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Old January 17, 2009, 08:33 AM   #1
J S Machine
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what steps are involved in becomming a gunsmith?

I have been a toolmaker as my daily occupation for about 6 years now. I have always kind of been interested in gunsmith work but never ventured off in to it. I feel like I might be interested in it.

What kind of training do you guys have? Are there any licenses involved? What are some of the specific tools needed? I do have a lathe, but would need to aquire a mill I'm sure.

And last but not least, is there any money in it? Do you think the trade will last with the uncertainty of guns in the future? I'm only interested in learning it as a side job, not a full time job.
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Old January 17, 2009, 08:37 AM   #2
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Check out the Colorado School of Trades. www.schooloftrades.com
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Old January 17, 2009, 11:04 AM   #3
kraigwy
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Being a good machinest is a big help. And regardless of the political enviorment gunsmiths will be around as long as there are guns.

The problem is, there are tons of gun tinkerers out there but few real machinest. Anyone can order parts but the real artist is those who can make the parts.

As far a making money, there are two problems I've seen with gunsmiths. One, they let the customer take over. You spend more tiime BSing with customers and gun nuts then you do working. The second is don't become a premidona. if some one comes in and wants a part made for something non-gun related, dont run him off, there are lots of machine shops out there but few that want to take on the little jobs.

I'd recommend getting a copy of THE MODERN GUNSMITH by Howe (two volumes) go through the book and see what a real gunsmith does. Are you willing to make your own sights, chamber reamers, bullet molds, etc.

Gun tinkers are a dime a dozzen, good machinest/gunsmiths are rare. And yes you'll need a milling machine, I use mine as much as my lathes.
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Old January 17, 2009, 11:37 AM   #4
VaFisher
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Quote:
Being a good machinest is a big help. And regardless of the political enviorment gunsmiths will be around as long as there are guns.

The problem is, there are tons of gun tinkerers out there but few real machinest. Anyone can order parts but the real artist is those who can make the parts.

As far a making money, there are two problems I've seen with gunsmiths. One, they let the customer take over. You spend more tiime BSing with customers and gun nuts then you do working. The second is don't become a premidona. if some one comes in and wants a part made for something non-gun related, dont run him off, there are lots of machine shops out there but few that want to take on the little jobs.

I'd recommend getting a copy of THE MODERN GUNSMITH by Howe (two volumes) go through the book and see what a real gunsmith does. Are you willing to make your own sights, chamber reamers, bullet molds, etc.

Gun tinkers are a dime a dozzen, good machinest/gunsmiths are rare. And yes you'll need a milling machine, I use mine as much as my lathes.

Well said, I would like to add a little to the list.
If you know of a first class Smith in your area ask if they hire or will hire a apprentice that allready has machining skills. If so you would learn more there is a short time then anywhere I can think of. Of course you could attend a college but it makes it harder and longer to learn. Like above post said there are dime a dozen tinkers but very few Machinist/Gunsmiths so it should give you a great goal. I personally have been in business for 37 years now and keep learning things as I go, past jobs have taught me how to even if I havent done some different jobs I still have a very good idea of what to do.
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Old January 17, 2009, 12:39 PM   #5
grymster2007
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I think two major areas of expertise are required and you have one covered. Having the ability to make or modify the hardware puts you ahead of most, but until you have an in-depth understanding of how a large variety of guns work, you won't know how to apply your machining skills to the problem at hand. Finding gunsmithing classes at a local community college would be a good start. Apprenticing with a successful gunsmith would be better. Both would be ideal.

Yup.... gunna need a milling machine. Wish I still had my Tree mill.
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Old January 17, 2009, 10:14 PM   #6
James K
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This has been covered a zillion times on this site and on The High Road site. I suggest a search.

To summarize, first, you will never become rich gunsmithing. A few pioneers in specialty fields have done well, but the average gunsmith would do much better financially as a plumber.

You need not only an FFL but also any business licenses the city, county or state requires. You need insurance. You need some knowledge of business practices, and either know or know someone who knows bookkeeping. If you employ anyone you need to comply with OSHA rules, tax witholding, etc. You need to comply with all zoning regulations. If you want to be just a gunsmith, don't get into retail sales and minimize dealing directly with the customer. Getting business through local gun shops is better, and you don't waste time in pointless gabfests with people who have no idea what they want done.

I strongly advise against working out of your house for many reasons.

Mainly, you need capital. I have suggested that a full time smith would need a startup fund of at least $250,000 to cover a building, machinery, tools, licenses, and living money until he gets started. As a part timer, you wouldn't need the living money, but you would need the rest. I suggest you obtain a Brownell's catalog and just look at the prices of such mundane stuff as chambering reamers and headspace gauges. You will know where the above figure comes from.

There are books on gunsmithing, and video courses, but there is no substitute for a good trade school. Knowing machining is good, but working on guns requires some specialized knowledge that a general machinist doesn't have.

Jim
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Old January 19, 2009, 04:52 PM   #7
Old Guard Dog
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Gun lathe

You mentioned you already have a lathe. The main difference between a regular lathe and a gunsmithing lathe is the size of the spindle, to allow the barrel to fit. Also needed is a way to support the barrel sticking out of the back if the spindle, and there is usually a collar with brass-tipped bolts that handle that. I'm sure you could make this yourself. As long as the spindle is large enough to fit barrels in, you are good to go.

Check out the gunsmith lathes sold by Grizzley. You can see this support system there. Their smallest gunsmith lathe spindle is 1 5/8", as I recall.

Remember too, if you want to work on guns and get paid for it, you will need a FFL. There is no "hobby" gunsmith, if you charge.

There are several home gunsmithing courses, some good, and some not, but if you have the means, go to a school full time and get it over with. If it is what you want to do, go for it!

Gun restrictions will only make a better market for repairs and reconditioning existing guns, IMHO.
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Old January 19, 2009, 08:33 PM   #8
orchidhunter
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The NRA offers some short term gunsmithing courses. You can just start calling yourself a gunsmith any time. orchidhunter
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Old January 19, 2009, 10:31 PM   #9
James K
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It is always amusing to me that so many people want to be gunsmiths and tinker with guns, but almost no one wants to even think about the business aspect. I know at least a half dozen people who started gunsmith businesses over the years; every one is out of business, and only a couple lasted more than a year.

Why? Some thought all they needed was an FFL, a screwdriver set and a mill bastard file. Others knew (or thought they knew) how to work on guns or do machine work. But keeping books? Calculating a profit margin? Getting the right local licenses and permits? Getting a business premises? Getting insurance? All those silly, unimportant things that make the difference between any successful business and a costly failure.

And the responses, even with the best of intentions, are not always helpful. One response on another site was that a gunsmith had to be able to file a perfect 1" cube from steel (a requirement for a journeyman gunsmith in 18th century England). What nonsense! He would be better off learning how to use Quicken and do his income tax.

Jim
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Old January 20, 2009, 09:29 AM   #10
Al Thompson
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Strongly second Jim's wise comments. I have watched at least four good folks fail miserably as they didn't realize they were running a business first, making a profit second and thirdly doing something fun.

And a bunch of gun folks are just jerks to deal with.
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Old January 20, 2009, 06:46 PM   #11
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JS: I second Al's second of Jim's post, and would like to add one more thing to Jim's list. When you're in your shop you have to forget that you have "BUDDIES". Friends are OK, but your buddy will want you to cut him a deal. If you give discounts, or do substandard work to cut corners and save him a dollar, it WILL come back to bite you on the butt.
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