Then & Now: Sticking to their guns with passion, craftsmanship

A strong reputation for quality work has kept Weber & Markin gunsmiths thriving in Kelowna for more than 27 years.

Steve Markin of Weber & Markin Gunsmiths.

Throughout their more than 27 years in business, local gunsmiths Weber & Markin have thrived thanks to a strong reputation for quality work, a loyal following of hunters and sport shooters, and an increasingly diverse product line.

For Chris Weber, the best part of owning a firearms business is creating custom work for enthusiastic customers.

He was trained as a gun maker, during a time when custom crafting firearms from scratch was common.

And as someone who has crafted museum-quality stock and restoration pieces for people all over the country, he’s clearly passionate about his work.

“We always have a few guns we’ve made on display in the shop,” he says.

“We have a block of wood sitting right next to them. People ask, ‘how do you make it?’ And that’s when I say, ‘It’s the Michelangelo approach.’

“You take a piece of wood and remove everything that doesn’t look like a gun stock.”

Weber notes that one of the most fascinating parts of working as a gunsmith is restoring antiques.

Many restored antique firearms still work as well as they ever did, he says, and it’s because they’re designed with unique precision.

“It’s not uncommon to find hunters using firearms that are 100 years old or more,” he says.

“There aren’t any parts that really wear out if they’re looked after properly.

“The average shooter doesn’t fire enough rounds to damage a gun.”

Weber likens antique firearms to antique cars, noting that firearms actually have better longevity.

“If you bought a mid-1970s 350 small block engine and put 20,000 kilometers on it every year and you did your oil changes as prescribed, that engine would probably still be working 40 years later,” he says.

“(It’s the same thing with) firearms. But what’s most remarkable in the firearms industry is the Mauser 98.

“Among custom gun builders, it’s an accepted truth that the pinnacle of development in bolt-action repeating firearms was reached in 1898, when Mauser released the Mauser 98. It’s 117 years old, and nobody has come up with anything better.”

Now in its 28th year in business, Weber & Markin have thrived in spite of a changing market.

“About 30 years ago, every one of my customers was a hunter,” Weber says.

“But now, we get a lot of sport shooters. We’ve had to change the kinds of firearms we had for sale, as sport shooting firearms are different from hunting firearms.”

Weber also notes that the introduction of tighter firearms legislation in the 1990s prompted many firearms owners to quit the hobby, which Weber says had a near-fatal effect on the gun industry in general.

“We survived because we had a very loyal following of historical firearms collectors,” he says, noting that offering gunsmithing services also buoyed the shop.

“They continued to have those firearms restored. We’re not really as reliant on retail sales as other gun shops.”

For Weber, it’s clear that gunsmithing isn’t just a trade—it’s an art and a passion.

“No two firearms are ever exactly the same,” he says.

“I love the bench time. When I actually create something—whether it’s a restoration or a new build—that’s satisfying.”

 

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