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Eric Croft’s specialty is the long gun.

He was a sniper in the U.S. Army for eight years. It takes a lot of practice and experience to fire those specialized guns accurately at 1,000 yards. Croft describes it as a science, a science he teaches and markets to northern Colorado.

He’s spent the past three years teaching firearms, group tactics and long gun classes under the name Craft Tactical. In recent weeks, he opened his own gun store, Windsor Armory, 1525 Main St., Unit B2.

He’ll keep teaching his classes, in addition to selling an assortment of pistols, rifles and related equipment.

“I’ve dreamed about being self-employed for a long time. Ever since I got out of the military in 2013, I’ve wanted this.

— Eric Croft, of Windsor Armory

In just the days he’s been open, Croft already has received a lot of questions about long gun training.

“It’s something people want to do, but don’t know where to start,” he said. “Pistol classes are everywhere. I could go down the street and find a pistol class. Long gun courses — true long gun courses taught by experts — are few and far between in this country.”

Croft started in shooting sports and hunting when he was a child, but he found his love for long guns during sniper training in the Army.

He describes it as his life now and likens it to the passion hardcore skiers and snowboarders have for their snowy sport.

Near the entrance to his shop, displayed on its own table in a place of honor, lies Croft’s long gun. It’s a heavily modified Remington Model 700, he said.

It’s an example of what he can offer to customers, Croft explained.

The high-end long-range rifles can cost $7,000-$8,000, he said. With the right after-market components and assembly, its possible to construct a unique rifle that will perform just as well at a much lower price point, at a third to half the cost, he said.

However, tinkering and building a high-performance long gun means not only picking the right components for the job but also making sure they’re all going to work together reliably. Croft said that’s where he comes in.

“I do custom bolt guns,” he said. “I don’t gunsmith my own guns. What I do is I take components that I know makes a weapon work better and I (build a custom gun). … I can take a $500 gun and turn it into a $1,000 gun.”

In addition to teaching long gun classes, he uses his experience to hand pick and assemble the modified rifles he sells at Windsor Armory.

Croft only uses parts he can trust. He carries that philosophy across his store. He’s done his research and made sure to stock a range of guns and shooting equipment that should sell well in the Windsor and northern Colorado market. But each piece also must meet his criteria of trust, which comes from Croft’s personal use or the strong recommendation of his marksman buddies.

“We’ll never carry something we wouldn’t trust our lives with,” Croft said. “I’ll make sure it’s tested and tried before I carry it.”

It’s all a part of the quality he wants customers to come to know at his store, his aspiration. Ever since he got out of the Army, he wanted to go into business for himself.

“I’ve dreamed about being self-employed for a long time,” he said. “Ever since I got out of the military in 2013, I’ve wanted this.”

The few years he spent working in the private military sector, he did almost entirely to build up enough money to open Windsor Armory. Now that the store is open, the reality of it still hasn’t fully sunk in, he said with a huge smile. He gets to do something he loves and share that passion with others.

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