A Visit To The Rifle Shoppe

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plmeek

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I’ve seen a lot of topics posted on this forum about The Rifle Shoppe in Jones, Oklahoma, and there’s one active right now and a sampling of other recent threads about them are shown below. The number of negative comments about The Rifle Shoppe tends to be about nine to every one positive. It always made me wonder why anyone would order anything from them.

#298424, 01-18-16

#290573, 09-04-14

#289152, 06-11-14

#287157, 03-10-14

#281005, 06-29-13

#274807, 11-26-12

I’m originally from Oklahoma and still have all my immediate family back there.

I’ve also looked at their website and see a lot of cool stuff on there. It amazed me that such a business would be located in Oklahoma of all places. I guess curiosity finally got the best of me, and I decided to stop in on The Rifle Shoppe on one of my trips to see family. I really was interested in what type of people were running the business and how they could keep it going if the type of negative feedback I’ve seen on this forum over the years is typical of their customer base.

Finding The Rifle Shoppe was an experience in itself. It’s near the town of Jones but not in it. It is located in the countryside about twenty-five miles northeast of Oklahoma City. A GPS is highly recommended for anyone trying to drive to it.

When I drove up to the spot indicated on the GPS, all I could see was the front of this 70’s era home.

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It was a little after 1:00 pm when I arrived, and I could find no one at home. After about a 10 minute wait, a car drove up with the owners and their son. Introductions made and purpose of our visit given, we were invited to follow them around to the back of the house where their work shops were located. These were composed of a very long tin covered one-story building that was probably older than the house. Behind this was a slightly newer building that was their wood working shop. Further back, a large front-end loader was busy leveling off a location for a future expansion. We entered the first building.

This photo shows the shop area and the work bench where they assemble locks and do other metal work. (I apologize for the poor quality. I forgot to turn on my flash for this photo.)

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The walls were covered with antique guns and parts””some old, some new.

The shop room included a small lathe, mill, drill press, and other equipment and tools one would associate with a gunsmith shop.

The top of a cabinet was covered with old and new locks.

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A wall separated the shop area from the other half of the building which contained their office, the shipping area, and the warehouse. The shop is open Mon-Thur and closed on Friday, which is the day they package and ship the filled orders. Here were tables they used to layout a few of the orders they were working to fill.

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The picture above shows more antique guns on the wall and what appear to be parts that are in the process of being sorted and prepared for storing in bins. In the background is the equipment that heats the wax and injects it into the molds to make the investments or wax positives. You can see some more orders laid out on the order forms that are in the process of being filled. Some assembled locks can also be seen in the foreground.

Further on was an area of shelves and bins of parts that makeup their warehouse. Every gun in their catalog is given a number which corresponds to the numbers you see on the bins.

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Oops! Something fell of the shelf or someone had trouble finding a particular part or two in a few of the bins.

This photo shows shaped stocks. I don’t know if they are part of orders, test stocks, or rejects.
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The second building was their woodworking shop where they stored stock blanks, their master patterns, the stock duplicating machine, and other woodworking equipment.

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The number of master patterns for long arms and pistols was amazing.
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This is the stock duplicating or carving machine.
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Jesse Melot, his wife (I don’t recall her name), and their son, Mike, were exceedingly nice and graciously showed us around and answered all our questions. They are good, down-home folks that turned a hobby into a family business when Jesse lost his full-time job in the economic downturn in the 80’s. There is only the three of them to run the whole operation.

Their business fills a unique niche by providing high quality castings of parts of antique guns for restoration work and building museum quality guns. They have no intention of competing with companies such as Track of the Wolf, Log Cabin Shop, Dixon’s, Jim Chambers, R. E. Davis, and the like. They see their market primarily as museums, antique gun restorers, and unique gun builders. Jesse told me that 30% of their business comes from overseas.

I’ve seen a lot of complaints and criticisms of The Rifle Shoppe on the internet. I think these are from people that do not understand their business goals and how their business operates. The Rifle Shoppe has a long list of guns they supply parts for, and Jesse said they added 50 guns to their line just this past year. They are less concerned about volume and very much concerned about quality of product.

The following was copied from their website.

In the investment casting process there are sometimes delays for parts that are not in stock, so due to this process we require patience from our customers. The average estimated delivery time on our parts is usually 60 - 90 days if the parts you order are not in stock. I will explain a little on how the process goes. The picture below shows the brass side plate casting on the left, and the wax on the right which it originally started as.

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First the waxes have to be made which we do in our shop usually takes a couple of weeks to get a batch of waxes ready. Second we take these waxes to the foundry which usually take 4 - 6 weeks for these to be transformed in to a casting and returned to us. Once we receive the castings from our foundry, they are sorted and then cleaned which usually takes another week. Finally they will be pulled for each order and shipped out.

Sometimes the castings do not turn out for a number of reasons. When this happens, the process starts all over again from square one with making the waxes. The whole process usually takes 8 - 10 weeks. This is why sometimes there are longer than expected delivery times, when parts have to be rerun. We assure you that the quality of our parts are well worth any wait, as most of the parts we offer never have and probably never will be offered by anyone else.


Jesse told me the foundry they use is in Arkansas, and after they make the wax positives in their shop from their molds, they personally transport the wax positives to the foundry so they aren’t damaged in transit. I didn’t think to ask if they attached the wax for the gates and vent tubes and build the wax tree or if that was done at the foundry.

It is easy to see why it may take months to get certain parts from them. I’m not sure I understand how some customers report on the internet that it has taken a year or more to receive an order.

All the cast parts that I saw laying around and examined were of exceptional quality. In addition to the castings, they do a significant amount of machining work. They assemble locks from their castings. They have the capability to make their own round, smoothbore barrels. They send the barrel stock out to an oil field manufacturing company for the deep hole drilling of the bore. The Rifle Shop then turns the outside profile of the barrel on lathes in their shop. I didn’t see any rifling equipment or flatbed mills for shaping octagon flats, but I may have overlooked that equipment.

They had a few samples of finished guns on racks. One of particular interest that Jesse showed us was a copy of circa 1650 matchlock rifle they manufactured for the National Guard. One is on exhibit in the Smithsonian and some others were presented to some generals. Another unusual gun on display was a replica of a one inch bore British wall gun that dates to the Revolutionary War, if not earlier. Jesse said it was often used as a sniper rifle with a range of 600 yards. Anything larger would probably be considered an artillery piece.

I had intended to order one of their assembled J Henry trade rifle locks for my Lancaster trade rifle build. I ended up purchasing a complete parts set for their J Henry Scroll Guard rifle. I was told if I could come back the next day, they would shape the pre-carve stock and have it ready with all the furniture, screws, bolts, and pins, and I could save some on shipping. It would take them about three weeks to assemble the lock and order the barrel. These two items will be shipped to me.

The folks that run The Rifle Shoppe couldn’t have been nicer to me during my visit. For some, customer service may not be their long suit, but they are obviously well intentioned.

If one is intent of finding fault with them, it may be that they get over stretched at times because they have such a large catalog of items that has to be a major challenge to manage.

It was a fun visit and well worth the effort to find them.

Ok, so I left after the second visit the next day with the fully shaped and inlet stock for the Henry Scroll guard and all the parts necessary to build the rifle except the barrel and an assembled lock. Based on what I had read about them here, I expected the three weeks to be closer to two months.

When the two months came and went and no lock and barrel, I thought, “now I see what folks were posting about.” After another month, the opportunity arose for me to make another trip to Oklahoma to see family, so I sent The Rifle Shoppe an email with a copy of my invoice attached stating that I would be in Oklahoma in a couple weeks and planned to stop by while there and see if I could pick up the lock and barrel. No word back.

I made the trip, visited family for several days, and drove up to The Rifle Shoppe. They had the barrel ready, but were still working on the lock, and asked if I could come back the next day. It wasn’t a problem as I was staying with my brother who lives about 13 miles away.

While there, I took another tour of their operations, but this time I didn’t have my camera with me. Mike was in the process of making wax investments, and I got to watch the process and ask questions, which were graciously answered. It turns out that it is the most critical step in casting metal parts with the lost wax method. It takes a lot of practice and experience to get the wax to flow to all the small necks and nooks typical of small gun parts.

The next morning I’m back at their shop, and the lock is fully assembled and the barrel is ready, and I’m on my way back to Denver. My barrel was from Rice. They also get some barrels from Colerain.

My experience was that the bulk of the parts for the rifle were ready in one day’s time, but that it took just under four months to get the last two items for my parts set. It would have probably been longer if I hadn’t been able to visit them in person and pick the items up myself.

Why do they take so long? If everything is in stock, it doesn’t. It can be ready and shipped the week the order is placed (remember they only ship on Fridays). If it involves waiting on one or more parts to be cast, then it can take months. Based on what I saw in my two visits, they make their wax investments and send them off to the foundry in batches. There may be months between batches. If they have to make the part themselves or assemble an item such as a lock, then they work it in their schedule when they can. A few parts, such as octagon rifle barrels, they often order from one of the better black powder barrel makers and are subject to their schedule.

But it appeared that the main reason orders can take so long to be filled sometimes is that they are a three-person operation and have way too many items they are trying to make and sell. It’s just more than they can keep up with in a reasonable amount of time. They actually have more business than they can handle. I said before that they are no Track of the Wolf. They have a very specialized product for a niche market. They seem to like it that way.

When I asked about getting more help, they said they try repeatedly. What they do requires specialized training and when they get someone trained up to be proficient, they eventually quit and move on.

My advice--if The Rifle Shoppe has something you want really bad and can't get from anywhere else, then order from them. But be prepared to wait a long time. Getting mad and complaining to them doesn't seem to help much.

I would guess that 90% of the people who visit this forum are not their targeted market, so don't bother them or frustrate yourself.

Find another source, make it yourself, or do a different project.
 
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Great Topic and very informative! You did a fantastic job explaining their work and why orders can take so long to fill. It is hard to believe that only three people manage that whole process. You were very detailed and I liked your pictures and the comments about each one. It was like you in turn gave us a tour of their operation. This was one of the best topics I have ever read on this forum thus far. I really enjoyed it. Thankyou! Respectfully, cowboys1062. :thumbsup:
 

JohnN

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Nice post. Instead of complaining we should be thankful we have this source of unique and high quality parts. Too bad they can't get someone to organize and run the business for them so they could attend to the making of parts.
 

rushlake1

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Thank You Mtn. Meek....We forget we deal with a cottage industry.....Thankful for those that stick their necks out to run them.
Great Post!
 

MSK

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I echo the above; one of the most valuable and informative posts I've encountered on this forum. I ordered the John Burger doglock fowler and had everything, including the assembled lock, within a month. While I read that some posters hadn't received parts even though they were told those parts were in stock--and have no reason to doubt them-- I did and have been very happy. I am now truly amazed that they can even get out what they do with the resources on hand.

Thank you for taking the time to document all this.

Smollett
 
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Mtn. Meek: Thank you so much for this Post. Very informative. And many of your assertions have been my experience having ordered from TRS many times.
Generally, if it is "in stock", it's about 3-4 weeks to receive it. If it's NOT in stock, I will not order it. I'll pursue another project and try calling them again in a few months.
I believe their making the stocks "in house" is fairly recent. And that has really helped with the delivery of Kits. Now, if they can just find someone locally to make the barrels on a per-order basis LOL.
Thanks again for this Post. Most informative.
Rick. :hatsoff:
 

smoothshooter

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While I still question TRS business practices, I must say this is one of the best and most enlightening posts I have seen on this site. Your writing, interviewing, and photography skills are admirable. I can't believe someone hasn't done something like this with them before now.
With all the negative publicity that they know they get, I'm surprised they would let anyone near the place, let alone inside. (Most of it deserved, BTW).

I don't understand why they would take on making even more parts sets when they can't meet delivery schedules on items they have advertised since day one.

But it is nice to get the other side of the story for a little perspective.

Perhaps you could do a similar interview with Matt at TVM?
 
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An exceptionally thorough and well done post. :thumbsup:
You have done a great service both to the folks at The Rifle Shoppe, and to us here on the Forum.

Thank you. You are to be commended. :hatsoff:
 
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Wonderful, enlightening and thorough post. Has to be one of the best posts I've seen, in any forum. Thank you for taking the time, so we could enjoy your visit. :hatsoff:
 

Vaino

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A very complete "report" on your visit to TRS. This 3 person company has hit on a niche business that is supported by builders who badly want something different and willingly tolerate the poor customer relations.... and this is an actuality.

Evidently the owners have a lot of talent in the many facets of supplying such a wide variety of parts and completed guns...but the poor customer relations smacks of something bordering on arrogance....hiring a "phone person" would eliminate many of the complaints.

I'm glad I've never needed anything from TRS.....Fred
 
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flehto said:
the poor customer relations smacks of something bordering on arrogance

While I have not dealt with the Rifle Shoppe, I have certainly read a lot of the comments on the forum and will assume them to be real and not exaggerated experiences. This review was excellent and balanced. However, Fred, I agree with you. I don't know if it's arrogance, but promising something and not delivering and then not even contacting the person you owe something to at a specific time to let them know what is happening borders on really poor business ethics. I don't care if these companies are small or cottage or whatever we want to call them or have taken on more than they can handle. As a customer, that should not be my problem. Common courtesy and good business protocol would dictate that at a minimum if a promise cannot be kept, the buyer be notified so they can make an informed decision. It's not like simple communication tools don't exist today. A small investment in some technology might even send emails or texts for them based on other order data entered.

I found it quite interesting that even in this case, when they knew the person visiting was preparing an expose' on them, they STILL didn't bother to make contact when a promised date went past. :shake: :slap:
 
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Spikebuck said:
flehto said:
the poor customer relations smacks of something bordering on arrogance

While I have not dealt with the Rifle Shoppe, I have certainly read a lot of the comments on the forum and will assume them to be real and not exaggerated experiences. This review was excellent and balanced. However, Fred, I agree with you. I don't know if it's arrogance, but promising something and not delivering and then not even contacting the person you owe something to at a specific time to let them know what is happening borders on really poor business ethics. I don't care if these companies are small or cottage or whatever we want to call them or have taken on more than they can handle. As a customer, that should not be my problem. Common courtesy and good business protocol would dictate that at a minimum if a promise cannot be kept, the buyer be notified so they can make an informed decision. It's not like simple communication tools don't exist today. A small investment in some technology might even send emails or texts for them based on other order data entered.

I found it quite interesting that even in this case, when they knew the person visiting was preparing an expose' on them, they STILL didn't bother to make contact when a promised date went past. :shake: :slap:

Well it is their business and they are running it the way they want to, and apparently with some success, given their longevity.

If you are aware going in what the deal is, yet still want to be a coddled customer, where's the problem? :confused:

When/if you own a business you can run it the way you want to :wink:
 

plmeek

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Thank you, to everyone that expressed their appreciation for my post.



Spikebuck said:
Fred, I agree with you. I don't know if it's arrogance, but promising something and not delivering and then not even contacting the person you owe something to at a specific time to let them know what is happening borders on really poor business ethics.

I found it quite interesting that even in this case, when they knew the person visiting was preparing an expose' on them, they STILL didn't bother to make contact when a promised date went past.

I can't defend the folks at The Rifle Shoppe since I don't really know them, having only visited with them a couple of times. They did impress me as being very friendly and courteous. I saw nothing to indicate that they were insincere or unethical.

I do agree that their communication leaves a whole lot to be desired.

As far as them knowing I was preparing an expose' on them, that is not the case. I asked their permission to take some pictures, but at the time I did not have any intention of sharing them with anyone other than a couple of friends. I have not asked them for permission to publish my impressions of the visits. But I doubt they would care much. As I said before, the people that visit this forum are not their targeted market.

As far as I know, they don't market themselves at Friendship, the CLA show, Dixon's, or any trade fairs. I don't recall seeing them advertise in Muzzle Blasts or Muzzleloader magazines. I do know that in the past, they have attended historical arms collector symposiums.

When it's all said and done, they are what they are. Anyone considering doing business with them should be aware of this and their poor business practices and make their decisions accordingly.
 

Zonie

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You have given us a very fine, fair, balanced report and we should all thank you for your trouble.

As many of us know, The Rifle Shoppe offers rifle and pistol parts that are available nowhere else.

Yes, if they don't have the part on hand it can take a long while to get it but that is the nature of a small shop making specialized parts and being dependent on casting foundries to have special orders made.

That and the limited workforce on hand to complete the order can cause delays some can't live with.

Those interested in buying parts from them would be well advised to call them to see if they have the parts on hand before placing an order.

Here's a link to their website
(Call them. I think at the end of the day they are too pooped to do much on the web so they often don't answer E-Mail questions.)

http://www.therifleshoppe.com/
 
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Vaino

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Photobucket is down for maintenance and any pics posted from them are also "down".....Fred
 

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