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Josh Mallet: The Interview

Following is a video interview with one of our gunsmiths, Josh Mallet. The full text of the interview is below the video. You can watch the video below, or go to our YouTube channel.

Gunsmith Jokes

Kevin: A gunsmith’s sense of humor: Got any funny stories or jokes?

Josh: I was working at Sandy Springs and a lady called me up and said, , her husband had died and she found a gun in his sock drawer. She was kind of flipping out about it. I said, all right, ma’am. I said, calm down. Is the gun clear? And she said, no, it’s black. 

Josh: And actually there is a joke I’ll tell you, it’s a gunsmith joke. This guy drops his rifle off at the gunsmith. It’s an old Winchester 94, and he forgets about it. Five years later, he’s emptying out his wallet and he finds the stub and he looks at it. He goes, oh man. So he figures that they’ve probably sold it by now. So he calls the shop and this old fella answers. He says, “yeah, I left a rifle there five years ago. It’s an old Winchester 94. And, , if you guys sold it, I understand everything, but I was just gonna see if it was still there.” And the old guy says, well, lemme go talk to the gunsmith. I’ll go see if it’s still here. And he goes off a minute later he comes back. He said, “yeah, it’s here. He said, “It’ll be ready on Friday.” 

Josh: What else? I had a guy bring me a revolver wrapped in a pair of size 62 Haynes tighty whities once. They were yellow. 

Red Bull 

Kevin: What’s that you’re drinking?

Josh: Um, Red Bull. This is not a drink. This is food. This is, this is sustenance. 

Kevin: Um, is there protein in that? 

Josh: , I like to think so. , that’s what I tell myself. Um, yes. I, I, I like, I used to drink a lot of coffee and, , it was exacerbating, , my reflux. So, , I just decided one a day. And, , cuz when I was drinking coffee, I was going three pots a day. And, , I was like a little hummingbird and, , how do you think I stay so svelte at 55 years old? 

Happy Birthday

Kevin: Happy Birthday. 

Josh: Thank you. 

Kevin: Do you have a tradition that you do anything Specific on your birthday? 

Josh: Take the day off. 

Who is Josh Mallet?

Josh: I’m Josh, the Gunsmith at SharpShooters.

Kevin: How long have you been a gunsmith?

Josh: 20 years. 

Kevin: Why did you become a gunsmith?

Josh: out of spite. 

Kevin: Spite for whom? 

Josh: Well I was a jeweler for 10 years and I burned out and I decided to find another job. And what did it for me was, I had an old de-milled M14 that I wanted scoped and I figured that was a little beyond my ability. And I took it to a fellow up in Gwinnett County who charged me $175 to screw up my rifle. And I thought, how hard can it be? So I went to a bunch of shops and asked these guys, how do you learn about this stuff? And most of ’em were like, “well, I just picked it up over the years or whatever.” And, I went to a shop down in Buckhead and this old guy there told me about the Colorado School of Trade. 

Kevin: Was that Chuck’s? 

Josh:  Yeah Chuck’s firearms. Yep. And, I went home and looked it up and I thought this would be great. You know, I’m 34, young enough for a career change. It’s pretty much in line with what I did as a jeweler as far as, you know, fitting small parts and detail work and metal finishing and all that. And, when I looked up the school online, I thought, man, this, this looks perfect. And, you know, a change of scenery cuz you know, I’d been in Atlanta for all my life pretty much. And so, I called ’em up, signed up. They asked me if I wanted to come and take a tour. I was like, no, just sign me up. And, it took about six months to get everything wrapped up here. And I went out there and, strangely, my granddad was a machinist, and when he retired, he built a shop behind his house and he painted it…it was built of cinder blocks and he painted it this hideous green color. And the day before I went to school, I decided to do a drive-by just to make sure I knew how to get there and not get lost on the way or whatever. And I got there and that building was made of the same green cinder blocks and smelled the same machine, oil metal. I was just like, I knew I was home, man, and 20 years later, here I am. 

Josh: Every day you learn something new, that’s for sure. And I mean, right now with the way the industry is, you know, I’ll get home and I’m on my phone or my computer for a couple hours just trying to look up new products just to be able to, you know, when somebody brings one in, can you put this in? 

The Jar of Shame

Kevin: Let’s talk about the jar of shame.

Josh: The jar of shame is a big mason jar full of live ammunition that has all been pointed right here. And usually it’s people coming in off the street to bring their guns in to have me look at them. And they don’t know they’re loaded. And of course they don’t see the five six signs outside that say, all guns must be in a case and unloaded. And, so you point it at me, it goes in the jar and you get reprimanded. 

Kevin: Where did the jar come from? Where did the idea come from? 

Josh: You know, that’s a good question. I just kind of did it one day just because so many, many were coming in and I was like, you know, I need to make an example. And, right now, I don’t even know how many rounds are in that thing, but it’s about two thirds full. 

Kevin: Yeah. It’s got a lot in it. 

Josh: And the thing is, I never hear, “oh my God, I’m so sorry. How, you know, oh my God!” it’s always, “how did that happen?” You know, “how’d that get in there?” I don’t know…You put it there!

Josh: I had one guy come in one time, this was 2013, asked to see me and he’d been in here before. And, um, he had this AK he was always tweaking on. He’d always come, “Well, I just wanna see what you think”, which means “I screwed it up. Can you fix it?” And, he said his hammer pin was walking out. And I thought, oh, God. He was monkeying around with his trigger group and didn’t put his shepherd’s crook back in correctly and opened it up. And, as he hands it to me, he says, “it’s got a live round in it.” And I go, Ugh! And take it back to my bench, open up the dust cover. And the hammer had fallen forward at an angle and was resting against the side of the receiver. And the only thing keeping it from going forward and hitting that firing pin was friction. And, I started yelling loud enough to where they heard me out in the showroom, and our GM, a fellow named Matt, came back and said, “what’s going on?” And I showed him. So I had to extract that round without rearranging my face. That was a fun one. We actually later watched the surveillance video and he came into the store with a soft case over his shoulder, walks around the store for about five minutes, looking at everything, walks over to my bench and goes, “WHUMPF!” and throws it down on my bench, pointed at a group of women that were about to come in the door. So yeah, I told him he needed to find a new range to terrorize after that. So yeah, there’s, there’s some real rockets out there. 

AR-15 Care & Feeding

Josh: Owning an AR 15 and being proficient with it, you know, is, you know, not only commendable, it’s almost your patriotic duty. But at the same time, being proficient doesn’t mean just hitting what you shoot at. It’s, you know, knowing how it works, how to maintain it, how to take care of it, how to keep it in good running condition, how to diagnose it. You know, if you’re having a cycling problem, learn the cycle of operation of the rifle. You know, there’s eight parts to it. Feeding, chambering, locking, firing, unlocking extraction, ejection and re-cocking. All eight of those things happen every time you pull that trigger. And if you have a malfunction, you’ll have a better idea of where it’s going wrong in that cycle and possibly correct it yourself. You know, if it’s a feeding issue, you probably got a bum mag. If it’s not chambering, you could have an obstruction or it could be bad ammo. I mean, there’s, you know, a lot of factors, but you know, know how your gas system works. You know, it could be something with your gas system. and it’s really not that complicated. Well, you can make it as complicated as you want, you know, 

Josh: So, you know, as long as you know the basics on them, you can kind of figure out what’s going on with ’em. And, you know, if there’s an issue, you can usually diagnose it relatively quickly. Sometimes you get that one though, that just needs Jesus. I had an AR one time and I could not get that thing to run to save my life. And I mean, I tried everything. I went through everything and I just couldn’t figure it out. And this is, this was, you know, God, how many years ago? Like 13 years ago maybe? And I had the thing for about a week, and I had the bolt carrier in my hand and the phone rang and I looked, and it was the guy that the rifle belonged to. And I’m like, oh God, I’m gonna have to tell him I haven’t figured it out yet. And I picked up the phone with the same hand I had the bolt carrier in, and when I held it up to my ear, I heard that gas key go “tick, tick, tick, tick.” And I went, Hey man, I just figured out what’s wrong with your rifle. 

Psycho Ops

Josh: When I was in cycle ops in school, you know, we had to write single page, single line start-part-stop-part-moving-part for all eight basic types of firearms. And like with the revolver, it was 26 pages, single spaced, you know: shooter pulls trigger to the rear trigger, rotates counterclockwise on a trigger pin, rebound moves back, stops against frame or rebound pin, rebound spring compresses, you know, just on and on and on and on and on. We called it “psycho ops” because, by the time you were done, you were just done, you know, and it was in the middle of summer too, and there was no air conditioning and we had to do it in pencil because you had to keep erasing, and it was all smudged from sweat and everything. 

I remember at school we had a kind of a dress code. You had to wear it long pants and boots, you know, cuz we worked at a machine shop. But in cycle ops, we spent two weeks just writing. We went to the owner of the school. We’re like, “Robert, can we please wear shorts? And, you know, at least running shoes?” And he’d come out of his air conditioned office in shorts and flip flops telling us why we couldn’t. And, so we just had to sweat it out. 

So for eight, the eight basic different types of firearms, you had to write every movement of the cycle. Yep. 

Kevin: Why did he make You do that? 

Josh: So you know how it all worked!

Josh: There’s eight basic firearm types. You’ve got pump action, lever action, bolt action, brake open, semi-auto blowback, and what am I forgetting? Short, recoil, operated. And, um, I’m forgetting one: Revolver. The same principle. Now there’s 30 squirty million types of short recoil operated pistols, but most of ’em work on the same principle. And then, and same thing with revolvers. You know, I could look into a pistol and go, okay, that’s your, you know that’s your trigger bar, that’s your, you know, this or that or this or that. Now there’s some where you’re just like, you know, like an HK P7, you know, that that thing’s like a Swiss watch. And I took one of those apart one time and don’t do it. It’s bad. Don’t do it.

Kevin: Well that’s why you were a jeweler beforehand, right? 

Josh: Right. And, yeah, I thought I could get a transfer bar into it by moving a part about 20 thousandths of an inch. Well, I moved it about 21 thousandths of an inch and that gun literally flew apart for about four seconds. And, it took about eight days of trial and error to put that thing together. 

Linda, From Accounting

Josh: This guy right here, this is a bill that I did. It started out as the hand guard. We had an officer that used to train here who was captain of Cherokee SWAT, and they issued him a Daniel defense MK-18. And he didn’t like the quad rail. He wanted an M-lock put on it. So, I did the job for him and he said, what do I owe you? And I said, nothing, I’m doing my civic duty because it was his duty rifle. And he said, well you wanna keep that hand guard? And I said, “that $550 Daniel Defense RIS-II handguard? Yes sir. I’ll be happy to hang onto that.” And then over time, I just started piecing it together. I did inherit parts or the…actually the only things I paid for on this rifle were the lower receiver, the optic, the bolt carrier, and the light and that’s it. Everything else was inherited. I even got the can for free. I had a customer come in and he said, “I’m going into assisted living and they won’t let me have a firearm.” And he said, “I’ve got this old gun I bought in 1980, never fired it, it’s been in my closet ever since and I thought you might appreciate it.” And he opens it up and it’s a Beretta 81 Cheetah. It’s a $900 pistol. And I said, “how much do you want for it?” And he goes, “Nothing.” And he gave it to me, and I was like, well that’s pretty cool. Oh, okay. Then I thought, well what the hell am I gonna do with a .380? You know, I don’t want another caliber. So I traded it to A.G. for this can because he was looking to sell this to get money for a class so we traded even. And all I had to do was give Uncle Sam his share of the action. I’m still waiting for that to clear after nine months. But yeah, and I’ve got this right where I want it. I’m real happy with it. It’s got the Faxon barrel, the KGM can, the SureFire Lights, Daniel Defense handguard, Young Manufacturing Bolt Carrier group. It’s a Spikes Tactical lower an Aero upper, Wilson Combat Trigger, AimPoint Pro optic. And, well, we won’t talk about what’s on the end of it. 

Kevin: And what’s that on your Grip? 

Josh: Oh, everybody gives me crap about that. I put tennis racket tape on my grips because it works. And, I’ve been doing that since I was in the army and it just works for me.

Kevin: Is there anything special to the Sling 

Josh: It’s just a plain old MagPul 2-point sling. I got that for free as well. Usually I run the Vickers. I like those a lot. The MagPuls are a little bit slick, but yeah, you know, “Free 99”.

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