View Full Version : gunsmithing school

June 28, 2005, 05:54 PM
i want to be a gunsmith and if anyone knows or is a good gunsmith i would appreciate any information regarding good or bad schools.

June 28, 2005, 06:14 PM
From what I've heard, Colorado School of Trades, in Denver Colorado.

You get to build your own custom rifle from scratch.

June 29, 2005, 12:16 AM
Do a google search on gunsmithing schools.The Pa gun school in Pittsburgh has a little better program going these days. They require a good bit more hours for their degree. I think it is up to your situation as to where to look. Murray State has a good school in Oklahoma, can't think of the name off hand and one in Arizona that is good as well. I have heard that the one in California isn't as up to date on their tooling as the others are right now, but it has been a good one. The school in Colorado is very good as well. If you're serious about gunsmithing, I would suggest asking your state employment agency if they have an apprenticeship program these days. If they do and you and they can find a smith that needs the help, this might be advantageous in the fact you get to learn while working and making money to boot. AGI is worth looking at as well. They have a pretty good video course as well as a machining course that you can do at home while working another job.

Whatever you decide to do, plan to set aside about 2 years if you plan to go to school and allowing close to $12,000.00 for the tools required plus the tuition. Good luck and stick with it if you enjoy it. The best thing I can tell you is this, the schooling is great and you will learn alot of very good information, but it will only be the beginnning. You will learn more each time you work on a gun and each time someone brings you in one that you have never worked on before is the time you find out how good you are as a gunsmith. Good luck,


June 29, 2005, 11:24 AM
i have spent some time looking around online and have googled gunsmithing schools and the colorado school of trades and the yavapai gunsmithing school in arizona both look good, i just wanted to know if one of these schools came more recomended over the other. since im a missouri boy i pretty much refuse to go to either pittsburgh or california.

June 29, 2005, 11:29 AM
I've read (forget where) that some of the nations finest gunsmiths have come from Colorado school of trades. I can't document it...

You could call them and tell them you're considering them and ask for names (references) of good smiths who went there. Just a thought.

June 29, 2005, 01:26 PM
That would be a good idea. If I was going and I was from Mo, I would check out Murray State in Oklahoma. I was looking into to going there at one time, but being from Ms and needing to work, I just learned from a couple of very good smiths as well as taking the AGI video course. The videos are a invaluable reference tool and hands on learning of the different guns that come through a gunsmith's shop is even better with the videos. I spent two years breaking down the guns to be blued. You get to know the guns as well as learning what is broken just by taking the guns down everyday. Other than this, I got to set up the parts and stone the parts for trigger jobs using jigs and put them all back together when they were blued. What I learned from these jobs was better than going to a school any day of the week. I also learned how to polish the guns as well as learned some of the machining, but I ended up taking a TIG welding and machinist class later on. Good luck to you.

Dave Sample
June 29, 2005, 05:38 PM
We have one here in Prescott, AZ and there is another one in Southern Colorado located in Trindad. I have been to both of them as an instructor here in Prescott and as a Deputy Sheriff in Trinidad.

They teach you to be a jack of all trades and a master of none.

I would not advise my worst enemy to go to a Gunsmith School but that is just because I know what kind of occupation it turns out to be.

June 30, 2005, 06:19 AM
thanks for the replys and information guys. i really want to go to the colorado school of trades and will keep looking at it until i have the money to go.
as for daves comment, i would like to know what kind of occupation it turns out to be, seriously, im not being a smart alek or anything, i want to know why you think its a bad job.

Dave Sample
June 30, 2005, 02:26 PM
I have paid my dues for 20 years and am still the unknown pistolsmith. I was building Custom Caspians while Ed Brown and Bill Wilson were factory gun tweakers. I have built some of the finest 1911's in the country and all that did was make me the Court of Last Resort here, where people would bring me guns that every one else had messed up.

All of the "Gunsmiths" that I know struggle to make a living fighting slow suppliers, bad parts, angry customers, ornery machines, and trying to make silk purses from sows ears. It is a 7 /18 hour a week job fraught with complications and you can have it. It is the absolute poorest career choice that I can think of. You also give away your 4th Ammendment right and are under the scrutiny of the Federal Government 24/7.
Still, many people do it and love it. I still don't know how or why, but they do. Perhaps one of the Pro's will jump in and comment here about what a great way it is to earn your beans, but I refuse to lie about anything at my age. I did it part time and my goal was to be the best, not to make money at it. I made my living somewhere else.

Jack Weigand
July 3, 2005, 12:30 PM
I have taught NRA Summer Seminars at this school for 10 years and they are first rate. Wayne Bernauer is the director of the Gunsmithing curriculum and is a great guy and a knowledgably Gunsmith. It is located in the North Carolina and easy to get to from anywhere on the east coast. I suggest giving Wayne a call.

July 3, 2005, 02:44 PM
What Mr. Sample was referring to is what generally happens to folks, especially in a small market area, with things the way they are now. Folks don't buy and hold onto things like they used to. I am making enough to enjoy myself, but I live off of my retirement pension. I have heard it said on here that as long as you are good at what you do, you will rise to the top. Well, that may be true for some, but not for everyone. My best suggestion for you is to take a small business class at the local community college. There have been many small busnisses like a gunsmith's that have had to declare bankruptcy and either closed the doors or continued to struggle. Find out how to make a business run before you ever spend a dime to open one. There have been a lot of folks that spent way too much for new machines and equipment that they didn't need at first and just couldn't afford to pay for them and the rent and electricity. Go slow and start small and learn as much about the work as you can while doing as much as you can. Don't ever be afraid to farm out anything you don't feel comfortable doing yourself. Talk to the man that you farmed the work out to, he might be willing to show you how to do that particular job. This will save you time and expense for your customer. Like Mr. Sample said, it is a job that will keep you busy and folks love to call you late at night because he has a trip to take tomorrow and he just found out his pet rifle is broken. So go in with both eyes open and enjoy it.

Dave Sample
July 3, 2005, 07:47 PM
I have no regrets. I started small and stayed there because I had children to raise and things to do that were a lot more important to me than messing about with little machines that launched bullets. The 1911 buillding made a great hobby where I made neat pals and had fun shooting and I loved it as an escape from the high stress jobs I had back then. I always thought that standing at a gun bench 18 hours a day to make your beans and bones was dumb and I still think so.
I have had several business's and the gun stuff was not one of them. It was and is just for fun. Many others have done very well or seem to have made a ton of money selling parts, etc. That is because they had different ideas about success than I do. More power to them and I have always wished them well. Everyone in this business has been good to me. No complaints about that. I still buy $25,000.00 worth of parts every year now. Not bad, Huh?

July 4, 2005, 08:49 AM
If you want to find out about gunsmithing, listen to real gunsmiths...who REALLY ARE gunsmiths. If you want to be a 1911-assembler, you KNOW where to go. :)

4V50 Gary
July 4, 2005, 11:35 AM
The equipment at Colorado is better than at Lassen. Lassen College in California has worn lathes and they were worn when I went there in the '80s.

July 4, 2005, 01:54 PM
Do you know Mr. Sample personally? Do you know me personally? If you don't, then don't you ever make a conclusion and say something about someone or me like you just did. My doors have been open for 7 years now. I do work each day on guns. I am licensed and insured to do gunsmithing work. Are you? If you know anything about a 45ACP you know to respect a man that can turn out the work that Mr. Sample turns out. Whether you like his work or not, I consider him to be a mastergunsmith. Show us some of your work? Show us your competency before you go around bad mouthing someone's opinion or advise. Their have been several men that I know that learned gunsmithing on their own. I wouldn't question their ability or knowledge for the world. You showed me how much you know about gunsmithing when you opened your mouth and spoke badly of Mr. Sample and myself. Go learn some manners and respect, because you sir, have none!

Jammer Six
July 4, 2005, 02:30 PM
Never fails...

Walk into a crowded bar, and yell "hey, STUPID!", and some idiot is going to jump up and answer "who you calling STUPID?".


Dave Sample
July 4, 2005, 03:14 PM
No offense taken as I always consider the source. These forums are full of folks who bad mouth people they know nothing about and I am used to it. They tend to think that because I specialize in 1911's that I can't really do anything else. I am NOT a "Gunsmith' nor have I ever played one on TV. I never went to "Gunsmith School" except as an instuctor certified by the NRA for Short Term Gunsmithing: i.e. Two Week Summer courses like Jack does. I have seen the work that thses schools turn out and Prescott is loaded with the crap they build. No Thanks. They do not meet my high standards. I have no competion because i am closed to the public and the only work I do now is for my long time clients who won't put me out to pasture quite yet.

I learned to builkd guns by building guns. Then I decided to share that knowledge with people who wanted to build a custom gun all by themselves by using their Home PC with a parts kit selected by me. We are on our 5th Class now and are ready to go as soon as the paper work us completed and we can ship the Kits.

You loudmouths can say whatever you want here I am not one of the "Chronically Offended" and imaginary people using an alias don't count. We have had our online Class 1911's at the Shot Show for three years and there has not been one negative comment. They have been examined and torn apart by people in the know like Matt McClaren and Bruce Piiat and these are the opinions that count with me. They were handled by hundreds of folks and no one bad mouthed them to me. C&S Gunsmith spent an hour with me and was amazed at the first time builder work as am I everytime I get one here to grade and finish.

Zekewolf: I am somebody and you are nobody. You just don't count! Happy 4th of July to every PATRIOT here on this Forum. I am going out to have some chow with a real gunsmith named Don Williams and there will be some real people there who know me and have seen and used my work.

Jammer Six
July 4, 2005, 04:26 PM
As you can see, there is some level of controversy about many people.

The best bet is going to be someone about whom there is no doubt.

The trade schools are an excellent place to start.

Good luck, we can ALWAYS use more properly trained gunsmiths! :D

James K
July 4, 2005, 07:41 PM
I can't fault Dave Sample for "learning by doing", but for some folks that can be an expensive way to learn the trade, as it can mean messing up customers' guns while learning. I basically did an apprenticeship, learning as I went from a gunsmith who was school trained; I still messed up some guns, but fortunately nothing unfixable.

I second completely that advice about learning how to run a business. It has been said that a hobbyist is the worst person to run a business, and that applies not just to guns. My wife worked as office manager and bookkeeper to a guy who did auto transmission work. He started as a hobbyist and never did learn a thing about running a business, dealing with red tape, or making money. She finally quit in disgust when he told her not to bother about payroll deductions and business taxes. He died and it took his sons a couple of years and lots of legal bills to get things straightened out with several layers of government.


4V50 Gary
July 4, 2005, 10:25 PM
Discuss issues, not personalities. I myself have had many courses on gunsmithing and numerous factory armorer's school (last one was the FN P90). Still, I have a lot of respect for some self-taught individuals and it's whether the individual has mechanical aptitude, patience, willingness to learn and ability to learn. Some of my instructors in these past years are self-taught and one even restored Davy Crockett's rifle. :eek: There are some folks with less training than I but with greater skills so I'm not one to look down my nose on others. Neither should anyone else here. If anyone is pissed, take it to private-messages or email. Thank you.

Dave Sample
July 5, 2005, 02:12 PM
Thanks for the inout Gary. I hope you know that I am not bothered by these comments but I like to feel free to re butt them. If this is not good form, please let me know. If you have been to the schools you are more familiar than I am so I know your comments are valid.

Many years ago I tried to get a student at the Colorado School of Trades to silver soder a front sight on a slide. He and the Instructors tried four times and could not get it to stick. I sent in to Ken Hallock and had it back in a week and it has been on that gun ever since.

I lived in Trinidad for a couple of years and know many of the people that used to teach and work there. We saw what they produced at the Shot Show and I can't believe that they were proud of them. They were very badly done in my opinion. I realize that I am a nit picker when it comes to 1911 work. It is Gypsy Curse. I did not have a torch then and shortly after we started dove tailing the difficult ones in. It is far better than applying heat to the slide where it needs to be hard.

July 6, 2005, 08:52 PM
you guys know any gunsmith schools besides trinidad that accept the veterans benefits. gi bill and all? CO is a bit of a long ride for me. i was hoping theres one closer to me.

July 12, 2005, 02:59 PM
Did you read Jack Weigland's message, Whitefeather? Montgomery Community College is just outside Charlotte. That isn't too far from you.

Good luck!