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Helicopter mechanic becomes gunsmith

Puyallup gunsmith excels at custom firearm enhancements

Millard Hixson, local gunsmith, working on a barrel. Photo credit: Adrienne Z. Milligan

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Nestled in the upstairs of the Marksman Indoor Range, is Summit Arms Services, a gunsmith shop owned by former Marine sergeant Millard Hixson. While in the Corp, Hixson was a helicopter mechanic and an Admin Chief for a Force Recon Unit.

"I purchased Summit Arms in 2013 to have a storefront location for my gunsmithing business and to take advantage of the store's 20-year reputation," Hixson explained. "The former owner was retiring and sold me the business."

Hixson learned the gunsmithing trade 35 years ago while being an apprentice at a shop in Reno, Nevada.

As a gunsmith, Hixson is in an ever-shrinking niche of trained professionals who know how to do the work to fix, repair, create, or enhance a firearm.

Some people look at a large block of wood and they see just that: wood. Other people, like Hixson, see a gun stock that has been cut, chiseled, and sanded into a work of art. Creating this masterpiece requires many hours of patience and work by hand. Hixson enjoys being able to take the piece of wood and create something else.

When he's not carving a stock or chatting with his customers downstairs, he is cleaning, repairing, or upgrading a firearm for a customer. He restores firearms for display-only purposes or safe to use (if possible). He also offers appraisals for insurance and selling purposes.

As a former Marine and plant manager, Hixson has traveled the world and back again. For him, working with his hands and solving customers' problems are what keep him excited about his business.

He enjoys helping his customers (many of which are active or former military) with all aspects of keeping their firearms safe. Whether it's cleaning, replacing a trigger, or adding a scope, Hixson does his best to make sure the firearm is safe for the range, the field, or that next hunting trip.

While a Boy Scout leader (and a dad of two Boy Scouts), Hixson spent time at Scout Camp with his sons' troop. He is most often found down at the rifle range as the NRA Instructor for the week. Hixson spends time instructing his boys on safe firearm use at the range as well as on their annual hunting trips.

Being on the range is not new for Hixson or his wife. After all, going to the range was their first date. It is still one of their favorite "date night" activities.

Being a gunsmith is so much more than just cleaning guns. It is about the skill set -- and mindset -- to forge ahead and help gun owners keep their firearms in safe working order.

So, amid the political debates on firearms, Hixson keeps doing his job to make sure all legal owners (military, law enforcement, and private citizens) who trust him to care for their firearms, like he cares for his own, are safe with reliable equipment on and off the range.

Summit Arms Services, 11003 Canyon Rd. E., Puyallup, 253.444.5881,

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