Turnbull Restoration Co. has restored multiple classic firearms for actor Tom Selleck
EAST BLOOMFIELD — What do Thomas Magnum, Commissioner Frank Reagan and local business owner Doug Turnbull have in common?
They all have a deep passion and respect for classic firearms.
And while the first two are TV characters played by actor Tom Selleck, Turnbull is the real-life local character and master craftsman responsible for creating some of the nation’s most collectable specimens.
So it was no small honor when Selleck, star of TV’s “Magnum, P.I.” and “Blue Bloods,” commissioned Turnbull’s East Bloomfield restoration company to create a special Winchester 1886 in .50-110 to commemorate the 163rd episode mark of Selleck’s long-running TV series “Blue Bloods,” now in its eighth season.
The antique lever gun — originally built in 1889 — was fully restored, outfitted with numerous customizations, and converted to a 22-inch take-down. It has emblazoned on the rifle’s butt stock and engraved in a gold insert the number “163.”
That’s the kind of thing Turnbull Restoration Co., Inc. has become known for over the last 40 years.
“What brings Tom to us? I guess it’s our attention to detail,” said Turnbull. “And that’s what Tom is. When he does his western shows, he wants to make sure that the leather chaps, the belt, the holster, the knife is proper for that 20-year period. His attention to detail is how we got brought in.”
Selleck does work with other companies who create “movie set guns,” Turnbull said. But he’s been making small rifles and handguns for Selleck for more than two decades, including a special magnum to commemorate 162 episodes of “Magnum, P.I.”
Recently Turnbull traveled to New York City to hand-deliver his most recent Selleck-commissioned project.
“We delivered it to the set of ‘Blue Bloods,’” said Turnbull. “It really was exciting to watch on the monitor and listen to the taping.”
The particular scene was around the iconic Reagan dinner table, he said.
“It takes about four-and-a-half hours to do a two minute scene, because they do it over and over and over,” said Turnbull. “We got to walk around the set and I sat in Commissioner Reagan’s chair behind his desk.”
Turnbull said Selleck’s persona is no different on or off the set.
“With Tom, what you see on TV is what he is,” said Turnbull. “He’s not two different people. In between each take he’d bring another one of his co-actors out and introduce him to us. It was special to be there.”
And apparently Selleck is an avid and experienced hunter and shooter, He’s got his sights set on taking down a bison with his new commemorative Winchester, Turnbull said.
But Selleck has a long way to go to catch up to East Bloomfield’s own master hunter.
Part marksman, craftsman and innovator, Turnbull is also a pilot, which gives wings to his wanderlust nature.
He’s traveled and hunted in all 50 states, Africa and Russia.
And on display in his showroom are examples of his conquests, including northern elk, American bison, Alaskan moose, Newfoundland moose, black bear, cape buffalo from Tanzania, warthog, black wildebeest, blue wildebeest, kudu (grey ghost), spring buck, zebra, red hartebeest and dall sheep.
“I’ve done a lot of shooting over the years, and the good part is you get good at it. You learn trigger pull, breathing, patience. The bad part is in the early days I didn’t wear a lot of hearing protection, so my ears ring like a wore-out ballast buzzes in somebody’s house.”
Turnbull has worked out of his sprawling Routes 5 and 20 location since 1998. Before that, he worked out of Creekside Gun Shop, which was launched by his parents in 1958.
“We moved in on tax day of 1998 and had 4000 square feet,” said Turnbull. “We figured it was all we needed.”
But as it turned out, Turnbull was wrong.
In 2001 the business added another 3,000 square feet, and in 2009 another 6,500. In the last 30 years, Turnbull and team have worked on more than 100,000 pieces, some with an after-value of half a million to a million dollars.
But what he’s most proud of is the the fact that he’s “broken the old stereotype.”
When he got started, some 40 years ago, it was not an acceptable practice to restore old firearms.
“We fought that for years, all through the 1980s,” said Turnbull. “We went public with who were were and what we did, and because our quality of work kept improving and our attention to detail, now a Turnbull-restored firearm is a prized piece. It’s a Turnbull. We’ve created a collectability, or name within the restoration field or auction house.”
The cost of restoration is not for the faint of heart. A standard rifle, without part replacement, could set a collector back between $3,500 and $8,000.
“But it’s worth it,” said Turnbull.
Floor manager Sam Chappell has been at the East Bloomfield restoration company for 15 years.
“I like it here — I like working with guns,” he said. “Other than my kids, guns are my life.”
Chappell is one of the many highly trained specialists who have learned the trade and will be equipped to carry on when Turnbull’s ready to hand off the business in favor of the fulltime hunt.
“The guys make me look good,” said Turnbull. “It’s all of us — the shipping and receiving, the guy who does the quote, the guy on the bench who does the work — they make me look good.”