Former homebuilder Paul McCue of Bluffton finds a second career as a gunsmith
In his heyday as a homebuilder, Paul McCue made skeet and trap shooting his hobby, going to competitions all over the Southeast.
“I was into sporting clays, skeet, trap. I was doing heavy competition and I built my own gun stocks. I had always worked on my own guns.”
McCue became interested in shooting sports while growing up near Pittsburgh.
“I’m a black sheep. No one in my family does this. I’m the only one who had interest in firearms.”
He credits his father for taking him to shooting ranges when he was in high school.
“My dad was never interested, but he encouraged me."
McCue followed his parents to Hilton Head in 1977 after they - both pharmacists - retired and moved to Port Royal Plantation.
“I was going to school up North to become an architect, but after one winter I said ‘enough of this’ and moved South," McCue said. He found ready work in construction and eventually opened his own business.
But his career took an unexpected turn when the recession halted construction in the Lowcountry.
“2008 just about ruined us, being a licensed homebuilder,” McCue, 56, of Bluffton, said. “Then we went into cabinetry. We made it another nine months.”
After that, he started marketing his ability to make custom gun stocks and grips. “We started pushing that a little more.”
Then people started saying, “While you’re in there ... ,” asking McCue to clean or repair their handguns, rifles and shotguns.
“It has kept us going. It’s word of mouth. No one else repairs guns,“ he said. Business began to flow in from referrals from gun shops from Savannah to Ridgeland and beyond. He also set up a booth at area gun shows.
“I’ve passed out 7,000 to 8,000 business cards at gun shows in Savannah," he said.
Today, ProjX Gunsmithing is based in a backyard workshop that is crowded with vices, lathes and other tools of the trade. McCue recently added an overhead mill that will enable him to add dovetail sights right in gun barrels.
Borrowing from his cabinet-making days, McCue also makes custom gun cabinets and display cases, as well as recoil pads and devices that help “fit" the gun to the user.
In addition to repairing guns, he’s become a certified instructor in everything from handguns to shotguns to military-type firearms from M-1s to M-16s and has a small shooting range behind his house.
But it isn’t hunters that provide the majority of his business. Half of his business comes from people who arm themselves in self-defense.
“A lot of people are very conscious of self-defense,” McCue said. “We have very low crime rate, but it dropped after the state’s concealed weapons law went through."
His goal is to train people how to use those firearms.
He starts inexperienced shooters with a laser gun his shop. Next, they use air guns that use propane canisters to propel a 6mm ball on the range and then they graduate to live fire.
While McCue once hunted dove and pheasant, his primary interest now is handguns. He volunteers as a safety officer at matches organized through the International Defensive Pistol Association. Competitions feature scenarios from being caught in a convenience store robbery, a home invasion, car jacking, or an ATM/bank robbery and firing from a bed, or crouched behind a door or counter.
McCue said his business is doing well.
“We have a really large community of (firearm enthusiasts) here. We have a lot of retired miliary here because of the bases. That’s a good portion of it. There is a lot of hunters here. We have longest deer season on the East Coast, from Aug. 15 to Jan. 1.”
He doesn‘t envision going back into homebuilding.
“Where else do you get to shoot everyone else’s guns and ammo?” he said with a laugh.