There are plenty of places in Clatsop County to buy guns. Now there’s another place to get them fixed.

Travis Caulder and Flint Helligso, both volunteers with the Lewis and Clark Fire Department, opened Tactical Fire Gunsmithing in Astoria after noticing a lack of similar businesses in the area.

The store is located at 34915 U.S. Highway 101 Business, near Miles Crossing. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

“Gunsmithing in general is dying,” said Helligso. “For every person graduating, there are three retiring.”

Their store repairs and sells new and used guns. It also sells hunting and other apparel, ammunition, reloading materials (casings, power and bullets) and personal defense items such as pepper spray. In a year or so, said Helligso, they’d like to be a compound bow dealer, although that involves more training.

The two say they also want to become a main supplier of the region’s emergency supplies. Caulder said there’s a lack of places to buy emergency supplies in case of – among other natural disasters – a tsunami.

In the near future, they’re planning on carrying “bug-out” bags, which will have all the supplies one needs to survive for 72 hours after a major natural disaster. They’ll also be carrying large quantities of freeze-dried food, which Caulder said has a longer shelf life and retains more nutrients than dehydrated food. For now, though, gun sales and repair are their bread and butter.

“He’s more of the pistol guy and I’m more of the rifle guy,” said Helligso, who’s already earned his gunsmithing certification through Penn Foster Career School, about his and Caulder’s specialties.

Helligso, who’s been with Lewis and Clark for 12 years and previously with Klamath Falls Fire District, said he and Caulder are both still taking classes through the American Gunsmithing Institute. Tactical Fire can perform all basic maintenance to fix broken parts and make a gun more accurate. By August, it will have a lathe and mill for creating muzzle brakes, customized screws and pins, converting a weapon’s caliber and performing other alterations.

“Where gunsmithing comes into play is when you have an antique,” said Caulder, who was previously a member of the Seaside Police Department for seven years. “Your gun keeps better value with the original parts.”

He showed off a .22-caliber Winchester 1890 ranch rifle, which he added was built in 1899 and is probably worth about $4,000. The store so far is getting a diverse blend of people getting their pistols, handguns and rifles serviced.

The store keeps a private range to test guns that it repairs, being ever-vigilant of any small problem that could cause an accident.

“We’ll never be able to eliminate all the liability, but we try to eliminate as much as we can,” said Caulder.

Whenever a gun comes in, they always check it through Oregon State Police’s Firearms Instant Check System. Before a gun goes out, they perform background checks on the buyers. If the buyer is clean, they can buy the weapon the same day; if they come back with a postponed designation, Tactical Fire waits until a deadline the OSP sets for getting the missing information back to them.

Tactical Fire will also provide fingerprinting services at the store or on-site, a service Helligso said will help people avoid the wait when getting fingerprints through the police.

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