A First-Class Gunsmithing Program

A couple of weeks ago I got to tour the workshops and classrooms of the gunsmithing program at Montgomery Community College in Troy, North Carolina. To say I was impressed by the facilities is an understatement.

I was given the tour by Len Fagan who is one of the instructors. He also teaches most of the Hunting and Shooting Sports Management classes. Prior to coming to MCC, Len was the lead gunsmith for Alexander Arms as well as was the owner of Old Lodge Armory in Willis, VA.

The first room I saw had both milling machines and metal lathes.

Adjacent to this workshop were both a couple of classrooms as well as another workshop with both milling machines and lathes. The classrooms are not your average classroom with desks. Rather, they have six to ten heavy duty worktables with one to two bench vises attached on each. Companies such as MidwayUSA and Brownells have been very supportive of this program.

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Mark Dye is the head of the program. Like Len, he is a graduate of the program himself. He also was a gunsmith with both Clark Guns in Louisiana and Bowen Classic Arms in Tennessee before going out on his own. In addition, he is the inventor of the Drop-In Trigger System for 1911s being marketed by Nighthawk Customs. It is essentially a drop-in trigger job.

Moving on, the equipment available for students includes:

  • 28 lathes
  • 13 Bridgeport type milling machines
  • 2 precision surface grinders
  • 1 CNC milling center
  • 3 commercial spray booths for Cerakote
  • Arms room with 350+ firearms for classroom examples and training aids
  • A myriad of bench and belt grinding equipment
  • Welding equipment 
  • Heat treating furnace
  • Hot bluing tanks

The MidwayUSA Arms Room has a wide assortment of firearms with which students can tinker.

If you work on firearms then you need a place to test them. They have two 100-yard ranges on campus which they share with the law enforcement program.

In addition to the regular degree and certificate program, they are one of four schools certified to offer NRA short-term gunsmithing classes and the only one east of the Mississippi. These classes range from an AR-15 armorer’s class up to building your own custom 1911 from a kit. They also will have classes on knife making, shooting, reloading, and finishing. I could easily see myself taking one or more of these classes.

Carolina All Out is a regional TV outdoor program available on cable in the Carolina as well as YouTube. They featured two episodes on the gunsmithing program at Montgomery Community College. The first featured rebarreling a Remington 700 and the second featured taking the rifle’s accuracy to the next stage by bedding and load development. Seen together, you get a good feel for the facilities and the expertise of instructors such as Len Fagan and Mark Dye.

If you are interested in learning more about gunsmithing as either a career or just because you want to tinker on your own firearms, I can recommend Montgomery Community College. In the interest of full disclosure, I will be graduating in less than two weeks from their Hunting and Shooting Sports Management program making me an alumnus of MCC. Nonetheless, I think they are one of the premier gunsmithing programs in the nation.

NRA Foundation Helps North Carolina Students

Catching up on emails that arrived while I was out of town, I came across this one from the NRA. It discusses the substantial donations made by the NRA Foundation to Montgomery Community College to fund scholarships for gunsmithing students.

NRA Foundation Funds Montgomery Community College Scholarships

TROY, N.C. – Nearly $100,000 in NRA Foundation grants have funded Montgomery Community College scholarships for its gunsmithing program since 1994. These merit-based scholarships help spur high academic achievement and pristine attendance records while providing students with the freedom and flexibility to undertake notably challenging projects.

Throughout their time in MCC’s gunsmithing program, students develop skills tooling and blueprinting, metal finishing, firearm diagnostics and repair, and custom firearms manufacturing. More than two-thirds of class time is spent hands-on in the college’s 5,400 square feet of shop workspace.

“Friends of NRA and the NRA Foundation are both great proponents of Montgomery Community College’s gunsmithing program,” said Mark Dye, gunsmithing program director at Montgomery Community College. “In their biggest show of support yet, the NRA Foundation granted us funds to award 12 gunsmithing scholarships this year. We are truly grateful for the NRA’s unwavering commitment to our focus on this great American tradition.”

Both the East and West Friends of NRA State Fund Committees in North Carolina award grants to the program each year. In 2014, nearly half of all scholarships awarded to MCC gunsmithing students came from The NRA Foundation.

I am especially gratified by these donations as my family connections to Montgomery County go back to before the Civil War. My father was born in Troy and I still have cousins living there.

If you need a tax deduction for 2015, a donation to the NRA Foundation is tax deductible. You have until midnight tomorrow to make one if you use a credit card.