Gunsmithing is a unique career path that allows you to become an integral part of one of the most popular hobbies in the U.S. You are likely entering the field because you are a hobbyist yourself. You will find that your education will give you the ability to use your own collection as your resume as you practice your craft, which you can then show to earn clients or jobs upon licensing.
Your education will handle a great deal of what you need to know about the artistic and engineering side of becoming a gunsmith, but you will still need to follow a strict licensing process before you can enter the field. Gun control is strict, and working with others guns means that you need to have special licensing that goes beyond what the normal gun owner would need. You can find all of the info you need through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives site, here.
There is no official track of the income expectations of gunsmithing as a specific career. Instead, the BLS tracks gunsmiths as part of the repairer and engineering field, so expect an income ranging from $30,000-40,000 a year. This salary will vary by state, employer, education and skill. If you want to increase your income, the best path to take is to go the entrepreneurial side of the business. Many small gun shops are owned and operated by gunsmiths and act as a steady income when work is slow (which is rare) and allows the gunsmith to meet new clients. You will work on a wide range of issues for your clients including maintenance, repair, customization and vanity work such as checkering and engraving.
You can also turn to the manufacturing side of the business if you would prefer to work for an employer instead of taking the risk on your own. In this path, you will work as a repairer and engineer, combining your engineering and artistic talents to enhance product lines and repair defective products. While it may not lead to the same income potential as opening your own shop, you also take on less risk and will likely earn great benefits on the way.
Learning to become a gunsmith includes multiple paths of completion. Some learn on their own, using their own collection as a resume to prove to clients or potential employers that they have the chops to do the work. Other hopefuls enter an apprenticeship that allows the student to work with an experienced gunsmith for a number of years. Most students are now entering online nationwide gunsmithing trade schools that will help you enter the field in just a couple of years. You will find assistance for licensing concerns, networking and hone your trade, often without having to relocate at all.