Gun-cleaning service shops have become a new industry. Back in the not-so-olden days a gun seller, gunsmith or a gun fancier/friend could do the job for you, whether it be a handgun or a long gun.
Today we see the emergence of storefront operations that include a law enforcement-friendly operation known as the Gun Cleaners.
The franchise operates two different locations, one in Spring and the other in Spring Branch. Each of the two gun cleaners offer a 50 percent discount to all law enforcement officers and they want to particularly make this practice known to HPD officers.
Both Rob Gates and Jamison Smith appeared at a recent HPOU general membership meeting in their effort to make officers feel at home inside their storefronts.
They both allow officers to relax with coffee or bottled water “in the backroom” while their guns are being cleaned by the use of ultrasonic firearm cleaning methods and the suppression cleaning method. Both also offer firearms transfer and firearms sales in what amounts to a one-call-does-all operation.
Mainly they try to follow through with their business moto: A clean gun is an accurate gun.
Gates operates the Spring office located 4334 Farm Road 2920, Suite 30. He said the only difference in his operation and that of his partner Smith has to be the initial price of a cleaning.
“I’m one of the lowest prices in the whole chain. The standard is $40 for a handgun and $50 for long guns. Jamison’s prices are a little bit more. I’m going to need to go up. Unfortunately, in Spring there is a high concentration of oil and gas people who are out of work.
“I hesitate to raise my prices under those circumstances.”
Of course if you’re doing the calculating, HPD officers would be paying half that amount, whether it’s a handgun or a machine gun. Gates has a background in both law enforcement and the oil business, experiences that causes him to do all he can to keep costs low.
In Spring Branch, Smith, a hotel and restaurant management degree holder from the University of Houston, operates at 1022 Wirth Road, Suite 316.
The Gun Cleaners is a nationally franchised business. There are other locations in Waco, Dallas and, just recently opened – in Deer Park.
Smith is a native Houstonian who grew up in Spring Branch and played football and graduated St. Thomas High School before his UH days.
He spent 10 or 12 years in restaurant management business with the Pappas chain before settling into what he felt was his true calling.
“I grew up in a home with military veterans and hunters,” Smith explained. “At age three or four I had a gun in my hand. By age 21 I had been pretty much buying, flipping and fixing my friends’ guns.”
Over his years with Pappas he took the time to earn certifications, many times from the NRA, in various firearms operations. Both he and Gates have their Federal Firearms Licenses.
Smith charges $60 to clean a handgun and $70 for a long gun. Always remember to multiply that number by 50 percent.
Both Gates and Smith say they have been getting a growing number of HPD customers. They vow to provide VIP service, too. Not only has the cost been reduced but officers get placed at the front of the line every time.
They have backrooms where – if need be – officers on duty may wait safely out of sight. The cleaning process requires only 15 or 20 minutes.
“Others have to wait in line for their turn,” Gates said. “I had a Harris County deputy and two constables standing here while I was doing their guns all at once. They were in the back room out of sight of the public. There is no way they will appear in public unarmed.”
Gates grew up in Colorado and Wyoming and served in law enforcement in Idaho and Wyoming for 14 years before getting into the oil business. That calling brought him to Louisiana and eventually to the Houston area. He got in the gun business when his company was sold. He and Smith have been open for just more than a year.
In Spring Branch, Houston native Smith took pleasure in describing his back room with “a big old leather couch, cable TV, water bottles and two restrooms. “I understand what it’s like to work out of a patrol car,” he said. “You don’t have a bathroom.”
Smith’s father, James R. Smith, is a lawyer and municipal judge in Spring Valley.
Smith and Gates said they have a growing number of HPD customers and have reason to believe that number will grow. They emphasize quality or, as Smith said, “We use ultra sonic cleaning. It’s not just a swab the barrel and put it back together.”