VAIL, Colo. — Vail gallery owner Shelton Smith stopped into Rich Wyatt's gun store not long ago, and before long, TV cameras were in Smith's store.
Smith owns the Shelton Smith Collection gallery on Bridge Street. The gallery is packed with art and artifacts, mostly from the Old West, but it also boasts an 1830s-vintage portrait of President Andrew Jackson that once hung in Jackson's home. Smith is also a gun enthusiast, which is how he ended up at Wyatt's store, Gunsmoke Guns, in the Denver area.
You may recognize the store name from "American Guns," a show on the Discovery Channel. The show features the Wyatt family — dad Rich, mom Renee, daughter Paige and son Kurt — and the crew at the store. Much of the show revolves around building specialty firearms.
But the Wyatts also buy and sell firearms. That's where Smith comes in.
Smith arranged a meeting between Rich Wyatt and former Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson, and Jackson ended up in Vail for the first time — although the nature of the deal the men were trying to work out is a TV secret.
Besides police work, Jackson has written a couple of memoirs and is a member of the National Rifle Association's governing board. You might expect Jackson and Wyatt to hit it off, and you'd be right.
Both were carrying firearms on their visit to Vail — to these guys, putting on a holster is about the same thing as putting on socks in the morning. And both were packing .45 caliber semiautomatics.
"Do you know why I carry a .45? Because they don't make a .50," Wyatt said.
"I've always said it's because they don't make a .46," Jackson replied.
Both men said the Second Amendment — which affirms Americans' right to keep and bear arms — is what makes the rest of the Constitution and Bill of Rights possible.
"You don't have freedom of speech without a gun to back it up," Wyatt said.
Wyatt had already been in the gun business for several years when he and his family sent a promotional video to Discovery Channel executives. The show was picked up not long after.
While the show itself shows people building guns and shooting, along with some reality-show tension built into many episodes, Wyatt said the biggest part of the show for him is its portrayal of firearms as part of family life.
"It's given us the opportunity to make guns acceptable to people," Wyatt said. "We don't look like radical nuts. We're just a normal American family that happens to carry guns wherever we go."
And, yes, having a TV show has been good for business.
"Oh, we've slowed down a lot," Wyatt said with a grin. "We're going to have to ask Discovery for a raise because of it."