By Robert Dunn
April 23, 2021
I am fortunate enough to be able to say that I work with a lot of my friends. One of my closest friends is also my coworker. I am speaking of Master Gunsmith and AGI instructor Ken Brooks. Like many of you that might be reading this, I felt like Ken was my friend before I even met him. Having been an AGI student before actually meeting Ken, I was introduced to Mr. Brooks via the courses that Ken teaches for the American Gunsmithing Institute. Ken has a very friendly and kind demeanor in his videos. The warmth of his personality naturally comes through when Ken teaches, so it makes it easy to feel that you know him without ever having shaken his hand.
It was interesting meeting all of the AGI instructors for the first time, again because I felt like I had known them for years, but they were just meeting me for the first time. I was hired by AGI to work as a Video Producer and writer and it wouldn’t be too long until I got to know the entire cast of characters at the American Gunsmithing Institute. I met Ken in person at the S.H.O.T. Show in Las Vegas and also filmed with him for the first time at that show. I was introduced to Bob Dunlap during the same time period.
It wasn’t long until I was travelling up to Oregon to film courses with both Bob and Ken. These two guys and their wives made me feel at home when I came up to visit and in my heart the Dunlap and Brooks families are a part of my family. After successfully producing my first Armorer’s Course with Bob, I was hired to film about two dozen Disassembly/Reassembly courses with Ken during a two week visit. I remember after filming on the first day, Ken and his wife Beth asked me over for dinner. Turns out that Ken was fixing dinner for us that night and he was preparing what is one of my favorite meals, deer with gravy and fried potatoes. I was hoping that I didn’t embarrass myself at dinner because when I eat venison, I might actually growl at you if your hand gets too close to my plate. Honestly, dinner was really good, I was in heaven!
After dinner, Ken and I solidified our friendship when he put in the Gunsmith of Williamsburg video! That has to be one of my favorite documentaries ever produced and turns out that it is one of Ken’s favorites as well. To make a long story short, Ken and I knocked out all of the videos that we had to film in just two weeks and that project was a big success!
I would end up filming many other courses with Ken, but Bob and I were kept busy filming various Armorer’s Courses, as well as some larger courses like all of the Expansion Modules for the Pro Course and the Pivot Barrel Shotgun Course. I eventually moved to Oregon and bought a house. Oregon is all the best places that I have lived in my live wrapped up in one beautiful place. Now that I lived in Oregon, I was able to do some projects with Ken that distance had once prevented.
Ken and I were asked to start doing monthly webcasts, which were intended to help Pro Course students with their learning experience by providing some additional information on the topics covered in AGI’s Professional Gunsmithing Course. These videos are now accessible on the GCA website in a section called In the Classroom.
I have also been present at a few of Ken’s Hands On Classes! Ken is a natural teacher and he has the ability to get the students to think and deduce problems on their own. When students are making repairs to their firearms, Ken will offer suggestions or course correct a repair that starts to go pear-shaped. Ken is confident in his knowledge and gunsmithing abilities, so there is not a lot of ego that gets in the way when he is teaching these informative classes.
In all honesty, it is a pleasure to work with Ken. He is a really good instructor and he is mindful of the camera when we are filming. What I mean is that Ken knows what it is that I need to see in the lens for the viewers to have a good learning experience. We are patient with one another and we are both genuinely concerned with producing a good course or show. Ken and I have filmed several Armorer’s Courses, Disassembly/Reassembly courses and many GunTech segments together. I learn something new from Ken about gunsmithing every time that we work together.
Ken and I have recently been filming a really interesting series called Over the Gunsmith’s Shoulder! I like to describe myself as a fly on the wall when we are filming these videos. In this series I literally film over Ken’s shoulder as we get a chance to see and hear what Ken’s thoughts are as he picks up the next gun for repair in his gunsmithing shop in Coquille, Oregon. The film set is the inside of Ken’s shop as it is when he repairs customer’s firearms on a daily basis. There is not much starting and stopping during the filming process, as these repairs happen live. It’s very educational to be able to hear what Ken’s own words are and what he is thinking as he diagnoses problems and performs repairs.
I look forward to doing other future projects and courses with Ken. You don’t always have the chance to work with a friend, but it sure is nice when you do!