No matter how smart your pet gunsmith is, he will inevitably encounter problems that are simply insurmountable with his equipment and skill. No amount of study of manual or gunsmithing text will get you through some difficulties with uncooperative guns, tools or processes. What separates the men from the boys is the wisdom to recognize their limitations, and having the phone numbers of vital human resources to call upon in time of crisis.

I may not be the brightest star in the firmament but my momma didn’t raise no fool, so I have spent a lifetime accumulating friends who are sources of skills, gear and knowledge which I do not have. You should, too. My gang has done a lot of bacon saving during my career. I’ll tell about a few of them but you can’t have their phone numbers; some names have been changed to protect the guilty and innocent alike.

The smartest human being I know we’ll just call Norman. And I know lots of smart people. My wonderful pa-in-law is a physician with a PhD in neuroanatomy from the University of Chicago; my friend Dusty D. is a Guggenheim fellow and worked for the Smithsonian National Museums; lawyer pal Bill H. is whip sharp and a terror before the benches of Kentucky courts. But Norman is much smarter than these dullards. He is a tool-&-die maker of incredible skill, experience and imagination. Lucky for me, he is also a real gun junky, which may account for why he takes pity on me and constantly bails me out of the situations into which I seem to blunder from time to time. An utterly unassuming chap who looks like Santa Clause on spring break, Norman probably has an IQ of 278.