Redleg Company Inc. on Highway 30, Slayton
By: JoAnn Biren
Murray County News Staffwriter
It’s wonderful to see the excitement and energy in a person who likes what he does. That seems to describe Brandon Lolkus who, along with his wife Emmie and son John, moved into a house a short mile outside the city limits of Slayton on Highway 30 in June of last year. The sign leading into the home, set back from the road and surrounded by trees, states boldly, REDLEG COMPANY Inc. The sign alone is enough to garner attention. But, once in the shop anyone who knows anything about guns and ammunition knows this guy is more than acquainted with fire power, his shop looks like the shop of an expert.
The Lolkus family moved to their acreage from “Up north, in the Milac area.” But, they are both Murray County people. Lolkus graduated in 2000 from Murray County Central and grew up in Chandler where his parents still live. Emmie grew up in the Lake Wilson area; her parents are still living on their farm. Emmie graduated from Murray County Central in 2002. They were married in September of 2014 and their son, John, arrived in October of 2015.
The reason for the move ‘up north’ was for schooling for Lolkus. He had applied to a gunsmithing school in Pine City and had been waiting for an opening. It took two years before his name came to the head of the list and when it did the family moved.
Interesting to note is some information one can find on the internet if you Google Gunsmithing Schools Directory; Gunsmith Courses and Training Guide. Under this guide it states: A top tier gunsmith is a highly skilled, multi-talented firearms professional. There are a number of specializations within this occupation, including gun engraving, making gun stocks and crafting custom guns. This is a field with multiple skill levels, ranging from gunsmiths able to replace parts and do repair work, to master gunsmiths, able to make their own stocks and produce their own metal parts to create valuable, highly sought after guns. A solid, wide education is key to becoming a gunsmith. The knowledge and skills of a master gunsmith are carefully crafted over time, layer by layer. A gunsmith’s expertise evolves from a firm foundation of active learning. Here at Gun Gods, we compiled a list of the top five gunsmithing schools in the country.
The article goes on to describe the top five choices, one in California, two in Colorado, one in Arizona and one in Minnesota – the Pine Technical College in Pine City where Lolkus went to fine-tune his long-held interest in gunsmithing.
To be accepted into the program, according to Lolkus, students have to submit to a criminal background check. They also have to have their own gunsmithing tools. Lolkus had his own tools; and since starting his business on Highway 30 he has added extensively to the list he began with. It is an experience in itself to visit the shop and see the machines, the tools, and the merchandise on display. Everything is spotless.
Many of his customers, he explained, come in with a picture or an idea of what they want. He can make anything! “We can start from scratch and build a gun!” Some look like something you might see in a video game. You would be correct. Because of the interest in video gaming, Lolkus added another machine to his inventory and now can make plastic looking guns…long and short, which look like something from Star Wars or beyond. Red seems to be a favorite color.
Lolkus has always had an interest in weapons. He has been in the military since the age of 17, while still in high school, and is still actively involved, heading the Fairmont area National Guard. He has been in the military now for 18 years. “Usually I am gone once or twice a month for a weekend,” he explained, and with a quick grin adds, “I have a very understanding wife!”
He attained the ranking of First Sergeant and has served his country with four overseas deployments since 2000. “I’ve been in every conflict since 2000,” he said.
If someone has an older gun, maybe an heirloom they want to pass down to a child or grandchild, how does Lolkus go about re-doing it? “First,” he explained, “I take it apart piece by piece.” He handles the gun pieces with care, showing the intricate detail of an old stock he was working on, bringing it back to life for a client. It takes many hours of intense labor to make the gun come back to like new.
“It’s hard for people to understand the time commitment that goes into this,” he said. “It is labor intensive!” he smiled.
He is never not busy. Who are his clients? Word of mouth, his involvement with the military and his new sign have brought business to his door. He picked up a gun that shoots over 1000 yards; he was working on it for someone who will use it in competition. He picked up another gun, this one he will soon be working on to restore. Its barrel is rusted; the wood of the stock is scarred and faded in color.
Lolkus is proud of the work he does, the care he takes to either build new or restore to like-new. His dad has a gun from the 1600’s and he has one from the 1800’s so maybe it’s safe to assume this love of weaponry runs in the family. Right now he is making a gun for his nephew, using a herringbone design he had seen. “It is one of a kind!” he said with pride, adding, “I’m sentimental about stuff like that!”
He is sentimental. He has a gun he made for his son John, 15 months by the way, with his name engraved on the stock. Ask him to show it to you if you visit the shop.
His philosophy? “My job is to serve the people the best I can and my number one priority is: what can I do for them? For their firearm? That’s why I am here.” If you want to call him his number is 507-220- 1343.
Photo Caption: Brandon Lolkus,Slayton, stands between the sandblasting cabinet and the lathe. Lolkus is a gunsmith and recently opened Redleg Company, Inc.
MURRAY COUNTY NEWS / JoAnn Biren