Michael A. Sawyers
MOUNT SAVAGE — “It was the absolute right choice,” said Bill Gostomski, speaking about the decision he and his wife, Virginia, made in 1982 to pull up roots in Harford County and move to the Maryland mountains with their three children.
This year, Gostomski Gunsmith Services celebrated 30 years of business in Allegany County, a location Bill calls the best place in Maryland with the best people in Maryland.
The other good news for a gunsmith in this part of the state is a high rate of firearm ownership.
The Gostomskis’ son, Pete, who was 6 months old when the family moved west, now works fulltime fixing and building firearms alongside his father.
“I’d always been interested in guns,” Bill said. “The first thing I ever did to a gun was when I was 15 and used an awl to put my initials into the grip of my single-shot shotgun.”
Bill talked his way into an apprentice slot at Yale Gunsmiths, at the time a well-known gun shop near his Harford County home. “I was an apprentice for two years and then they hired me full-time,” he said. After 2.5 years with Yale, Bill was ready to start his own business, but knew it would be somewhere else.
“There was just too much development going on in Harford County,” he said. “I grew up on a farm and every time a new development popped up it just made me sick.”
The Gostomskis considered moving to the Eastern Shore before deciding on Allegany County.
“We were in Eckhart for nine years before moving to Mount Savage,” Bill said, referring to the home and shop on Calla Hill Road.
The most common repair made during 30 years of gunsmithing, according to Bill and Pete who answer simultaneously, has been adjusting or repairing triggers and ejectors on Remington rifles.
But the Gostomskis don’t just tinker with triggers. Their custom work is being done for gun owners throughout the United States.
“It really took off when we created a website,” Bill said (www.gostomskisgunsmithing.com). On Wednesday, for example, the gunsmiths were rebuilding and refinishing two English side-by-side shotguns for a Colorado shooter. Beat-up firearms come in from California and Texas and are sent back looking and functioning like new.
Bill said the firm’s stock duplicator can create stocks with the exact tolerances of the original.
“Hunters and shooters in this area might not realize how fortunate they are to have the good gun shops and knowledgeable operators that they do,” Bill said. “I go in gun shops all over the country and the ones here are as good as they get.”
Gun shops in and around Baltimore, according to Bill, are like fortresses.
“You have to buzz to get in and then you see that all the clerks are wearing sidearms, but there’s a reason for that because many of them have had confrontations.”
When Bill worked at Yale, much of the work was on shotguns.
“We had a lot of big-name people bring us work, including Bert Jones, the quarterback fot the Colts,” he said. “Here, though, most of the work is on rifles.”
Some of the work Bill and Pete get is a result of home gunsmithing gone awry.
“One guy drilled random holes in the end of his rifle barrel thinking it would act as a muzzlebreak, but all it did was ruin the accuracy,” Pete said. “I just cut the bad part of the barrel off and refinished the muzzle.”
Another time someone got a shell stuck in a gun.
“He tried to push it out with all kinds of things, including a stick and a nail and that all got stuck in the barrel too,” Bill said.
The gunsmiths cautioned rifle owners to keep their triggers and safeties clean, otherwise the firearm can fire when it isn’t supposed to. And don’t tinker with the trigger pull until it gets so light that you can think about it shooting and it will.
Bill said he has the best neighbors in the world who don’t get upset when he fires a rifle out his shop window to make sure it is functioning and accurate. “We only do that between 10 (a.m.) and 4 (p.m.) and not every day,” he said.
“Some of the gun shop owners in Baltimore have to drive 30 to 40 miles just to test fire a rifle.
“We are swamped,” Bill said of the workload. “Summer is just as busy as hunting season now. Our customers are great in being patient with us.”
Bill said that since he and Pete put photos of a refinished Savage Model 99 on the website that work on that highly functional and collectable rifle has skyrocketed.
“With all of our work here, our No. 1 priority is safety,” Bill said.
Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org.