Skip to comments.Shallotte gun company barreling along
Posted on 12/31/2003 7:08:49 AM PST by Dubya
When weapon is fired, Kart barrels ensure that its shot goes straight
Shallotte - The nondescript shop a stone's throw from the Intracoastal Waterway doesn't look like a place that's helping the U.S. military's marksmanship units hone their shooting accuracy.
Tucked in the woods just south of Shallotte, Kart Precision Barrel Corp. is a small operation with a small workforce involved in an even smaller business field.
"It's about as niche as you can get," said President Fred Kart as the company's three other employees manned the metal-working machines scattered around the small workshop.
Using short, thin tubes of forged ordnance steel from Texas, the company produces after-market precision pistol barrels for use by military forces and civilian gun enthusiasts around the world.
Mr. Kart said there are probably a half-dozen manufacturers in the country doing what his company does. But he joked that he must be doing something right if he hasn't had to advertise his barrels since 1978.
The purpose of a precision barrel is to improve accuracy.
Mr. Kart said that because most guns are mass-produced, their barrels don't always fit snug and a barrel that moves around even slightly can impact a firearm's accuracy.
"The gun manufacturers simply don't have enough time to make sure they all fit like they should," he said as he cradled a freshly minted .38-caliber barrel.
That's where Kart's barrels come in.
Intentionally made oversized, the company's barrels are meant to be custom fitted to a gun's individual specifications.
"If the barrel doesn't do it, the rest of a gun really doesn't matter," Mr. Kart said with a shrug.
From small clumps of steel, the future barrels are machined and refined down, losing almost all of their mass along the way.
"It weighs about 2 pounds when we get it," Mr. Kart said, holding one of the raw steel cylinders. "It's one-fifth of a pound when we finish."
But what makes a Kart barrel unique from its competitors is what goes on during the rifling process. That's where the barrel is grooved, which determines how a bullet twists and how straight it will travel.
It's also a process that's about as secret as the formula for Coca-Cola.
"That's what I call a proprietary system," Mr. Kart said with a smile.
Michael Voigt, president of the United States Practical Shooting Association, said Kart is well known among gunsmiths and top pistol competitors.
"It's considered one of the best," he said from Southern California on Tuesday. "They've made their name in the top competitions."
The company got its start in the early 1970s after Mr. Kart, a target shooter, couldn't find accurate enough barrels.
"As time went along, I wasn't happy
with the stuff available, so I started doing my own gun work," he said.
But in the early 1980s, the company hit a rough patch as the economy slowed.
"It was very hard for us to get bids because all the (gun manufacturers) wanted to do was keep the doors open, while we wanted to make a living," Mr. Kart said.
So the company downsized and Mr. Kart sold his manufacturing shop on New York's Long Island, moving into a smaller facility and focusing on gunsmith work.
The company was called back to duty later that decade by the Pentagon, which needed test barrels for a new version of the M-16 assault rifle.
"They said they needed my barrels because they couldn't find any others with the same quality," Mr. Kart said.
When he restarted the company, Mr. Kart decided to relocate to Brunswick County.
The location, roughly halfway between New York and Florida, made it a good spot.
Mr. Kart said he and his wife were also familiar with the area, having often vacationed in Brunswick County.
Today the privately held company makes about 8,000 pistol barrels a year in three lengths, six styles and seven calibers, ranging from 9 mm to .45 caliber.
Customers include all four branches of the U.S. military and a slew of gun dealers and civilian target gun enthusiasts, with some purchasers from as far afield as South Africa, Switzerland and Asia.
"Obviously there is a great sense of pride producing something that has your name on there," Mr. Kart said.
Being one of the best in the field doesn't hurt either, he added with a laugh.
Gareth McGrath: 343-2384
Alan Rogers, with Kart Precision Barrel Corp., measures a gun barrel in the company's Shallotte fabrication shop.
STAFF PHOTO - KEN BLEVINS
And yes, I consider that highly NC-ping-worthy. ;)
When will China be their next new location?
It's spelled "Charlotte" and it's a major city.
They have everything. They have a SUPER WALMART. And don't forget the usual assortment of restaurants of fine fastfood. < grin >
Kart makes barrels that most shooters can live up to IMO. In fact my best 1911A1 is pretty much a smooth bore. But at 50 meters it still hits a stop plate just fine......:o)
And it feeds the same 1911A1 just as fine for self defense and CHL/CCW duty day to day......
Stay Safe !
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