1911 Academy Gun Shop

Gunsmith Bryant Barnes does some trigger work for customer Jed Boyles on Thursday at 1911 Academy in McKinney. The recently opened business welcomes customers to watch and learn repairs, restorations and customizations for every type of firearm.

It’s no secret: Texans, by and large, like their guns.

They hunt year-round, hit targets at the range and show them off. Mass shootings and anti-gun talks have forced many to pull the trigger on buying their first firearm.

A newly opened McKinney business wants to make sure the real trigger works when it’s time to shoot.

“At least half of new gun owners don’t even think about it,” said Kirk Anderson, owner of 1911 Academy, about maintenance. “What we really want to do is just teach people.”

The licensed FFL dealer could be hard to miss, particularly if looking for it through an off-kilter sight. It sits just a few yards south of University Drive (U.S. 380), west of Custer Road. Anderson and a crew of gunsmiths opened it in late April.

A circular emblem signals potential customers inside. Then the workshop: tinkering, wooden tables, ticks and tacks. Oh, and mounted heads, prized victims from South African hunting trips.

It’s a place to learn, a classroom of sorts, but with firearms. The Academy repairs, restores and customizes anything from a Walmart-bought 9-mm Glock to a World War II-era German luger.

Upgrades like trigger assembly, sights, magazine release – all the intricacies most shooters take for granted – are the 1911 crew’s fancy.

“I love the daily puzzle,” said Bryant Barnes, a gunsmith who took summer classes while working with his mentor at Frisco Gun Club, the Academy’s foundation. “What’s wrong and how do I fix it?”

Fixing doesn’t happen in some back room, either. That “back room” is actually for popping off rounds with post-maintenance glee. At 1911, the crew wants customers right there watching and mimicking.

Barnes and fellow gunsmiths give one-on-one lessons, helping as many as 35 customers some days. Soon there’ll be group classes with a curriculum teaching basic and advanced measures, even the history of firearms.

“We’re kind of trying to work ourselves out of a job,” Anderson joked.

A basic Glock has around 30 or 40 parts, and that’s on the low end. The 1911 crew can build and customize $10,000 long-range rifles with plenty more pieces.

Though a rarity, a recent customer got his work done for free. The job – getting the muzzle to break off – took a few minutes. But he brought the gunsmith crew some elk sausage the next day, vowing to return for more gun work.

Few range shooters, or even longtime hunters, realize a detailed clean should happen every 500 to 1,000 rounds, Anderson said. And new gun owners are aplenty, particularly in the Lone Star State.

“They’re good at going out and practicing,” he said.

Like a car with sludge as oil, a malfunctioning gun can be costly and even dangerous. Anderson’s seen a guy blow the side of his rifle out. This week a woman walked in with a janky slide retainer and didn’t know how to clean her gun.

Customers come from around Collin County, and Anderson has his sights on a reach that expands south of Interstate 635 into Dallas. Law enforcement gets a 40 percent discount; some police departments have no onsite weapon maintenance.

Most visitors are simply careful about their guns, curious about its ins and outs.

“All of my work I get done here,” said Jed Boyles, as Barnes tested his pistol’s trigger. “There isn’t any other gunsmith I’d trust.”

Plus, who doesn’t want to field-strip a rifle and put it back together blindfolded? In some Texas circles, that’s a head-turner, if not an envied skill.

Come to 1911 Academy and you might get to that level. At the very least, you’ll have a gun that’s reliable.

“These are tools we stake our lives on,” Barnes said. “It could be the difference in you getting that shot off or it jamming when the bad guy’s coming.”

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