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Old July 6, 2012, 08:54 AM   #1
Kimio
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Smithing for noobies? Where did you start?

Anyone have some suggestions as far as where one should start if they wanted to get into gun smithing? Even if it's home based, I'd like to start learning how to do simple things, perhaps purchasing cheap rifles and what have you and building them up again. I don't have any experience in welding or what have you, but I eventually would like to learn.
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Old July 6, 2012, 09:07 AM   #2
fishoot
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How to learn gunsmithing

You are on the right track. Start with easy to work on guns. Mausers are great for beginners. Get as many as you can afford. Get only non-collector grade (they are cheaper) well used or sporterized (roughly) ones. Find a community college with a program. Lassen College in Susanville, CA has NRA classes that run 1 to 2 weeks covering a variety of subjects. There are guys that have traveled there from as far away as Japan to take classes! I started with the basic machine shop class and then took beginning and advanced gunsmithing, bluing, parkerizing and soon will take color case hardening. You will love it. The have dorms for $20 per night.
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Old July 6, 2012, 09:54 AM   #3
rgrundy
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If you get into the machinst's trades you will also find it's very hard to go without a job. That industry has about 500,000 unfilled positions right now, probably because it's hard work that requires good math skills.
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Old July 6, 2012, 10:04 AM   #4
Kimio
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It's more of a hobby than what I'm looking to do as a career. I'm currently with the military, so it would be something I might consider doing for some a little extra pocket change now and then.
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Old July 6, 2012, 10:25 AM   #5
James K
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Start the easy way by doing a search on this site. The "advice for wannabe gunsmiths" has been done dozens of times, covering all aspects from cost of machinery to liability insurance.

Note that under the new BATFE rules, if you buy surplus rifles and alter them (e.g., "sporterize") them for sale, you are a manufacturer and need that FFL, not just a dealer FFL. If you take in a customer's rifle to do the same thing and return it to him, you are a gunsmith, not a manufacturer.

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Old July 6, 2012, 12:27 PM   #6
Doyle
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I'm wondering if the OP isnt really asking about becoming what I would call a "gun technician". To me, a gun smith has to have a significant amount of machining/manufacturing skills. However, a technician would be along the lines of any type of appliance repairman. I.E. diagnose problems and repair by changing parts. While such a person would never be able to hang out a shingle that says "gunsmith", he would still be able to provide a valuable service to customers.

For those of you who are gunsmiths, how much of your business could be performed by a skilled "technician" with no ability to use a lathe.
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Old July 7, 2012, 02:36 PM   #7
drail
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Start buying and reading books and buying good hand tools. Get a Brownells catalog. Learn how to use files and stones. Buy good ones. Buy junk guns and work on the them. While there are some really good smiths on some of the forums and they are happy to help DO NOT attempt to learn anything from the home made videos on Youtube. Like Terry G. I worked for myself for about 10 years on only handguns (1911s, S&W revolvers, BHPs Rugers of all types with only hand tools. A drill press can do a lot of turning work of small parts. You have to either buy or make lots of fixtures and jigs. Long guns will pretty much require a lathe. Being able to diagnose and repair by changing parts works as long as you understand that just about every part you install will not fit properly. You have to learn how to do precise fitting and set clearances. The biggest challenge to me was learning new guns constantly. They are like those Chinese wooden puzzles you had as a kid.

Last edited by drail; July 7, 2012 at 02:47 PM.
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Old July 8, 2012, 10:44 PM   #8
Edward429451
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You are not too far from Colorado School of Trades which is purported to be one of the finest gunsmithing schools in the Nation. Until then, Gunsmith Kinks 1 & 2.
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Old July 9, 2012, 08:59 AM   #9
Kimio
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Currently I'm stationed in Utah, and I don't think I'll be allowed to leave the area to go to school yet. Are there any good schools that I might be able to go to locally?
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Old July 15, 2012, 03:20 PM   #10
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There's several kinds of gunsmiths. You should figure out which "type" of smith you're thinking of.

First, there's the guys who take down guns, inspect, clean, lube, change parts as necessary, gage wear points, etc and put the weapon back in service. Let's call these folks 'repair smiths.' I'm not being demeaning; there's a real lack of these types of smiths who can get into a gun, inspect/clean/oil and get back out quickly. For a gun with nothing wrong with it and only needing a clean/inspect/lube, you should try to get it turned around in 40 minutes or less.

For those who have an ability to memorize the internals of a LOT of guns, there could be real money in this skill in the retail smithing situation at a flat $50 to clean/inspect/lube a gun. Some of 'em you'll be in & out in 20 minutes, some will take an hour. When you average it out, you could be making $60 to $70+/hour, plus margin on parts.

This level of smithy doesn't need a lot of expensive equipment, but he needs a bunch of books of parts and manufacture-specific knowledge, a bunch of hand tools (some specific to the gun at hand), and a parts inventory.

Second, there's the guy who does higher-level repairs - re-barrelling, chambering/fitting/making new parts, re-blueing, bedding, re-crowning muzzles, etc. You'd need a lathe, possibly a mill, grinder(s), etc.

Third level of gunsmith are the guys who make guns. When I say "make guns" I mean that they can start with a block of wood for the stock, a barrel and possibly an action and/or lockwork. They make the rest of the gun. Quite frequently, gunmakers don't do repairs, they only make custom guns.
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Old July 15, 2012, 04:34 PM   #11
Doyle
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Wyop, that first level was exactly what I was trying to explain but you did it much better. Yes, I agree that there appears to be a shortage of this type of persion.
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Old July 15, 2012, 04:58 PM   #12
wyop
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Doyle, as to your question earlier: "how much of your business...?"

That's a difficult question to answer, because sometimes, the inspection leads to far bigger things. This is why I think there's a shortage of these types of smiths:

Let's take an example of someone who brings in Grandad's old side-by shotgun. It needs to be cleaned, lubed, inspected, etc. That's very fine and straightforward... but the inspection uncovered evidence that the barrels have some pitting and need to be honed. Or the barrels' bottom rib is coming loose and it needs to be re-laid.

Now both of these jobs might be well within the "gun technician's" abilities and tooling capacity, but as soon as you start messing with the barrels on a shotgun, you'd really like to have a guy who has some double gun experience there to help gage the barrels before honing, making an evaluation as to what's wrong with the rib, etc. Oh, and when you re-lay the rib, that means the barrels will need to be polished out and re-blued, and because old double guns were soldered together... you can't hot blue, you need to rust blue. You're not only into much bigger money, you're into serious time and experience.

Suddenly this clean/inspect/lube job has blown up to a much larger issue. The gun, brought in for a $50 C/I/L job, now still isn't in service, and the customer isn't happy about hearing "We don't do that here, you need to find someone else to do that work."

I think (and this is only my opinion, which like some bodily orifices, are in much higher supply than demand) that a gun tech really needs to have the services of a in-depth repair shop on which he can call when the inspection turns up something more than the gun tech is equipped to handle. It could be more than one back-up shop - it could be a group of specialists with whom the gun-tech has an ongoing business relationship, referring business back and forth. That way, the gun tech has a solution to offer the customer, rather than more problems than the customer came in with, and the guys who are specialists in a narrow part of the gun field (eg, someone who does only revolver work, or only side-by shotgun work) can send the general repair issues over to the gun tech.
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Old July 15, 2012, 06:47 PM   #13
SIGSHR
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I would make a distinction between a gun mechanic and a machinist. A mechanic knows how to diagnose, disassemble, remove and replace parts, fit them properly- while a machinist gunsmith can fabricate parts, do major machine operations such as recrowning, refinishing, blueing, etc. I would say a gun mechanic can work out of his tool box while a machinist have his properly equipped shop. To use a military analogy, field ordnance repair vs. depot.
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Old July 17, 2012, 02:18 PM   #14
Clark
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I started buying broken rifles at pawn shops and fixing them.
Then sporterizing military rifles.
This year I seem to be fabricating rifle front ends for break action shotguns.

I know a guy who calls himself a professional gunsmith, who send the rifle out for barrel work.

The only term less defined than "gunsmith" is "girlfriend".
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Old July 18, 2012, 07:49 AM   #15
Kimio
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I think I was looking at trying general repair to start and slowly work my way up to more intricate work. I don't know if I have the creativity to build custom guns, but I do enjoy the idea of restoring and repairing old rifles and such.
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Old July 22, 2012, 06:03 AM   #16
4V50 Gary
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NRA Summer gunsmithing classes.
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Old July 23, 2012, 08:33 AM   #17
Kimio
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May I ask what you all would consider the basic essentials for rifle repair and smithing tools?

I can think of some. Gun vice, basic set of screw drivers, needle nose pliers (For the small hard to reach stuff) soft head hammer (not sure what to call this), basic set of punches. I imagine there will be specialty tools required for certain firearms, such as the wrench used to take the cap off of an AR15 barrel and what have you (It's name escapes me at the moment).
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Old July 23, 2012, 05:24 PM   #18
Slopemeno
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OK- a Mauser extractor removal tool, a Mauser bolt takedown tool, a trigger pull gauge, non marring vise jaws, bedding supplies (Brownells acra-glass, a length of 5/8" surgical tubing, tape and clay for dams), a bore-sighter, a recoil pad jig and large disc sander to go with it.. and a cartridge filter respirator. Safety glasses, a Brownells crowning tool...I'll think of more.

continued: Punches, especially 1/16" punches. I went through a lot of them.
A Fordham tool with the chuck, and a pedal control. An ultrasonic cleaner and a parts washer/basin- we used simple green as the solvent. Carpet your bench surface with some really tight pile carpet- it helps snag small parts.

Last edited by Slopemeno; July 23, 2012 at 09:18 PM.
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Old July 23, 2012, 09:40 PM   #19
wyop
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You should think about making some of your own tools.

For example, you could make your own screwdrivers, pin punches, brass punches, vise jaws, bolt disassembly fixtures, bore guides for cleaning, etc.

Making screwdrivers that fit is something every smith has to know how to do. There's no kit on the market that has tips or screwdrivers that fit all the screws you will run into on guns. Get some O-1 drill rod and learn how to make tools from it.
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