If you're planning to be a gunsmith, then this is a must-read for you!
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In this article:
- Why the Need to Become a Gunsmith
- Acquire Insurance
- Learn the Basics to Become a Gunsmith
- Have an Eye for Detail
- Be Knowledgable
- Invest in Technology
- Learn the Works
- Upgrade Your Gunsmithing Skill Set
- Gunsmith Certification
- Schedule Your Gunsmith Training
- Think About Job Prospects and Pay
Become a Gunsmith: A Guide to Gunsmithing
Why the Need to Become a Gunsmith
Training to become a gunsmith might never have been more important than it is right now. Even if you're not planning on switching careers or starting your own home-based business, it's a valuable skill, indeed.
Knowing how to troubleshoot and repair your weapons not only saves money but could someday save your life! We are living in very uncertain times, folks.
The possibility of World War III or a massive battle on a similar scale might be looming around the next corner. A firearm which is not in perfect repair will not be able to score a deer for the dinner table.
You won't ward off desperate criminals, or combat hostile attackers or foreign militants either.
Many states do not require specific licensure for gunsmiths and even the places which do allow online training course to complete education requirements.
As with any business, getting insurance to protect everything you own is important. In case you rightfully or wrongfully get sued you have a safety net, especially if you intend to make gunsmithing a money-making venture.
Learn the Basics to Become a Gunsmith
Gunsmiths not only repair all legal versions of firearms but build and customize them as well.
Gunsmiths who own or work at a gun range often make extra money. That is from doing even the simplest of tasks for novice gun owners such as disassembling, cleaning, and then reassembling the weapon.
A gunsmith will first clean every firearm which comes into the shop before launching into the troubleshooting and repair process. Older firearms will almost always require the use of specialized screwdriver bits to completely disassemble.
Parts for some still fully-functional and quality handguns and rifles can be hard to find. An ambitious gunsmith will keep these parts readily available for both local and online customers.
Have an Eye for Detail
Every gunsmith and gun owners have a preferred set of cleaning supplies. Prepare for customers' requests for a specific brand of oil or type of bore cleaner they prefer to use on their rifle.
Stock plenty of different sizes of cotton or thin cloth cleaning pads, traditional brass and plastic cleaning pad holders. Also include the more modern and increasingly popular, gauge specific bore snakes.
Gun owners who want not just an accurate and deadly weapon often employ gunsmiths to customize or personalize their rifles, shotguns, and handguns.
Intricate work such as engraving a design on either wood or metal, as well as refinishing metal in a colored finish, are often skilled-labor jobs customers look for in a gunsmith.
A gunsmith who also possesses a creative eye and the ability to create a piece of art to adorn a cherished firearm may soon find himself or herself in high demand.
It may take time, even years, for a new gunsmith to become completely familiar with every type of gun brought into the shop. A successful gunsmith will become a lifelong learner focused on always expanding his or her knowledge of both old and new varieties of guns and the parts required to keep them functioning properly.
A gunsmith career requires both intellectual and hands-on skill in a whole host of areas. Being knowledgeable about a plethora of not just gun parts, but also types and brands of a gun is essential for a professional gunsmith.
Establishing yourself as an overall authority on all things firearms will quickly help build a quality professional reputation for an emerging gunsmithing business.
Invest in Technology
Investing in industry-specific computer design software for the customization of firearms will enhance the services you offer at your shop and in turn, generate more revenue for the new business.
Learn the Works
Without a working knowledge of both different types and models of handguns, shotguns, and rifles, a gunsmith will not be able to fulfill a customer’s wish for customized parts. Gunsmiths with training in wood carving, welding, and are able to work with a lathe and mill have an edge over other smiths who can merely repair and replace parts for damaged weapons.
Upgrade Your Gunsmithing Skill Set
You can get gunsmith training in several ways. A student can learn the craft during an apprenticeship, in the military.
By attending workshops offered by Second Amendment groups like the National Rifle Association (NRA), taking an on-campus course at a community college, or via an online course of study, are also options.
A certificate of completion or career diploma is routinely offered to show the student has mastered the necessary skills to work in the field. There are even some associate’s degree programs in gunsmithing.
Such degrees typically also require business and industry-specific ethics and laws courses as a part of the curriculum. Gunsmithing students learn the trade in an old-fashioned, hands-on manner from either experienced instructors or professional smiths – or both.
Other common coursework during gunsmith training includes firearms handling safety, firearms repair, firearms conversion and laws related to such modifications, machine shop safety, and gun bluing. Learning how to work with complex machine tools, metal finishing, welding, and sometimes reloading of ammunition are also included.
While part of the coursework is from a textbook or workbook and taking tests, the vast majority of the training involves hands-on, skill training.
Professional gunsmiths must submit to a background check before officially opening up a business in most, if not all, states. Garnering a Federal Firearms License, or FFL, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is also required.
Typically, the local or regional ATF office will conduct an in-person interview with the gunsmith before issuing the FFL to the business. There is, of course, a fee you need to pay to get the FFL license and gunsmith license requirements you need to accomplish.
The entire process usually takes anywhere from weeks to several months. This is the government we're talking about here, so that shouldn’t be a shocker.
Gunsmiths often need to keep a customer’s gun overnight or longer. When such an instance occurs, you must keep a record which details the information about the gun and the name of the owner in the “bound book” kept by the business for just this purpose.
The ATF can and likely will, inspect the bound book and other record-keeping the gunsmith keeps to handle for each transaction.
The documentation tasks are not daunting, but you must follow the procedure exactly. This is to avoid an order to shutter the business or possibly even a levy of charges for FFL violations.
Schedule Your Gunsmith Training
The duration of gunsmith training varies greatly depending upon the level of professional training the student is seeking. An associate’s degree usually takes up to two years to complete for full-time students.
Online training courses cover a year or 18 months, depending up the time the student has to devote to the course. Some gunsmith student whiz through the coursework due to their existing knowledge about firearms and the free time they have to spend finishing each class assignment.
If the student has firearms knowledge, machinist training, or has served in the military, you can complete a typical online gunsmith course in about three months.
Think About Job Prospects and Pay
How much a gunsmith earns has as much to do with supply and demand as it does with how many hours per week the smith is willing to work and invest in marketing the business. Whether it is home-based or in a traditional brick-and-mortar location, it's quite decent actually.
Setting up a booth at a gun show, prepper expo, or outdoor sports event is a good way to introduce yourself to likely customers. You can also earn a little extra money selling gun accessories while offering brief free consultation about the firearms carried by the event, expo, or show attendees.
Larry Potterfield of MidwayUSA shows gunsmithing skills on how to rebore a rifle barrel:
Most gun enthusiasts will want to learn a thing or two about gun repairs and mods, and eventually, gunsmithing. It isn't an easy start but with these suggestions and gunsmithing info, you'll soon have a foundation in gunsmithing.
Do you have anything more to add about how to become a gunsmith? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 21, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.