Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, November 30, 1998

More than just a hobby: it's a business

By LUIS E. PUGA

What is the best way to turn a hobby into a business?

Just figure out how much the hobby is costing you, and that might motivate you, like it has Frank Habisch.

After all, that's why he opened Frank's Gun Repair a mile outside of Winsted.

"I always did a lot hunting, and I'd find old guns and fix them for myself because I couldn't afford the new ones," says Habisch.

This prompted him to refine his abilities at Pine Technical College, exactly 100 miles from his driveway, according to Habisch.

While Habisch initially started the classes for enjoyment, he eventually decided to pay his bills and go full-time for two years.

What he ended up with was a license in gunsmithing and a storefront built into his garage.

The fascination of a hobby hasn't left Habisch, even though guns have become his business.

He pulls out examples of his work, including his pride and joy: a custom built 22-243 middlestead. He calls it a varmint gun, and one wonders if the varmints have much of a chance.

He points out the care which he put into it: how he shaped part of the barrel into an octagon and the uniqueness of the muzzle break.

He admits it's a little too heavy to go hunting with, but also observes that factory guns fit as well as this one.

"I think it's pretty artful when you start making custom stocks out of wood because so many of them are going composite, plastic or fiberglass stocks," he said.

While he feels such materials don't provide much craft, he doesn't do much engraving or inlaying.

"To take somebody's expensive gun and go at it . . . I'm not confident to do it."

He still provides a number of other services though. He pointed out that many people are surprised that he sells ammo and other gun accessories.

While he works mostly on rifles and shotguns, the occasional pistol will cross his workbench.

Also, he can order any new gun a customer might want. He even can "sporterize" a gun, such as military guns, for recreational use.

Mostly, he provides basic cleaning and repair.

Of course, when you turn a hobby into work, it takes time to make the full transition. Habisch works guns only from the afternoon until seven in the evening.

During the day, he can be found at Dura Supreme in Howard Lake. It's still plenty of time to work on what interests him most.

Take, for instance, his "winter project," a most unusual shotgun which he's never seen before. One barrel is a 12-gauge and the other is 44-40, which takes revolver ammo.

Habisch believes it's probably a gun that would be popular at cowboy shooting competitions, but has been unable to track down any reference to it. He plans on restoring it.

With guns, the obvious question is safety.

Habisch thinks the danger of guns has been overhyped by the media and observes: "The only thing dangerous about these is the person behind them," pointing to the rifles along the wall. "I've had them sitting here for a long time and not one has jumped off the shelf and attacked anybody."

Still, he believes people should learn how to handle them.

"If you don't know how to use one and you're not used to using one, you're better off staying away from it 'til you get some training," he said.

Once you do, he's more than willing to custom fit a gun for you.


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