Collura's hobby turns into a successful gun business
By Chris Buckley
Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
A former Marine, Tom Collura served as an Allegheny County police officer for 15 years.
But for the owner of Tom's Gun Shop, his business of 47 years started out modestly.
“I just read a book one time and started fixing guns in my cellar,” Collura explained. “It was actually a hobby and it turned into a business.”
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Collura graduated from St. Joseph's High School in Mt. Oliver in 1959.
Collura joined the U.S. Marines right out of high school, attending boot camp at Paris Island, S.C.
He was then stationed in Camp Allen in Norfolk, Va., followed by Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Collura's service would take him to such places as Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
He also served in Cuba during the height of the Cold War.
“I was there for most of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs,” Collura said.
But Collura, who served in the Office of Naval Intelligence, said he cannot comment on what he saw during those historic events.
The Bay of Pigs was an unsuccessful military invasion of Cuba by counter-revolutionary military trained and funded by the CIA.
The Cuban Missle Crisis was a 13-day showdown between the U.S. and Soviet Union over the movement of Soviet missiles onto Cuba. Following a Naval blockade ordered by then-President John Kennedy, the showdown ended peacefully with the missiles being removed.
Collura served for four years, being discharged in 1963.
“When I got out of the service, I had been gone for four years,” Collura said. “I was going to take some time off. One day after I was only home for about three weeks, I was hanging around a local bar when my father walked in and said, ‘Hey what are you going to do, be a bum all of your life?”
The Allegheny County and state police were advertising for officers. Collura applied for both.
“I got accepted by the county and state police,” Collura said. “But if I went into the state police, I would have had to be stationed for five years on the other side of the state. I had been away from home for too long.”
A former MP, he served the Allegheny County Police for 15 years, including 10 years as a detective.
At the same time, Collura began repairing guns in the cellar of his home.
He bought Ben's Gun Shop in Elizabeth, working there part-time in the evenings and weekends at first.
“All I had to do was scratch out Ben's and put in Tom's,” he said.
He started by selling guns to his peers in other police departments. He then began working with retailers such as Montgomery Ward, JC Penney, and Sears.
Ultimately, he had a decision to make with his career.
“It was one or the other so I chose the gun business,” Collura said.
He operated his business in Elizabeth for 25 years, before moving to Charleroi.
“I didn't own that building, I just bought the business,” Collura said. “I bought this building in Charleroi.”
He has operated the Charleroi store, located at 607 Fallowfield Ave., Charleroi, for more than a decade.
“I enjoyed the business,” Collura said. “Now it's crazy in this business. Since the shooting in Connecticut, they're cleaning out my store. They're buying everything in sight.”
Married for 47 years, Collura laughs when he jokingly says his marriage to his wife, Kathleen, was arranged.
“My mother was bowling with her mother one night and she walked in to see her mother,” Collura said of his wife.
“My mother said, ‘That's a nice girl. Give her a call.'”
The couple lives in Fallowfield Township. Their three children are all in the medical field: Lynn Collura, 36, is a research veterinarian; James Collura, 43, is a registered nurse at Montefiore Medical Center; and Colleen Collura, 46, is a radiologist at West Penn Hospital.
During the 1960s, Collura enjoyed being a Civil War era re-enactor, traveling to such sites as Gettysburg.
“I'm a big history buff,” Collura explained. “You couldn't camp out on the battlefields. We had to camp out on private farms.”
At one time, the current gun shop owner himself owned more than 100 Civil War replica guns.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Area native accused of faking illness
- Stockdale firefighter finalist for National Firemark Award
- Another Donora bank building getting new tenant
- Memorial tribute planned for Donora native Galiffa
- 3 waive hearings in Charleroi shooting
- Belle Vernon opposes sale of vacant borough home
- Charleroi woman jailed for burglaries
- State DCED secretary predicts Mon Valley’s industrial rebirth
- Castle Blood gets new deal, old ‘home’
- Monessen administrator moving on
- PennDOT plans new interchange designs on I-70 in Washington Co.