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Old February 9, 2010, 11:59 AM   #1
mfpd5
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gunsmith schooling?

Does anyone have any experience or suggestions concerning gunsmith schooling? I would like to learn the trade and start doing some work on the side first in hopes of possibly making it my full time gig in the future. I have looked at AGI's course but wanted to get some other opinions. I have a full time job now so my options are limited.

Thanks for any info you can provide.
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Old February 9, 2010, 12:20 PM   #2
edward5759
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I started when I was 15 years old

I would clean and work in the shop
After all the cleaning was done, and done right.
The Smith gave me a piece of steel slag and a #2 bastard file.
He said make a 1"X1"X1" cube, not more than .005 out of shape.
That’s how I learned to use a file, A little.
Now I am 65 years old I owned a gun shop foe 20+ years.
mfpd5 There is no school that’s going to make you a Smith.
Hard work and a lot of years will do that.
Then when you get done, people will tell you that they can buy a new rifle or handgun for the price that the repair or modification will cost.
You will only make a modest amount of money for amount of work you put out.
Sell Toyota's or something else.
If you’re really wanting to do it, then quit your job you have now and become an apprentice at a shop.
Ed
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Old February 9, 2010, 12:29 PM   #3
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Ed is right. I had a similar experience as he has but in different line of work. If it is your passion follow it but it would be wise to have an exit strategy.

Not sure bout selling Toyotas now that they have all these recalls, just a little humor.

Good Luck and live your passion.
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Old February 9, 2010, 08:13 PM   #4
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I guess a lot depends on what you want to do as a 'smith'. Some people are content to just install scopes and change out broken parts.

If your goal is to build custom guns and do more than just install scopes & parts then you should invest your time learning to be a machinist. To do it right you have to learn precison benchwork as well as precision machine work.
As Ed said, learning to use a file properly (lift after each stroke & keep it clean) is a small part of the trade.
I'm 59 years old and have thought about gunsmithing as my second career.
I finished my diemakers apprenticeship in 1974. It wasn't in a union shop, so all I could get at that time was a state certificate. I have worked as a machinest & diemaker my whole life and it has been my preferred life's work.

Last April my gunsmith mentor & friend died after 65 years in the business. He was a high school machine shop teacher. His workbook is still published. He taught my father, who in turn taught me. He taught me a lot, but I didn't get to spend the time with him I would've liked to. It was really,really, hard for me to go into the machine shop area of his gunshop after he died.
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Old February 9, 2010, 08:56 PM   #5
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http://www.trinidadstate.edu/

Trinidad Community College in Colorado has a respected school for gunsmithing.
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Old February 9, 2010, 09:19 PM   #6
Dfariswheel
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Do a search on this site and you'll turn up a number of posts about gunsmith training.

In short, an internet or mail order course will not qualify you to take money for gunsmithing other peoples guns.
It may help if you want to work on your own guns.
With these courses, a qualified gunsmith/instructor never sees your work, so you have no way of knowing if you're really doing it right or if you're just butchering things up.

If you want to take money for gun work, you MUST have a Federal Firearms License, any state or local business licenses or permits, tax numbers, and set up shop in an area that's zoned for it, AND have insurance to prevent a disgruntled customer from suing you out of everything you own.
No one is more vindictive than a friend who's angry with you for not meeting his expectations on quality of work, and the lawyers get drawn like guns.

As a zoning example, recently a local man tried to open a shop in his basement. The neighbors disputed this, and the city council turned him down since his house wasn't zoned for a business.

The hard truth is, if you expect to accept money for gun work, you need to attend a real gunsmithing school and really learn the trade.
Yes, there are people who learn by working as an apprentice, or who are talented enough to be self-taught but they are a tiny minority.

Do not think that taking a machine shop course and learning to operate lathes and milling machines will make you a qualified gunsmith.... it won't.
Most good gunsmiths are good machinist, but most machinists are NOT good gunsmiths and many are terrible at it.
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Old February 9, 2010, 09:19 PM   #7
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I finished up the Penn Foster correspondence course a while back. Learned something, but it's a very small step towards being a gunsmith. The hands on with a great teacher is what one needs.

PM me if you are interested in buying the books from their course. Or, I have an old ad in the sale forum here for them.

I do think it's a career of passion and not one where there is a ton of money to be made.
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Old February 10, 2010, 12:54 PM   #8
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One of my brothers got a degree in economics with perfect grades.
There were no jobs for econ majors.

There are no jobs for gunsmiths.
They must start a business.
Go talk to an old gunsmith about how much money you could make.
They do not make the kind of money an auto mechanic with his own business makes.

Do what I did, work as an engineer.
Buy all the gunsmithing equipment you want; mill, lathe, TIG welder, etc.
Just work on your own guns.
Laugh all the way to the bank.
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Old February 10, 2010, 04:35 PM   #9
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The thing I did

When I was working in the gun shop, I was going to school just like clark
When I owned the shop, I paid for my health insurance, cars, boats, hunting trips, women, and kids by being an Engineer.
The best year in the gun store was $182,000
As an engineer I averaged $80,000 every year.
Engineering school helped me as an a Mechanical Engineer/Gunsmith.
it sometime would pay my Daughters salary during the lean months.
Ed
Clark is right !
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Old February 11, 2010, 08:13 AM   #10
mfpd5
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Thanks for the replies. I have reserved myself to the fact that I should look at gunsmithing as more of a hobby. Its funny that some of you mention being an engineer because thats actually my current job.

So looking at it as more of a serious hobby, do any of you have any suggestions on books for gunsmithing/machining? I understand that nothing can substitute for one-on-one training, but I would like to learn all I can.
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Old February 11, 2010, 08:19 PM   #11
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Most of the available books are older works that show techniques that really aren't acceptable to todays customers.
These are the old "get it to work....somehow" techniques involving heating and bending, silver soldering, and making expedient parts.
Today, a customer who gets his gun back with some of the old "hack work to make it work" techniques would sue.

The best books currently available are the Jerry Kuhnhausen shop manual series.
Kuhnhausen was a master gunsmith who also trained new gunsmiths for the industry, including the gun companies.
For that reason, he taught only the factory type techniques to restore guns to factory condition.

The Kuhnhausen books are written as shop manuals on a specific brand and type of gun. These show complete factory style gunsmithing operations and cover everything.
While these don't get into basics like how to operate a file or screwdriver, they do show how to actually gunsmith a specific gun.
There are also video tapes to go with the books.

These are an excellent start since you can sit down with a gun and the Kuhnhausen book and disassemble it and learn HOW it works and how to work on it.
These are NOT just the usual reprints of old ordnance manuals or the usual short articles from gun magazines, these are real technical manuals.

http://www.brownells.com/.aspx/cid=0...ch=shop_manual
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Old February 11, 2010, 10:19 PM   #12
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Quote:
One of my brothers got a degree in economics with perfect grades.
There were no jobs for econ majors.

There are no jobs for gunsmiths.
They must start a business.
Go talk to an old gunsmith about how much money you could make.
They do not make the kind of money an auto mechanic with his own business makes.

Do what I did, work as an engineer.
Buy all the gunsmithing equipment you want; mill, lathe, TIG welder, etc.
Just work on your own guns.
Laugh all the way to the bank.

Clark, you are a fool if you think there are no jobs for graduating Smiths. . .
I Graduated from Pennsylvania Gunsmith School in November 09 and started working at a shop in my home town 3 days later, there were 2 local shops looking to hire me at the time. Not to mention Gander Mountain is always hiring smiths, not likely something you want to do for the rest of your life but they offer a hell of a start. . .
Not to mention Ballard Arms, Doug Turnbull Restoration, Blackheart International, and many other smaller shops out west were all hiring when I graduated. . .

There is God's plenty of employment out there for guys that apply themselves and are willing to move to the work. . .

I see you are an engineer. . .that explains a lot. . .
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Old February 12, 2010, 01:47 PM   #13
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Quote:
TheShootist1894
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Quote:
One of my brothers got a degree in economics with perfect grades.
There were no jobs for econ majors.

There are no jobs for gunsmiths.
They must start a business.
Go talk to an old gunsmith about how much money you could make.
They do not make the kind of money an auto mechanic with his own business makes.

Do what I did, work as an engineer.
Buy all the gunsmithing equipment you want; mill, lathe, TIG welder, etc.
Just work on your own guns.
Laugh all the way to the bank.

Clark, you are a fool if you think there are no jobs for graduating Smiths. . .
I Graduated from Pennsylvania Gunsmith School in November 09 and started working at a shop in my home town 3 days later, there were 2 local shops looking to hire me at the time. Not to mention Gander Mountain is always hiring smiths, not likely something you want to do for the rest of your life but they offer a hell of a start. . .
Not to mention Ballard Arms, Doug Turnbull Restoration, Blackheart International, and many other smaller shops out west were all hiring when I graduated. . .

There is God's plenty of employment out there for guys that apply themselves and are willing to move to the work. . .

I see you are an engineer. . .that explains a lot. . .
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Old February 12, 2010, 06:15 PM   #14
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I apologize for being so brash, but I disapprove of the 'online professionals' speaking out on subjects that they do not have firsthand knowledge on. . .

Thanks
Karl
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Old February 18, 2010, 11:11 AM   #15
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I went to TSJC andgraduated in 1984. I have owned my own shop every since.
I can do stuff now that I couldn't do then and less time. Experence is a great teacher.
But I have also worked as a toolmaker/machinist all this timeas well.

Clark is not just a "Internet expert" if he is the same Clark that has been posting in other forums over the years. Don't agree with him about 90% time.
So Poster who graduated in Nov 09 just thought you should know.

To OP if you can't go to a school or get a apprenenceship
then DO NOT waste your money on mail order programs. Buy AGI and as many books as you can. Don't worry about "old school " ways it an'it the technique that makes a hack smith but the workmanship.

Gunsmith schools are like a appretenship they give the knowledge to start and hopefully the enough smarts not to do something you can't do or need to turndown. The schools don't make a smith, youmake the smith.
Guns are semi precision machines but just remeber that gun is owned by somebody else not you. Take ashort cut and you loose a client. Heck done that and been there.
Hope thishelps
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Old February 18, 2010, 11:54 AM   #16
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OK I'm gonna chime in...........

First off, if thats your dream go for it.


First let me say I'm not a gunsmith, although I have built serveral rifles, some dern good target rifles. Its a hobby now.....I only make my own rifles, or rifles for my kids and grandkids. But there was a time.

I was working full time, plus was running a NG Company. I dabled at gun smithing as a part time job..........it didn't really pay expenses so I put two adds in the yellow pages.......one under gunsmithing.......one under Light Machine Shops.

Big Mistake.....the machine shop add drew more business then I could handle. It was a money maker big time. A couple examples.........Firestone was paying me $25 for re-surfacing fly wheels on my Jet Mill/Drill.........that was 15 min. floor time to floor time...........I was using my blueing tanks to blue diesel injectors.......that alone covred my expenses......I was taking in $450 a week just on bluing injectors. I did get a lot of gun work but that alone wounldnt pay enough to justify the business.

The problem I had, I had a family, basely two full time jobs, (LE and NG) and zero time..........it ruined a hobby. I got burned out and it wasnt until I was retired years later before I got to where I enjoyed my lathes and milling machine again.

But if you can do machine work and want to do gunsmithing.....I say go for it, but do it as a Light Machine Shop. There are tons of machines shops out there but few that take on little jobs. The is a huge market for those little jobs. Yes its not cost effective to spend a half hour making a screw for a gun but it is cost effective to take 15 minutes to re-surface a flywheel.

The main thing is DONT GIVE UP YOUR DREAMS. Go for it.
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Old May 25, 2010, 11:33 AM   #17
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Gunsmith schools

I have taken 3 gunsmith courses. 1st in the mid 70's, North American School of Firearms, Newport Bch, CA. I felt it was geared more towards the shooter than the gunsmith, but the school is mentioned in the NRA Gunsmithing Guide - Updated which is out of print (find on ebay). The 2nd course I took was Phoenix State University talk about a quickie! It kinda refreshed my memory. I have one lesson left on the 3rd course from Ashworth College. I felt this is the best of all three courses. I also have about 28 Armorer's Courses from AGI that really go into detail about various weapons. You can access AGI @ www.americangunsmithinginstitute.com or call 1-800-797-0867 for particulars. Like everyone else has said "hands on" or apprenticeship will do the job. Hope that helps some.
There are also schools you can attend: Lassen Community College(CA), Yavapai Community College(AZ), Colorado School of Trades, Montgomery Community College(NC) and probably some more. At the very least, if the desire is there you will learn gunsmithing but you ain't gonna get rich!
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Old May 25, 2010, 09:31 PM   #18
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Let me give you the path that I took. This is a long post.

When I was younger, I took a couple of mail order courses. I found out a little later that everything in them I could have learned by buying several of the good gunsmithing books available.
The courses were a total waste.

Later, in my early 40's, I decided that I wanted to be a gunsmith.
I found a good old gunsmith who was getting ready to retire and had a huge backlog of work. I told him that I would sweep floors or anything else he wanted just to watch and learn.
I was lucky and he let me start to do some of the easier jobs and then taught me much more. He had me threading barrels, cutting chambers, installing brakes etc. He taught me a lot.

He also had a huge library of old and new gun books and many manuels that were put out by the gun manufacturers in the earlier years as well as exploded views of guns you most likely never heard of.
Most were not available anymore, many for years.

I was lucky and had access to a good copy machine and copied thousands of pages of gun related material. I had three each of 4" binders of just Winchester and Remington alone. I made binders for every manufacturer.
I went to every different gun site I could find and printed out anything that would be a help for any gun that I might come across. All of this info went into binders.
I then went to The Colorado School of Trades. Some think it is not the best of the full time schools, but I really liked the instructors and the school has a long history and a good reputation. I found that if you showed real interest, the instructors would go out of their way to help you learn, there was little they would not do to help you.
CST had a gun shop where people would bring their guns in for repair at a greatly reduced price. We got some real POS firearms that needed a lot of work, which was a good thing.

I bought at least half of the available gunsmithing books, many from E Bay at a big cost savings.

When I got to the part of the course where you repaired guns, I told the head instructor that I wanted every SOB firearm repair that he had. The worst of the worst. He asked me if I thought that I could handle that. I told him yes, so he gave me the tough ones.
Many of the younger students just wanted the easy repairs so they could just pass that section of the school. Many of them could break a ball bearing with a rubber mallet.

I got all the expensive double shotguns, the guns that required a lot of work and guns that had been at the school for months that no one else had been able to fix. I repaired them all and with only a couple of exceptions got 4.0 Grades on every gun.

I got done a couple of months early, so they made me a student instructor. I helped the newer students or one's that were having problems.

One of the most important things that I learned that you will not get from books was safety. How to do thing safely, what could be done safely to different firearms and gun repair safety in general. This is where a lot of new gunsmiths get themselves in trouble is not knowing what is safe to do and what wasn't.

I also made drawings of tools and took measurements of them for later.

I graduated at the top of my class and then went to work for a gunsmith for about 6 months.
I should add that people did graduate at different times and some of the other graduates would have given me a good run for top honors. There were some very talented students at the school.
My time at the school was some of the best times I ever had, I didn't want to graduate. Lots of great people, neat firearms and great equipment. We had a lot of fun.

The students who were a little older and had some life experience made the best students. Some of the younger guys I doubt ever became a Gunsmith or could hold a job at a shop. There were some exceptions of course.

I then opened my own shop. It was then that I found out just how much that I didn't know.
My library saved my butt more than once. It was the next best thing to experience.

When I first opened up my shop I had a small lathe, drill press, belt sander and disc sander and a good selection of hand tools.
Many potential customers walked out because they expected to see full sized equipment such as a lathe and mill. No way I could know what I was doing because I didn't have enough equipment.

I bought a good full size lathe and mill. Customers started taking me more serious then.

I worked hard, did every job to the best of my ability and made sure that it was done right and looked professional, even if it took a lot of time that I could not charge for.
As time went on and I got more experienced, I got much faster.

My library was one of the best things that I had.
I also machined as many of my own tools as possible from the drawings I made of the tools at school. This gave me more machine work experience.

I soon had a good group of repeat customers who really liked my work.
I was in a smaller town and there was only so much business so I looked to find a good nitch.
There was only one gunsmith who specialized in Savage Bolt guns and he was 6 to 8 months behind.
I started a web site, savagegunsmithing.com, became the gunsmithing moderator on the Savageshooters web site and before long built up a good internet business.
The people who sent their rifles for accurizing and repair gave me very good reviews online and the business grew.

I hurt my back and had to retire. I gave the Savagegunsmithing business to Scott at S&S Sporting. he is the best gunsmith that I know, works on any type of firearm. He has grown the Savage business greatly and has a large following of repeat customers. I gave all my gun binders to Scott also.
Sometimes I wish I would have kept them, but he lets me use anything that I want in his shop, even when he is not there. he trusts me, which is great,

I never got rich, but loved the work.
Before I had bluing tanks, I took the bluing business as well as other things that I could not do and sent it out to good gunsmiths who gave a trade discount. I would then tack a few dollars on when the firearms were returned to the customers. That way, they continued to bring me all their work.

I ended up being a darn good smith, but it took years to get really good and I learned new things every day. I miss my shop to this day.

Gunsmithing is not an easy way to make a living. It costs thousands to equip a shop and the expendable materials that you use every day cost a lot, as does replacing worn tooling.

I'd do it again. You have to remember that it is a business, not a hobby and treat it as such or you will starve.

There is a great deal of paperwork that has to be done. Time talking to customers and ordering parts; you are not making money doing those things, but they have to be done.
You have to know all the BATF regs and stick to them. It's not worth going to jail over a stupid mistake or by doing something illegal for a few $$$.

If you decide to become a Gunsmith, be sure that you have a second income to support the shop until it's making enough money and have a lot of drive and family support, you'll need it.
Don't waste your money on AGI courses. They may tell you about a spicific gun, or how to do a stock re finish, but they will not come anywhere near in making you a gunsmith. There is far more to gunsmithing than taking apart and re assembling a gun. You need a lot of hands on time and info that AGI will not give you.


Best Regards, John K

Last edited by dksac2; May 27, 2010 at 10:35 AM.
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Old May 27, 2010, 09:24 AM   #19
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mfpd5,

If you are working full time, consider the NRA summer gunsmithing program.

http://www.nragunsmithing.com/

They will give you a one or two week introduction without a lot of time invested.

I have taken courses at Montgomery Community College (Troy NC) the last two summers and am going back again. The best endorsement for anything is repeat business. There are lots of different courses available, but they all tend to fill up early in the year (another endorsement).

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Old May 27, 2010, 10:39 AM   #20
dksac2
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In regards to the post above, they are great courses and will most likely make you want to go to a full time gunsmithing school.Be sure that it's really what you want to do as for full time.
The gunsmithing courses will be a lot of fun as well as learning. But it's a little harder once you get out on your own in the big world.
Take the summer course if you can, you'll love them.

Best Regards, John K
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Old May 28, 2010, 10:17 AM   #21
mfpd5
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Thanks

Thanks for all of the replies.

I am tired of the rat race of the corporate world and always heard you should take something you love and find a way to make money at it.

I will definitely apply all the advice everybody has so graciously provided and see where it takes me.
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Old May 28, 2010, 01:00 PM   #22
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S. Dakota has recently began a program under the state's economic development. It's called an "internship" where a person can come work for a shop. The state and the business split the wage with the end ambition being that the student will either mature into a full time employee or run off to fullfill their own business cravings.

I spoke yesterday with the head of the program from Sioux Falls.

There are no formal schools here in SD but it has become a major "ground zero" for the firearms industry. Personally I think the schools need to make some significant curriculum changes as the trade is still be taught with a "1960's" technology base. It's historically been a cottage industry but times are changing.

Software, computer controlled equipment, and the knowledge to use it are a must to survive/thrive in the future.

Last: Entering this trade as a hobby can result in a slow and painful death unless you enjoy a reasonable disposable income and a 40 hour work week with no wife/kid(s). The equipment requirements alone can drive a person to a padded room. Nevermind what the misses and little Jonnie are going to do when Daddy is too busy to go camping, etc. . . Just saying.

The most committed wins. . .

Welcome to the revolution!

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Old May 31, 2010, 06:54 PM   #23
dksac2
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Just don't go the AGI route. It will be a total waste of money as it will not give you near enough knowledge or experience.
Their tapes are good if you want to learn about a spicific weapon.
Even if you go the full time school route, you will need to work with a good gunsmith for a while and have thousands of dollars saved for equipment and to live on until your busines gets going.
If you make 40K a year after expenses, you will be doing good. You still won't have any benifits. If you have priced them lately, you will need an extra $1200. an month and that's if you are younger and in good health.

John K
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Old June 4, 2010, 11:51 AM   #24
Clark
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Quote:
..If you decide to become a Gunsmith, be sure that you have a second income to support the shop until it's making enough money and have a lot of drive and family support, you'll need it.
..
Best Regards, John K
The same thing applies to:
Being a rock star
Being an artist
Being a photographer
Being a novelist
etc.

Where ever there is a big amateur pressure on a job market, you will hear the phrase:
Quote:
Don't quit your day job.
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