Becoming a gunsmith is more difficult than you may expect, but the rewards are substantial. Once you enter the trade, you will work on an artistic and engineering level on a daily basis. You may restore antiques, requiring the creation of specific parts that are no longer in production, requiring a deep understanding of firearms of all types. In addition, much of your time will be dedicated to repair, enhancement, upgrades, and vanity work such as engraving and checkering.
Firearms are heavily regulated and will require a specific license from the ATF to work with. As a gunsmith you will often keep firearms for more than a day, which requires a special license that a non-gunsmith would not qualify for. You can find all of the relevant information on the ATF site here.
There are two primary paths you can take to make a living as a gunsmith. The first will give you more security, benefits and a steady paycheck. Sporting goods stores and manufacturers of firearms are often looking for talented gunsmiths and you will have the ability to practice your craft while also finding the ability to possibly enhance current product lines. Your second path, entrepreneurship, may come with more risk but will also garner more rewards if successful. By owning and operating a gun shop, you will have the ability to use the income stream from your retail business to support your growing smithing business. On average, gunsmiths earn $35,000 a year based on education, experience, employer and location, so your best way to go beyond that average is to take the risks. Your needs will dictate which path you follow, but choose wisely if you plan to take the risks of starting a business. Research will be key.
Entering the Trade
You will also find that there are two primary paths to entering the field as a gunsmith. The first is to become an apprentice to a respected gunsmith. This will require a significant time investment. You will need to find a well-respected and well known gunsmith that can take on an apprentice just to get started. Next you will not have a solid timeframe for how long you will stay at an apprentice level. Finally, you will not earn a degree to display or show to employers. The drawbacks may be significant, but this path can work for some.
Earning a degree is a more secure choice for becoming a gunsmith these days. You will work towards an associate’s degree in gunsmithing through one of many online trade schools. Florida has no physical gunsmithing courses in the state, so you will need to relocate or take an online course. You can start your search with the schools listed on this article and if they don’t meet your needs, continue to search the country for the right school for you.