The Gunfather is about Louie Tuminaro and his close-knit Italian family, native New Yorkers who moved to Hamilton, Mont., to pursue Louie’s dream of creating the best gun store in the West, together. There are three generations of Tuminaros on the show: Louie (51 years old), the Gunfather, and Theresa (48), his wife of 24 years and who is nicknamed T-Bone; Louie’s dad Joe (77), who is called Pops; and Louie and Theresa’s kids, “Little” Louie (14) and daughters Nicole (20) and Allie (22), round out the extended family. Louie’s firearms business, the Custom Shop Inc., is a family operation and we see the Tuminaros in action working together to get things done. Louie is the driving creative force that made the Custom Shop a reality in 2007, but he is quick to tell you that the Tuminaros are a team, and moreover, he loves his team.
Louie’s focus at the Custom Shop is mainly buying, selling and restoring high-quality collectible firearms from the 1940s through the early 1980s – where there’s strong nostalgic interest – as well as sought-after out-of-production classics like Colt’s snake guns: Python, Cobra and the Anaconda. In addition to all of this, he wanted to do for firearm enthusiasts something akin to what custom-car shops do for car buffs. The firearm restoration services he offers are extensive. Louie is particularly passionate about restoration work because, from his point of view, he isn’t working on just any gun. The firearms on his workbench are someone’s precious family heirlooms. Clients aren’t looking to increase collector value of their restored guns, but rather restore the appearance and function for personal enjoyment. They bring their treasured guns to the Custom Shop because Louie has a reputation for candid assessment of what can and can’t be achieved in a restoration and surrounds himself with exceptionally talented artisans to execute the work. When Louie opened up his shop in Hamilton, which is located in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley of western Montana, he discovered a wealth of local talent that shared his interest in this level of firearms work and perfectionism – people like Pam Wheeler, the checkering queen, who has been hand cutting checkering for 30 years.
Louie and Pops are both self-taught gunsmiths and do most of the typical mechanical repairs, fine-metal polishing and refinishing in house. They also have their own stock-duplicating machine that can reproduce any gunstock accurately. Though they can make any gunstock for a customer, Louie explains that it isn’t always economically practical. It requires lots of hand sanding, inletting, fitting hardware and finishing. The result can be a stock that costs more than the rifle it’s being installed on. On restorations, they will try to preserve and repair the original wooden stock whenever possible. They keep duplicated stocks, identical to the factory originals and fitted with original hardware, for the more common collectible rifles – for example pre-64 Model 70 Winchesters – on hand all the time. When more elaborately figured wood blanks are used to make stocks for the highest grade rifles, prices can run up to $3,500, but that’s not a lot when the rifle is worth $15,000. The Custom Shop sells several stocks a week, mostly to customers who have had theirs broken during the course of shipping by common carrier. In addition to the stocks Louie crafts with his own hands, he has scores of new old-stock-original replacements for top-end Browning, Sako, Colt Sauer, Weatherby and J.P. Sauer and Sohn‘s rifles ranging from $400 to $3,500.
Louie says he got his love of shooting and skills from Pops. They were a working-class Long Island family. They weren’t poor, but they didn’t have much money. Louie and his little sister Lisa walked to public school, and their parents taught them traditional values, the importance of hard work, integrity and respect. Pops made a career with the Ford Motor Company in sales, and once Louie turned 10, Pops brought him to work every Saturday to help out washing cars and doing the jobs a kid could do. Louie developed a serious love for cars at that time, which he still has to this day. Pops taught him what a proper work ethic looked like and encouraged him to develop skills with his hands. Together these things led to a healthy confidence and a liberating realization that he could do things for himself.
For teenage Louie, the realization came the day the water pump on his 1972 Chevelle Super Sport quit. Instead of taking it to the repair shop, Pops took Louie to the auto-parts store and let him fix it for himself. When Louie reached his early 20s, he asked Pops to help him get an entry-level job at an auto customizing shop because the creativity and variety of the work was irresistible to him. Within two years Louie was managing the place. It was during this time that he met Theresa, who changed his life for the better in countless ways. They were inseparable and a perfect match. Louie calls her his rock. A rock is the best foundation to build on, and build they did.
It wasn’t long before Louie decided to go into business for himself. The work ethic, skill and confidence he learned as a boy continued to pay off and he soon had the largest car-audio equipment business in Suffolk County, N.Y. It was the first of many successes. Theresa would later manage their sports bar while raising their daughters. Pops, in addition to being a car man, was an avid gun collector, hunter and competitive pistol and shotgun shooter. Louie grew up watching with curious fascination as his father worked on guns on the kitchen table. When he got old enough, he was working beside his father, and the two enjoyed being a part of the shooting and hunting fraternity, which is large and vibrant in Long Island despite what anti-gun politicians from New York would have you believe. They hunted and vacationed in upstate New York, and Louie quickly got Theresa enthusiastically involved in the shooting sports too. When the kids came, they were naturally raised as shooters. The family hobby laid the ground work for the family business to come.
Louie had actually entertained the notion of going into a firearms business for several years before the golden opportunity finally presented itself. He’d made a lot of contacts in the community through the course of buying and selling guns that interested him, but it was the sale of his business that was the major catalyst for the career change. For the first time in his life, Louie had financial resources and time at his disposal simultaneously. At that time, Theresa had concerns that the neighborhood they lived in and loved was not headed in a direction they wanted for their children, and Louie had been charmed by the West during the time he’d spent hunting there. One day, Louie just walked through the front door and told Theresa that he thought they should consider moving to Montana and open a gun store. She was looking for houses on the Internet that same night. Theresa’s support buoyed Louie up for this bold move. Truth be told, the prospect of leaving everything they had known behind them scared her, but she had confidence in her husband, and saw a great opportunity to grow as a family. Pops, by then retired, was likewise supportive. Louie did his research and planning with their help and they left a life on the Atlantic shores of Long Island to set up a new family business venture in Big Sky Country, in full view of the snow-capped Rocky Mountains. “We grouped together as a family and ran this company,” Louie told me. “We started it, designed it and created it. We did everything as a family. I consider us all a part of this.”
The Custom Shop, as a physical location, is an artistic expression of the family. It was intended to look as if it had been in business on that little old-town street for a century. The interior was built with reclaimed lumber and decoratively peppered with just enough taxidermy and vintage Western decor to give it a 19th century style but with a modern flair. Custom Shop’s signature 10-foot outdoor-sculpted sign featuring a huge Colt cap-and-ball revolver next to the words Custom Shop was the product of Louie’s imagination and several months work.
As a business, Custom Shop became a huge success with international clientele. A great deal of that comes from the Tuminaros’ basic business philosophy. “We put all our heart into what we do,” Louie says. “A lot of our business is repeat customers and referrals because when you treat somebody right, you’ve got them forever. It’s very important that you win the trust of your customers. The only surprises I want my customers to have are good ones. If I say a gun is 98 percent, it’s probably really 99 percent.”
Seventy percent of Custom Shop gun sales are via their website, which is exceptional because each firearm they offer is presented for online customer inspection using five to 10 excellent digital photographs. These images are professionally staged and extremely detailed. Derek Poff, the man responsible for them and a show regular, has 20 years experience behind the camera.
While Louie and Pops are working on guns or away with little Louie scouring gun shows and estate sales across the country for marketable firearms, Theresa is the public face and voice of the Custom Shop. When you call, you talk to T-Bone. If you want something, you’d be wise to tell her because when she says that she’ll be on the look out, she’s 100 percent serious. She created and maintains what she calls “T-Bone’s Watch List” located on a corkboard behind her desk. When the boys bring home the gun you want, you will get a call from her and the first right of refusal. This takes a lot of mental energy and time, but it shows just how seriously the Tuminaros take customer service.
The Tuminaros are all NRA members, and Theresa came up with the slogan “Family, Freedom and Firearms” to describe the things that are most important to them. The thing that sold Outdoor Channel on The Gunfather was that it is really a case study in successful, multi-generational parenting. For the Tuminaros, shooting and other outdoor sporting activities were the family recreational outlets, so it was a perfect fit for the network. Viewers enjoyed the insights into the firearms business, but the more compelling aspect of the show was the genuineness of the Tuminaros just being a family. Louie says, “We love Outdoor Channel for letting us share our family with America. They don’t script us. They let us do what we do. What you see is who we are. When you see me kiss my father and tell him I love him when he’s leaving, well, I do that every day.” When viewers see Louie put aside the gun business for an afternoon to support his son in his first paying job outside the family, it is very clear that The Gunfather puts being a father far ahead of guns. Family comes first, exactly like Theresa says.
If all this sounds refreshing for television, by all means tune in to Outdoor Channel on Monday nights at 8:00 p.m. to watch the second season that started on Dec. 28. If you want your family heirloom firearms restored or to buy or sell collectable guns, contact Theresa. If you become a fan of the show, and I suspect you will, make sure to thank her because she’s the one who made it happen. The day Louie walked in and said “I think we should be on TV,” she got on the phone and cold-called Outdoor Channel, miraculously got connected to a show producer (that just doesn’t happen), and won him over on the idea of a program about their family. Is it any wonder why Louie has been so successful? Between Theresa and Pops, how could he fail? ASJ
Editor’s note: You can visit the Custom Shop online at customshopinc.com.
Posted in Hollywood and Pop Culture Tagged with: Allie Tuminaro, Brownells, Browning, Colt Sauer, Derek Poff, Frank Jardim, Gun Shop, J.P. Sauer and Sons, Little Louie Tuminaro, Louie Tuminaro, Montana, Nicole Tuminaro, Outdoor Channel, Pops Tuminaro, Sako, T-Bone, Television Series, The Custom Shop, The Gunfather, Theresa Tuminaro, Weatherby
Known for big mule deer, Sonora also has solid numbers of Coues whitetails. They’re not as big as bucks to the north, but if you’re looking to double-up with a muley, this is a good option. Hunting is by spot and stalk, and flat ground is covered by driving in high-rack trucks.
(Washington, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming and Oregon)
Colorado is kicking out some monster muleys, but many are on private lands or require a lot of points to draw. Wyoming, Montana, Washington and Idaho offer multiple options with over-the-counter tags in some regions. Oregon and Southwest states that produce big bucks also require tags to be drawn.
Idaho is tops when talking big Western whitetails and lots of them. The northern half
of the state has loads of bucks, as do neighboring Montana and Wyoming. Eastern Washington and northeast Oregon are also producing great whitetails each year.
Columbian whitetails and Columbian blacktails can both be hunted in Oregon’s Umpqua River Valley (but not at the same time), near the town of Roseburg. Whitetail tags are on a draw or landowner preference ticket, while blacktail tags can be acquired over the counter.
Kodiak Island is tops when talking Sitka blacktails. Being dropped at spike camp is an option, as is hiring a transporter who will shuttle you around by boat. I like the latter, so new ground can be covered each day.
Posted in Hunting Tagged with: Alaska, Colorado, Columbian Double, Deer, Destination, Hunting, Idaho, Mexico, Montana, Mule Deer Options, Oregon, Scott Haugen, Sitka Blacktails, Sonoran Coues, Sonoran Mule Deer, Washington, Western Whitetails, Wyoming
Story by Mike Nesbitt
The annual Matthew Quigley Buffalo Rifle Match is really some doin’s! Hosted each June by the Forsyth Rifle & Pistol Club of Forsyth, Mont., it isn’t the longest distance match or the most “critically scored,” but nonetheless, there’s nothing else quite like it, and for a match like Quigley, it pays to be ready. (By not being critically scored I simply mean they count hits rather than 9’s, 10’s, or X’s. A hit is one point, and those are hard-to-get points.)
Quigley is a huge event, very well attended by all types of shooters, and the inspiration for this long-range match, of course, came from Tom Selleck’s character in Quigley Down Under, the 1990 movie about an American sharpshooter who responds to an Australian’s help-wanted ad, but finds the job morally wrong. We can easily say that the shooting in these matches is almost as good as portrayed in the film.
The rifles used in the Quigley match can be any traditional single-shot or lever-action rifle with a caliber of .375 or larger. That means the good old .38-55 is just about the smallest cartridge you’ll see on the firing line. Bullets must be made of cast lead (gas checks are OK) and the powder charges can be black powder, black powder substitute, black powder/smokeless powder duplex loads or smokeless powder. Even though there are no restrictions for the powder used, Quigley is referred to as a black-powder shoot and most shooters actually use it.
One of the Quigley rules is that shooters must use the same rifle for all distances and targets. Those distances, include shooting offhand at the 350-yard target as well as a seated 805-yard shot over cross-sticks, among others.
Last year, I chose my C. Sharps Model ’74 chambered in .44-77. The 400-grain bullets worked very well for me, and the 70 grains of Olde Eynsford 2F sends those bullets out of my 28-inch barrel at about 1,370 feet per second. It shoots well enough to give me good scores at 200 yards and it is enjoyable enough to shoot from the shoulder. But 200-yard shooting won’t even get you started at Quigley, since the distances begin with offhand shooting at 350 yards. I needed some long-range experience very badly. In order to get just that, I entered into a few black-powder cartridge-rifle silhouette matches. That was a whole new world for me and very fun! Why I waited so long before trying the silhouettes, I don’t know, but I certainly learned a few lessons! With my newfound education on shooting silhouettes out to 500 yards and copious notes, I was ready to try Quigley, or at least I thought so.
It all seemed too soon when my partner Allen Cunniff and I drove into the Quigley camp. We were immediately met by “Dangerous” Don McDowell, who was our guide and took us under his wing. He showed us our camp area and then took us down to the firing line to sight in. He made sure we were registered and suggested that we shoot in his same group.
Sighting in can be done throughout the week preceding the actual match; however, once the match starts, that’s it! One reason is simply because the firing line is too busy. Highest compliments must be extended to the staff for the administration of this fine event. They run more than 600 shooters through the course of six targets in about six to eight hours. Each shooter is assigned to a group and those groups are broken down into squads for firing in relays. The target course is doubled, meaning there are two of each target. This allows 12 squads to be shooting at the same time. Hits are recorded by scorekeepers who have earphones and receive an electronic signal when the target is hit.
All shots are taken from the sitting position using cross-sticks except for the bucket target, which is shot offhand. Eight shots are fired at each target, making Quigley a 48-shot match.
Each shooter has a spotter who watches for hits or misses and can suggest changes in sighting elevation or windage. McDowell was my spotter for every shot I fired. Getting at least one hit per target was a small goal that I had set for myself. That goal, I admit without shame, was not met. I just couldn’t get a hit on the bucket. Folks who were watching could see that my shots were close enough to show that I was trying. McDowell, who also shoots a Sharps .44-77, exclaimed, “If you were using a .45, you would have hit it!” As “Dakota” Dick Savage, a shooter who finished in the top 10 at Quigley in 2012, said in reference to getting scores that were lower than what was hoped for, “Well, that’s Quigley.”
Our group started with the large octagon, which means we didn’t take shots at the 805-yard buffalo, the furthest target, until last. This was the target I had looked forward to the most. My first shot, McDowell told me quietly, was right in line but just over its back. With that information, I dropped my rear sight down only about five minutes of angle, and fired again. That time, McDowell whispered, “Good hit, right in the white spot at about 1 o’clock.” My day had been made and I got two more hits on the buffalo with my following six shots.
Sometimes you can hear the bullets hitting the steel targets. But considering the bullet’s time in flight plus the speed of sound for the noise of the impact to get back to you, that impact won’t be heard until four to six seconds have passed. That seems like a very long time.
You can visit the Quigley match online at quigleymatch.com and read all of the details, including the individual scores. Last year over 600 buffalo-gun shooters gathered from 36 different states and three other countries. Ed Tilton from Columbia Falls, Mont., has won the last two shoots with a Model 1874 Shiloh Sharps chambered for the .45-90 cartridge. The record score was shot in 2004 by Al Loquasto with 46 hits out of the possible 48. The long-range course at Quigley has never been “aced.”
For me, the whole experience was simply outstanding, including the obvious brotherhood between shooters. I was talking with Tilton after the match and compared scores, my 11 hits to his 45. He said that my scores would certainly climb and his could only go down, then we’ll meet somewhere in the middle. My personal goal is to get closer to the middle this year.
I’m getting ready for Quigley again. This year I’ll use my heavy Sharps 74 in .44-90, shooting heavier bullets than my .44-77. The .44-90 weighs 13½ pounds and has an aperture front sight with a spirit-level which should have a better advantage over the silver-blade sight on my .44-77. I thought about using my Highwall in .40-70 SS, but to me Quigley is a Sharps shoot; in the movie, Selleck’s character uses a Sharps 1874 rifle chambered for the .45-110 cartridge with long-range sights.
The .44-90 will be used in some of our short-range matches before going to Quigley and maybe at some silhouettes matches too, although it’s too heavy for NRA rules. For ammo, I’ll take at least 100 rounds using 465-grain bullets over 90 grains of Olde Eynsford 1½ F. This way, a lot of shots can be fired for sighting-in before the match gets started. I’m practicing my offhand shooting with this heavy rifle too, and with a good body-rest, it isn’t too heavy to hold.
June 20-21 will see the 24th gathering in southeast Montana, and getting ready for it is time and shots well spent. ASJ
Note: For other great images from BJ Lane on the Matthew Quigley shoot, you can visit them at bjlanesimages.com.
Posted in Black Powder Tagged with: Allen Cunniff, BJ Lane Photography, Black Powder, Cross-Stix, Dakota Dick Savage, Ed Tilton, Forsyth Rifle & Pistol Club, Forsythe, Long Range, Mike Nesbitt, Montana, NRA, Off Handed shooting, Olde Eynsford, Quigley Down Under, Quigley Shoot, Sharps Model 74, Silhouette, Tom Selleck