I just wanted to relay an experience I’ve recently had at the hands of a rifle builder for a semi-custom I ordered, firstly I’m not going to name names, just explain issues I’ve had so that others do not suffer in the same way as I’ve had at the hands of someone who can at best be described as unscrupulous, at worst a lying cheat who can’t lay strait in bed at night.
In the middle of December I met with the builder, I was contemplating a new Blaser Thumbhole, good rifle he said but I can build you one just as good for less money, I’d previously had a couple of Semi Customs and whilst I got on really well with them there was a 6 month lead in time, I had to start culling Muntjac for a couple of farms at the end of January and wanted a .243 for it, in addition I had a friend visiting from Ireland middle of February who I wanted to use the new rifle, so I explained my situation, to be told oh I can build you one for the end of January, now my local gun shop could get me the blaser in a week, but as I didn’t need the rifle until the end of January I thought I will put the money saved towards a Thermal, therefore a deposit was handed over, looking back no receipt was given which should have given me a warning, this is where I made my first mistake, I never had a delivery date in writing or got a receipt.
As the end of January approached I started to chase for delivery, he would come back to me a couple of days later with chasing the stock maker. Next thing the Stock Maker is doing a run of stocks for the show so will do it in “a few weeks”, the next thing I’m told is if you want a varmit profile he has the stocks for them, so I ask how much weight the Varmint Barrel would add on the 29th January, then after chasing again and again, I’m told on the 19th February that the barrel will be too heavy, but we could go with a Boyds stock as I wanted a laminate. But im reassured on the 22nd February that he hoped to have it done soon. He told me that he’d been criticised for lead times of 4 ½ months, and that folk just have no perspective, the Alarm bells should have been ringing in both ears by now but he gives a very plausible story, always everyone else’s fault.
On the 26th February I chased again, but apologised for keep disturbing him, to be told he hoped to have it finished and me shooting it within a month. I then changed the spec slightly by asking to have a fluted bold as I liked the look of them. 29th March I then chased again, just waiting for the stock still, everything else is ready to go.
5th April he’d spoken to the stock maker, he’d been ill, but it will be at least another week, completely fed up I ask for an alternative stock, 12th April I chase again to be told it will be done within a week to 10 days, because he “got into him again”. On the 20th April he tells me he’s struggling with the laminate, as he only has beech, and I didn’t want beech.
2nd May I’m told sorry messenger playing up (used that one before), but the stock has been ordered from Boyds, so I ask if that will be another 6 weeks, to be told no the last Boyds took 2 weeks. on the 5th May he says its taken far longer than he wanted but its everyone else’s fault and that’s the problem when you rely on third parties.
22nd May Just re-installed messenger again, again everyone else’s fault, but the Boyds is coming through a third party, but it will be chased up.
28 May I chase again after not hearing anything, nothing yet but I can have the rifle with a standard Sako stock on it, as I am about to lose some stalking due to not having the rifle.
7th June Im back in the UK to be told no news on the stock but hes chasing, I to collect the rifle on the 14th June with a temporary stock on, fit the scope and then go and shoot a deer with it takes the pressure off with the farmer, I pay a second instalment, but on the day I receive a message to say that the moderator needed to be paid for as well so hand over a total of £1,225 to date and the stock when it arrives will be another £200.
15th June tells me he’s spoken to the importers about a McMillan thumbhole as I’m thoroughly fed up, said they haven’t got one because they don’t do one, I mention that its on the McMillan website and like a man possessed he’s going to ring them, so I ask for an update later in the day to be told Ive emailed them, might get a reply today, I then pointed out that on their website it takes 5 days for them to respond to emails. I point out that I don’t want to wait another 6 months for McMillan to send one, so he offers to put me in touch with Danny at Staff’s Custom Stocks, to see what he has, to be honest this is the best thing he did for me in the now 6 months since I placed the order on a 6 week build. 16th June he’s spoken to Danny and he has a thumbhole ready to inlet. Even sends me a picture of two stocks and I can choose which one I want. I’m told he needs the rifle back but it’s a 2 week turnaround, so on the 20th June I deliver it to him to be told the 21st June that it had been sent to Danny, 22nd June a box of stocks arrive from Boyds arrive and he sends me a picture of them. So I ask for advice and he said to go for the synthetic as they are much better. 22nd June he tells me he’s sold the laminate one for my rifle as I agreed to go with Danny. 28th June it will be 7-10 days and I will have it back, it wasn’t his fault, he can’t account for a further few days delay completely fed up with him at this point I started to deal with Danny direct and he has been brilliant, he tells me that the picture of the stock I had been sent were sold 12 months ago and were provided as examples of the work he can do. Also no stock bolts or the correct bolt were sent with the rifle allegedly they were sent on the 23rd first class but didn’t arrive, on the 6th July when I chased up and said that the delays were caused by him not sending the stock bolts I received a message that what I said was not correct, and I have another set this morning.
6th July I provide him with an ultimatum that after the countless delays if the necessary bits were not provided to Danny by the 12th July at 5pm then I would instruct my solicitors for breach of contract. This is when the fun really started, I said I would pay Danny for the work direct, and deducting an amount for the stock etc and paying him £250 as a final part of the work, he even disputed this, on the 7th June he’d stated in a message that the cost of the Boyd’s was £200, yet now when he’s deducting it from my bill its only £150. He disputed my offer saying that he wanted another £440 off me for the work, I agreed to pay up to get my bits to Danny so he could finish my rifle. They arrived at 4pm on the 12th July.
Danny could not confirm to me until we spoke on Thursday the 14th that he’d got everything they needed to finish the job, Friday 15th at 10.30 I received a text from the rifle maker to say if I didn’t settle the remainder of my bill, (I still have no formal invoice for the build), then “he would have no choice but to take things further”, so he’s had money off me for 7 months lied and manipulated the truth to his own ends but expects a prompt payment.
Now the sting in the tale was that he had been given notice by a good friend of mine who had ordered a rifle 13 months before and had had 4 delivery dates broken, this by my solicitors was deemed breach of implied contract, he had been given a final deadline of Thursday 14th at the close of play to deliver his rifle, which of course he broke because he had everyone over a barrel, he had our cash, our rifle and was in complete control of the situation, so he thought, my friend contacted him on Thursday night to confirm that as he’d broken the terms of delivery again, the implied contract was nul and void, and that his £400 deposit was to be transferred to clear the same amount from my bill, as neither of us had anything in writing to say this was not possible then it was and is legal. I then paid my friend his £400 today as I said I would, which given the behaviour of the rifle maker, who tried to increase someone else’s bill by £250 but then claimed he’d made a mistake when challenged and dropped it off again, I believe it would have been doubtful he would have seen it again I kept the £40 to cover the cost of the fuel for fetching the rifle.
I’ve not put this up to slag off custom rifle builders, Danny at Staffordshire Synthetics has really helped me out on this, but just so you can be aware of how things can go horribly wrong if you pick the wrong rifle builder, would I do it again yes, but I would want receipts, prices and delivery dates in writing before handing over a penny. Or just buy a Blaser and shoot it within 7 days.