If you’re passionate about guns and gun repair, have you ever thought about becoming a gunsmith? This rewarding career choice can be both spiritually fulfilling and financially sensible if you have what it takes to follow the path of this discipline. Gunsmiths repair, inspect and clean firearms, give training on their proper use and maintain inventories of guns and accessories. They’re involved with the fabrication, assembly, disassembly, cleaning, troubleshooting, customization, engraver, repair and/or sales of guns but usually specialize in one or just a few of these areas. They work on handguns, rifles, shotguns or any combination thereof.
Being a gunsmith isn’t too different from working on other machined tools, except that there are very specific precautions professionals in this field need to take to make sure that they’re protected from injury and that their work environments are safe in case of accidents.
To be a gunsmith, first and foremost, you need to take classes or apprentice to learn skills related to building and maintaining guns, including grinding, welding, carving, milling, polishing, chiseling and filing. Gunsmiths are able to design and build new guns and modify and add parts to existing ones. They need to know about reading blueprints and working with computer-aided design (CAD) software. Other useful classes for prospective gunsmiths are machine tooling, metallurgy, chemistry, ballistics, drafting, woodworking, algebra and report writing. High schools and technical schools offer all of these classes and related ones that can be useful for you.
Gunsmithing is a hands-on profession where direct learning is necessary in addition to theory. Being an apprentice or assistant to an existing gunsmith can help you tremendously in gaining useful and necessary skills, such as having patience, attention to detail and steady hands. You can register to be a gunsmith apprentice through state apprenticeship programs that you can find on Google.
Formal gunsmith training programs are offered by some trade schools and community colleges. Through these programs you can typically earn an associates degree or diploma. The National Rifle Association (NRA) also offers non-credit short-term courses for individuals; check their website for more details.
Most gunsmiths need to be licensed for their activities. If you’re building or selling firearms, you’ll need a Federal Firearms License (FFL) issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to be an authorized dealer or maker of guns. In addition, many states, municipalities and counties have their own licensing laws that you’ll have to comply with depending on where you want to conduct your business.
Most gunsmiths work within existing gun shops, gun distributors or manufacturers. You can inquire at known gun businesses to see what their needs are. The median hourly salary for gunsmiths in the U.S. is about $15/hour. The job growth rate for this field is projected to be between 3 and 7 percent from 2016 through 2022. Some gunsmiths go on to start their own shops or manufacturing businesses after working for an employer, and this can make a career in this profession even more lucrative.