WEST CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — Highlander Arms began as a small firearms manufacturing shop on Route 63 in Spofford, opened by brothers Robert and Knowlton Hodgkins.
"A few years ago, after being injured at work overseas and unable to return to work, I was getting bored sitting around the house," said Rob Hodgkins. "I started thinking about what I could do and being unsatisfied with the products and customer service of the local gun shops, and with extensive knowledge and a lifelong background in firearms, I decided to share my passion for firearms with the public."
Thus was born Highlander Arms, where Hodgkins and his crew began building firearms for their customers. Eventually, Highlander Arms expanded, offering firearms from major brands such as Glock, Smith & Wesson, Remington, Mossberg and Ruger.
But, Hodgkins said, the business outgrew the small facility on Route 63 and it was time to find a new location. Looking around for a new location, Hodgkins found a relatively new farm stand on Brook Street with frontage on Route 9 that was vacant. After Hodgkins received approval from the Chesterfield Planning Board in March, he began converting the facility into a gun shop.
"This is the ideal location," he said, and makes it easier for new customers to find him and for old customers to just drop in. His old shop, on Route 63, was open by appointment only per the town's conditions but the new shop is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"We don't just sell guns here," said Ryan Parker, shop manager. "We sell an experience and part of that experience is education."
Parker, who took over his role as manager on June 1, previously worked for Ruger in Newport as a group leader. "I started out as a customer of Rob's and eventually we became friends before he offered me the job."
Both Hodgkins and Parker are veterans.
"We are veteran owned and operated," said Hodgkins.
A first-time customer, whether a current or previous gun owner or someone who has never owned a firearm, will be treated the same, said Hodgins — with respect and courtesy and with the knowledge that they won't be talked down to or belittled.
"We get a lot of people who are very timid and have never owned a firearm," agreed Parker. "They might be interested in a firearm to take to the range or to defend themselves or their loved ones, or maybe they're just getting into hunting. We cover the gamut of any customer that walks in our door. We welcome anyone. We don't turn our nose up to anybody."
Parker said it's also important for him, Hodgkins and the rest of the staff at Highlander to know about resources around the region, such as training options or firearms they might not carry, so they can help a customer fulfill his or her needs.
"We want to make sure that the customer — even one who doesn't buy — knows something they didn't know before," said Parker. "We want them to walk away knowing what they need to know."
Hodgkins said Highlander also customizes firearms.
"I have technician who is certified in the application of Cerakote ceramic paint," he said, and customers can have almost any design painted on a firearm.
Highlander also offers a website, where customers can order online.
"However," said Hodgkins, "all transfers have to be face-to-face through a federal firearm licensed dealer."
Highlander buys and trades used guns and collections and has on staff three Glock-trained and insured armorers to install in-house purchased accessories, perform minor and major fixes and conduct thorough cleanings.
To learn more, call 603-363-4867, or visit www.highlanderarms.com.
Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 160.