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Old November 11, 2023, 03:48 PM   #26
Bill DeShivs
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My shop labor rate is $90/hour. I may raise it to $95 soon. And that's working on knives and making firing pins and leaf springs.

I can work as much as I want to-60 hours a week should I wish. but- I don't wish!
I retired from my government job in 2010 at 56 years old. I love my work, but I don't want it to be a full time job.
I could teach a kid with the proper aptitude in 5 years.

Running your own business like this requires that you be an excellent business man. You have to manage your work load, and manage your money. Keeping a 4 month backlog of work may seem like job security, but it can lead to burnout really fast-as more work is steadily coming in.

On my very complicated jobs, I simply tell the customer that I have no idea when it will be finished- and that I will work on it between simpler tasks.
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Old November 12, 2023, 08:19 AM   #27
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As with any business, start with a business plan. Know the numbers you need to get where you want. That way the surprises will have a little less impact on your mindset.

Obviously, the plan is not going to come together the way you expect because you'll never think of every possible scenario but write out the plan anyway and make sure it's as realistic as you can make it. In fact, put together two plans, one which is what you expect and one which is more pessimistic. Sort of a "what-if" option.

Doing all of that should help you decide what capital investment you're going to need, what equipment and space you'll need and how much cash you'll need for operating the company going forward. Of that cash, how much of it will come from your customer revenue and how much will have to come from your own pocket.

Get a CPA to help. It will be the better investment you make going into it. Get a lawyer to answer questions before you get into it. Another worthwhile investment. Both of these should be knowledgeable about the gun industry.

Good luck and I hope it works out for you because we sure do need more gunsmiths out there.

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Old November 12, 2023, 03:31 PM   #28
BrBa
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I don't work for free, and certainly don't expect anyone else doing work for me to work for free. I have no issue paying fair or high prices for services rendered, particularly for good quality work. But the last 3 guys I went to locally were so completely inept at their jobs, took forever to do anything, and the quality of work was somewhere between amateur hour and complete fail, that I made the decision to start buying tools and doing just about all the work myself, short of buying a lathe to chamber/crown/thread barrels.

Here's an example. Brought a Ruger LCR to one of the local guys to have a spring swapped out, and also brought him the new spring so he wouldn't have to order it. Sounds simple, right? He had the gun for 15 months. I didn't even call to check on the progress until month 5 or so, and got a list of excuses. Waited a few more months to call again, same exact excuses. Waited a few more months, same excuses. Apparently he doesn't keep track of who calls to complain, he just has canned excuses ready to fly. Finally got fed up and retrieved it disassembled in a plastic bag. Turned out he had lost 3 parts, no wonder he couldn't get it back together. I ordered the parts, and had it running within an hour after the parts arrived.
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Old November 12, 2023, 04:27 PM   #29
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Quote:
I charge some $50/hour but I work very slow. Chases most away.

Others get it for free on a barter system.

Others take their work elsewhere.

I have large lathe and mill - which works well for 36-42" long barrels, chambering, threading for action and muzzle brake, and milling flutes for cooling and weight reduction.
On the surface,$50 an hour SEEMS attractive .

But if you figure overhead ,there is a lot of subtracting to do. The FFL, taxes,permits. The larger machines were likely built as 3 phase so you are likely running a phase converter or two. End mills,inserts and other consumable tooling costs a small fortune.Even a good set of rifflers or chisels,
Laquer thinner,Braklean, Dykem, Wet or Dry paper, ship towels,

All that is like going grocery shopping.
If I may guess,you are operating out of your home and it is paid for. Good for you!!
But for the OP and his question, every square foot if shop floor is an expense.

Maybe you have Medicare,but for our OP, Healthcare has to be figured into his flat rate.

Maybe if you have a gunshop and sell ammo and components ,if you have a spouse to talk with customers and ring them up,if you put in overtime working on guns after closing time,.....
Gun work takes focus. You can't do it between customer 10 minutes at a time.
Or with a "crew of good buddies" hanging around.

Sorry to be a wet blanket,but there are reasons most gunsmiths are cranky most of the time.



Obviously,what you ARE doing CAN be done. But a $50 flat rate for nearly anyone starting out will put less cash in the wallet than flipping burgers.
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Old November 13, 2023, 09:38 PM   #30
Shadow9mm
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I have been shooting over 20yrs. In my limited experience, good gunsmiths have been hard to find, booked solid, and make more than an automotive mechanic. Id say its possible.
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Old November 14, 2023, 07:12 PM   #31
oldmanFCSA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HiBC View Post
On the surface,$50 an hour SEEMS attractive .

But if you figure overhead ,there is a lot of subtracting to do. The FFL, taxes,permits. The larger machines were likely built as 3 phase so you are likely running a phase converter or two. End mills,inserts and other consumable tooling costs a small fortune.Even a good set of rifflers or chisels,
Laquer thinner,Braklean, Dykem, Wet or Dry paper, ship towels,

All that is like going grocery shopping.
If I may guess,you are operating out of your home and it is paid for. Good for you!!
But for the OP and his question, every square foot if shop floor is an expense.

Maybe you have Medicare,but for our OP, Healthcare has to be figured into his flat rate.

Maybe if you have a gunshop and sell ammo and components ,if you have a spouse to talk with customers and ring them up,if you put in overtime working on guns after closing time,.....
Gun work takes focus. You can't do it between customer 10 minutes at a time.
Or with a "crew of good buddies" hanging around.

Sorry to be a wet blanket,but there are reasons most gunsmiths are cranky most of the time.



Obviously,what you ARE doing CAN be done. But a $50 flat rate for nearly anyone starting out will put less cash in the wallet than flipping burgers.
On the surface,$50 an hour SEEMS attractive . I WORK VERY SLOW.

But if you figure overhead ,there is a lot of subtracting to do. The FFL, taxes,permits. The larger machines were likely built as 3 phase so you are likely running a phase converter or two. End mills,inserts and other consumable tooling costs a small fortune.Even a good set of rifflers or chisels,
Laquer thinner,Braklean, Dykem, Wet or Dry paper, ship towels,

All that is like going grocery shopping. YES, BUT COLLECTED OVER 52 YEARS OF RELOADING AND RELATED MACHINING.
If I may guess,you are operating out of your home and it is paid for. Good for you!! YES - RETIRED YEARS AGO.
But for the OP and his question, every square foot if shop floor is an expense.

Maybe you have Medicare,but for our OP, Healthcare has to be figured into his flat rate. YES TO MEDICARE AND PRIVATE INSURANCE - NEEDED IT THIS YEAR.

Maybe if you have a gunshop and sell ammo and components ,if you have a spouse to talk with customers and ring them up,if you put in overtime working on guns after closing time,.....
Gun work takes focus. You can't do it between customer 10 minutes at a time.
Or with a "crew of good buddies" hanging around.

Sorry to be a wet blanket,but there are reasons most gunsmiths are cranky most of the time. AGREE, MY GRUMPYNESS DRIVES SOME AWAY.



Obviously,what you ARE doing CAN be done. But a $50 flat rate for nearly anyone starting out will put less cash in the wallet than flipping burgers.

IF I WERE LIKE THE "OP" I WOULD HAVE TO CHARGE $200+ PER HOUR TO COVER SETUP AND OPERATION OF MY SHOP. (ME - EVERYTHING HAS BEEN PAID FOR FOR YEARS, AND I'M THINKING OF LIQUIDATING DUE TO MEDICAL REASONS LOST A LEG THIS YEAR - NEW PROSTHESIS ON 11/29/2023.)
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Old November 15, 2023, 07:52 AM   #32
Nathan
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This is a sad thread, but realistic.

I think the issue is gun buyers pay less for custom machining than most machining buyers. Basically, regular machine shop customers pay a bunch in setup and then count on getting the cost down by cutting 100’s of the same thing.

Every gun brought in is mostly a new setup. As a gunsmith gets more experienced, truing an action, cutting a chamber, get to be a bit more standardized. A guy can make a process that speeds up setup.

Then there are the finish expectations. Basically, people freak out over scuffs or dings on custom guns. That adds rework and required skills, extra bench space, etc.

Then there is the handfitting and hand tool work. A person has to get really good at this kind of work to turn rough guns into custom.

The only people doing well at “Gunsmithing” are 4 groups. 1) Retired people who have housing, medical and half the tools going into it. 2) Builders where every component is ordered new or made new. Then these components are fit together at a substancial rate. Basically, $2500-$3000 in parts becomes $6000 sale price. 3) Large shotgun shops where the incoming product has a $5000 average MSRP and people expect to drop $1-$3k for a Gunsmithing work order. 4) The armorer shop where people get $20 to quick clean, $100 for annual service, $50 per month storage lockers, $500 annual memberships, $100-$500 part swapping, etc.

I would love to get all setup to build a “hunting load” for people’s rifles, but how will I ever get over the hurdles? The basic concept being: drop off rifle. I clean the bore to bare metal. I load 2-4 cycles for it. I shoot a 3-5shot group at 100 yards. Clean barrel again. Target price: $1000 for recipe. You get 100 rounds of ammo, recipe and opportunity to buy more of the same for $4-500 per 100 rounds. Maybe an additional price for drops to 1000 yds. Honestly, I’ll bet I would not be charging enough and I would be charging more than most would pay!
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Old November 15, 2023, 05:58 PM   #33
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"Gunsmith" is akin to "mechanic"; there are gunsmiths who are nothing more than Glock parts changers; then there are those who can create a finely crafted double gun from scratch starting with nothing more than a block of metal and some wood. All depends on what interests you and whether or not you want to specify (like a doc who specializes) or be a general smith who knows when to say no to something they don't know how to do. I have seen and dealt with both types. If I need my S&W K-22 Masterpiece to be worked on, I want someone who knows HOW to do so. If I want to have my $12K O/U worked on, I want someone who knows how to do that. If all I want is a recoil pad installed, any basic guy should be able to do that.
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Old November 16, 2023, 09:37 AM   #34
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My guess is that guns are becoming more and more like legos. Buy the parts you want and install them yourself. Plug-and-play. That's a big difference from the way things were just 30 years ago.

I can build a pretty nice 2011 without any expert gunsmithing. Same with an AR. Most folks just don't wear high quality guns out enough to require gunsmithing.
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Old November 17, 2023, 05:53 AM   #35
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A lot of people use gunsmiths as "baby sitters" to do fairly easy routine maintenance that they simply do not want to do themselves. So I look at the ones around me as whether or not they do conventional "lego building" or if they REALLY have the experience and knowledge to do things like custom replace barrels that require headspacing being part of the barrel's shank machining. I don't know of anyone in my state that can do that--and operates a regular to-the-public business in any case. I think if you really wanted to focus on precision excellence--the market will beat a path to your door--look at the barrels that are fast approaching $1,000 for top-notch precision; the mere fact that people wait up to a year or even more I think makes the case there is a good reason to seek in-depth training and production excellence. IMO you're not going to make much headway trying to compete in the "Walmart of gunsmiths" niche of the market.
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Old November 17, 2023, 09:27 PM   #36
FITASC
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Local guy charges $100/hour and is a full service machine shop; that is a lot different than thr guy who charges $50/hour to change out Glock parts
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Old November 17, 2023, 10:53 PM   #37
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The only real "gunsmith" I know locally is actually a machinist by trade who enjoys guns as a hobby. We are actually related, being 3rd cousins. The man literally machines custom lathe chucks for other machinists. He also has the license to manufacture class 3 firearms, and he has a niche of making intergally suppressed .22 rifles. He will also true actions, ream chambers, thread and time barrel shanks, cut threads for muzzle brakes and comps, etc.

With all that, gunsmithing is only his hobby. His real money is made from other machining jobs. Even the machinists job has changed a whole lot with technology. CNC was a game changer. So was main stream MIM. The new frontier is 3D printing with metal particulate similar to that used in MIM.

In the end, charging the amount of money that a true skilled laborer gunsmith is worth requires a very good reputation. Even then business may evaporate during recessions. High end discretionary service jobs are probably among the first things to go during economic uncertainty.

Alternatively, si,ilar to my 3rd cousin, one could still be a skilled gunsmith and make good money if they simply diversify and expand their service base. Bill DeShivs comes to mind. Working on blades, guns, and making parts very prone to breakage for obscure firearms can pay well if you select the right market. Heck, Cajun Gun Works and Gray's has their niches. They aren't too different than Bill, just a slightly larger scale.

And lastly, others have hinted around to the fact that many guns in production today are designed for easy part swaps. Sure, gun owners are out in greater number over the past few years. Most of those gun owners, by far, have a Glock or similar modern polymer firearm that can be customized to race gun status with DIY part swaps. That has hit true gunsmithing hard.
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Old November 18, 2023, 06:34 PM   #38
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Want to make a small fortune as a gunsmith? Get a large fortune and invest in starting a business.
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Old November 18, 2023, 11:43 PM   #39
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I think it would be tough.

1. A lot of firearms that once were common targets for customization are now available from the factory with features that once were the exclusive domain of gunsmiths.

2. A lot of firearms can now be customized by parts swapping (either with parts from the factory or from the aftermarket) without the need for the services of a true gunsmith.

3. There's such a huge variety of firearms available these days, it's hard to justify buying something and modifying it as opposed to shopping around and finding one that's already the way you want it to be.

I think there's still a market out there, but it's limited. People who have a gun that has sentimental value that they want to upgrade. Repair of old/obsolete/discontinued firearms where parts must be fabricated or remade. Upgrade/customization of currently sold firearms out there that can't be upgraded with parts swaps.

If I wanted to be a gunsmith, I would open a gun shop, probably with an attached range, and then advertise my services in the shop. Sales and range fees would keep me in food, clothes and rent and give me time to build a reputation as a good 'smith. Assuming my skills were good enough. Oh, and the gunsmithing would have to be done after business hours. It might take a lot of years of working a lot more hours than 9-5 before being able to switch over to just gunsmithing.
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Old November 19, 2023, 02:58 PM   #40
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"I worked on guns until I went broke." I've heard that before.
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