Top-caliber craftsmanship

By Katy Nesbitt, The Observer May 22, 2013 08:13 am

Tina Latham and Curtis White of Joseph sell collectible and custom guns from their online business www.manshack.com  (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)
Tina Latham and Curtis White of Joseph sell collectible and custom guns from their online business www.manshack.com (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)

JOSEPH — Curtis White and Tina Latham run a business out of their Joseph home they say isn’t dissimilar to running an Avon or Amway franchise. 

However, Latham and White don’t deal in beauty products or cleaning supplies, but rather custom rifles, shotguns and pistols from their website, www.manshackgunshop.com.

White, a retired police officer, said Manshack’s customers aren’t the run-of-the-mill gun buyers, and what he and Latham offer isn’t in direct competition with the local stores selling rifles and ammunition. 

“Our customers want a little extra something – something more custom,” said White.

One service they offer is called “cerakoting,” a baked on enamel treatment that looks like pop art or something out of a Jackson Pollock collection.

Manshack will custom cerakote a gun or rifle for purchase or do the enameling process for a customer’s own gun.

Latham said cerakoting is popular among custom gun collectors and was developed by NASA.

White shows off a six-position telescoping stock on a rifle and explains that though the highly publicized AR-15 rifle is used by law enforcement and the military, some hunters use the model for hunting deer and coyotes.

“The perception is that AR-15s are scary, but they are great for target shooting and an absolutely fantastic home defense gun,” said White.

They are also selling off the shelf in recent months, Latham said, because people are afraid that certain styles of firearms will become harder to purchase if federal and state laws are changed.

Needless to say, the gun business is heavily regulated. Occasionally Manshack will get a request for bid from a law enforcement agency, said White. If an agency wants a gun demonstrated, he needs a letter from a chief of police or a sheriff.

Certain automatic weapons made after 1986 are illegal to sell altogether to a private citizen, said White. Most of their business is direct to the customer, but even then some firearms need to be shipped to someone with a federal firearms license. 

Latham said she sometimes feels like a personal shopper and will spend more than an hour on the phone.

“The customers are nice and phone calls are money now,” said Latham.

White said sometimes people simply need help finding something on the Internet.

Latham said, “It’s a safe place to call and ask questions without being treated like you are stupid.”

White started out in the gun business through gunsmithing; fixing guns and acquiring custom parts for customers. He said as much as he knows about guns, he refers to Youtube videos at times to figure out how to assemble a gun on which he’s working.

“You can find anything on Youtube,” said White.

Man Shack went online a year ago and White and Latham continue to tweak their offerings and build their customer base.

“It’s a very enjoyable business. We are growing little by little and selling things pretty fast; in and out but like any business you have to focus on it,” said Latham.

Man Shack carries a large selection of firearms, including hard to find pistols, revolvers, rifles, shotguns, and firearm accessories from most of the major manufacturers. 

The online gun shop specializes in customizing Ruger 10/22s rifles and other long guns including custom receivers, triggers, barrels, stocks and other accessories.

White said they go through a ton of scopes, for instance. Generally they fill orders that are easy to access, but he said they get a few oddball requests from time to time.

Not having the expense of inventory stored at their home office cuts down on costs. White said Manshack shares a warehouse in Arizona where they access most of what they sell.

Latham said she manages the website and is involved with online auctions on gun brokers’ websites. She said the couple also go to gun ranges and do a lot of visiting.

White said they see a wide variety of guns at the ranges from what he called trophy queens to well-used hunting rifles.

“We turned a hobby into a dream,” said Latham.