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Sticking to his guns

  • Ray Simard built a custom cannon to shoot off on holidays like the Fourth of July about four years ago.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Simard built this custom cannon about four years ago to shoot off at family gatherings like the Fourth of July.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Ray Simard has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, altering, building, and fixing guns in the Monadnock region and beyond.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Ray Simard has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, working on guns all across the country. Simard has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, working on guns all across the country. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Ray Simard of Dublin has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, working on guns from across the country.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Ray Simard of Dublin has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, working on guns from across the country.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Ray Simard of Dublin has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, working on guns from across the country.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Simard lines up a metal piece he is fabricating on the end of a gun stock. Many of Simard’s ideas start in his head after he has a discussion with his client to find out what they want.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Ray Simard of Dublin has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, working on guns from across the country.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Ray Simard of Dublin has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, working on guns from across the country.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Ray Simard of Dublin has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, working on guns from across the country.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Ray Simard of Dublin drills a hole into a piece of metal that he will be using to craft a gun stock. Simard has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, working out of his basement.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Ray Simard of Dublin has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, working on guns from across the country.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Ray Simard of Dublin has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, working on guns from across the country.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Ray Simard of Dublin has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, working on guns from across the country.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Ray Simard of Dublin has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, working on guns from across the country.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Ray Simard of Dublin has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, working on guns from across the country.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • Ray Simard of Dublin has been a gunsmith for almost 50 years, working on guns from across the country.  Staff photo by Nicholas Handy



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Tuesday, August 08, 2017

About seventy years ago, Ray Simard took a trip to the dump with his father that would change his life.

Amongst the trash and other items tossed away by others, Simard would find a “piece of junk” gun that he would bring home and fix, albeit with the help of some rubber bands. 

“I fired the gun in the cellar of the house and I’ve been at it ever since,” said Simard, 81, of Dublin, before getting to work on custom gunstock for a client. “I’m retired but I’m still a full-time gunsmith. It helps keep me active; it’s a fun hobby and job to have.”

Simard has been a federally licensed gunsmith for almost 50 years, operating Simards Gunsmithing out of his basement. Simard said that he often tinkers throughout the day, breaking for errands, meals, and even the occasional nap. 

“Everything has to be booked,” said Simard, who recall being inspected about four years ago. “It’s scary. They come in and take over for a couple days. I got spoken to because I wasn’t being punctual enough with my paperwork.”

When it comes to his craft, Simard said he is licensed to fix, alter, and/or custom-make every part of the gun except for the action, the part that holds and fires the ammunition. Fabricating actions would make him a manufacturer, a license that he does not carry. 

“I’ve always been fascinated with how they work and how to improve them,” said Simard. “I’ve always had guns around.”

While Simard has been tinkering with guns since he was a child, he didn’t receive formal training until he entered the National Guard – where he would be put in charge of marksmanship training as a warrant officer – about 40 years ago. It was during that time that Simard would also go to school to receive formal gunsmith training. 

“Most of it is self taught,” admits Simard, who said he learned a lot from his 37 years working as a machinist at New Hampshire Ball Bearing. “I read a lot of books. It’s probably a lot easier to research things now with the Internet.”

Simard has never really advertised his talents to the world, instead relying on word of mouth reviews to keep business knocking at his door. In addition to working on a number of local projects, Simard said he has worked on guns from across the United States, including Hawaii, Florida, and Alaska. 

“There aren’t too many gunsmiths around,” said Simard. “It is getting better though; there is always a kid that wants to come here and have me teach him. They always ask, but I say no because I’m not certified to teach.”

For Simard, the joy in the job comes in not only developing a gun that meets the desires of his clients, but also smithing a gun that has the ability to shoot accurately. 

“It’s almost never right on the first attempt and some never work,” said Simard. “Everything is hands on for me. It’s a heck of a big satisfaction to get it right.”

A typical job can take anywhere from a few days to a few months for Simard to complete, with the biggest challenge oftentimes being finding the right parts to satisfy the customer. 

Safety is of the utmost importance to Simard – he had previously been a hunter safety teacher for 53 years – and he makes sure to test every gun before it is given back to a client. 

“Gunsmithing can be very dangerous,” said Simard. “Shooting creates a tremendous amount of pressure.”

Simard’s process for testing guns may sound a bit silly, but it ensures that he will never get hurt, although he admits nothing has gone wrong in his 47 years of being a gunsmith.

Simard places the gun in a tire, which has been laid flat on the ground, tying the gun to the tire. Simard will then tie a piece of string to the trigger and fire the gun in his backyard. 

“My neighbors know what I do, and they accept it. I’ve never had any complaints,” said Simard. 

Despite being 81-year-old, Simard has shown no signs of slowing down, and if anything has picked up more work after retiring from NH Ball Bearings about 27 years ago. Every morning, Simard continues to go down to his basement, working on upwards of 12 projects at a given time. 

“I keep coming down here for the love of it,” said Simard. “It’s a lot better than being a couch potato, that’s for sure. It’s all about the satisfaction that comes from doing, helping, and creating.”

 

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.