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Old November 16, 2011, 11:16 PM   #1
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Gunsmithing Second Career?

I am nearing retirement, but don't want to quit working. Have some experience working on my own guns. Thinking I would really like to do part time Gun Smithing. I live in Denver and have been thinking about taking the gun Smithing course at Colorado School of Trades. Is this just a pipe dream? Do you think I could sub contract work in a gun shop?

Thanks for any advice.
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Old November 17, 2011, 12:33 PM   #2
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A lot of these post have come up lately on different forums.

The best piece of advice I can offer is, if one wants to make a living in gun smithing, diversify.

I had a shop for a while, started out as a hobby, then I started building 1000 yard match rifles for members of the Alaska National Guard Rifle team.

About the same time I saw a friend of mine go belly up, couldnt make a go of it. He was a dern good smith too.

One day I was off work because I injured my hand. I was hanging around his shop when a guy from the auto parts store next door came in wanted 4 wheel spacers openned up .020 for a larger hub. My friend started ranting about being a gun shop and not a machine shop. Good friendly fuss started. While he and the auto parts guy was fussing, I took the hubs, using my buddies lathe, openned up the hubs. The four hubs took me 20 minutes total and I made $20 a peace. $80 Bucks in 20 minutes. My buddy just laughted and said he still wasnt a machine shop.

Later I desided to open my shop, working out of my garage. I put two adds in the yellow pages, one for Gunsmithing, one for Machine Shop. My phone rang off the hook. I did some work on guns, I did a lot of light machine shop work.

There are lots of Machine shops out there, few will take on the small nickle and dime jobs. I did, I was making dern good money that supported my gun hobby.

The problem is, I was working full time, running a National Guard Unit, and raising a family. I ended up ruining a good hobby. I got were I hated to get up. I spent all my awake, not working time in the shop.

I closed up. Firguring I would start up again when I retired. Instead I desided to be retired. I only work on my stuff, build a gun every now and then for my kids or grandkids, but my main hobby now is chasing my granddaughter's basketball/Vollyball teams all over the state.

You need equipment, lathe, milling machine, belt sanders, grinders (polishing and grinding) air compressor, bluing tanks, welders, gas, arc and mig. Not to mention the tons of small tools and gigs, but you can make a lot of them.

If you get started, have the machinery, and skills, don't be afraid to take in light machine work. Guy here in town does light machining. Most of his buisness comes from the larger machine shops. The large shops say anything under $1000 is a small job and wont talk to you. For 15+ years he's been trying to get me to open up to take some slack off him. I don't want to work, I want to be retired. Still neighbors bring me projects.

The name of the game is DIVERSIFY. As you progress, if you do good work, and provide good service, your gunsmithing will grow. Until then machine work will feed your family.
Kraig Stuart
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Old November 17, 2011, 01:11 PM   #3
Don P
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Very enlightening reply. Makes all the sense in the world.
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Old November 19, 2011, 08:18 AM   #4
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Yup. One of the best ways to ruin a hobby is to try to make a living at it.
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Old November 25, 2011, 11:26 AM   #5
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I apprenticed with a gunsmith for a while until my full time job took away my spare time. He told me to bring in anything I wanted to work on or start a project on, and he would guide me every step of the way.

Once I could prove that I could work on my own stuff without screwing anything up, he would let me help him with customers guns.

Apprenticeships are great especially if you have a good tutor.
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Old November 29, 2011, 11:51 PM   #6
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Kraigwy: Were you a machinist first? Is there any business in making small replacement parts, springs, pins screws or fixtures? Would there be a market for a fixture with pins and bosses setup to emulate the internals of a revolver; it might allow a smith to analyze the fit and function of trigger, hammer, and sear outside of the frame?
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Old November 30, 2011, 12:53 PM   #7
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The whole issue of gunsmithing has been discussed dozens of times on this and other sites. I strongly suggest anyone interested in the subject review those threads and then ask about any issues that were not covered or are not clear.

BOWENA, there are benchblocks for the 1911, but one is not needed for most revolvers that use a sideplate. I think there would be a good market for small parts for obsolete guns, but parts like springs and pins are either available or so easy to make that there would be little interest in buying them. As for larger parts, the problem is that there would be such a diversity that each part would have to be custom made and in most cases that would cost more than an old gun is worth. Not many owners of, say, a $25 suicide special will spend $150 on a new trigger for it.

Jim K
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Old November 30, 2011, 03:17 PM   #8
Don P
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Apprenticeships are great especially if you have a good tutor.
Even better when you can make money doing it
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Old December 3, 2011, 03:19 AM   #9
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I have a shop with a Lathe, a mill, a TIG welder, and lots of other stuff for amateur gunsmithing.

Then guys started handing me drawings for jet engine starter electronics 19" test rack front panels... as I walked out the door at the end of the day.

After dinner that night...
I would put Dichem on the panel and scribe lines with a height gauge on the surface plate. Then I put the panels on the mill and cut out big round holes with a fly cutter.

The next morning I would take the part and drawing back to work and give it back to who ever handed ti to me. At the end of the week I would pad my engineering hours that I would bill the company with the extra machine time.

There was no purchase order and no approved supplier.

In a few months, my shop had paid for itself many times over.

I still haven't got a nickel for gunsmithing.
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Old December 4, 2011, 02:49 PM   #10
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I was reading the other day about the shortage of machinists in the US. Great occupation paying in the low 80s.

We shot ourselves in the foot as a nation about 20 years ago when the modern educators decided to get rid of shop class and because everyone was going to go into white collar jobs. Morons really.

Gunsmithing? I can't ever seem to find one when I want one that is qualified to work on stuff I can't fix. It is like auto repair where most of the car owners are tinkerers. I can fix most stuff on a car until you go inside the transmission or deep into the engine. So I don't ever go to the mechanic.

When I take a gun that is in bad shape to someone it means I can't fix it. I don't need them to tell me that they can't fix it either or they don't work on that model gun.
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