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View Full Version : How much do gunsmiths make $$$?


dchi
April 26, 2010, 10:11 PM
Im about to graduate from Trinidad State Jr College. I just attended the Brownell's career fair. There were 5 other gun schools there. I had the best custom pistols there at the show. I got 4 job offers but they were not what I was hoping. They were on the average of $12 an hour and no peice rate for work even though those shops were charging $65 and hour or $2500 for custom gun. They offered to pay for most tooling and some insurance. This is sad, my wife makes $9 working at walmart and she's been there only a year.

What should I ask for????

BTW I had one company offer me $23 an hour but they have no benefits at all and the don't pay for any tools and if you break something, you buy it.:(

Dr. Strangelove
April 26, 2010, 10:35 PM
You have to be in business for yourself...

I'm not in any way in the gunsmith business, but you aren't going to make any money until you own your own business and make a name for yourself.

dchi
April 26, 2010, 11:02 PM
I've been warned that going straight into buisness straight out of school is a bad idea. Im good at what I've been taught at the school but its just the basics. I've built 2 1911s, one revolver, a sporterized mauser, one tactical bolt gun and done about a dozen repairs and some stock work. I think it would be wise to work on a few hundred guns before trying to go out on my own. All of the places that I interviewed with had senior smiths that would contiue my training. No problem I can accept $12 in training but they said raise are like a $1 year. $20 after 8 years as a skilled proffesional is a joke. In 2018 things are likely cost twice what they cost now.

Gunplummer
April 27, 2010, 12:57 AM
Welcome to the real world. From the list of things you worked on, I don't think you could be called a skilled professional. If you break it, you buy it does not seem unreasonable either. If you want to work for someone else, that is the way it is. Why would I pay for your training if you are going to leave and start your own business? More money? When you don't come over to me and ask a question every two minutes is when we talk more money. That is how an employer looks at things. Nobody cares if you have good intentions because you are selling your skills and the employer is looking for a fair price to pay for them. I am sorry to have to tell you this, but the sooner you learn the better.

hickstick_10
April 27, 2010, 03:31 AM
its called "payin' yer deeeeeeeeeeeeews"

Granted Im not a professional gunsmith by any stretch (machinist, who moonlights).
But same goes for fellas who are straight out of trade school, all apprentices think they're gonna make 30 bucks an hour right out of the gate...........wrong, you get 65-75% of journeyman wage for right out of school, next year if you pass your stuff you make 10 percent more and so on.

But in all seriousness, I have worked for shops during my apprentiship that PAYED less but TAUGHT more and freely, and its a sound investment for anyone wanting to learn.


The few real smiths I know do it for the love of the craft and most have side jobs eather machining, farming, guiding or whatever.

Chances of you getting rich off of this gig are slim and the time to create a name for yourself is long. I wager Tunrbull and Bowen didn't become widely known over night, or over a year.

Powderman
April 27, 2010, 04:01 AM
How much money can you make?

How many jobs can you do well?

I tried my hand at professional gunsmithing a while back. Here's a bit of what I found out...

1. Most of your jobs will be done with a good cleaning. You would be surprised at the stuff that builds up in a firearm.
2. Attention to detail is your friend. Work on each and every gun like it is a family heirloom of yours.
3. Be willing to work long hours. I mean LONG hours.
4. You will be investing a lot of money in tools. Buy the best ONCE, not cheap over and over.
5. One of the most important things I learned is how to be mature enough to pass up work I could not do. People will respect your honesty.
6. Never, EVER do patch work. No Bubba jobs! Do it right, or don't do it at all.
7. Don't overload yourself. It's easy to do, trust me.
8. Do NOT get into the trade looking to get rich. Do it for the love and the feel of good steel, the smoothness of the action of a well built arm--and never lose your affection for them. Don't worry about the money--trust me, if you invest the time and yourself--your heart--in each job, the work will come to you.

Good luck! Here's hoping that you will be immensely successful.

mapsjanhere
April 27, 2010, 07:45 AM
You're coming out of Jr College, with zero experience, no tools, they let you handle things where one slip with a tool is $1,000 down the drain, and you think $12 with benefits is not paying you enough? In other countries you need 3 years apprentice ship with $5/h allowance (they don't even call it a wage) before you're even allowed to work unsupervised.
Sure there are people who charge $100 an hour, but those are the ones with 30 years experience or $100k in tools that produce perfect work.

Joat
April 27, 2010, 08:44 AM
How much do gunsmiths make $$$?

Just enough to starve. :D

joat

Slopemeno
April 27, 2010, 08:59 AM
That about sums it up. I had to move on to a similar industry to start getting paid what I considered a living wage.

1911rocks
April 27, 2010, 09:00 AM
Bear in mind my frame of reference starts in 1977. I was trained as an Apprentice with a local Gunsmith who was trained in Austria. I swept floors, dumped chip tubs, ran errands...for free. I had a full time job as an Instrument-Controls technician with a Power Generation Utility. I was working for this Gunsmith on Weekends and evenings. The I&C position was an IBEW OJT position. It paid my bills. I never had any intention of Gunsmithing as a primary source of income. The IBEW position paid very well, about $70,000/yr in today's equivalent dollars. I started gunsmithing as an "armorer" for a local law enforcement organization. Initially, I made less than minimum wage as a 'smith. The one department, lead to another, to another, and so on. The one Sheriff had a thing for Commander sized 1911s and in 1980 you could not just go out and buy a Kimber, SA, Ed Brown, etc. So, I built him a Combat Commander. He showed the other local Police Chiefs and Sheriffs and that helped. I acquired 3 local gun stores repair work. I was also shooting IPSC every single chance, to promote my work. All the while working 40hr/ week in a Power Plant. After ~5yrs The Gunsmithing business was yielding ~80% of my full time gig. The Gunsmithing business had ZERO benefits. I was working about 30hr/week as a Gunsmith. I had a few rules:
1) I always had a Contract with the business'/LEOs.
2) The private Customer always signed a work order and paid for all parts up front.
3) The work order stipulated that the customer would pay in full prior to picking up the gun. He had 14 calendar days to do so after being notified in writing that the work was complete.
4) The first major cash outlay I made was not a Mill, a Lathe, a Shaper, or a Surface Grinder, it was a retainer for an Attorney.
5) Secondly, Egan, the old Gunsmith told me Finance nothing for the business, cash only.

I sold the business in 1986. I had also become a Class 3 Dealer ( a spin off of the LEAA days. In 1986 my retail component of the Class 3 was "done in" by the Feds. I sold the Mill, Lathe, Shaper, Surface Grinder, Indexing Fixture, and TIG welder and most importantly, contracts. My net after all the years afforded my kid's college education and paid off my home. Would I do it again? In a gun friendly time and place, like now. However, my experience shows that when we have a Democrat run Gov. Gun sales/spending are brisk, Get an all Republican, not so much. (Carter vs. Reagan).
Just my experience.

Hunter Customs
April 27, 2010, 09:24 AM
You have received a wealth of information from the others that have answered your thread.

You question why some shops charge $65.00 an hour but only offer to pay you $12.00 an hour plus benfits, the short answer to that is, it's called overhead.
To put this in perspective my electric company had a 26% rate increase last year.
Now if you factor in the cost of fuel for heat, tooling replacement and maintenance, office supplies and equipment, shop (building) maintenance, the list could go on but I think you can see the shop owner is not getting a large percent of the $65.00 an hour he's charging.

Now if you decide to run your own shop and do it all yourself be prepared to put in a minimum of 80 hours a week if you want to do 40 hours of bench time. Keep in mind the bench time is the time you are getting paid for.
You set your shop rate at $65.00, pay all your expenses and when it's all said and done you are going to be back to being very close to $12.00 an hour for your bench time.

A very wise man told me that gunsmithing is more a labor of love then it is about getting rich, he was right.

I wish you the best in your endeavors.
Regards
Bob Hunter
www.huntercustoms.com

Onward Allusion
April 27, 2010, 11:00 AM
The national average salary for a gunsmith is around the mid-$40's. BUT...

As with any real trade, the first couple of years are considered apprenticeships. Regardless if you're an accountant, IT geek, carpenter, plumber, or gunsmith. To think that you will be making the average wage of the profession is unrealistic.

You should take the best offer that is presented to you. $23 with no benefits is equivalent to a low to mid-30K a year gig. The risk you have is health insurance & the cost of your errors, which can REALLY add up if you work on expensive pieces and Bubba them.

dchi
How much do gunsmiths make $$$?
Im about to graduate from Trinidad State Jr College. I just attended the Brownell's career fair. There were 5 other gun schools there. I had the best custom pistols there at the show. I got 4 job offers but they were not what I was hoping. They were on the average of $12 an hour and no peice rate for work even though those shops were charging $65 and hour or $2500 for custom gun. They offered to pay for most tooling and some insurance. This is sad, my wife makes $9 working at walmart and she's been there only a year.

What should I ask for????

BTW I had one company offer me $23 an hour but they have no benefits at all and the don't pay for any tools and if you break something, you buy it.

Onward Allusion
April 27, 2010, 11:09 AM
Here's some free advice - take it for what it's worth...

Take a job with the best company, regardless of wage 'cause the wage will be pretty darn close for an entry level position anyway. After 2 years jump ship. This is the only way to make any real money when working for the man. Wage increase will almost always be lower than an increase when you join a new company. Rule of thumb, don't jump ship for anything less than 10% - with a good company, of course. This is true is all the sectors I've worked in - heavy & light manufacturing, retail/wholesale, agriculture, & IT.


dchi
I've been warned that going straight into buisness straight out of school is a bad idea. Im good at what I've been taught at the school but its just the basics. I've built 2 1911s, one revolver, a sporterized mauser, one tactical bolt gun and done about a dozen repairs and some stock work. I think it would be wise to work on a few hundred guns before trying to go out on my own. All of the places that I interviewed with had senior smiths that would contiue my training. No problem I can accept $12 in training but they said raise are like a $1 year. $20 after 8 years as a skilled proffesional is a joke. In 2018 things are likely cost twice what they cost now.

Dustin0
April 27, 2010, 11:17 AM
Its just like any other job your fresh out of Jr College. If you would have gone in to IT you would be making about 12 to 14 an hour. There are not many jobs that you can walk out of JR College and start pulling down 50k+. I took me over 10 years in my field to start to make that kind of money. I have to agree with hickstick_10 you have to pay your dews.

Also dont get hung up on the fact they will be billing you out at 65 and hour. It cost alot to keep a shop open. There is over head for them. Lights, tools, taxs, all other expenses, and your pay. Nothing in life is free.

Scorch
April 27, 2010, 11:40 AM
How much do gunsmiths make $$$?
I worked as a machinist/smith for 4 years, and I would have made more money working at McDonalds, but I would not have gotten to play with all the cool toys. We worked 6 days a week, 10 hours a day, and never got to go hunting or play with the guns we were building because we were busy during hunting season.

Of course, if I had been working at McDonalds I would have gotten to wear really cool clothes and learn to say "would you like fries with that?".

They were on the average of $12 an hour and no peice rate for work even though those shops were charging $65 and hour or $2500 for custom gun.
Generally, you either get piece rate or a wage, seldom both. If the owner is offering $12/hour, he is taking a chance on you based on what he has seen of your work. Do a good job and earn him more money and he may pay more; get a chip on your shoulder and you may be out the door. If you feel that is exploitation, learn what you can from the best smith in the shop, then when you feel lucky, go out on your own. That will be a learning experience.

What the shop charges is not your concern unless you want to be a partner. Shop rate covers overhead (rent, lights, heat, etc), consumables (oils, solvents, sandpaper, bluing salts, shop towels, toilet paper, etc), insurance, advertising, and profit if any. 25 years ago, we were charging $60/hour and we still went broke, it's hard to imagine anything that costs almost the same as it did in 1985.

LSU12ga
April 27, 2010, 12:24 PM
I'm not a gunsmith, but 12$ an hour sounds pretty good for someone graduating jr college with only a little experience. That's about 24k a year, without overtime, working 40 hour weeks. I would say that's not to shabby. I don't know how old you are but look at what your friends make right out of college, I'm sure its somewhere in that ballpark. Just remember that the only direction you can move is up.

If it makes you feel better many of my friends are doctors now (interns, residents) and their average salary is about 40K, and they are working 100 hour weeks, no OT.


Also, how many years is a gunsmithing program?

dchi
April 27, 2010, 08:30 PM
Well I got alot of opinons but nobody has laid down any numbers. that makes me think that many of you are not trained as smith. Everybody thinks Im trying to make $50k right off the bat, Im not. But I think a fair wage might be $15 with benifits. Im no bubba, my work was good enough to win me a scholarship. And Im way better than 5 other schools out there based on what I saw at the Brownell's career fair. But I know I am no way experianced. I have about $3000 in tools now but no lathe, mill, tanks, belt sanders, drill press etc. I guess I would still need to get another $2000 in hand tools and guages. Many of the shops out there already have mauch of these things in there stores already.
As far as overhead in the gun stores. The rent, lights have to be paid regardless if there is a smith there or not. Their main buisness is to sell guns. The guns on the shelf are the overhead. Those guns sitting on the shelf could be better use earning interest if they don't sell quick. The counter help cost you a days wage no matter if he sells a gun or not that day. And he usually has to sell at least 1-2 day just to break even for the shop to cover his wage. But the smith generates income for the shop for just by being there. Ever shop i've ever checked is back logged with work. So he should be billing customers $65 X 8 hours everyday. Even with tooling costs, insurance and electricity and $12 and hour does not even come close to $65 and hour charge rate. So that said, only those who are working as trained proffesional gunsmiths need to answer. No home smiths or self taught guys with machinist backgrounds. I want to know what the smiths out there who work for big gunshops make.

I forgot to add, Im 38 working on my 4th career. I also have a BA in criminal justice, was a production manager, in public safety and a field service tech. I was making $10 with full benifits straight out of school in 1995. I do love what I do but I have to look out for me so I have to ask.

dchi
April 27, 2010, 09:00 PM
It depends what school you go to. This one is 2 years with an optional 3rd year. Some places like the school of trades is about 14 months with no break. Trinidad is the oldest and largest and I think the best based on what I saw was the best work from 5 other schools. I checked the school of trades and it was a much smaller place with less than half of the machines here.

TheShootist1894
April 27, 2010, 09:18 PM
Well I got alot of opinons but nobody has laid down any numbers. that makes me think that many of you are not trained as smith. Everybody thinks Im trying to make $50k right off the bat, Im not. But I think a fair wage might be $15 with benifits. Im no bubba, my work was good enough to win me a scholarship. And Im way better than 5 other schools out there based on what I saw at the Brownell's career fair. But I know I am no way experianced. I have about $3000 in tools now but no lathe, mill, tanks, belt sanders, drill press etc. I guess I would still need to get another $2000 in hand tools and guages. Many of the shops out there already have mauch of these things in there stores already.
As far as overhead in the gun stores. The rent, lights have to be paid regardless if there is a smith there or not. Their main buisness is to sell guns. The guns on the shelf are the overhead. Those guns sitting on the shelf could be better use earning interest if they don't sell quick. The counter help cost you a days wage no matter if he sells a gun or not that day. And he usually has to sell at least 1-2 day just to break even for the shop to cover his wage. But the smith generates income for the shop for just by being there. Ever shop i've ever checked is back logged with work. So he should be billing customers $65 X 8 hours everyday. Even with tooling costs, insurance and electricity and $12 and hour does not even come close to $65 and hour charge rate. So that said, only those who are working as trained proffesional gunsmiths need to answer. No home smiths or self taught guys with machinist backgrounds. I want to know what the smiths out there who work for big gunshops make.


The smith does not generate income just by clocking in I assure you, if a small retail shop hires a Gunsmith they expect to lose money on this new hire for 2-6 months at least. . . .this is due to ramping up buying of tools and everyday disposables (oil, cleaners, degreasers, rags, paper towels, ect. . .)
Realistically the you will only be able to charge customers for 2/3-3/4 of the hours you are working. Also the new smith doesn't get much recognition locally on just his school projects, people ooh and ahh but that generally isn't what they will use a gunsmith for, you will get small crappy jobs for awhile, anywhere you go, people will put the new guy to the test. Not to mention your boss will likely bolster his advertising budget to get the word out that he has hired a full time gunsmith.. . . .

Sounds to me like you need to get your feet wet buddy, youre awful proud of your work by the sounds of things, but since your name isn't Bill Wilson or Doug Turnbull you don't have a lot to hang your hat on. . .

It is good to be proud of your work, you have to like it to make other people like it, but you are the new kid on the block, take the job that makes you happiest .. .

You may want to work for a big shop (Turnbull was hiring in December FYI, and I heard Wild West Guns was also shopping, Gander Mountain is always hiring somewhere, and they start at 13-15/hr + Beni's) But I started at a small shop, why?? Because I strive to provide the finest customer service possible, and I need customer contact to feel like I am getting the job done right.

Currently I cannot see myself moving to a larger shop, as after 6 Months of working at this small shop we are moving to a new location, where my side of the shop will be 3X bigger and the retail side will be 2.5X bigger . . .That lets me know I am not screwing the pooch here, and I stay busy.

Cost of living is also something you should take into consideration, upon Graduation I bought a house with my long time Fiance' $62K for 1650 square feet 3 BR 2 Bath built in the 1960's in a nice small town in rural NW Ohio

What Im getting at is you better take one of those offers, there are thousands of other 'educated' people with a lot more time in school than you or I that don't have ANY offers

BTW I Resent your comments about the others 'schools' work, being a Graduate of one, It is the individuals, not the schools that make great work, just like Colleges don't make geniuses. . . Have you ever made a stock from a blank of walnut?

Tell you what, if you really want to talk to a guy in your situation, shoot me a PM and we can go from there.. . .

Pennsylvania Gunsmith School Class of 2009

Thanks
Karl Beining
www.ottawaordnance.com

Powderman
April 27, 2010, 09:20 PM
that makes me think that many of you are not trained as smith.

Excuse me?

There are a lot of people here giving you straight advice. No need for what some folks would consider a straight insult.

All of the gunsmiths I know and have met have one thing in common--an unconditional, deep affection for the art and science of firearms Another very common trait is humility and being somewhat soft spoken. Plus, a lot of fine, well known smiths have never seen the inside of a "formal" gunsmithing school--but the methods they use are taught at these formal schools.

While at Camp Perry 2001, I was talking with a younger gentleman about troubles I was having with my 1911 pistol. He described in detail what was happening--and told me to bring my pistol around later that evening. I wish I had. The gentleman's name is Jim Clark, Jr.

While at Camp Perry 2007, my .22 stage in the preliminaries were disastrous. I have a Marvel Unit 1 conversion on a dedicated frame--and it went full auto. I took the gun to the Marvel building, and a young gentleman named Travis Frerking examined the gun, told me what was wrong and fixed it--right there, on the spot--for the price of the parts.

Later, I found that my grip safety on the Marvel did not work. I bought a used safety from Springfield Armory, and fitted it. It STILL didn't work.

I walked back into the building, and asked for a brand new grip safety. Two guys were standing there, and asked what the problem was. I told them; they took the lower from the pistol and disappeared into the back room. They came back out later--in about 30 minutes--with a brand new, hand fitted grip safety. The price? 10 dollars! Who did the work? Two of the Springfield Armory custom pistolsmiths.

They could have charged me a mint--but all of the people mentioned above work for the simple satisfaction of doing a job well.

And unless you learn that vital lesson--unless you work on guns because they are a part of you as a person, and NOT because of dollar signs--you will have a hard time making it in gunsmithing.

dchi
April 27, 2010, 09:55 PM
Thanks for the replys, no insult intended. I was just looking at a dollar figure. I have 4 offers sofar but 3 seemed way off and I was looking for some range so I could come back with a counter offer.
Just consider this thread closed for now.

Those of you that are already in the buisness, PM me. I can send pics of my work from 1st semester till now and my resume.

mapsjanhere
April 28, 2010, 07:22 AM
dchi, one more point in determining overhead rates that got missed, your $65 also pays for the guy who spent 15 min taking the order, the 5 min on the girl doing the accounting, the cleaning lady and who else. All of whom don't generate billable hours.
You're getting hung up on a low starting wage; if you're good, you can count on 10% raises until you caught up with the average wage, or more. I paid 70k/y to a guy with zero formal training, just 40 years experience running tools. What was more than anyone without a PhD was making in our shop at the time.
Good luck, and post the pictures.

Clark
April 28, 2010, 08:39 AM
I know a gunsmith who makes $30k a year.
I have interviewed many engineers for jobs over the last 25 years, and that gunsmith is technically smarter that almost all of the engineers I have interviewed.
If that gunsmith were an engineer, he would make over $100k.

I know a guitar player who makes $1k a year playing the guitar.
I have interviewed many technicians for jobs over the last 25 years, and that guitar player is technically smarter that almost all of the technicians I have interviewed.
That guitar player has a day job as a technician and makes over $50k/year.

I know a photographer who makes $1k a year taking pictures.
He has a day job as a surgeon, and makes over $100k a year.

I am an amateur gunsmith and have never made 5 cents doing gunsmithing.
I did make a rifle pro bono for the daughter of an American soldier in Iraq.
But I have made ~ $20k with my gunsmithing tools making test fixtures for jet engine starter/generator systems.

What does it all mean?
Going into gunsmithing for money is not as dumb as going into guitar playing or photography for money, AND you can make other stuff with the gunsmithing tools.

DT Guy
April 28, 2010, 08:55 PM
Not trying to be rude, but being honest:

I'm a guy who changed careers after 15+ years in one field. I switched and became an entry level trainee instead of a manager of 20+ people, and it was HARD. Making much less than I was used to and working for people with, in some ways, far fewer qualifications is difficult

But the simple fact is that you're a beginner with very little actual experience in THIS field. You're going to get paid what anybody else with that level of education can be hired for, and you'll have to work your way up this ladder independent of your previous achievements.

Honestly, if you don't adjust your mind-set, this will be very, very difficult.

Just MHO, of course.

Larry

oneounceload
April 28, 2010, 09:45 PM
I have been fortunate in the two places I have recently lived to have made the acquaintance of two gunsmiths - one with 48 years experience and several patents - the other whose dad was a gunsmith and he followed in his footsteps for over 60 years. Both of those gentlemen charge between 50 and 60 per hour, have set rates for basics like pad installation or scope mounting, can machine anything, including making custom guns or repairing out of date ones. Both have a sea-container worth of spare parts for fixing anything, can work on every type of gun, have the machinery, including bluing tanks, etc.

For getting started, consider what your skills are

freakshow10mm
April 28, 2010, 10:53 PM
Well I got alot of opinons but nobody has laid down any numbers.
Have YOU bothered to figure them out on your own? Apparently not.
that makes me think that many of you are not trained as smith.
Do I have a piece of paper on the wall that says I paid a school and showed up every day? No. I do have 10 years experience assembling ARs, building bolt action rifles, a few years of machining, plus 3 years as an 07 FFL Class 2 SOT under my belt. I can speak with knowledge about the industry and as an employer in such.

I don't care what school you went to, what your GPA was, how many awards you won, or if you slept with the deacon's daughter. Out of school you have no experience in the real world of the industry and you aren't worth much as you are a huge liability. You are worth the bottom rate and not a penny more. You want more money you have to earn it. You have to prove to me you are worth it. That fancy piece of paper from the school isn't worth anything to me.

Gunsmithing is a business of reputation and experience. Little else. A local gunsmith has messed up a lot of guns. Simple stuff like a D&T for a scope mount. So many people still talk about that from 4 years ago and won't go to him anymore. That shop is losing thousands of dollars per year in gunsmithing revenue because of that mistake.

But I think a fair wage might be $15 with benifits. Im no bubba, my work was good enough to win me a scholarship.
Then by all means hold out for the company that will pay you $15/hr with benefits, since that's what you think you are worth. Trouble is the employer will pay you what they think you are worth, not what you think you are worth.

And Im way better than 5 other schools out there based on what I saw at the Brownell's career fair.
Telling you right now get off your high horse. Your work was judged better than other "gunsmith trainees". I'm not impressed. Gunsmithing is a profession of humbleness. Just get the job done right, get paid, and move on. The gun industry does not cater to the "I'm so awesome" attitude. They will tear you to shreds.

But I know I am no way experianced.
This is why you aren't getting $15/hr plus benefits. My machinists start at $10 per hour no benefits. Perks are guns can be bought for cost plus $20. That's it.

I have about $3000 in tools now but no lathe, mill, tanks, belt sanders, drill press etc. I guess I would still need to get another $2000 in hand tools and guages. Many of the shops out there already have mauch of these things in there stores already.
If you aren't intimately familiar with this machinery, you aren't worth much as a gunsmith. A certificate from a gunsmith school is not a talisman that says you are a gunsmith. You have to prove it. You do this with experience.

Going to gunsmith school isn't experience. It's an awareness course. Sort of like you go to school for Criminal Justice, but you learn to be a cop by being a cop and walking the beat. You aren't a gunsmith until you are in the field and your mentor says you are. It's a title that is tossed around a lot. I have seen a lot of "gunsmiths" in my day, but very few gunsmiths.


As far as overhead in the gun stores. The rent, lights have to be paid regardless if there is a smith there or not. Their main buisness is to sell guns. The guns on the shelf are the overhead. Those guns sitting on the shelf could be better use earning interest if they don't sell quick. The counter help cost you a days wage no matter if he sells a gun or not that day. And he usually has to sell at least 1-2 day just to break even for the shop to cover his wage. But the smith generates income for the shop for just by being there. Ever shop i've ever checked is back logged with work. So he should be billing customers $65 X 8 hours everyday. Even with tooling costs, insurance and electricity and $12 and hour does not even come close to $65 and hour charge rate.
Quite clear you have no idea how a business is run and how the industry works.

So that said, only those who are working as trained proffesional gunsmiths need to answer. No home smiths or self taught guys with machinist backgrounds. I want to know what the smiths out there who work for big gunshops make.
Wow. You are something else. Take a look at the Brownells catalog for their average gunsmith shop charges. That's what they charge based on their experience, reputation, local market, and materials plus their overhead. They set their fee by their overhead.

I forgot to add, Im 38 working on my 4th career. I also have a BA in criminal justice, was a production manager, in public safety and a field service tech. I was making $10 with full benifits straight out of school in 1995.
Nothing stands out there.

I do love what I do but I have to look out for me so I have to ask.
So you spent time and money on being educated about a career path without knowing or having any clue how much your starting wage/benefits package will be nationwide? :confused:

hickstick_10
April 28, 2010, 11:10 PM
Harsh....but well said Freakshow10mm

johns7022
April 29, 2010, 12:31 AM
First off...Les Baer, Bill Wilson, and Ed Brown, are probably pretty happy having decided to work on guns for a living..

If your just looking for salary figures...that's silly...gunsmiths come in all stripes..part timers to guys sitting at Springfield making TRPs and Pros all day... if it's something you want to do...there is a way...

Joat
April 29, 2010, 10:15 AM
I considered hitting "Ignore" and getting on with my life, but I find that I am unable to let the OP's follow-up comments slide by.

If you want to know what the shops are hiring people with your time in trade and experience for, ASK THEM. Comparing your worth to that of a working smith is asinine. It is called apprentice wage or entry level. If you have no experience in the real world, you start with everyone else.

I am a working gunsmith. However, it is not my full time job. In the past 3 months I have worked on, or built, in excess of 20 firearms. These range from parts replacement repairs to fabrication of parts and/or complete firearms. My "hourly rate" for this work might buy me a cup of coffee if I bothered to figure it out. I don't try to feed my family as a gunsmith for the same reason that I do not teach public school: Compensation does not equal output.
I do not have a bought and paid for piece of paper on my wall saying that I am "trained". I do have 20+ years of accumulated knowledge working on guns and the good fortune to work under, and with, some very talented gunsmiths.

I do resent the fact that someone who took a love of guns, a failed career, a holier than thou attitude, the ability to follow simple instructions, and some basic mechanical skills and has turned it into a "I deserve more than everyone else because I did well in school" attitude, with a healthy dose of "My credentials are better than yours". You are starting out as a rookie smith. Your work in school might get you into the shop. It shows that you have the basic aptitude for the mechanical skills involved and that you can complete an assigned task with supervision.

If you are so good, Hang out your shingle and start your own shop, then you can pay yourself whatever you feel you are worth.

Part of that $65.00 an hour shop rate also goes towards covering any screw-ups (real or perceived) the brand new smith makes. Things do happen. Parts fail, screwdrivers slip, finishes get scratched, customers from hell,... All need to be made right to stay in business. The shop usually only gets paid to do the job once.

RANT OFF

Joat

Powderman
April 29, 2010, 01:13 PM
No home smiths or self taught guys with machinist backgrounds

Wow. Here's a question for you...

What do the following people have in common?

Bill Wilson
Jim Clark Sr.
Jim Clark Jr.
Les Baer
Bill Laughridge

and about 99% of the American Pistolsmiths Guild

have in common?

Answer: To the best of my knowledge, ALL OF THEM ARE SELF TAUGHT GUNSMITHS.

One gentleman I know is named Ed Masaki. He is a quite modest, Hawaiian gentleman in his 70's now. He started off as a watchmaker and jeweler.

Sometime between doing that, serving in WWII and now, he decided on accurizing pistols for competition.

He's not too well known if you don't shoot NRA Conventional Pistol. But if you do, his work is legend. I was fortunate to befriend this gentleman; I own two of his handguns. Both are flawlessly executed, and both will hold a 1.5 inch group for 5 rounds of .45 ACP--at 50 yards. Yes, I said and meant YARDS.

His custom pistols sell for almost as much used as they do new--which averages about $1700 each.

However, he is the most pleasant and humble man I kinow. At Camp Perry, OH, for about the last 4 years, he has been holding classes on how to build target 1911 pistols. The cost for attendance? FREE. Walk up to him, and tell him about a problem with a pistol. He'll tell you how to fix it--FREE.

As others have said, lose the attitude, fella.

I'm a self-taught gunsmith. But I will never make money off the things I work on--simply because I love to work on guns, and I never charge enough to offset my time. Within the last month, I fixed a Taurus revolver--for free--and two Smith and Wessons--for free. I have helped repair quite a few handguns and rifles at the range. My wife's nephew had a Mossberg with a horrible trigger pull. I asked to see it; an hour later I handed it back to him with a clean 3 lb. pull--without touching ANY of the sear or hammer contact surfaces.

I've been actively working on--and studying the science of firearms, ballistics, and the internal workings of guns--since I was 8 years old. That makes 42 years.

I have had three military arms rooms where I did LOTS more than the TM called for to keep our unit's weapons in working order.

I'm also my Department's armorer.

I have contracted out for bluing some folks' guns--my specialty in that aspect is polishing and flaw removal.

And, I am the first to admit that I don't know enough about guns. I believe that if I was paid what I was worth as a smith, $10.00 an hour would be great!

Get humble, guy. Most of the REALLY good gunsmiths I know don't want your resume--as a matter of fact, show them attitude, and you're out the door.

Perhaps you should go and apply at Holland and Holland, overseas. I hear that their test of skill used to be quite simple. They weren't interested in your education--they simply handed you a block of steel and a file--and told you to create a 1" cube. No measuring tools--just your hands, a good file, and a piece of steel.

Can you do that?

LongRifles, Inc.
April 29, 2010, 01:56 PM
Take this for what its worth.

I've been in this trade in almost every capacity now for 12+ years. I've built rifles from scratch, done repairs, counter sales, managed, and now own a business.

I was the production manager for Nesika Bay Precision. I had 5 first year graduates from a gunsmith school for employees.

Reasons I'll never hire a gunsmith fresh out of school ever again:

1. The school fills the young mind with illusions of fantasy that manifest into unrealistic pay expectations.
2. They thought they new everything.
3. They resisted learning new ways of doing things.

A trade school is a number game. It's about job placement upon graduation and little else.

I'm guessing you bedded a rifle or two while there. I can promise you the day you walked into my shop I'd fire you on the spot if you even looked at me funny when I told you to forget everything they taught you. Take a look at what mine look like and judge for yourself.


Gunmaking historically has been a cottage industry. A guy in his shop/garage/basement tinkering on the neighbors guns gets a feel for it, gets and FFL and then starts a business. Nothing wrong with that but it also keeps the trade in the dark ages IMO and it will only reduce your income earning potential. Instead of gouging a client for that last nickel, maybe consider revamping how you do things a little.

Think outside the box. Now that you have the basics, learn the more modern methods to manufacture. Learn the software/CNC side of things. One day the bulb might just come on and you'll see the ENDLESS potential when applied to custom gun making.

First and foremost, humble yourself and make the decision to devote the next 5 years to actually learning how to put those fundamental skills to work in a profitable manner. I can promise you a file/dremel tool are the last tools I look for when building a rifle for my clients. I don't even own a dremel that I keep at work.

I didn't just fall into any of this. I starved on $250/wk for the first four years. Hated it at the time but I wouldn't trade it for anything now. Later, things started to happen and life has improved significantly since. Be diligent and take the view of the trade being a lifestyle instead of a 9-5 bill paying grunge of a job.

Good luck and welcome.

Chad


Chad Dixon
Gunmaker, Owner
LongRifles, Inc.

johns7022
April 29, 2010, 05:57 PM
Expert gunsmith = The guy that fixes the guns the other expert gunsmiths can't....

Having seen my share of screwed up firearms...turns out there is usualy only so many 'go to' guys when you really need help.....

dchi
April 29, 2010, 11:30 PM
Funny how some of you get so angry so easily. I could have fun with this. I tried to close this thread and said no more replies needed. Feel free to rant if you want. I think some of you misunderstood what I was asking. Life is too short to get all bent out of shape.

BTW I never said I was or comparing myself to a pro-gunsmith in the field. Just what was normal for a new guy with some good looking work.

Harry Bonar
April 30, 2010, 08:26 AM
Sir;
Well said, Chad!
Harry B.

mapsjanhere
April 30, 2010, 08:35 AM
Dchi, with such a unique and readily identifiable CV as you laid out in this thread, you better hope that non of your potential employers is a reader of the Firing Line. You're getting close to "drunken nude pictures on Facebook" level in making as ass out of yourself in front of a technical audience where a limited number of people talk a lot to each other.

freakshow10mm
April 30, 2010, 11:43 AM
You should read the PMs he sent to a select few of us. Hilarious.

guncrank
May 6, 2010, 06:03 PM
Young man I graduated from TSJC in 1986. I nevered worked for anybody except myself in the gunsmithing trade.
I did get a job in a factory as appretence tool maker. I have worked in factory all my life.
Now I am a machinist (the only one ) for a pork processer (slaughterhouse).
I paid my dues myself with hard knocks and learning as I go.

You should take the 12 hour job and learn as much as possible.
You know just enough to start. That is the hard and fast of it.
If you want to jumb into it go to a bigger city and open up a retail gun shop.
YOu will strave or survive.
Sorry no easy answer for you. You have zero practical experence and that is what your employer will see. You have agreat potentional.

YOu want to make 15.00 to start. Ha that's good. Can you complete a .45 action job in half hour? Can you polish a Purdy to 500 grit in one hour?
See you have it in you but most peaple don't want to pay that time it takes for you to learn.

My advise to you is get a any job that pays the bills and start out on your own. Only do what you can and find a shop that can handle the rest and establish a releation with that place.

Of course this is just my opion and the spelling and grammer is all mine.
Good luck.
CEW

Nite Ryder
May 9, 2010, 06:23 PM
I'm not a gunsmith, but I've been a business owner for 31 years, and a 'gun nut' all of my adult life. I've know many gunsmith's in my town, and have a close relationship with both of them. One of these guys has just retired, and his main reason for doing so was he just got tired of dealing with the public, he wasn't a people person. He was a real good gunsmith, but he couldn't make a living wage just working on guns, so he also owned a gunshop. My other friend is retired from a public utilities company and started doing gunsmith as a hobby then went into business. He is just into repairs and doesn't sell new firearms, and he makes a living, but he has an income from the company he retired from. I would be surprised if anyone hired you and paid you even close to what gunsmiths make in wages when they work for themselves. First thing, you don't have any experience, and probably don't have your own tools. You maybe worth more than minimum wage, but it will be hard to find someone who will take a chance on you and pay you what you think you are worth. Business owners don't think like employees. If you are paid $12.00 per hour, what you cost the employer after he pays taxes and social security on you is probably in the neighborhood of $16 or $17 an hour, more if he is paying for health insurance. Believe it or not our government makes it very hard for the small business man to hire people and make a living.

Clark
May 10, 2010, 09:56 AM
I have never been paid for gunsmthing with my $10k worth of gunsmithing tools and parts, but I have worked as a handiman.

One thing became obvious very quickly was that some other handymen I knew were better than me.

But I was better at finding work and negotiating money. I can find work and find workers to do it and put the deal together.

I will not mention his name, but there is a successful gunsmith in the greater Seattle area, who would have made even more money if he had been a crook err "commissioned salesman for a high profit product" in some other field.

I have been an engineer for 30 some years, and those years I hit the top 1% of engineering income were not because I was the best engineer, it was because I was selling myself as the best.

I could have made even more money if I had run a junk yard or pawn shop.

fisherman66
May 10, 2010, 10:16 AM
I'd pick a niche and make it a second job until it pays better than your first job (including the benefits you will be responsible for). Checkering nice stocks can pay "well" once you are established and producing top self results. It doesn't require the overhead of tool purchasing that full service smiths need, although it will require some capital. That's not the only niche, but one that will give you access to people who are willing to pay well for excellent results. After that you can move into other jobs. Take a picture of each job to build a "resume". Whatever you start with....become the best in the business and the money will eventually come. If you accept mediocre results from yourself you will be unhappy, bitter and hungry. Once you really have your feet under you train the most highly qualified folks to come in and work their way up. Know some will leave you to start their own business, but if there's no bridge burning you will have referrals going in both direction. I'd guess 9/10th of smith shops fail pretty quickly. You'll never get rich quick and very, very few smiths ever get rich.

James K
May 10, 2010, 01:21 PM
I just paid $190 to have my septic tank pumped. It took an hour, including digging down about a foot. I don't know, but I am willing to place a small bet that the young man who did the work didn't get ten percent of the $190.

Jim

Scorch
May 10, 2010, 01:36 PM
I am willing to place a small bet that the young man who did the work didn't get ten percent of the $190.I agree, but he probably wasn't whining that someone else had gone out and bought the pump truck so he didn't have to do it by hand.;)

Clark
May 11, 2010, 01:06 AM
If the pump job was for a bank loan to prove there was a septic tank, a deal could have been struck on site.

Don H
May 11, 2010, 01:32 PM
It appears that the voices of experience offended the young man.

oneounceload
May 11, 2010, 02:27 PM
It appears that the voices of experience offended the young man.

More like crushed his rose-colored glasses view of the world as he thinks it should be........that's OK - a dose of reality now and again is a good thing

apr1775
May 13, 2010, 10:28 AM
Anyone ever notice that so many gunsmiths are "older" men. Does this mean we are going to run out of gunsmiths? I'm in my 30's and enjoy working on my own guns. Sure I'd like to be working on guns for a living, but it just wouldn't pay what I'm making in my current job field. I can easily see myself as a professional gunsmith after I retire. I suppose there are others out there like me, so in the future there will be a new crop of old guys working as professional gunsmiths. Meanwhile, we'll have a few decades to accumulate tools and experience, and make our mistakes on our own guns. If I wanted to go professional right now, I'd have to greatly reduce my standard of living.

1911rocks
May 13, 2010, 11:45 AM
I had a Gunsmithing business. Here's what I learned.

1) It won't support a family of 4 as a single income household and send your children to college
2) It's a hobby with income potential
3) Not a bad retirement gig, unfortunately the customers don't understand a retiree's schedule.
4) If you aren't soured with people before you may be afterward.
5) You are making an income from, for the most part, an activity that is essentially a hobby to your clientele (LEOs and PMC/ESDs excluded) so your business model will always be more demanding than your clientele's need for your services (LEOs and PMC/ESDs excluded) . It's not like a Auto Mechanic, Doctor, Teacher, Firefighter, etc.

I'm retired now, I bought another Bridgeport Mill, Cincinnati Lathe for my own use, not to do someone else's work.

1911rocks
May 13, 2010, 11:49 AM
I had a Gunsmithing business. Here's what I learned.

1) It won't support a family of 4 as a single income household and send your children to college
2) It's a hobby with income potential
3) Not a bad retirement gig, unfortunately the customers don't understand a retiree's schedule.
4) If you aren't soured with people before you may be afterward.
5) You are making an income from, for the most part, an activity that is essentially a hobby to your clientele (LEOs and PMC/ESDs excluded) so your business model will always be more demanding than your clientele's need for your services (LEOs and PMC/ESDs excluded) . It's not like a Auto Mechanic, Doctor, Teacher, Firefighter, etc.

I'm retired now, I bought another Bridgeport Mill, Cincinnati Lathe for my own use, not to do someone else's work. It works for me

The high turn-over is just because it's a service to a hobby.

publius
May 13, 2010, 12:04 PM
12 an hour is pretty darn good, especially just out of school. you are going to need to work for someone first. School didn't teach you nearly everything and you wouldn't want to open your own shop and ruin your reputation and crash& burn. My gunsmith makes good money but he was in the business for years before opening his own shop 20-25yrs. ago. He also sells guns and has the entire market in a town of 400,000. You also have to be a good businessman, not just a good gunsmith. All the skills in the world won't make up for poor business practices.

johnwilliamson062
May 13, 2010, 01:02 PM
Another very common trait is humility and being somewhat soft spoken.
Where the hell are those gunsmiths.

I'll take a good general machinist or wood carver over a recent gunsmith school graduate any day. It isn't like guns are magical, they are just another mechanical device no more complicated than the things other machinists work on. Any machinist who can't fix a gun should be pushing a broom.

Gunplummer
May 13, 2010, 01:09 PM
I can not believe this is up again. Let us get on with gun stuff, please.

dksac2
May 18, 2010, 01:40 AM
I have not read all the posts so here is my advice.
1. Go to work in a good gunsmithing shop for a while. Even if the pay is less than expected, don't just do assembly work. You want to work in a full service shop.
Learn all you can. If the smith has a good library, especially old repair manuels from the manufacturers, copy everthing that you can.
Build a big library. You don't have to know how to do everything, just where to find the info.
2. Save your money to buy tools. Only buy the basics, then get what you need on a need to have basis. Don't spend all your money on a tool you may never use or use once. Make any tools that you can. You will gain machining experience and many times save money.
I graduated top of my class from a good gunsmithing school, went to work for a very good smith and finally opened my own shop.
It was open part time as I needed a full time job to pay the bills and buy tooling.
When I first opened, I has a small lathe, drill press, grinder, sander and a few other power tools and my hand tools, put pretty good knowledge for a newer smith (it takes years to get really good).
More than a few customers walked out because they expected to see a full size lathe and mill. Either have a back room the customers cannot see into or buy the equipment. There are great deals on good used American made lathes and mills out there. Take a good machinest with you who knows equipment well.
You will save thousands of $$$. You don't need new.
3. Do general gunsmithing work for the community, don't be afraid to turn down jobs that are loosers. If you don't do something yourself such as bluing, take the job, send it out and tack a few bucks on. It will bring in business that you can do. If the job is something that you can't do, send it out or find out how to do it correctly. Don't ruin someone's firearm. One ****** customer can really hurt your business, espeially when new.
4. Do it part time until you have enough business to go full time if ever.
Last, find a nitch or specialty, that is where the money is. Build a good web site and get business from the net. I started www.savagegunsmithing.com
There were not a lot of smiths working on Savage rifles. I became the gunsmithing moderator on the Savageshooters web site.
I built up a good business. You will starve on just doing gunsmithing for your community unless it is a big community with very few or no shops.
When I retired, I sold my web business to a very good gunsmith. He has made some good money from the site and it has kept food on his table during the slow times. He always has a couple walls of Savage rifles ready to be worked on. I'd try something other than the Savages. He and one other smith pretty much have the market cornered and he is a Master Smith with a very good reputation.
5. It is a business, not a hobby, run it like a business. Get some business training if you need it and give great customer service. Even if it means loosing a few $$. It many times comes back to you many time over.
Look professional and act that way. Don't B.S. If you don't know the answer, don't be afraid to say so. Get the info and get back to the customer.

I now took the time to read some of the posts.From what I gather, you are upset brcause you are not making the money you think that you deserve and the bennies.
First of all, I graduated first in my class, and what I found out when I got out was that you could have written a huge book on what I didn't know.
Gunsmithing school only gives you the tools to go out and learn to be a gunsmith. There is so much you never get to see or do in school, not enough time to make you a good machinest etc.
It takes years to become a good smith.
And yes, I have seen some excellent smiths who never went to gunsmithing school.
My gunsmithing friend I mentioned never went to gunsmithing school. He went to school first as a machinest, then helicopter mechanic, which he was for some years. He became an expert welder also. In 1985 he started gunsmithing. He is now one of the few Master Riflesmiths out there.
I considered myself to be a darn good smith when I retired, but not a master.
This guy knows more about machining and welding then 10 other gunsmiths do. He is also very smart. Put his life experiences togather before becoming a smith and that is what has helped him become the smith he is today.
You my friend are like someone who just graduated from the 8th grade and thinks he know everthing and has the world by the stones. Take your time, work for what you are worth to a good shop, learn all you can, a good smith learnes something new every day, no matter how long he has been a smith.
Once you think you have enough experience, then you can go out on your own and find out again just how much you don't know.
Life experience matters. The older guys (50 and over) in gunsmithing school were the one's who did the best by far. There were a few young guys that had a chance, but some of them could have broken a ball bearing with a rubber mallet when the graduated.
Be realistic, the people who have answerd you for the most part have been there and done that. I know I have.
Good luck, John K

alloy
May 18, 2010, 06:42 AM
How much does a mechanic make?
It depends. I make 50 an hour and 95% of it goes back into the bills and expenses.
I'd be better off working for 8 bux an hour on someone else's dime and they can have the headaches, telephone, and overhead.:)

Are you a gunsmith now, machinist too? Sometimes I think the old apprentice system for the various trades gave greater expectations and definately a more accurate understanding.