GRAD SPEAK: Chatting with Chris Chambers, Owner of C3 Gunworks

  • Drew Poplin

When I sat down with SDI alumnus Chris Chambers, we were only three days removed from Independence Day. The smell of smoke from the festive fireworks and Oscar Meyer™ hotdogs had already faded. Many had long since ceased their celebrations and returned back to normal life.

However, for Chris, there was still plenty of reason to celebrate. Only six days earlier, he and his wife, Stephanie, ushered in the soft opening of C3 Gunworks, the culmination of years upon years of planning, hard work, and sacrifice. To fully understand the story of C3 Gunworks, we have to go back to the beginning—with a rusty Browning shotgun.

Breaking Browning

Chris’ journey with firearms started around the time he was seventeen. As he explains, “So when I was about 17–18 years old, my grandmother had given me all of my deceased grandfather’s firearms. One of those guns was a Browning Sweet Sixteen semi-automatic [shotgun]. And when I got it, it was in pristine condition. So, between that time and the time I was about 23 years old, my mom put that gun in the trunk of her car when she was moving. We had a really bad storm and her trunk leaked and basically filled up.”

By the time he found out what had happened, the shotgun was completely rusted. Rightfully fearing the worst, Chris would have those fears confirmed when every gunsmith in the area informed him that the gun was beyond saving, and at best, he “could get it cleaned up and make it a wall hanger.”

Not wanting to admit defeat and with it being his grandfather’s gun, Chris set out to restore it to its former glory. As he describes it, “I started doing some research on my own, just kind of messing around with it. And, long story short, I found places to get old replacement parts for it. I found out how to remove the old blue and the rust and re-blued it. Fortunately, the wood was still good. It didn’t get affected in any way.”

A Newfound Passion

Eventually, he was able to resurrect the shotgun to where it now works perfectly. Working on his grandfather’s shotgun had awoken something in Chris. According to Chris, “I knew right then that fixing guns, restoring guns, cleaning them, taking them apart, putting them back together, anything that has to do with firearms, I just…I fell in love.”

But the question now was how could he turn this passion into a career. So, he and Stephanie got to work. Despite not knowing where to start, they scoured the internet for information until they stumbled upon Sonoran Desert Institute. For the father of five, SDI’s flexible schedule, financial aid options, and the presence of an associate’s degree program made the school the perfect fit for Chris.

Learning His Craft at SDI

Starting the Associate of Science in Firearms Technology program, Chris appreciated the course layout. As he puts it, “Obviously, I had a basic knowledge of firearms. But I thought that it was really awesome that you’re basically starting from the beginning. It’s little baby steps, right? So it’s not overwhelming. I’d say probably half of that stuff I knew, but there was also so much that I didn’t know and it was so in-depth, touching on every single subject.”

That isn’t to say everything about attending school was easy. After all, Chris is a husband, a father of five, and was also working full-time for a trash company. But while balancing all his responsibilities was challenging, he was fueled by his passion for firearms. As he describes it, “I’m not gonna lie, it was hectic. It was crazy. But because of what I was learning through SDI, because it was firearms, because it was everything firearms related, I would have no problem staying up until midnight, one o’clock in the morning.”

While he enjoyed all of his assignments, he enjoyed his capstone project the most. As Chris explains, “I picked the 80% lower AR-10, and what they sent me was a complete Aero Precision AR-10 build. So I got to mill out that 80% lower, which I already have the basic knowledge of firearms and the AR platform and all that. But there’s just something about milling out that 80% lower that really brought to light the deeper understanding of how the AR platform really works.”

Dream Put On Hold

Graduating with his degree from SDI in 2017, Chris jumped immediately into the process of starting his own business. However, he ran into some issues and soon realized it wouldn’t be as easy as he had hoped.

As Chris explains, “So, basically when I graduated, I was still working at the trash company. I went ahead and got my FFL because I thought I was gonna open my own shop. I thought, ‘As soon as I get this degree in my hand, I’m gonna go to a bank. They’re gonna give me a ton of money, we’re gonna open up a shop, and just hit the ground running.’ Well, if anybody knows anything about business, that’s not how it works.”

Needing to gain some more work experience, Chris went through the arduous task of applying wherever he could. Despite his willingness to undergo an internship, he was faced with roadblock after roadblock. As it turned out, he would end up finding his home at The Bullet Stop, a staple in the Wichita community.

“I got turned down, left and right at every place, until I went there, The Bullet Stop. And talked to the owner of that establishment because I had a good friend of mine who was good friends with the owner there, and we had about a 20-minute conversation. I told him where I went to school, told him that I had my degree, and he hired me right there on the spot.”

During this time, Chris was able to combine the knowledge he received at SDI with the practical, day-to-day experience of working at The Bullet Stop to ultimately hone his skills and business acumen. And while he was learning a lot and enjoyed his job, Chris still yearned to fulfill the vision he had when he started his firearms journey.

The Culmination of C3 Gunworks

Fast forward to today, and he is now only a few days away from fulfilling that dream he’s had for so long. The journey seems to have been worth it as his initial vision has grown tremendously from when he first started conceiving his plans.

Speaking on how C3 Gunworks has evolved over the years, Chris said, “I never, in my wildest dream, would have imagined that we would’ve had what we’re having today. In the beginning, I thought I was gonna be in a little windowless garage, small building, or whatever. That I would just be working on guns and that would be it…We’ve gone from just thinking about opening up this tiny little shop to now we’re gonna have a showroom floor. We’re gonna be selling ammunition. We’re gonna be working with some companies to get some firearms in here. We’re gonna have holsters. All kinds of stuff.”

But his plans don’t stop there. In addition, Chris has also developed the desire to help his customers further. Chris continues, “I’m mind blown now at our facility, and everything that we’re gonna be able to offer, not only just to firearm enthusiasts but community outreach. We’re gonna do a lot of safety classes, we’re gonna do community outreach. Stuff like that. As far as helping people understand their firearms, helping children and families know how to store firearms properly, and how to use them properly and safely.”

It all certainly sounds impressive and we at SDI are beyond excited to see how Chris and C3 Gunworks continue to grow and help the firearms community in Wichita. And it all started from a rusty shotgun.

Find Out More

You can keep up with everything happening at C3 Gunworks on their Facebook page and their website.

If you want to get started in the firearms industry but don’t know where to start, consider following Chris’ path and enrolling at SDI. Find out more about our programs here.

To read more stories like Chris’, you can explore our full catalog of grad features here.

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