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Barnes 501

Some of you have been reading this site for a number of years now. I appreciate that very much. I realize that you don't have to do so.

I've spoken to many of you now at shows, at our Standing Stone Festival, by phone, letter, e-mail, etc. Many of you have expressed thoughts that indicate you have enjoyed far more than just the odd picture and price tag from this site. During many conversations, your comments have cited an appreciation of the: humor, logic, truthfulness, art, dedication, realism, and various related topics. Thank you.

So many of these comments cite the same topics, that I felt I'd add this section to expand upon them a bit. Evidently, a goodly number of you come to this site for more than simply airguns. I've made alot of friends here, for which I'm grateful.

This is your final warning. Beyond this point; we'll discuss more than POA, POI, MOA, PSI, and FPE. If you don't care for alittle philosophy and/or opinion, this is the time to hit the BACK button ... ha ha ;?)

Topic One: "Who are you training to take over your work when you retire (or worse)?" Follow-up comment is usually ... "I mean ... I get nuts thinking that all of this (Barnes development and artistic work) is going to be lost to the world when you are gone".

Answer: Let's all try to enjoy it while it's here. Yes - when they drag me out, boots first, that chapter will be over. But; for now, there's alot to do and to enjoy together. The reality is this: I can either work ... or I can teach. That's NOT a teacher joke. It's a fact. You don't learn these skills in a few months or years. I cannot devote decades of training to a staff of skilled workers. I can't afford it, and the days are past when I could have a compound of young eager apprentice just working for their keep and for their education. I also cannot reduce my work to an assembly of push button operations in order that I might employ a dozen unskilled laborers. I'll make what I can make, as I make it. I continually work smarter - I won't get much faster.

It's a cultural thing to spend more time and effort trying to make temporary things permanent, than to simply enjoy those things for their current season. In addition, it's the trend to spend more time rewriting the past than to live out the present. Look at the cost of celebrating the past: Is it really worth five million dollars apiece to prop up every rotten 200 year old building in the country? I was in a small historic building once. The tour guide discussed how the reconstruction team had sunk deep "I-Beams" into the bedrock (behind the facade). Was it real? Are today's popular beliefs about the day to day life of the cave men, actually any more accurate than the texts written 20 years ago? Have you noticed the 21st century popular cultural traits that have been recently unearthed as we "learn" more "breaking news" about their 200,000 year old lifestyle? Interesting to consider the value and accuracy of what we celebrate.

What's the practical correlation of the above as it relates to Barnes and airguns? There's a concern over loosing a grip on the availability of my product. "What will happen if?" The alternative response may be something like this: "Buy what's available, when it's available, and enjoy it now."

It is a fact that I frequently hear someone express sincere concern over some future unavailability of my work, yet the same person will not exhibit an equal desire to acquire currently available work. It's as though they mostly wish to preserve the "opportunity" of acquiring my work without actually committing to doing so. That shifts the stress off of them and onto me. It's implied, between the lines, that I should devise a method of making available such an open-ended buying opportunity. That's the way industrial product is ware-housed. That's just not the way art is made available - art being the production of one pr. of hands controlled by one mind's direction.

When you consider the "What if" question, then you begin to explore the relationship between contemporary work and the products of previous artists working in the same field. Are they still competitive today? Yes. Most certainly.

I've been fascinated, for years, at the number of collectors who beat the bushes for antique airguns. Not the fact that they do so - that is their hobby area of interest. My fascination comes from the fact that they will spend decades trying to piece together the story of someone who kept inadequate records. Face it - if proper records are kept - there's no mystery to unravel. Or they may work for years to identify artifacts for someone who didn't document or mark their work. They'll strain to attribute a mystery airgun to a popular deceased builder. They'll pay ten grand for a dilapidated airgun and consider it value. They'll project stories of the prowess of such an artifact "if only" it were in shooting condition ... which, of course, it's not. Yet; many of these same folk won't walk across the isle of a trade show to look at the work of a contemporary maker. It's fascinating that the missing details of the past can consume them, yet the clear details of a living artist, in front of their face, is of no interest at all to them.

I have a theory: It involves the concepts of "control and discipline". It goes something like this ...

I've known folks who seek out the company of strangers - prefer it to those whom they know and those who know them. Why? Because they can make up whatever fantasy characteristics they wish to about the strangers. That's their "control" aspect. The facts get in the way of the romance, when you know a person or they know you. That's the "discipline" aspect. It requires discipline to integrate the known facts when they don't suit your fancy. This is all part of the allure of... say ... Williamsburg .. or the Amish Country. We attribute fantasy characteristics to these people. Either those portraying a role, or those witnessed at a distance while working with a horse drawn implement in a field. We don't have to risk the distaste of any personal details related to real people, when we admire our favorite figures from the past. For example, we can make them as tall/short as we want in our mind. Ever wonder how tall Girandoni was? Answer: "He was just right". Ever wonder if Bate stuttered? Certainly not. Or if Cook had that annoying habit some possess of not looking you in the eye when they speak to you? Never. And, without exception, we simply assume that those 18th century makers bathed every day and presented themselves daisy fresh. Would those things matter if you were to meet them at a show today? No matter ... you won't have to.

We take exceptionally fine care of our dead airgun makers. We re-write history for them, where needed. We clean up fuzzy details, where omitted. We make up the records they never bothered to keep for themselves. We argue over just how amazing were their airguns ..... which, sadly, are now broken ... and cannot speak for themselves. In fact, that whole collection of dead guys are some stiff competition (pun noted). And, they get better every year while I get older and slower. ha ha. ;?)

In a related matter, it's those who are familiar to us, with whom we are most easily offended. The guy who comes to the shows, goes to the tournaments, and makes himself available on a website and/or web forum has max. exposure. Hide from the public and you'll better achieve attributed mystery qualities.

I've always felt it was noteworthy just what a craftsman endured in order to work. Everybody's story is different. Where did they work? When did they work? What was the culture? How much help did they have? It all adds to the mix.

There's a considerable risk to maintaining such a wide exposure as in a website of this nature. A reader will get to know me. And, I'll have the occasion to please or to offend them ... over time. However; that very factor gives many a comfortable feeling of being at home here. If you've read for a few years now, and I haven't made you spittin' mad yet ... ;?) ... then you may enjoy one of my rifles. I appear in public. I shoot my work in public. I offer the public opportunity to shoot my work ... before others in public. It's all a serious personality risk. If you've seen me four or five times in public ... then you know how I behave. That will either satisfy you or not. Those whom you've never seen, you can make up (and hope) as to how they behave.

Now - regarding that blanket price for some special projects. I simply can't catalog everything I can do. It would destroy the creative process, and take forever to explain. Rather, I do what those certain special projects "require" in my mind. When I complete them; I try, very hard, to put a fair price on them. They are one of a kind experiences. If you are waiting for one just like it ... but with a "flip-flop" where this one has a "do-dad" ... then it may be a very long wait until you are offered one. You may care to think of my work, less like a catalog item, and more like an estate pc. at auction. You don't go to the auction house and ask for the same antique painting ... but ... with a more dominate "blue-green" background rather than this current offering of the "green-blue".

Certainly, that gives me more freedom to make what I'd enjoy making. But, that's sort of the game here. Girandoni didn't offer a laminated stock. Didn't catalog weaver scope rails, or have an optional trigger shoe kit. Today, we admire what the mind of Girandoni envisioned and what his hands built. It's the guy that learns his skills, accumulates the tools, runs the business, and develops his market, that gets to puts his name on his work. Anybody with what it takes, can try the same.

Here's a wrap-up:

There's a creative fellow here now. He's making unique pcs. He's making himself available to the public and making his work available for public inspection. You have ample opportunity to "get a read" on how he conducts himself and his business. He's developed a program which makes true artwork available for dollars a day.

Occasionally, examples of my work become available on the secondary market. Buy them. They are unique. Don't wait for me to make one with some minor difference. Don't wait for me to hire on a dozen artists (just like me) to create ten times the work ... they don't exist.

You may not have even realized it, however; many folks would like me to guarantee that they'll have a never ending - open ended - opportunity to buy my work. That just puts another layer of stress on me. It's the mind's effort to get out of actually making a decision and having the discipline to follow thru on it.

Some of you may wish to consider the fact that dead craftsmen don't really appreciate your support nearly as much as do the contemporary alternative. ha ha ;?) Celebrating the past often involves rewriting the past. Some find this vastly more interesting than celebrating the work of living artists. It could be that they are actually Historians who have used airguns as their window to the past. I'm one who appreciates your support and wishes for you to enjoy the work I enjoy making ... right now. In this way, I'm in the entertainment business. In this way, hopefully, I provide a break from your daily routine.


Ok. That's discussion number one. I'll add another occasionally.



Discussion 2: If you pay attention, you can't live to middle age without learning a few things about life.

It may sound strange, but I didn't have anyone willing or able to share these things before I had to learn them myself. Since quite a bit of the world is younger than I am ... maybe some of you haven't gotten to these things yet. Once again, if you are purely wishing to read about airguns ... this section won't do it. There will be related material - but only so far as it applies to life lessons. I'm told in quite regular e-mails, that folks enjoy the conversation part of this web site as much as the airguns. For these folks, I sat here on a day I wasn't feeling up to snuff and wrote down some thoughts. Not preaching ... just sharing.

Lesson 1. Many people can look danger square in the face and not (want to) see it.

Now, there are those who will just miss it - yes. But; of the rest, many will not WANT to see it. And, there's something in their mind which allows them to feel that; if they don't let on that they recognize reality ... it won't apply to them.

Lesson 2. Awareness can be a heavy burden, with costs attached.

Once somebody "knows" that "you know" ... it changes everything. Sure - it depends upon what it is that you know. However; many people are afraid that, with your awareness, will come your judgment. And, most people are deadly afraid of having any kind of judgment applied to themselves.

Lesson 3. Popular culture has attempted to do away with any form of judgment. Yet, our minds are set up to judge everything on a relentless basis. We judge the small stuff ... will that chair will hold us? We judge the medium stuff .. are those tires safe? We judge the big stuff ... can I trust this person? Those who try the hardest to eradicate judgment from our culture, most fear judgment themselves. You must wonder why.

Lesson 4. We live in our heads. Our attitude controls who and what we are. Generally the only way to correct a poor situation is to correct the poor attitude that caused or allowed the situation to develop in the first place.

Lesson 5. Accountability. The one thing many fear above all else. Oddly enough; accountability is what makes us trustworthy. It's what keeps us honest. It's at the heart of our sense of duty. It's the test of maturity. It's the strings that tie us to the experiences of our lives. If we adhere to the concept of accountability, we're alot more selective about what we do.

Lesson 6. Learning lessons yourself can put you seriously behind the curve. The young person which starts very early with a wife .. or today ... with a baby first, has tremendously complicated their every waking moment. It's only the energy of youth that allows so many to survive their early complex situations. Such situations often require a burn out schedule to overcome. It's a fact that youth is wasted on the young. They use their youth mostly to overcome simple situations which they've made complex thru errors of timing and/or judgment. Boy - could I use some of the energy of my own youth to apply to the shop today.

Lesson 7: One of the biggest keys to happiness is: "Spend less than you make." It's probably the easiest concept which causes the most people endless grief.

Lesson 8: On the worst day of your life, the ocean will still be washing onto a beach somewhere. My wife introduced me to an area we enjoy. I drove around a corner and saw palms. I drove along the white sand beach. I got out and walked to the water's edge ... and just looked far, far out into the water. I breathed deeply and could hardly believe that this was there ... every day.

Lesson 9: Discipline. The act of balancing what you want to do with what you need to do and what you should be doing. Precedes the need for accountability.

Lesson 10: Often those who shout freedom and tolerance the loudest, are the first to curtail your freedom and are the least tolerant of your opinions. It's mainly their freedom and their opinions that they value and seek expression for.

Lesson 11: Half of the people will equate confidence with arrogance. The same people will most likely equate indecision with tolerance. I'm in the other 50%. I equate confidence with experience. I equate decision with maturity.

Lesson 12: Hiding who you are is not an act of kindness. We've been brainwashed into believing that we must be "tolerant" of everyone and everything. To do so, we're taught (indoctrinated) to mask who we are and why we hold our dearest beliefs. Foolishness. I don't hide myself in order to celebrate something else I don't feel is worth celebrating.

I'm a Christian man. By that, I don't mean that I'm not a Buddhist, or a Hindu, or a Muslim ... so I "must be" a Christian. What I mean is that ... beyond this life, I believe my soul will be redeemed by the grace of God alone. It will be an undeserved gift - purchased by the blood of Christ Jesus. Only my faith in the gift is required.

I live my life by Christian principles. Do the best I can. Treat people fairly. Treat people truthfully. Give full measure and good value. I don't feel any need to be a patsy .. but conduct business in a logical manner. I tell folks what I'm working on ... my goals ... and I sincerely hope that they find some relief from the world's pressures in following along as they wish.

Thanks for reading,