Job Spotlight - Gunsmithing

Have you always been fascinated with guns? If so, working in the field of Gunsmithing may help fuel your passion. By learning this craft you will not only learn how to modify and repair guns but also find out how to design and build them too. Does that sound like something that interests you?

Quick Facts: Gunsmithing
2015 Median Pay (Annual)$34,080
2015 Median Pay (Hourly)$16.38
Entry Level EducationAt Least a high school diploma or GED
Recommended EducationPost-secondary education (certificate or degree)
2014-2024 Projected Outlook-13% growth (decline)
2014 Number of Jobs-133,900

Resource: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Gunsmithing FAQs

If you are wondering what it takes to get into Gunsmithing, then you can find the answers right here. On this site you will find the most frequently asked questions on about how to get started as a Gunsmith, including: education, salary and the projected outlook for jobs. We hope to provide you the answers to all of your questions about this fun and rewarding trade. If you questions that we did not answer or if you have anything to add, please feel free in contact us and we will get back with you ASAP.

What is Gunsmithing?

The field of Gunsmithing is all about firearms repair, modification and safety. They perform routine maintenance and repairs on various forms of firearms by identifying and replacing defective or worn parts. They also can design and create modifications or new firearms with their skills in metalworking and woodworking.

Some Gunsmiths specialize in certain niches such as particular manufacturer, type of weapon or even smaller specialties like modifications and engraving. A small group of Gunsmiths only work on competitive weapons. There are even specialists who only work on antique weaponry such as flintlock rifles or cannons.

Those who want to work as a Gunsmith normally own firearms of their own, enjoy shooting and are very passionate about their hobby. They may even large collections of weapons. A large number of Gunsmithing professionals are self-employed either owning their own full time shop or they travel to gun shows and work out of their garage.

How to Get Started as a Gunsmith

Quick Info: What You Need to Know About Working as a Gunsmith
Things to know
• Experience in woodworking and metalworking can be very beneficial
• Some employers are looking for people with formal gunsmith education
• It is possible to learn the skills as an apprentice or a gunsmith assistant
Where to get formal education
• Get schooling by enrolling in a gunsmith program at a vocational school
• Join the NRA apprenticeship program
• Another option would be to join the military and work as a weapons maintenance tech
Gain experience
• Work in a gun shop as an assistant
• Practice making stocks or helping friends
Become licensed
• Earn your Federal Firearms License (FFL)
• Must be 21 years old or older to apply for FFL
• Contact the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for more information
• Make the decision to work for someone or open your own shop
• Keep up with the latest changes in the industry
• Formal education can give you an advantage when looking for a job

Learning the art of gunsmithing can be done in just a few steps, but there are some things you should know before going in to it. While the work you are doing on firearms can be rewarding and fun, this is still a serious industry where mistakes can be deadly. You will undergo schooling, some classroom instruction and possibly a series of background checks and licensing.

Let’s look at the most common steps that a Gunsmith goes through to start their new profession.

Step 1 – Technical Skills

Unless you already have some aptitude when it comes to metalworking and woodworking, you might want to take a few courses at the local technical or trade school. These classes will help you understand how to use shop equipment such as drill presses, lathes, files, chisels and precision measuring tools as well as other pieces of equipment you will need. It might help if you also take a few classes in mathematics since math skills are extremely important as a Gunsmith.

You can take these classes before or during your pursuit of a Gunsmithing diploma, certificate or an associate’s degree. However, you should most have a fairly strong grasp on woodworking and metalworking before you try your hand at an apprenticeship. Otherwise, your instructor might just send you home rather than wasting their time.

Step 2 – Formal Training

You can find a large number of Gunsmithing programs held at vocational or trade schools and community colleges. Depending on your specific goals, you can pursue a certificate, technical diploma or an associate’s degree in Gunsmithing. Our recommendation is an associate’s degree since the benefits outweigh the extra 12 to 18 months of school by potentially opening up more opportunities for jobs and higher salary.

The courses you will be taking in a trade school or community college will be a mix of classroom instruction and working with your hands in the lab. These programs will give you an introduction in to the art of Gunsmithing focusing on the mechanical skills needed to repair or craft firearms. Some of the other subjects you can cover in one of these programs include:

  • Differences in function and design of firearms
  • Diagnosing and repairing firearms
  • Learning to craft wood and metal parts from scratch
  • Specialty classes such as triggers, levers, hinges and other elements of a firearm
  • Firearms safety
  • Firearms history
  • Drafting and design

At most Gunsmith schools, you can learn the particular methods of reverse engineering, soldering, algebra, woodworking detail and metallurgy. There are even some Gunsmithing programs that even instruct students in ballistics and chemistry.

Other Education Options

Another option if you want to learn more about getting into gunsmithing would be the U.S. military. As you can probably guess, the military has a high demand for those who have the skill and knowledge to work on weapons both big and small. This may include missiles, multiple launch rocket systems, artillery as well as infantry weapons.

The military is a great way to learn the ins and outs of Gunsmithing as a weapons maintenance technician. You will be able to learn on some of the most advanced weaponry available. Unlike a normal gunsmith training program, the type of training you will receive in the military will also include electronics and lasers.

Step 3 – Experience

There are two ways to go about gaining some valuable experience to learn the art of a Gunsmith. The first way is working with a Gunsmith as an assistant or their helper. You will be able to watch a more experienced tradesmen work. More than likely, if you are a good employer you will get a chance to try your hand under their supervision, as they help you correct your technique.

The second option is really aimed at those who want to work as a Gunsmith for a living. Even though it is possible to bypass the community college part by enrolling in an apprenticeship program, a growing number of Gunsmiths are doing both to maximize their knowledge. As an apprentice you will work closely with a master in the art of Gunsmithing and learning the craft from them by doing on-the-job learning.

For more information on how to apply for an apprenticeship, you can contact the National Rifle Association (NRA) to learn about their apprentice program or your state’s apprenticeship program office. Another way to gain an apprenticeship is by contacting a local Gunsmith who will take the time and effort to help you gain the necessary skills.

Step 4– Licensing

If you plan on charging people money for your skills or plan to open your own business, you will need to obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL). In order to get the FFL you will need to be at least 21 years old and pass some of the stringent safety requirements. You will also be interviewed in your Gunsmith shop by a field agent to ensure you qualify for the FFL. For more information on how to apply for the FFL, contact the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for details.

You will need to check with your state with the requirements for a tax ID for sales and possibly local regulations for your work.

Step 5 – Work

After you get your FFL, you can then start looking for work or set up your own shop. If you plan on working for a company, you will need to get your resume in order and apply for open jobs. Most Gunsmiths that are not self-employed find work at gun stores, sporting goods stores, armories and firearms makers. Competition might be tough for some of these jobs, i.e. firearms manufacturers, but if you have the skills you might be able to get a job. Note, with a number of these jobs for larger companies, an associate’s degree may give you the extra advantage over others in the job hunt.

If you decide to open your own business, then it is another world entirely. Owning your own business can be one of the greatest pleasures in life but also know that you will have to put a lot of work in to it. The amount of success you will have is dependent on the amount of effort you put in to it. You will need to do some serious networking with local gun owners and at gun shows to prove that you should be their Gunsmith for all future repairs or modifications.

Are There Any Gunsmith Specializations?

You might find some success by narrowing your focus of Gunsmith related work. By becoming an expert in one particular niche of firearms can be both popular and profitable. Some of the typical specialties include:

  • Custom firearm designer and builder
  • Stockmaking and or checkerer
  • Gun engraver
  • Pistolsmith
  • Riflesmith
  • Shotgunsmith
  • Finisher
  • Antique firearms

It is also possible to become a specialty manufacturer of firearm components such as barrels, triggers or flint-locks. There are so many possibilities if you have the skill and there is a market for your wares.

Where Can I Find a Gunsmith School?

Gunsmith programs are held around the country at a wide variety of trade schools and community colleges. There are even some specialty schools that only offer Gunsmithing. One of the easiest ways to find a program is by looking on the internet. You will find a number of localized results to help you narrow down your list of choices.

Another possible way is by asking local Gunsmiths on their recommendations. You might find someone who had an amazing experience at one of the local programs. Best you hear some of the information up front.

Whenever you are looking to make your decision on which program will get your attention, you should make sure that it has been accredited by a professional organization such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). A program that has been accredited means that it has met the academic standards and quality of the association. These are typically fairly high standards.

Are There Any Online Gunsmithing Schools?

It is possible to study Gunsmithing online and there are some quality schools that offer programs. You will receive the same classroom structure that will basically follow a standard curriculum. There are some differences, as you might expect though.

First of all, it would be best that if you decide to go the online school route for your Gunsmith education, you also enroll in one of the apprentice programs. This way you will be getting a double dose of education both theoretical and practical. Not to mention, you will get a better understanding of the material by practice with your hands.

Secondly, there are some strong benefits for online education such as flexible schedule and learn at your own pace. Distance learning is really great for those who happen to not live close enough to a traditional school or have other responsibilities such as a full time job or a stay-at-home parent. You can pursue your dreams of becoming a Gunsmith without having to relocate or shrug off your other obligations. It is a win-win for some people.

We do suggest that if you are taking your Gunsmithing online, you also back it up with not only the apprenticeship we previously mentioned but also online tutorial videos and e-books on the subjects. Since you already have expressed a passion to learn this incredible craft, these extra books and videos should be easy to digest. Plus, you may learn some parts of the trade that you would not have learned otherwise.

How Long Does Gunsmith School Take?

In some ways, learning as a Gunsmith never ends. With the addition of new firearms, technologies and custom designs, not to mention the honing of your own skills you can work a lifetime and still learn something new each day. But you mean, how much time in a formal education setting.

This depends on the level of degree you are pursuing. A certificate or diploma can finished in as few a few weeks and as long as 6 months. An associate’s degree will take roughly 2 years. Of course the amount of time you spend in school can have effect on your salary and employment potential, so keep that in mind too.

What is a Good Gunsmith Job Description?

Quick Info: Remember the three A’s –
Acumen, Attitude and Aptitude
Some Helpful Personality Traits to Work as a Gunsmith
• Detail oriented
• Steady hands
• Patience
• Good judgment
• Safety minded
• Analytical mind
• Passion for guns and weaponry
• Forward thinking
• Multi-tasking
• Can work with hands

Generally you think of Gunsmiths as the person who repairs or modifies your firearms but they do a number of other specific duties. Some of the responsibilities include:

  • Install pistol grips, recoil pads, metal sights and other pieces on a firearm
  • Rebores the gun barrels to convert to a different cartridge size
  • Cut rifling in barrel of small arms
  • Grind and polish metal parts
  • Design and create custom firearms
  • Treats or finishes gun with a rust resistant surface
  • Refinishes or manufactures wood stocks to specifications
  • Inspect and assess safety of firearm
  • Add decorative accessories to firearms
  • Tests and diagnoses misfires
  • Customize and create new parts

What is the Median Gunsmith Salary?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not track the profession of Gunsmithing in its own category but combines it with Metal and Plastic Machine Workers. Annual median salary for this category is $34,080 or $16.38 an hour. This number should be seen as a general number and not your actual expected salary.

gunsmith repair

There are a number of factors that can go in to how your actual salary may be different than the number listed above. Factors such as location, employer and experience play a big part in to this equation. Other things to consider is that a large number of Gunsmiths are self-employed so their salary may not be accurately reflected in this median number from the BLS.

It is of our opinion that if you decide to open your own Gunsmithing shop that you also have another job to make ends meet at least until you can have a solid client base. Working at a sporting goods store or a gun shop might be the best options.

What is the Outlook for Gunsmithing?

Much like salary, it is difficult to gauge the outlook since it is not listed under its own category. O*Net Online, a U.S. government run job site lists gunsmiths under Multiple Machine Tool Setters, Operators and Tenders. They currently list this occupation as a whole to decrease over the next decade or until 2024. However we tend to believe that this does not completely reflect the Gunsmithing industry as it does the other occupations it is lumped together with.

Gunsmith Projected Job Growth

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