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Old February 11, 2009, 10:42 AM   #1
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Question on a Gunsmith school

I am looking for feedback from anyone who is familiar with or has attended the Pennsylvania Gunsmith School. I am unable to continue in my current profession (Executive Chef) due to problems with my legs. I am doing this to have a second career. I have applied to this school and visited the campus near Pittsburgh and was very impressed.
But I would like to hear from anyone that has attended the school as to their experience.

Thank you,

Wm. Henderson
Don' keep shooting them until you think they are dead, Keep shooting them until they think they are dead.- Clint Smith
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Old February 11, 2009, 11:37 AM   #2
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I don't know about the school but I want to jump in before all the nah-sayers do.


Its gonna come, ignor them and go for it.

I don't know what type problems you have with your legs, but I'll add the best gunsmith I knew, back in the late 60s and early 70s was a guy who had polio and was confined to a wheel chair, it didnt slow him down one bit. He even did a bit of guiding, had a greal 14 year old daughter that was his right hand. Did all the goofer work, great little lady, who planned on following in her fathers footsteps, I wish I'd have kept track of her, I know he passed on but often wondered if she keep his shop going.

Anyway good luck in following your dreams.
Kraig Stuart
USAMU Sniper School Oct '78
Distinguished Rifle Badge 1071
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Old February 11, 2009, 03:14 PM   #3
El Paso Joe
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Ditto on what KRAIGWY said. Just go for it.

Some things to have in your back pocket: If you are disabled, don't be afraid to ask for an accommodation. Also, I don't know how you are planning to fund the school but you might see if there are any Voc Rehab dollars out there that may help.

But mostly, I would encourage you to do it. This is not a dress rehearsal - it is the real thing and you probably won't get another crack at it.
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Old February 11, 2009, 03:54 PM   #4
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Gunsmith School

Kraigy and El Paso Joe,
I can't tell you how much your support means to me. Except for my two best friends and my wife, I am getting a whole lot of funny looks from people, including my surgeon, when I tell them what my plans are. I have been shooting and 'tinkering' with guns since I was 8 years old and am VERY excited about this opportunity. I have worked with my hands all of my life and would be miserable working at a desk shuffling paper. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it just is not for me.
I have to get back to work for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is I am going absolutly nuts sitting around the house! Some of my friends keep telling me "you have been working sixty hours a week for the last thirty years why don't you just chill out and relax?". Well we don't have the money to travel or do some of the other things we want to do someday and as I said earlier, this sittin' around all day is gettin' real old real fast. So that is the other reason for me to get off my a&& and get going again!
I haven't been this excited about anything in years and am chomping at the bit to get started.

El Paso Joe; I am in the proccess of filling out forms for financial aid in the form of grants and loans from the state and the Feds. It is a lot of paperwork but there are some very good programs out there, and the state of Pa. where I live is being very helpful to me with suprisingly little red tape. I will be getting some money in the from of a grant that does not have to be paid back and some will be low interest student loans.
Maybe some day I can work on some of your guns for you!

Thanks again for having my back,

Bill Henderson
Don' keep shooting them until you think they are dead, Keep shooting them until they think they are dead.- Clint Smith
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Old February 11, 2009, 04:39 PM   #5
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I also say go for it, and am about to do the same thing. I had already decided to move out to Colorado to go to the School of Trades, and then took the NRA safety course last weekend and the lady who taught the course is supposed to introduce me to a couple local smiths who are wanting to take on an apprentice. It's gonna be a little over a year until I can get out there to go to the school, so I hope to be able to learn a lot with them in the meantime. And don't let anyone talk you out of it. I have eight years of college in a completely non-firearm related field, and have been practicing my trade for only a little under 2 years. I am not retiring from the other trade, but I only work nights and weekends for that job, and I want something else to do during the day to keep me entertained, and I figured I might as well get paid to do it. So, absolutely, do it.
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Old February 11, 2009, 05:15 PM   #6
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I say +1 to what everyone has said here.....go for it.

However, I feel that I should mention some things that maybe you have or have not thought of.

First, if you want to do a comprehensive list of gunsmithing services, you WILL spend hours standing on your feet running a lathe and a mill.
Chambering and fitting barrels and doing various mill work will require you to stand and spend some time bent over.
There are certain jobs that you can do sitting down at the bench......polishing, trigger work, parts fitting, etc.

Whatever school you attend, you'll be an "apprentice" when you graduate, any school will really " only get your feet wet".
A school can not possibly show you or get you ready for all the work you may encounter.

If you intend on going into business for yourself, it takes time to gain a reputation and build a client, if you are looking at this for any kind of substantial income, it probably won't happen for awhile.
Working for someone else is an option.....IF you find someone willing to work with you and not stick you on a lathe or mill all day and who is willing to consider your medical situation.
Depends on what you can find.

If your looking at this as a serious hobby no problem.... but if you are looking at making a living at it and recouping your investment in school and time etc., these are things you may want to think about.

I still say go for it, but just realize some of the facts.

Good Luck
"It is better to die on your feet than live on your knees"
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Old February 11, 2009, 06:24 PM   #7
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Go for it and good luck!!

However, if you plan to work for yourself, you will need an FFL. Also, gunsmithing is no different from any other business. Some good resources for this information is from SCORE (Service Core of Retired Executives). You can find them through your local Chamber of Commerce. They will meet with you, and assign someone who has experience with the type of business you are planning to enter into. (Probably not a gunsmith, though). They will give you stacks of publications about legal requirements for businesses in your location. They will also help you write a good business plan. The great part about them is it is a free service (if you don't consider our taxes). The other necessary requirements you can get from BATF.
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Old February 12, 2009, 10:52 AM   #8
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I'd say dipper and Old Guard Dog have covered the realities. I'm a retired custom gunmaker and machinist of over 4 decades. Follow your dream but keep the realities in mind. If you are passionate about it (as most custom gunmakers usually are) you will understand the need for patience. Customers operate on 'trust' and 'faith' that you will produce what they want. On the matter of gunsmithing... remember that they are putting their treasure in your hands. Each and every one of them will be concerned about how you take care of 'baby'.

One other little item every gunsmith should know. There is very little, if any, money to be made in gunsmithing the average .22lr rifle. When you figure the cost involved... you can just go out and purchase a new rifle for less. If it's an heirloom or a treasured longtime friend of the field... then the customer just might be willing to pay the price. If you intend to be a one-man-shop, you'll have to look at either high grade custom or volume. Sometimes folks specialize... i.e. trigger jobs, building 1911s, etc.

Above all... learn to use the hand tools (especially files). Power is nice but it can get you in trouble if you are too dependent on it. Striking barrels, inletting, inlays, stock refinishing all can be done with hand tools and give you a closer feel as to what you should be doing. Power is OK in its way (I have a complete precision machine shop) and I use the power for specific operations. However, even my chamber jobs are finished by hand and the bolts just barely close on the 'go gauge'. My tolerances for some operations runs about .0005" and that does require power.

Throw yourself into the apprentice job: make some fine firearms and put out some quality gunsmithing. Remember that folks talk and every job is unique to that customer. It might be your 100th trigger job... but it may just be the customer's first.
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Old February 19, 2009, 01:26 AM   #9
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I have to go with what everyone else is saying.
I made a very good living from gunsmithing sent my kids to collage without student aid, and since retiring I have traveled to 22 states.
There are ways to get tuition assistance from the states and the feds. their are many programs that can help. I work part time for Taogart as a gunsmith apprenticeship coordinator and we get funding for apprentices to attend school for machine training, business classes, and related study for most of them either free or at reduced cost. We have even had the state buy tools for some of the apprentices. Most of the apprentices can't attend a brick and mortar school for one reason or another so apprenticeship is the way they go, we even have several graduates of CSOT and PGS continuing there training through Taogart to get a journeyman's certificate, they get 2 years credit towards the 4 year apprenticeship than at the end they get there journeyman's certificate from the U.S. Department of Labor.
Just remember to treat smithing as a business not a hobby and you can make a very good living, I would also advise you look at specializing in one or two disciplines of the trade, cowboy action shooting is going real good right now and so is long range rifle building.
Good luck, I never got up in the morning in over 35 yr's and didn't want to go to work.
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Old February 19, 2009, 11:27 AM   #10
Don P
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A very close friend attended the school you are asking about. +1 on the school, instructors. He stated it is worth every penny of tuition. Pay attention learn alot ask questions and by all means get yor monies worth out of it
NRA Life Member, NRA Range Safety Officer, NRA Certified Pistol Instructor,, USPSA NROI Range Officer,
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As you are, I once was, As I am, You will be.
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Old February 19, 2009, 11:50 AM   #11
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Slightly OT, but since you're interested in PGS: do you know about this 'blog?
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Old February 20, 2009, 08:05 AM   #12
Old Guard Dog
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Another thing you may check out. The various skills for gunsmithing may have some scholarships available. For instance, a friend of mine is the head of the local American Welding Society organization. They have unused scholarship money available, just for the asking. Perhaps this is available for machining, etc? Worth checking out the various organizations.
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Old February 25, 2009, 09:18 PM   #13
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Total cherry chiming in

I am also someone looking at a career change that takes me into gunsmithing. I just wanted to chime in and say how helpful this thread has been for me.

I am currently just getting started in the process. I am planning on taking courses at Lassen College in California (one of the NRA Gunsmithing schools). They have what looks like a pretty good series of classes taught in 1 week chunks that seem to have a good reputation.

If the former chef ever wants to toss ideas around with someone generally on the same path, feel free to get in touch.

My previous career (well... the one I am in right now - I am actually at work as I post this) is with Apple Computer.

Anyway, thought I would toss that out there and thank everyone who has contributed.

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Old February 27, 2009, 12:13 AM   #14
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A very good source of information and help in getting training as a gunsmith is Also another very good resource for gunsmiths is the gunsmiths forum its not a social forum like this but a information forum, most members are professional gunsmiths and gunsmith apprentices.
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