Demanding Murray State College program teaches the art of gunsmithing

Great State
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TISHOMINGO, OKLAHOMA -- Finals week doesn't look like this at very many Oklahoma colleges.

Students like Matt Hayworth spend a lot more time at the machine lathe than hitting the books when they go to gunsmithing school.

"The work you do looks quite exacting," remarks a visitor.

"Yeah," replies Hayworth. "Within a few 1/1000ths of an inch really."

From chambering the barrel of an AR-15 to installing choke tubes on a shotgun, gunsmithing professor Robert Webb oversees the 30 students admitted each year.

If you want to learn how to build a gun from scratch this is the place, but there are a lot of different skills to learn.

"There are just so many facets to it," explains Webb. "whether it's refinishing, the machine work, the woodwork."

An Associate Degree in Applied Science takes two years.

Most of the students here take gunsmithing for three years.

Webb and another instructor, John Bohon, review more than 200 applications every year.

Fewer than 2 in 10 are admitted.

"What makes a good gunsmithing student?" asks the visitor.

Bohon replies, "One with a lot of patience. You've got to be detail oriented."

Walk around this building and you'll see woodworking, tool making, metallurgy, and precise measuring.

New processes like hydrographics have a place here as does the magic of alchemy, in a sense.

Students quick-cool a gun part hoping to bring out blue and green colors from the metal.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

"This is very much an artistic process," says Bohon.

There are only six college programs like this in the United States.

To show their aim is true Webb and Bohon point to a demand for their graduates that far exceeds their student count.

If you know how to make a gun these days, and if you can find someone to teach you, you're in demand.

The Murray State College Gunsmithing School also offers several one and two-week summer workshops.

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