to bargain with, because you will be able to recognize any problems a gun might have.

The Cowboy Action Long Guns class covers both rifles and shotguns. The Winchester 97 was covered in detail. If you decide to take every last screw and pin out, you would, the instructor assured us, get it all back together. Double barrels are a piece of cake compared to the '97. The hardest part is removing and re-inserting the springs that cock the gun. Actually the 'removing' can be quite exciting, as a spring can fly across the room if you don't have a good hold on it when you take it out of the gun.

The man sitting at the bench behind me discovered that his brand new shotgun and rifle were both 'broke', so he filed and tweaked and by the end of the week his long guns were in tip-top shape. The Winchester 92, 94, and the 66 and 73, and the Marlins were covered. The instructor made sure he covered all the lever action rifles and shotguns that the students had brought to the class. If a part was worn and could be welded, one of the full time gunsmithing students would weld up the part. Then the owner of the gun would grind or file it back to the correct shape. My 30-30 Marlin had already been 'filed on just a little too much' in a prior life. So the instructor asked one of the full time students to 'weld up' the appropriate area. Then I filed the general area back to the right shape, and then commenced on filing the 'working surface' so that the rifle would function properly. After I got the 'It's OK, you are done nod', the instructor took the rifle and test fired it, just to make sure it really operated correctly. The school has a 'hog' (bullet trap) just outside the back door of the shop that they use for function test firing. The days whiz by and before you know it, the week is over. Besides bringing your guns, there is a suggested tool list for the gunsmithing class.

We also attended lassen's Modern and Cowboy Action Belts and Holsters class which is an evening class that is two weeks long. Bob Hamilton teaches the class. The class was very informal, as the instructor realized that most of us were also taking the daytime class. The time you showed up and the time you left were up to the student, and some of the students in the class were only able to attend one week of the class. The goal was that you complete one project during the class, which is quite doable. Both Coso Kid and I were able to complete a belt and 2 holsters during the two week class. No tools are required for this class. The instructor provided all the tools and supplies. There is a fee for each holster/belt you make that includes leather, dyes, oils, edge coating, needles and thread, etc. Students are encouraged to bring their own belt buckles.

Other classes that were going on during the 2 weeks we were at the college included, rifle re-barreling, cold rust and nitre bluing, color case hardening, and Parkerizing. The college offers a wide variety of other summer gunsmithing classes: machine shop, knife making, stocking making, engraving, welding for gunsmiths, function and repair of double action auto pistols, function and repair of single action auto pistols, function and repair of long guns (Remington 870, Benelli 90, Mossberg 500, Ruger Mini 14, and Colt AR15), installation of open and optical sights, recoil pad and sling swivel installation, and caustic bluing in addition to the metal finishing classes listed above.

So if you like to tinker or want to know how your cowboy guns work, these classes are for you. And the price is right, each class is 1 unit, and registration fees for 1 unit are just $26 for California residents. Nevada residents pay $42 per unit. Students from other states or foreign countries pay a non-resident tuition of $210 per semester unit. There is also a $29 lab fee for each class, and a $5 health fee. So for $60 you have access to a highly qualified instructor who can help you fix most any problem you have with a cowboy gun, or any gun for that matter. Do not fear, there are no tests, other than 'getting it all back together and making it work', but you will have lots of help, all you have to do is ask. So take a peak at their 2010 Summer Class Schedule at
The lassen Community College Fall and Spring Class Schedules will be posted later in the year.

If you find some classes that interest you, download from the same webpage: The Summer NRA Brochure Info, The Application for Admission Form, The White Registration Card, the Affidaviate Form, and the Credit Card Authorization Form. If you have problems downloading, give Steve Taylor a call and he will mail (or e-mail) the forms to you.

During the summer, dorm room housing is available for a nominal fee. For those that prefer motels, there are a lot to choose from in Susanville, and this year the school had a small RV lot for dry camping. Besides our rig, there were 4 other RVs in the RV lot, which is situated right behind the gunsmithing shop. So give it some thought and then give Mr. Kel Freitas a call at 530-251-8800, or email him at

View Photos From lassen 2006 Summer Gunsmithing Classes

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2009 Eric Nelson