Photos and story by Roger Lanse

Al Storey and his rattlesnake sniffing dog BBAl Story, a machinist from San Diego, arrived in Grant County in 1991 at 51 years-of-age with the idea of retiring. Instead, he founded a gunsmithing business and the Borchardt Rifle Company.

"I started hunting at a young age and I got interested in guns," Al told me. "I started on this path in high school. The girl I used to sit next to, Ruthie Navarro, well, her dad was a gunsmith in town, and I'd walk her home and they lived right in the shop. I'd ask her dad questions and he would answer my questions and help me out whenever he could. That's how I kind of got started, you know."

When people in Grant County discovered Al's gunsmithing talent, residents began bringing their dysfunctional weapons to him for repair. After about eight years of gunsmithing at his present location, Story began turning more to making barrels and gun parts for customers, and the reproduction Borchardt rifles. "I put out a sign advertising Borchardt rifles and that's how the business started," Al explained.

The Sharps-Borchardt Model 1878 rifle was designed by Hugo Borchardt in Germany and manufactured from 1877 to 1881 by the Sharps Rifle Manufacturing Company in Connecticut. The single-shot rifle was made in large heavy calibers well suited for buffalo hunting. However, by the late 1800s, buffalo were becoming scarce as hens' teeth, shrinking the demand for the late-arriving Borchardt, and the company folded.

Even if it wasn't a commercial success, the Borchardt was still sought after because of its long-range accuracy and the strength of its falling block action. That's the way Al looked at it. A Story-built Borchardt will set you back anywhere from $3,900 to $4,800, and Al never seems to be able to catch up on his orders as people keep sending him deposits.

"Everyone likes 'em," he said. "Right now, I'm a couple of years behind on Borchardt orders. Several people have tried to make them, and some were pretty good, but they dropped out – it's just a hard one to make. I make all the parts here. We make every part right here in the shop."

Did the company ever make a carbine? "Yes, they made carbines, too, and I've got one of them to do. It'll be the first one I've done."

Enlarging the original shop at his residence to 30' x 70', he brought in more machinist tools. He now specializes in not only the fabrication of the Borchardt, but also gun barrels in various calibers, barrel bands for the Ruger 10/22 carbine, and cylinders and ejector rod housings for Ruger single-action revolvers. Al said he has made and sold more than 11,000 of those ejector rod housings.

At 80 years-of-age, and after 60 years as a machinist and gunsmith, Al is still actively involved in the business although he now has help. Clay Collyge of Silver City fabricates Al's barrels using a perfectly functioning 100-year-old boring machine from Colt Firearms. Tom Chavira, a 20-year employee from Silver City, and Mark Ostler, an experienced machinist from Glenwood and fellow church member with Al, churn out the 6-hole and 8-hole drop-in rimfire and centerfire cylinders for Ruger single-action revolvers. Other friends drop in when they're needed and often when they're not, just to visit, including Bill Marcy on this day. Al described Marcy as the only one who can operate the computer-controlled machine which sculpts barrel bands for the Ruger 10/22 out of a single steel billet.

"We sell a lot of finished barrels -- we contour them and everything, but we also sell a lot of barrel blanks. Blanks are barrels bored and rifled, but not tapered. We sell quite a few blanks to the gunsmithing schools and I give the students a little bit of a discount. Now, I'm going to Oklahoma, soon as I get my eyes fixed (cataract surgery), and there's a gunsmith there named Rodney Story, no relation at all – he bought six of my barrels and I'll be dropping them off."

Story explained after a barrel is bored, and the bore polished to a mirror finish, a carbide button is pulled through the bore which swages it, cutting in the rifling. This is called button-rifling. After the rifling process is completed, Al said, the blanks are ready to be sold or to have the exterior turned or tapered or contoured, including cutting dovetails for sights and drilling and tapping holes for scope bases.

"I know some of the new guns they're coming out with – they're just bad. But you know some of that new stuff – they shoot good!" (laughs). This writer remembers Clay Collyge kidding Al a few years ago about Al not liking those 'Rambo' guns.

Al's wife, Gail, passed away in August of 2016 at the age of 79. They were married in 1971. "All the people I know are passing away," Al said. "I go to the door to visit a friend and am told, 'Oh, didn't you know, he passed away three months ago.'"

"Well, what keeps you going here in the shop. I mean, you're 80-years-old," I asked. "I don't know," Al replied, "This is all I've ever known. My wife told me I was a workaholic—my daughter is a workaholic. I don't know. I don't like sittin' around doing nothin'. I should be doing the yard work, but I don't do that. I used to hunt quite a bit, but I gave that up. I can't do the walking that I used to do. And, then I lost my brother a year ago last month. We hunted together every year since we were kids. The only time we missed was when he went into the Navy."

Then Al mentioned the dog on his lap named BB. "And this little guy – he's a rattlesnake hunter. He got a big rattlesnake the other day. Yeah, right up against the house. I'd seen that thing out here the day before. He went under a pallet and my vision is so bad I couldn't tell if it was a rattlesnake or a bull snake. But I wasn't about to stick my arm under there to find out. The next day I was in the back yard, and I heard BB barking like crazy right there in the front of the house. And there he was – a four-footer – he had 12 rattles. So, that's the first one this year and I hope it's the last. I've killed 'em in the shop, coming into the shop, at the kitchen door – I've killed a few over the years. BB's a little hunter. He's looking everywhere. He saw one under the car a few years ago. Now, when he goes out in the morning the first thing he does is go look under the car."

Asked about the rifle he built years ago in .50 BMG caliber, Al said, "I sold it and the guy called me the other day complaining that he had handloaded cases stuck in the weapon. I asked him, 'What are you shooting?' And, he told me, and I says, 'No, that isn't what I told you to shoot.' Evidently, from what he told me he had really overloaded it.

"I've still got the white post out there 700 yards away I used to shoot that .50 cal at. It was a tackdriver – a taa'ackdriver. It weighed 32 pounds empty." Al said he used to take it elk hunting, in case an opportunity to use it came along, "but it wasn't something you wanted to carry in the field.

"The recoil was tremendous," Al said. "It split my sternum open, and I had to have it wired back together. I was out here shooting that thing, and I wasn't ready for it – you've got to really be ready for it when it goes off. I wasn't ready, boy, and that thing nailed me. I felt a little uncomfortable, and I came in here working that night, and I had one of my Borchardts in the vise and I was holding it with my left hand and I would push down on it with my right hand, and I could feel something move. I could feel my chest moving up on one side and down on the other. 'Oh, no, I'm in trouble.' So, to Las Cruces I went, and they wired me up. That was 10 years ago.

"I won't shoot anything big at all anymore, although I can still handle a .30-06 for few rounds."

In mid-October 2020, in the middle of this interview, Al was hit with the COVID-19 virus and spent some time in October on a ventilator in Santa Fe. He was transferred for physical therapy to Albuquerque, where he spent a month learning to breathe again. Unfortunately, Al didn't get to drop off those six barrels in Oklahoma, they had to be shipped.

Al has since recovered and is again working in the shop with his employees. One of his first jobs back was taking a customer's Winchester Model 70 rifle in .458 Magnum caliber, discarding the barrel, and creating two new interchangeable barrels, one for the .300 H&H Magnum cartridge and another for the .400 Weatherby. He said, "Those barrels really look nice. You ought to come see 'em, except the customer is coming for it tomorrow."

As of February 2021, Al continues to build Borchardt rifles on order, sculpt barrel bands for Ruger's line of 10/22 rifles, and fabricate cylinders and ejector-rod housings for Ruger's single-action revolvers – and answer BB's barking.

Click to search the Beat Click to search the Beat
{{#data.error}}
{{#data.error.root_cause}}

[{{{type}}}] {{{reason}}}

{{/data.error.root_cause}}
{{/data.error}} {{^data.error}} {{#texts.summary}}

{{texts.summary}} {{#options.result.rssIcon}} RSS {{/options.result.rssIcon}}

{{/texts.summary}} {{#data.hits.hits}}
{{#_source.featured}} FEATURED {{/_source.featured}} {{#_source.showImage}} {{#_source.image}} {{/_source.image}} {{/_source.showImage}}

{{{_source.title}}} {{#_source.showPrice}} {{{_source.displayPrice}}} {{/_source.showPrice}}

{{#_source.showLink}}

{{{_source.displayUrl}}}

{{/_source.showLink}} {{#_source.showDate}}

{{{_source.displayDate}}}

{{/_source.showDate}}

{{{_source.description}}}

{{#_source.additionalInfo}}

{{#_source.additionalFields}} {{#title}} {{{label}}}{{{title}}} {{/title}} {{/_source.additionalFields}}

{{/_source.additionalInfo}}
{{/data.hits.hits}}
{{/data.error}}

Get Updates Three Times a Week

Welcome to the Update! You will receive emails 3 times a week with links to recently posted articles.

captcha 

You can unsubscribe anytime. We never share or rent your email to anyone.

Submitting to the Beat

Those new to providing news releases to the Beat are asked to please check out submission guidelines at https://www.grantcountybeat.com/about/submissions. They are for your information to make life easier on the readers, as well as for the editor.

Advertising: Don't forget to tell advertisers that you saw their ads on the Beat.

Classifieds: We have changed Classifieds to a cheaper and shorter option. Check periodically to see if any new ones have popped up. The former software failed us, so it's just a category now, with prices posted. Send your information to editor@grantcountybeat.com and we will post it as soon as we can. Instructions and prices are on the page.

Editor's Notes

Here for YOU: Consider the Beat your DAILY newspaper for up-to-date information about Grant County. It's at your fingertips! One Click to Local News. Thanks for your support for and your readership of Grant County's online news source—www.grantcountybeat.com

Feel free to notify editor@grantcountybeat.com if you notice any technical problems on the site. Your convenience is my desire for the Beat.  The Beat totally appreciates its readers and subscribers!  

Compliance: Because you are an esteemed member of The Grant County Beat readership, be assured that we at the Beat continue to do everything we can to be in full compliance with GDPR and pertinent US law, so that the information you have chosen to give to us cannot be compromised. 

Content on the Beat

WARNING: All articles and photos with a byline or photo credit are copyrighted to the author or photographer. You may not use any information found within the articles without asking permission AND giving attribution to the source. Photos can be requested and may incur a nominal fee for use personally or commercially.

Disclaimer: If you find errors in articles not written by the Beat team but sent to us from other content providers, please contact the writer, not the Beat. For example, obituaries are always provided by the funeral home or a family member. We can fix errors, but please give details on where the error is so we can find it. News releases from government and non-profit entities are posted generally without change, except for legal notices, which incur a small charge.

NOTE: If an article does not have a byline, it was written by someone not affiliated with the Beat and then sent to the Beat for posting.

Images: We have received complaints about large images blocking parts of other articles. If you encounter this problem, click on the title of the article you want to read and it will take you to that article's page, which shows only that article without any intruders. 

New Columnists: The Beat continues to bring you new columnists. And check out the old faithfuls who continue to provide content.

  • The Beat has a column for you gardeners out there. The Grant County Extension Service will bring you monthly columns on gardening issues.

Newsletter: If you opt in to the Join GCB Three Times Weekly Updates option at the top of this page, you will be subscribed to email notifications with links to recently posted articles.

Go to Top