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August 30, 2013

Derry gunsmith hits the mark

Local gunsmith is a favorite of state champions


As McMahon got faster, his rivals took an admiring interest in his gunsmithing.

A Rhode Island champion, Tom Calandra, recognized something special.

“He said, ‘Would you build me a gun? It’s the best action work I’ve ever felt,’” McMahon said.

Others followed Calandra to McMahon’s workshop, many others.

“I think Jim’s reputation speaks for itself at this point,” Calandra said. “He is one of the most prominent gunsmiths in the world, as far as cowboy guns.”

McMahon modifies Ruger single-action Vaqueros, a copy of the 1873 Colt Peacemaker, for competition, with his own lightweight parts.

“We’re not manufacturing guns here, we’re improving their performance,” he said. ““I design and build all my own parts.”

Clients pay him $1,100 for one revolver. They buy two at a time and orders take two months to fill, he said.

“We’re efficiency gurus,” he said. “We make them last longer and shoot faster.”

Speed matters to the shooters, because competitions are timed.

So he promises them one thing: “Five shots in under a second.”

But quality and craftmanship matter to McMahon.

“Every gun that leaves here has to be 100 percent right,” he said.

McMahon doesn’t advertise. He doesn’t have to, because word of mouth in the cowboy-shooting arena is a good word about Cowboy Gunworks. Dealings with clients are by appointment only.

He’s at work 12 hours a day in the shop. He has occasional apprentices — niece Rachael and nephew Zach like to come from Florida to work with their uncle.

But there’s a trusty sidekick, too, 16-year-old Cade Ciripompa, a junior at Hudson’s Alvirne High who met McMahon through his dad and the shooting competitions.

“He does all the shipping, receiving and billing,” McMahon said. “I build the guns and Cade does all the rest.”

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