View Full Version : Armorer: How to Become One?
November 30, 2009, 12:39 PM
I have been dealing with tons of medical problems since high-school that pretty much killed schooling....until now. I think I'm ready to go back to school and get into the workforce, finally!
Because of my medical problems, joining the Marines was out of the question so I couldn't learn from them. Can't join the standard police force either. I've always wanted to be a police officer but the deafness in my left ear and half-deafness in my right really puts a damper on it. Plus I don't think they recruit people with kidney transplants.
But during all this time healing and recovering, I've been a gun enthusiast and would love nothing more than to become a certified gunsmith and work as an armorer for police depts, private security etc.
What sort of training would I need? I don't want to get certified via "take home by mail classes", I want a real person talking to me. I have heard of colleges (in the west usually) who have 4 year programs at regular universities for gunsmithing, do these actually exist? Are there any other respectable sources of getting a high-quality gunsmithing experience and work with machining tools?
The life of a gunsmith is very appealing to me. Get to work with your hands, see things built-up from scratch, and modify/fix firearms our LEO's depend on for their lives.
Sorry if my message was weirdly written, I had to take morning medicine and it messes up my writing ability for a while.
So...Can anyone point me in the right direction?
November 30, 2009, 02:38 PM
Most "armorers" are technicians trained by the military. A gunsmith is part machinist, part mechanic, and mostly craftsman, and the education is typically acquired through classwork and apprenticing with an experienced gunsmith, although many are self-taught. I would recommend avoiding the home study courses and go for a real trade school education. Colorado School of Trades in CO, or Lassen College in CA both have very well respected curricula in gunsmithing and offer technical certificates or AA degrees.
November 30, 2009, 03:52 PM
Being an armorer is akin to being a jiffy lube tech.
Get to a gunsmithing school or better yet, sell your soul to a reputable gunmaker and work for peanuts for five years then go out on your own.
You'll learn more, have a better reputation, and be far more prepared than a 2 year cookie cutter course in gun plumbing.
November 30, 2009, 05:06 PM
So police armorers aren't exactly the "master craftsmen" I expected them to be? Most are trained via military/classes and just keep police weapons running I suppose?
Anyway, the only reason I mention armoring is the benefits...I have a kidney transplant (2nd one and I'm 24 years old) and a host of other nasty diseases that require good insurance to keep costs down. Right now I'm on SS disability as I am, at the moment, particularly sick. Being a "regular" gunsmith would be great, and I would actually prefer it over armoring, I just don't think someone of my backround could get away with working for/owning a small business.
BTW, thanks Scorch, for the two schools you mentioned. The Colorado one I vaguely knew about but the California one is new to me. I don't see the harm in attending classes for 2 or so years all the while apprenticing too. Unless 'smiths don't want you "developing bad habits" learning from a school environment.
November 30, 2009, 05:33 PM
So police armorers aren't exactly the "master craftsmen" I expected them to be? Most are trained via military/classes and just keep police weapons running I suppose?
Many get their training as part of the contract to sell a particular gun to their department.
The manufacturer of the gun supplies the training.
An armorer is not a gunsmith.
Most have specific training on a type or brand of gun being used by the force they support, and may not know much about other makes or models.
Few would have enough machinist training to even chamber a rifle since that is not part of an armorers job.
November 30, 2009, 05:39 PM
Thanks for clearing up the difference between a smith and an armorer.
Another thing...the Lassen Community College course book mentions Bachelor's degree programs in gunsmithing, and how their courses are good lauching pad for those programs. Where does one find a Bachelor's program? I can hardly believe there even IS one. AA/Technical degree's seem to be sufficient.
EDIT: Sorry I tried to edit these remarks into my above post but somehow re-posted, so I just edited the re-post with these questions.
November 30, 2009, 06:52 PM
Depending on whether you are willing to relocate to Colorado, or California - that seems to be the question.
Check out AGI (American Gunsmith Institute). They put out individual videos, and full programs for the gunsmith. The Instructor in the videos is Robert Dunlap, who is an Instructor at Lassen College.
Some of their programs are a bit pricey, but seem adequate.
November 30, 2009, 09:09 PM
I've been a gunmaker for over ten years and have had to endure armorer courses from Glock, Colt, and F/N in order to get my factory certs to work for the St. Dept. in Iraq.
I equate it to testicle surgery minus anesthesia.
Just how much education/experience can you get from an 8 hour lecture about a plastic pistol? Nevermind that 5 of the 8 hours of instruction are centered around the instructor touting every sexist joke/wisecrack ever known. This was the bulk of the Glock course I attended. Had I not needed it for work I would have walked out and demanded my money back. (nevermind the fact that the room also had women who paid good money to go to the course)
An AR-15 is a cookie cutter gun with leggo like peripherals. Unless your a 3rd echelon shop you'll never learn how to cram a chamber reamer up the breech of a barrel or how to time a barrel extension or the correct way to drill the barrel for the gasblock/front sight assy. Beyond that if your able to run a punch and a spanner wrench there isn't much to it. (notice I didn't say hammer) Even if you are a at a 3rd shop now days you just toss it and get a new barrel assy. Your hanging parts. Machine work/skill no longer required.
Machine guns are about as boring to work on as boring gets. Sex in a car crash to shoot, but just gahay to work on/service.
It's been my experience that a good percentage of armorers in PD's are the screw ups that they can't quite fire due to either union rules or that they have been there forever and are too fat to work the street. I say this having dealt with LOTS of police depts.
Become a gunsmith and then a gunmaker. Far more fun/challenging/rewarding. Bear in mind also that an armorer isn't going to be allowed to do ANYTHING no matter how qualified because departments and agencies have strictly adhered to guidelines/policies regarding what is allowed and what isn't. Can't have the average patrol officer running around on duty with a race gun in 600 nitro equipped with a nightforce 42X scope and a 40 watt laser right?
Last and then I'll shut up before I really PO someone. Never forget this statement: "Those who can DO, those who can't TEACH." That is solid gold advice that's been around a long, long time.
November 30, 2009, 09:15 PM
Midway has a listing of the best gunsmithing schools.
Some, like Trinidad Junior College offer college degrees in gunsmithing.
The schools with the best reputations for turning out real gunsmiths are Colorado School of Trades, Trinidad, Pennsylvania, and Lassen.
Many state rehab agencies will help pay your way.
November 30, 2009, 09:44 PM
Armorers, police or military, are basically parts replacers who work on a small number of weapons types. The benefits would be there, but I am afraid you would not be able to get the job with your physical problems.
As for a general gunsmith, there is no real definition and skills vary widely. But again, I have to wonder if you could do the work. It is not easy work, and can involve long hours standing at a lathe or sitting at a bench filing and fitting parts, not to mention working a counter if needed. It is not as hard or physically demanding as auto repair, but in some respects is close.
December 1, 2009, 03:26 PM
I started when I was 14, I was to clean the shop every day everything was spot less, everything, counters, floor, guns dusted, tools cleaned, lights, and the toilet.
I lost both my parents at that time and had to work my way through High School. I had no brothers or sisters and no relatives. The owner of the shop paid me .60 cents an hour! That was the wage in 1959. After about a year he gave me a slag block of steel, about 3" all the way around and a number two bastard file then he said make me a 1"X1"X1" cube. I was taught how to draw the file across the steel. As things went on I got out of High School and got a two year scholarship to the University and ROTC paid the other two.
My interest in guns lead me to getting a degree in Mechanical Engineering.
In the Army I was in the Fifth Group, I would hang out at the armory and talk gunsmithing to the high level Smiths E7,E8 and 9s learned even more from them. After six years I was out of the Army, then I started a commercial reloading business in the late 60s early 70s with smithing services provided.
Well some years later I sold the shop and finished a PhD degree in Engineering
Not for employment but for myself. Most people who know me don't know of my PhD. Did a lot of consulting and am now retired.
That how I became a gunsmith. It drove me to get an education by the interest I had in the guns. Now days there is not a big living in doing it. Most smiths I know do it for the love of guns; they make their living in sales of the guns. Worst yet some have to carry footballs in there store.
December 2, 2009, 02:41 AM
Based on my 20 years as a cop, most of it as a rangre officer + 25 years in the military (regualar army & NG) Running the AK NG Marksmanship Unit. All of which dealing with armors and gunsmiths:
Reading these post, and others regarding smithing/Armors on this sigh,
I recomend Listening to Longrifle.
I'm not a gun smith, nor do I play one on TV, but I've built enough rifles, to understand a bit of what he's talking about, and based on his Post, Longrifle knows what he's talking about. I've studied the photos of his machining projects. I'm impressed, and I have met some of the greatest ( I wont call them gunsmiths, I call them Artist),
But unlike Longrifle, I wont give my opinion of LE Armors or military arms room armors cause I would PO a few people.
I will add, you aint gonna get rich. Unless you've been at it for while and get a repatation, after expensives you'll be lucky to make min. wage. Most gunsmiths I know that make a fair living, do so by taking in general machine shop and welding work.
If I was to get into the business (which I wont), I'd advertise as a Gen Machine Shop and do hobby gunsmithing on the side.
December 2, 2009, 03:19 AM
Wellllll, I guess I'll differ a bit....
LE Armorers are nowadays a different breed. These folks are almost always--especially in the smaller departments--sworn Officers. They are also far from retreads. Yes, most of the time it's a simple matter of parts replacement--especially if you're with a department that issues Glocks.
But, the whole point of the exercise is to make sure--DARNED sure--that the weapon your fellow Officers are staking their lives on are ready to go when they're needed. Sad trutth--most Officers are NOT gun nuts. Yes, they'll go out shooting--but not to a great extent. Yes, they will clean their weapons--once in a while. It is your job as the armorer to make sure that the guns are ready to go.
I am my department's Armorer. Yes, I have been known to hang parts on Glock handguns. But I have also done other jobs--like restoring 8 shotguns that had been literally rusting away.
What you take from the business is exactly what you put into it. It's very exacting work, to be sure.
So, what do you do? Follow the excellent advice you have been given, and study, study, study! I recommend learning how to do bluing first. Why? Because nothing teaches you about different guns better than having to remove and separate every spring, screw, lever and everything else from a firearm. It also teaches you how clean a gun can get--not to mention how to polish and how to remove flaws.
Best of luck to you!
December 2, 2009, 04:09 AM
I'm taking a unit armorer course at Ft Hood next week. I'll let you know what I think of it after I finish.
My impression is that it is 10% installing accessories like rail systems, 10% inspecting guns for broken parts and wear, 10% making sure guns are clean when thet get turned in, and 70% paperwork for inventory, PCMS, and ordering acccessories.
December 2, 2009, 12:00 PM
We had a local cop who came into the shop and bought a new Colt Python
it was in 1967 when the Python were pythons.
Well he had stuck a a split rod down the barrel with emery cloth 60 grit.
Asked him why and he said he was trying to get the machine marks out.
He ment the rifling! Long story short, we had an extra barrel we fitted to it.
This was rare case, most cops back in the 60s were from the gun culture, and knew better. Five years ago on the range qulifying most of us reserves wold shoot a 247 -250 perfect score becouse we were into guns. The younger guys could not even make a 210 and went into remeadition. They never even held a firearm until they started the academy.
Most cops who become Armours do so because it is an added assignment or detail that leads to less work or more pay. The ones that do it to enhance their departments overall quality and work towards that are somthing else, better than the basic Armour. You know the type goes out on there own without pay to learn, just to be better for you.
Most cops who become Amours do so because it is an added assignment or detail that leads to less work or more pay. The ones that do it to enhance their departments overall quality and work towards that are something else, better than the basic Armor. You know the type goes out on there own without pay to learn, just to be better for YOU.
In the Army most Amours were paper pushers, but on bases and several other locations that I was at some were real talented people. They of course were from the 40s & 50s gun culture. I was in the Army in the mid 60s.
These people were E7 & E8 at that time. One was a E 5 older guy that would get bad JPR for not doing paper work etc. but there was very few of them.
Some were Marine, Air Force, Navy, Army, and these guys built some of the finest sniper rifles and Corps comp guns there were in the 60s
I think we’re not seeing some good Amours out there not because of the plastics or Secret squirrel building. I think it’s a change in the culture. Paper work is the work of the Lawyers, cover your ass attitude.
I agree with LongRifles, Inc. most classes are just to fill a liability issue. I also get to network with other smiths as well. I got a lot of laser TIG welding business that way.
ISC If you are taking the Armor course at Ft Hood next week, get what you can out of it.
Then decide if you want to stay with it.
If you decide to stay go all the way. Every school, get a job at a local gun shop on days off and be willing to work for free. Volunteer to work, I had guys do that in my shop.
If your going to do it stop at nothing to be the best, go the extra mile.
December 2, 2009, 12:41 PM
I'm doing it just to check the box on my unit's pre deployment checklist. I've been assured that it won't mean that they'll take me away from my squad. I truly believe that infantry squad leader is the best enlisted job in the army and I kind of dread the day they promote me to platoon sergeant.
I will probably learn quite a few things, but also expect to know more about the M16, M9, M240, and M249 thanalmost all of the other students and some of the instructors. I've been teaching these weapon systems to MOSQ and BNCOC students for years and have studied quite a bit about them and seen what goes wrong with them in the field. In my former civilian job I was a millwright and welder, so I know how to make precision measurements and fabricate parts (albeit on a larger scale). I think that will help, but I also suspect that They'll be using dial calipers and micrometers instead of vernier scale tools so it may be less important than I suspect.
It will be useful to learn the process to get spare barrels certified, that is a recurring issue for every qualification for some reason.
December 4, 2009, 02:04 PM
Then according to longrifles definition, he should never teach or lecture about the subject. Just an observation.
December 4, 2009, 05:18 PM
I think the word is "armorer" or (British) "armourer".
December 4, 2009, 08:06 PM
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