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Old March 14, 2013, 08:18 PM   #1
Rorik
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Gunsmithing Schools and Job Outlook

Was just curious if anyone knows of reputable schools on the west coast to obtain gunsmithing certs/licensing. The goal is to obtain an FFL and put a machine shop together to just do repair work and custom work to start, eventually would like to start a business but that will be a few years down the road.

I know of the NRA programs, the closest one to me being Lassen Community College down in Susanville, CA. Another one is up in Montana, but that is about it.

Thoughts/advice? What is the job outlook like in this field? Money isn't an issue when it comes to paying for courses and machinery/an FFL. I have most if not all of the handtools I would need, though I always end up finding something new at the monthly gun shows. I really don't understand the whole "tactical" craze, I own an AR and other weapons that can be classified as "tactical" and can definitely work on them as they seem to be money makers right now. But I would really like to focus on C&R firearms.

Any input would be appreciated.

Last edited by Rorik; March 16, 2013 at 06:34 PM.
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Old March 15, 2013, 07:12 PM   #2
oldgunsmith
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Tactical weapons are for those on tact. teams. Dealing with those who aren't it often becomes obvious that they are playing johnny commando. The part that concerns me the most is when they sound like they only respect the 2nd Amendment as the right to have what toys they want. They put lights on buoys in the water so everyone can clearly see them from a distance. It works the same way on guns. Too many believe more in Hollywood than reality. After 40 years in the business I got out of it because the knowledge and common sense of the average gun owner has deteriorated to a point that I don't want my fingerprints on their guns.
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Old March 15, 2013, 08:06 PM   #3
Dfariswheel
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If you intend to be a professional gunsmith and expect to get a job as one, an online or mail order course is worthless.

These, especially the online, are good only to learn enough to work on your own guns, NOT paying customers.
If you apply for a job with a "diploma" from one of these places, you'll be lucky if all they do it toss your resume in the trash and laugh in your face.

Look at it this way: If you owned a very expensive sports car who'd you let work on it, a man who went to a top professional mechanics school and learned from experts, or some guy who learned about it from some online "course".
Again, these online "schools" are really best at taking your money.

Job outlook for gunsmiths is varied, and always has been.
We need good gunsmiths, but finding a job as one can be "iffy". Opening your own business is very risky at best, since for at least a year you won't have much business coming in and you have to pay for all the equipment, rent, utilities, licenses, etc, etc, etc.........

The best way into the trade is to get a job with a larger company who employees a number of gunsmiths. Companies like Wilson so that.
BUT.... you better be a stone cold expert with experience to get a job with this kind of outfit.

Money-wise, gunsmiths don't make a lot of money. Those that do hire other gunsmiths, like Bill Wilson does.
Most self-employed gunsmiths are doing good if they're making minimum wage, because in addition to gunsmithing, they have to do a lot of businessman type paper work. Figure in the hours spent on all of that and the money isn't good.

If you want to be a professional gunsmith you have to be the type person who gets his satisfaction from the work, not money. You won't own the Rolex, the nice car, the nice house, or take nice vacations.

The top schools are Colorado School of Trades in Denver, and Trinidad Junior College in Trinidad Colorado.
A degree from one of them will get you an interview anywhere.

Here's the American gunsmithing schools that are worth anything. These are all attendance schools with at least a two year program, cost is many thousands of dollars, but they turn out professionals, not amateurs.
Show a degree from one of these and they won't laugh in your face.

Sorry if this is not what you wanted to hear, but these are the facts of the trade.


Colorado School of Trades
1575 Hoyt Street
Lakewood, CO 80215
Phone: 800-234-4594

Lassen Community College
P.O. Box 3000
Susanville, CA 96130
Phone: 530-257-4211

Modern Gun School
80 North Main Street, P.O. Box 846
St. Albans, VT 05478
Phone: 800-493-4114

Montgomery Community College
1011 Page Street
P.O. Box 787
Troy, NC 27371
Phone: 800-839-6222

Murray State College
One Murray Campus
Tishomingo, OK 73460
Phone: 580-371-2371

Pennsylvania Gunsmith School
812 Ohio River Blvd.
Avalon
Pittsburgh, PA 15202
Phone: 412-766-1812

Piedmont Community College
1715 College Drive
P.O. Box 1197
Roxboro, NC 27573
Phone: 336-599-1181

Pine Technical Institute
900 4th Street
Pine City, MN 55063
Phone: 800-521-7463

Trinidad State Jr. College
600 Prospect
Trinidad, CO 81082
Phone: 800-621-8752

Yavapai College
1100 East Sheldon Street
Prescott, AZ 86301
Phone: 520-776-2150
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Old March 15, 2013, 10:34 PM   #4
Rorik
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No that was some good information. It is something I have just recently started to seriously look into and consider doing, so I had no idea what schools would be best to attend. I saw the NRA schools through their website, was just worried about relocating and everything which is why I even considered the online stuff - but you definitely made a good point, especially after looking into them further, they are a joke. I would much rather take a more hands on approach, the convenience of online is just what appealed to me but sometimes you have to inconvenience yourself to go after the things you really want.

I had no intentions of making the big bucks, just want to have a career I can support myself on and enjoy doing. I love working on guns, and it it something I would love to continue doing. A career in gunsmithing appealed to me due to the fact that you are constantly learning throughout your career, and constantly improving your craft and trade. The satisfaction of a finished project and the fact I will actually enjoy my job mean more to me than the monetary pay out. Thank you for the information, definitely gives me some things to think about and look into.

Last edited by Rorik; March 16, 2013 at 06:18 PM.
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Old March 16, 2013, 06:20 PM   #5
oldgunsmith
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Some of the best gunsmiths I've had the good fortune to work with are from Trinidad. Maybe off the subject, but the gunsmithing program is a smaller part of a business/secretarial skills school. It's a beautiful area and at any given time the ratio of women to men there is about 4 to 1.
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Old March 16, 2013, 06:25 PM   #6
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Looks like Colorado School of Trades is where I will go. $19,800 tuition for their two year program, but definitely worth it. Looks like they have manufacturers such as Brownells, Sig, Glock, and so forth come out every few months to give extracurricular classes that pay out a certificate upon completion. Their gun club seems pretty fun too, and it looks like they have a job board and information on various gunsmithing job fairs around the country. Wouldn't hurt to fly out to one and get a chance to talk with the various manufacturers to see what the job outlook is looking like. Have a friend in Denver and a family member who is a gunsmith out in Raton (3 hours from Denver), so that will be perfect.

Had another question that I haven't been able to find an answer to. Upon completing a program at one of these schools, do you then attempt to obtain an apprenticeship with a gunsmith to get some more working experience to add to a resume in before applying to major companies? Or do you just try to get whatever job you can to gain experience and then hope to get an opportunity with a larger company from there? Still would like to eventually start a business back in Oregon as there are absolutely no actual gunsmiths in my area or within 50 miles who have a business and take on clients. But I need to take it in baby steps and learn all I can first. Definitely humbling.
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Old March 16, 2013, 06:28 PM   #7
Rorik
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Quote:
Some of the best gunsmiths I've had the good fortune to work with are from Trinidad. Maybe off the subject, but the gunsmithing program is a smaller part of a business/secretarial skills school. It's a beautiful area and at any given time the ratio of women to men there is about 4 to 1.
I looked into that one, only reason I would choose the one in Denver is due to a friend I have there that would be willing to rent out a 2 bedroom place with me, which will save me on living expenses, as well as family in the gunsmithing business only 3 hours away. Why does the school in Trinidad appeal to women more than other schools? I'm in my early 20's (23), so being close to downtown Denver is also a plus haha.

Edit: I take that back, Trinidad is closer to New Mexico than Denver. Had my geography back asswards. Still, having a friend in Denver to split living costs with will be a huge plus.
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Old March 16, 2013, 07:07 PM   #8
Dfariswheel
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Upon completing a program at one of these schools, do you then attempt to obtain an apprenticeship with a gunsmith to get some more working experience to add to a resume in before applying to major companies? Or do you just try to get whatever job you can to gain experience and then hope to get an opportunity with a larger company from there?

There's no one answer to this, it varies depending on your desires and any contacts you may have built up.

The SMART students start looking for a job about the time they start the last year. You should be looking HARD starting the last 6 months, and have at least one definite job offer lined up by graduation.

The schools offer job placement but don't put too much faith in that.
A graduate from Colorado or Trinidad is generally past the point of working as an apprentice unless you luck out and one of America's top custom gunsmiths will take you on.
Apprenticing with most ordinary gunsmiths will be of little real value other than giving you experience being in a working shop and dealing with the public.

Working for a gun company, a larger custom shop, for a company that does research and uses gunsmiths, or other companies who hire gunsmiths is probably the smartest way to start out.
That way, you spend 8 hours a day doing gunsmithing, make at lease decent money, can build up a reputation in the industry, build up a potential customer base, and buy the equipment over a period of time.

If the school offers business courses, like Trinidad does TAKE THEM. If not, go to night school.
Remember: If you open your own shop, you're NOT a gunsmith. You're a businessman who's business happens to be a gunsmith shop.
If you want to make it, you better keep that REAL straight in your mind.
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Old March 16, 2013, 07:23 PM   #9
4V50 Gary
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OK, I'm rooting for my own school

Trinidad is about $3k per semester, excluding tools, room and board. First semester I spent over $2k on tools alone.

BTW, I've had gunsmiths tell me they prefer Trinidad students over Colorado School of Trade. The two year program is more comprehensive at Trinidad than the fourteenth month program at Colorado School of Trades.

Oh, the Trinidad's third year which covered business operations has been suspended for now. Don't know when they'll restart it.
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Old March 16, 2013, 07:35 PM   #10
Rorik
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Alright awesome, thanks for the feedback. I'm really not sure if I would want to open a shop or just have a shop in my garage for my own personal projects (probably the latter). After looking around a bit I have seen a few job fairs in various states that one can attend for the weekend, meet manufacturers face to face and get a feel for what is being sought after. These seem like they would be beneficial to attend and make a good starting point for lining up a job prior to completing the program. I would also like to look into other classes that teach hand engraving (I know Lassen Community College does) as that has been something I have wanted to learn for quite a while. Really appreciate your feedback, nice to hear from someone who knows the industry rather than get a bunch of mixed info from google searches.

Definitely have a lot to look into and read up on, but the Colorado School of Trades is most likely the one I will attend, and I will probably try to start a year from now after everything with a car accident settlement I am in the process of acquiring settles, still not sure if the defense is going to settle with me outside of court or if I will have to go to court over it - everything should be mellowed out by then. In the meantime I have signed up for some April - June classes on welding and advanced metal/wood working, just to brush up on skills in that area. Also going to take on a few project rifles and guns over the next year and start working on acquiring better quality hand tools. Will possibly drive down to California for a week to attend the week long course on hand engraving and start working on becoming skilled in it. Definitely a lot to think about.

Last edited by Rorik; March 16, 2013 at 07:41 PM.
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Old March 16, 2013, 07:38 PM   #11
Rorik
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Quote:
Trinidad is about $3k per semester, excluding tools, room and board. First semester I spent over $2k on tools alone.

BTW, I've had gunsmiths tell me they prefer Trinidad students over Colorado School of Trade. The two year program is more comprehensive at Trinidad than the fourteenth month program at Colorado School of Trades.

Oh, the Trinidad's third year which covered business operations has been suspended for now. Don't know when they'll restart it.
Oh okay, that's good to know. I plan on flying over to Colorado this summer to check out both campuses and talk to advisers about their programs - I was leaning towards Colorado School of Trades just to save on living expenses (have a friend to rent out a place with). But if Trinidad gives one more of a chance of landing a job as well as a more well-rounded knowledge base, it will definitely need to be something I consider.
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Old March 16, 2013, 11:46 PM   #12
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Engraving is taught at Trinidad too. Their semester is shorter and they just finished. It's also offered during the NRA Summer School.

One thing about Trinidad is that they recently discarded their first come, first serve waiting list of applicants. They now select from those deemed most qualified in that applicant group. So, there is no guarantee that anyone will be admitted there.

As for the women, Denver is better.
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Old March 17, 2013, 01:37 AM   #13
Rorik
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Engraving is taught at Trinidad too. Their semester is shorter and they just finished. It's also offered during the NRA Summer School.

One thing about Trinidad is that they recently discarded their first come, first serve waiting list of applicants. They now select from those deemed most qualified in that applicant group. So, there is no guarantee that anyone will be admitted there.

As for the women, Denver is better.
Oh okay - I saw engraving as an NRA summer class down in Susanville, which wouldn't be too far of a drive and it would be easy to drive down for a week and stay at a Motel 6 or what have you, dick around in the casino on downtime and then drive back up after the class. Will at least tie me over until I can move to Colorado in a year or so to attend one of the schools there.

What do they base their decision on at Trinidad? I tried out regular community college and had 2 classes before attending the fire academy and acquiring an AA in Fire Science, then got in that car accident and my grades all went to hell, so my transcripts definitely are not the best.

As for the women, on top of being near downtown and having a buddy to split rent with, Denver is looking better and better.

Last edited by Vanya; March 17, 2013 at 10:36 AM. Reason: removed off-topic comment.
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Old March 17, 2013, 06:45 AM   #14
4V50 Gary
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You'll improve your chances for Trinidad if you have a strong background in firearms. The NRA classes will help as it gives you some skills that will be applied at Trinidad. Go ahead and take them, including engraving, at Lassen.

Trinidad costs less and you can always find a gunsmithing roommate. It's cheaper than the dorms which require you to sign up for the meal plan. I only had the coffee there and I brown bag it for lunch (I eat at the workbench).

The firearms library is outstanding too.
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Last edited by Vanya; March 17, 2013 at 10:48 AM. Reason: removed off-topic comments.
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Old March 17, 2013, 03:45 PM   #15
Rorik
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Alright cool, I will look into that school some more and then figure out when I can fly down to check out the campuses for both. Pretty stoked, just annoyed I have to wait a year before attending. Hopefully this case can get wrapped up sooner so I can get the settlement and attend next semester but I'm not going to hold my breath.
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Old March 18, 2013, 01:23 PM   #16
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I didnt know Murray State College in Oklahoma had a gunsmithing course...Thanks!! Thats great info to have! ... J
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