Actor Tom Selleck, famous for his starring roles in the TV shows “Magnum P.I.” and “Blue Bloods,” is a collector’s collector. His fascination with the myriad details of all the historic firearms in his care is remarkable. This heightened curiosity was on display when Doug Turnbull hand-delivered the antique Winchester 1886 that he and our team of craftsmen restored and upgraded for Tom. After the unveiling, Tom and Doug talked at length about the icon they picked for this special project and all its unique detail. The rifle, with commemorative badges on its butt stock and custom case, celebrates the 163rd episode of “Blue Bloods,” which surpasses the number of episodes created for the “Magnum P.I.” series. (You can read the commemoration’s full story by visiting American Rifleman)
A Team of Restoration Experts
“It’s Tom’s attention to detail that attracts him to our work,” shares Doug. “He’s dedicated to the stories and intricacies of these pieces of American history.” Tom and Doug share in common their eye for detail, one of the many reasons for the success of their collaborations over the years.
As Doug worked closely with Tom to flesh out the vision and details for this special restoration, Doug’s team of restorers, led by master gunsmith Sam Chappell, stood at the ready to bring this 130-year-old firearm back to life. For Sam, well into his second decade of service at Turnbull Restoration, it all starts with great communication, a relationship of trust and an unyielding commitment to detail. As Tom and Doug work together, “Tom can tell Doug something, and I know exactly what he’s talking about. Working next to Doug all these years and learning how to communicate, it’s almost like body language. Doug can feel a stock, do a double-take on a certain area, and I know right away what he’s thinking and what I need to do to make it right.”
“I like to know everything about the gun up-front,” Sam shares as he describes the nature of these tight collaborations. “It gives you a sense of satisfaction knowing the gun is going to fit Tom, and that it’s going to be comfortable for him. From the length of pull, to the cheek piece, to the pistol grip conversion, it’s made just for Tom.” The antique Winchester 1886’s restoration also includes special features like takedown conversion, upgrade to .50 Express, lever loop enlargement, and custom engraving. All this on top of the 1886’s color case hardened action and rust blued barrel. “Even though it’s a custom gun, it’s still correct for the age of the firearm,” Sam informs. “Winchester would have offered these features back in the day.”
Making Memories, Telling Stories and Leaving Your Mark
Tom intends to use his restored 1886, and that’s music to our ears. Especially to Doug, who always advocates using and enjoying restored firearms wherever appropriate. As Sam says, “It’s highly enjoyable putting life back into a gun that’s one hundred years old. I always think to myself, ‘if these guns could talk.’ I could sit here and listen all day. I’m sure they’ve seen a lot.” It’s just as gratifying to know that these restored guns will inspire new stories. “Tom’s going to make memories with his 1886,” Sam happily predicts. “And then some day another buyer will have a story behind that gun.”
Just as a gun’s story deserves to be heard, the Turnbull philosophy states that the original gunmaker’s story should be heard as well. That’s done by revering and respecting their original methods, and by having the same dedication to quality. In performing restorations Sam shares, “You get to actually see the craftsmanship that was put in 100 years ago. You realize that they were using hand tools, and that modern CNC machines can’t do this precise work. So we try to duplicate that.” Sam shares that wherever possible and appropriate, “I feel like I’m supposed to use hand tools to do this. It feels right.”
Just as he’s studied countless examples of the past masters’ work, Sam knows that our work will someday be subject to the same scrutiny. “We want to feel that sense of pride and be able to say ‘yeah, we did that.’”
Our sincere thanks go out to Tom Selleck for his kindness in allowing us to share this story.
- Turnbull Goes to New York City: Delivering Tom Selleck’s Restored Winchester 1886
- Restored Winchester 1886 in .50-110
- A Milestone in Wood and Steel (by American Rifleman)