Dig Baton Rouge

Keeper of the loud: BR gunsmith discusses historic hobby

Nestled in between some small businesses and apartments in Baton Rouge sits an inconspicuous gun store. One would not assume it is one aside from its sign and the number of security cameras that overlook it. Going through the side door into the gunsmith area, a German-made MG34 machine gun greets people who come through the door. An uncommon sight for many, for 25 year-old Baton Rouge native gunsmith Taylor Pickerell, it’s one of many daily sights.

Starting from a young age, Pickerell has been always involved with guns. With humble beginnings as a father and son pastime, this interest grew over time as the historical connection and importance became apparent to him.

“At that time it was just mainly the shooting of the guns,” said Pickerell. “Then when I started getting older, I started to realize that these things actually meant something and were used in various situations and scenarios across the world. That’s when I started buying neat guns, but then college came and I didn’t have any money to buy anymore for the most part.”

Pickerell attended college at LSU briefly but found it not meant for him. After leaving college and picking a job up at a pawnshop, Pickerell got back into his hobby and through the work at the pawnshop realized he could make his passion a career.

“About four years ago is when I started to figure out ‘Oh I can do something with this,’” said Pickerell. “This was due to that a lot of people were out there doing work on firearms and they weren’t good at it. They were messing up other people’s guns. I was going to have to fix them, so I thought ‘okay I am going to have to fix everybody else’s work why not just do it to begin with?’”

Moving on to new jobs here in Baton Rouge, Pickerell picked up new talents within the gunsmith world thanks to his exposure to higher-grade machinery. He credits this to his success as the machinery costs too much for a private gunsmith to own.

“That’s usually what holds people back,” said Pickerell. “You have to go buy a whole bunch of equipment for it and really get set up. Then you have to spend a whole lot of time teaching yourself how to do stuff properly before you can start working on other people’s firearms. There’s a big down time, where you basically just got to take off and do research and development and figure out what the hell you’re going to do.”

In addition to learning new talents, Pickerell starting bringing in more money which allowed him to purchase finer, more exotic firearms, specifically fully automatic firearms. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, fully automatic weapons can be legally purchased, but there are several caveats and restrictions. There is a lengthy process to apply for ownership of one and due to their limited availability most fetch a hefty price.

This hasn’t held Pickerell back however, and since purchasing his first full auto roughly three years ago he has expanded his collection to include various historical and uncommon firearms. One of which is, according to Pickerell, the only one available as a transferable firearm as opposed to a dealer sample known as a “post sample” which are firearms not on the ATFs National Firearms Act registry, which was closed in 1986.

Any firearms that weren’t added to registry can only be possessed by dealers with adequate paperwork and are extremely monitored. This rare pre-86 transferable firearm being a French-made Japanese contract Hotchkiss heavy machine gun, which saw action in WWII.

“I’ve talked to a bunch of people, and every single person looks at me with a blank stare when I started asking questions like they’ve never seen one before,” said Pickerell. “There’s two different types, there’s one that has a finned barrel all the way to the muzzle, which is a French gun. It came with either a stock or spade grips. But this one in particular is a Japanese contract gun, it’s got French writing on it and all but you can see where they milled out the serial number and put their own with a Japanese character on it. This came out of a tank off of the islands.”

Pickerell’s Hotchkiss is also unique, as it has been modified to fire the American .50 BMG cartridge used in the M2 standard issue machine gun. Pickerell also added a Soviet made flash suppressor off of a Russian DSHK heavy machine gun, making it more individual.

In addition to his Hotchkiss, Pickerell enjoys his German MG34 due to its quality construction and being one of his first full auto purchases. Pickerell plans to continually expand his historical collection, with hopes of one day owning some pieces he’s always wanted.

“I really want to get a Colt 21ac Thompson,” said Pickerell. “I would also like to get a Bren at some point. I like to get stuff that people don’t get to normally see and collect. The weirder stuff that’s in regular calibers for the most part.”

Wanting to share the joy of such history and excitement, Pickerell takes parts of his collection to national machine gun shoots, which are hosted across the nation.

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