If you don’t know who Dennis Martin is, you may know him better by his Instagram name AK47Shooter. He is known for the big wooden guns that he makes (what started out as a curiosity, has turned into a major hobby and maybe even a full time job one day). Join me as we take a look at Dennis’ story and see how he got to where he is.
WHO ARE YOU?
My name is Dennis Martin and I have been a television director for over 30 years. I’m a self-taught carpenter and have been building sets and props for almost 20 years. I’ve always enjoyed making and creating things. I built a man cave in my basement that looks like a 1950’s hunting cabin. The build pictures from that project went viral, mainly because I used recycled pallet wood and only spent $107 to build the whole thing. Most people couldn’t believe I built the room for so little money. A couple of man cave websites did articles about that build and over 80 websites published the photos.
You can find the photos of his man cave here.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO MAKE LARGE WOODEN GUNS? WHAT WAS THE FIRST WOODEN GUN YOU MADE?
I have been collecting and shooting guns for about 18 years. So what better way to combine my love of guns and my carpentry skills than building wooden guns?
The giant wooden gun hobby began when I was working on another project. I saw online a desktop pencil holder that looked like a revolver cylinder. I decided to see if I could build one myself instead of buying it. I had a large supply of pallet wood sitting around so I decided to use that. That build took a couple of hours and the cylinder took shape pretty quick.
Once I saw how easy it was for me to do the cylinder, I wondered how hard it would be to build a whole wooden revolver around the cylinder. That’s what started it all. I drew up some sketches for a revolver that would fit the cylinder and started to work. By the end of the day I had the frame built.
Since the cylinder was a separate piece and could turn, I decided to make all the other pieces move too. I made a moving trigger and hammer. The fun for me was trying to figure out how to make these parts using soft pallet wood. When using this soft wood, I had to make the parts thicker for strength than their original metal parts would be. It takes a lot of trial and error engineering to make some of the parts work. From the outside the guns look as close to realistic as possible. Inside they don’t look anything like a real gun. It’s just the nature of working with wood vs metal. And that was what I enjoyed the most, solving the problems to make them actually work.
I worked on that revolver for about 3-4 weeks, working just 3-4 hours a day. A large amount of the time is spent smoothing out the rough wood. Pallet wood is very rough, so it takes a LOT of sanding, and I used epoxy filler to fill in big holes. I wanted it as smooth as possible so the shiny silver paint wood look good. I could buy expensive wood that was already smooth I suppose, but where’s the fun in that? Plus the soft pallet wood is easy to carve.
So that was the first one I made. So far, it hadn’t really turned into a hobby, it had just been an after work stress relieving project. But it had been fun, so I decided I would try to make a semi-auto pistol next. The revolver wasn’t originally made to a specific scale, I just made the cylinder, then scaled everything to it. For the pistol (and all others afterwards) I decided to scale everything up 2.5 times. The only reason I picked that scale was that the revolver was a little bit bigger than 2x, but not quite 3x scale. So I split the difference. I took my Glock 17, measured every part of it, and multiplied every measurement by 2.5. That’s been the procedure ever since.
Because I had made moving parts on the revolver, I knew I wanted to try to make all the Glock parts move. There were a lot of challenges, but I eventually made it all work. Again, everything was made out of pallet wood, except for some internal springs of course. The Glock took about 3 weeks to make.
(Glock prior to painting)
I posted pictures and videos of my two giant wooden handguns almost at the same time on Instagram and Facebook. The internet went nuts over the guns. When I racked that wooden slide on the Glock, people couldn’t believe it. The videos got thousands and thousands of views and many many shares. I went from 181 followers on Instagram to over 5000 in 2 days. People commented that they wanted to see more, and boom…my new hobby was born! From that point on I posted more and more pictures of the build process.
After the Glock, I made a 1911 pistol. That one had a lot of moving parts and took about a month working a little each day.
While I was building the 1911, a lot of my followers were asking for a giant rifle. I knew a 2.5x scale rifle would be huge, and a challenge, but decided to take the plunge and try it. So my next build was of course my favorite rifle, the AK-47. It was over 7 feet long when finished! I had to get creative with ways to make large parts using pallet wood. But I went all in on this one and finished it in 12 days.
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF MOVING FORWARD OR DO YOU PLAN TO KEEP THIS A HOBBY?
By this time, a lot of people were asking if they could buy one of my big wooden guns. People wanted them for their gun stores, for their man caves…even to use in music videos. A lot of people wanted to commission different guns. I hadn’t started out making them to sell, and since they were all hand carved, I couldn’t turn them out fast enough to take orders. But I didn’t really have a place to store or display a 7 foot gun in my house, so, as much as I loved the AK, I responded to some of the people that had asked to buy it. I was made an offer that I couldn’t refuse, and sold it. (BTW, shipping a seven foot fragile wood sculptured gun isn’t easy or cheap). Interest in the guns was far more than I could imagine, and my next build, an 8 foot AR-15, was sold before I even finished it!
Yes, I want to move forward to make this more than a hobby. I have had MANY discussions with my family about quitting my day job and doing this full time. There are several models of guns that have been requested many many times, and I could sell a hundred of them right now if I had them. I am already working on several ways to speed up the fabricating of some of the smaller parts. I have identified many areas to market them, and hope to move forward as soon as possible.
ARE YOU WORKING ON ANY BIG PROJECTS?
I just finished a giant shotgun (A highly requested build) and have a LOT of guns I want to build. I wanna build several classic military rifles, some machine guns, and some popular handguns.
Dennis has no intent on stopping his wooden gun making. This has become his art, his challenge, and his stress reliever. Plus, he states, “you won’t believe what people would pay for something like this”! One might wonder if these guns can shoot? Simply put, they will not shoot anything. The insides of these guns are nothing like the real thing, there is no way to connect all the internal parts to make it actually fire something.
A very common request Dennis gets is a wooden Barrett .50 Cal, and just thinking about this would possibly make this gun as long as a car! Talk about a major project! I wish Dennis the best of luck in his future gun making and I am excited to see where he goes!