Program to Embrace Sportsmanship and Craftsmanship
Beginning this summer, Flathead Valley Community College’s Continuing Education Center will offer a Gunsmithing program designed to embrace fine craftsman and the sporting traditions of the Flathead Valley. The program is one of five short-term gunsmithing programs like it offered in the country.
FVCC Executive Director, Economic Development and Continuing Education Susie Burch said the program will meet a number of community needs.
“This program is a great fit with the outdoor sportsman character of our community,” she said. “We also hope it will increase the resources available to local gun manufacturers and our local law enforcement.”
Sheriff Chuck Curry said that though he has been able to send some personnel to armorer school, it has been cost prohibitive to send his team out of the state for this type of training.
“Certainly it’s something the Flathead County Sheriff’s office will look at taking advantage of,” said Curry. “I applaud the college for taking the steps to offer this training.”
Curry added that the program is a great fit for the region as well as for the community.
“Anytime there’s quality, formalized training available as it relates to gunsmithing, it helps,” he said. “A lot of gunsmiths are self-taught, and the ability to have some structured formalized training is excellent.”
Brandon Miller, owner of Miller Precision Arms in Kalispell, was instrumental in getting the program initiated at the college. Miller said that besides providing an opportunity for local law enforcement, the program also will be great for both those interested in taking up gunsmithing as a hobby as well as those interested in becoming professional gunsmiths.
“There are a lot of sportsmen and enthusiasts in the area who will benefit from this program,” said Miller. “It also will pull people from outside the area, which will be good for the community and our economy.”
Miller, who directed a similar program in Oklahoma before moving his business to the Flathead Valley, will teach the AR-15/AR-10 Armorer /Customization, Color Case Hardening, and Shotgun Armorers courses this summer. Miller specializes in long range precision rifles and 1911 pistols and has spent more than 20 years with AR-style weapons platforms, both as end user and armorer. Miller was a gunsmithing instructor at Murray State College in Tishomingo, Okla., as well as the National Rifle Association coordinator for Murray State where he specialized in gunsmithing for his Associate of Arts degree. He spent several years in special operations both in the military and in police units serving as a tactical medic on a Dallas-area SWAT team.
Designing Wildcat Cartridges, Alternative Finishes, and Glass Bedding courses will be instructed by Fred Zeglin, owner of Z-Hat Custom Inc. in Kalispell where he has designed a line of successful wildcats called Hawk Cartridges. In addition to designing his own reloading dies to speed delivery of wildcat projects that combine technology with modern materials and principles, he has designed and produced several new specialty tools for wildcatting and accurate reloading of ammunition. Zeglin earned his Associate of Arts degree and Professional Certificate in Gunsmithing at Lassen Community College in Susanville, Calif.
Lee Helgeland, one of the premier stockmakers in the nation, will instruct the Checkering course. Helgeland, of Bigfork, spent 30 years perfecting his craft, is a member of the American Custom Gunmakers Guild and currently serves on the Board of Directors of that organization. In addition to achieving a rare level of mastery in the stockmaking and metalsmithing industries, Helgeland and his works have been showcased in national gunsmithing magazines.
Courses offered the week of July 16 through 20 will include AR-15 & AR-10 Armorer/Customization and Designing Wildcat Cartridges. Courses offered the week of July 23 through 27 will include Alternative Finishes, Color Case Hardening, and Checkering. For the week of July 30 through August 3, courses will include Glass Bedding and Shotgun Armorers.
FVCC is in the process of applying for affiliation with the National Rifle Association (NRA) and expects the affiliation to be completed by summer of 2013. The college also is in the process of obtaining POST Certification for the two armorer courses.
The college has established special provisions for the firearms, gunsmithing and weaponry courses. Students enrolled in approved courses will utilize assigned parking areas, and unloaded firearms will be inspected by course instructors prior to entering the classrooms. Ammunition is prohibited on campus.
Participants may enroll in up to three of the program’s week-long, 40-hour courses. The cost to register is $300 per course. For more information or to register, call (406) 756-3832, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.fvcc.edu/continuingeducation.html.