In order to become a gunsmith, one of the best things you can do is to learn skills in metal and woodwork in order to build and fix firearms. Most gunsmiths take up gunsmithing as a hobby, while others make a living off the trade. As with any trade, mastering this skill takes time, knowledge and dedication. This career path is recommended for those who love guns and not for those who are looking to make a lot of money.
Mastering the Art
Building and repairing guns takes precision and detail to specifications. Such specifications come in the form of measuring and cutting materials to make guns or gun pieces. Here are some general things to master in order to become a competent gunsmith:
- Math skills competency
- Learn how to use shop equipment; such as lathes, precision measuring instruments, files and other tools of the trade
- Perfect your understanding of mechanics. Understanding the parts in a gun and how they work together is an invaluable skill for diagnosing issues.
Tips for those in high school
If you’re still in high school and are looking to become a gunsmith, get a head start by taking industrial arts courses for electives. Courses such as machining, drafting and woodworking will help you be prepared with the basic skills you’ll need to become a gunsmith.
3 Ways to Become a Gunsmith
1. Earn a gunsmithing certificate online – this is one of the quickest ways to become proficient in gunsmithing. Generally, you can find very affordable online courses that only take a couple of months to finish. The only issue with online courses is that you’ll have to find your own “real world” experience.
2. Apply to a gunsmithing program from a jr. college or trade school – programs generally take an 18-24 month commitment. The good part about taking courses at a campus is the hands-on experience that they provide. Only a few junior colleges offer gunsmithing courses. You can find a list of accredited online schools at http://home.nra.org/.
3. Find an apprenticeship – you will not earn a certificate or diploma, but will seek experience as your “Degree.” Finding a local gunsmith who will take you under his/her wing will not be that easy. Make sure to find a gunsmith who loves their trade–this will give you the best opportunity of learning from someone who is actively seeking to be a better gunsmith and will teach you how to take pride in your work. Taking an apprenticeship under someone who is limited in their skill set can leave your education wanting. High school students must maintain a “C” average in order to do a gunsmithing apprenticeship. Most will require you to be at least 16 years of age. The training will consist of around 8,000 hours of on-site and classroom instruction.
Get an FFL License
Without an FFL license, you cannot legally hold on to someone elses’ firearm for more than 24 hours. That is generally not enough time to repair their gun. Some of the requirements include:
- 21+ years of age
- Meet gun safety requirements
- Interview with a field agent who will inspect your gunsmithing shop
Licensing information can be found at Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Launching Your Career
If you’re set on running your own company, you will want to look into specializing in a certain type of gunsmithing. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Custom gun designs and builds
- Stockmaking–building wood gunstocks
- Gun engraving–this is a great choice for any who are artistic
- Pistolsmithing–focus on designs and builds for pistols.
If you want to get your foot in the door, consider working for a company. Sporting goods and firearm stores, manufacturers and armories all need gunsmiths. Connecting with other gunsmiths will provide opportunities, support and recognition.