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Old January 27, 2006, 11:22 PM   #1
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Becoming a Gunsmith?

I've been playing around with the idea of becoming a gunsmith. I have a good knowledge about firearms and the more I use them, customize them, and work on them, the more I like doing it. I'm 23 and already have a bachelors degree in criminal justice (which at this point I think was a waist of 4 years of my life). Anyway anyone have any information about gunsmithing schools? Should I be looking at a tech school or a college? How long would I have to go back to school for? Is there a demand for gunsmiths? What kind of money does a gunsmith make? Any information on this would be greatly appreciated.
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Old January 28, 2006, 01:39 AM   #2
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If you don't get his response here, send a private message to WildAlaska. He seems to know quite a bit about the subject.
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Old January 28, 2006, 01:18 PM   #3
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info for you

Is there a demand for gunsmiths? A very short answer is yes. How high that demand is depends on where you are at though.

Should you become one? That can only be answered by you. Do you have the temperment to work for yourself and work long hours at times. If not, then you might try something else.

As far as going back to school, it will normally be a 2 yr program at the schools that offer it. I would advise you to give them a call and see for yourself though. Here's a small list of the schools I would advise you to call:

Montgomery Community College
Mr. Wayne Bernauer, Coordinator
1011 Page Street
Troy, NC 27371
(910) 576-6222

Lassen Community College
Mr. Steve Taylor, Coordinator
Highway 139
P.O. Box 3000
Susanville, CA 96130
(530) 251-8800

Murray State College
Mr. Dean Arnold, Coordinator
1100 South Murray
Tishomingo, OK 73460
(580) 371-2371, ext. 235

Trinidad State Junior College
Mr. Patrick Blake, Coordinator
600 Prospect
Campus Box 319
Trinidad, CO 81082
(719) 846-5631

Colorado School of Trades
Admissions Office
ext. 18

Pennsylvania gunsmith school
Pennsylvania Gunsmith School
812, Ohio River Boulevard, Avalon,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15202
Phone: (412) 766-1812 or Fax: (412) 766-1812

If you ask enough people about becoming a smith, you will get very different answers. I think it is still a decent job myself, although most smiths work a first job and do this as a second job and the ones that go about it like this are doing it because they love it. The ones that make money at it are usually the ones that go into some sort of specialzing though, ie. 45ACP's or blueprinting actions. Find something that you enjoy doing and stick with it. Good luck to you.
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Old January 28, 2006, 01:19 PM   #4
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info for you

double post again
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Old January 28, 2006, 07:54 PM   #5
Harry Bonar
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Dear Sir:
May I kindly say: Use your education, forget about becomming a gunsmith! Even the best die poor!
Get a good job and follow your dream with guns - prepare for old age - it will come sooner than you think!
Harry B.
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Old January 28, 2006, 08:12 PM   #6
Harry Bonar
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becoming a gunsmith

Dear Sir:
Sir, I didn't mean to be short or pedantic to you but I went through the same thing with my dad.
He offered to send me anyplace in the world to any school - I turned it down, skipped school, married young (fifty-one years now to a wonderful woman) and had a number of jobs, none of which amounted to much!
I really loved guns from youth up. I tinkered with them and expressed the desire to open a gun shop to Dave R. Taylor of Little Hocking Ohio!
The chew out I got from that man was savage! He told me I was an idiot - to get a good plant job to provide for my family first!
I really know that people who do gunsmithing as a profession, most die poor! When you're old things just do not work as well as when young (woe is me) and even the best will have their carrers cut short by ill health.
Get a good job, then after that fool with guns and set up a litle shop that will satisfy your yearnings.
Harry B.
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Old January 28, 2006, 08:50 PM   #7
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D Takas,
Mr. Bonar has given you some wonderful advice.

"It's too late to work within the system,
but too early to shoot the bastards"
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Old January 29, 2006, 03:19 PM   #8
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Forget the cynicism displayed here and follow your dreams.

Get a good engineering background, because it is the beginning and end of what the trade does - you are simply applying it to weapon systems.

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains
And the women come out to cut up what remains
Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

Rudyard Kipling.
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Old January 29, 2006, 04:23 PM   #9
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What we need is not more gunsmiths, we need more good gunsmiths! I am always hearing stories from people about the hackjob monkeys that pass themselves off as smiths, buggering up their guns. That must be why the mfr. shops get so many repairs back. Either buggered up guns or from someone that does not trust the local chimp with a hacksaw. There don't seem to be any at all around here, either good or knucklewalking varieties. But it might be a good deal to get your feet wet in it part-time, unless you can buy an established business. Perhaps you should get trained as a machinist. Then get the machine tools and start work. Machine workers can get good money for regular machinists business, and the work translates over into gunsmithing quite nicely, except for the wood working aspects, perhaps. Probably best to contact or even visit one of the schools that were mentioned above. When you make money at it is when you get a rep. like the ones written up in the glossy gun mags.
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Old January 30, 2006, 10:43 AM   #10
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Use Both

DTakas You may not have waisted your Criminal Justice education.

#1 You got the CJ degree because you are interested in that field.

- I did the same.

#2 Every major police department has there own gunsmith/armorer to
maintain the departments guns.

- That is what do now. I have all the benifits of working for a major
agency. (Insurance, retirement, paid holidays, paid vacation,
city car to drive....etc.) I have 17 years in and for the last 8 I have
been a department gunsmith and firearms instructor. You may have
to put a few bad guys in jail for the first few years, but then you will
have the opportunity sometime to transfer to the range. Life is Grand.
I do tons of gunsmith work on the side. I have gunshops that send
me more work than I need.

Murry State College is the #1 gunsmith school in the nation. It is a two year degree and it is well known in the shooting industry that they produce the best. You wont be sorry. I know of numerous people recruited from there. One guy, I know of, now makes the match guns for the army's shooting team.

Think about a dual education, and one that can incorporate both.
"Fast is Fine but accuracy is final.".....Wyatt Earp.
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Old January 30, 2006, 03:48 PM   #11
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Here's my take on it.

If you want to be a PRO, go to one of the good attendance colleges or trade schools.
Taking correspondence courses will prepare you to be a hobbyist and nothing more.

Serving as an apprentice depends on whether your teacher is himself any good. You may learn from a great gunsmith/teacher, or you may learn from a gun hacker.
Without the knowledge you have NO way of really telling the difference.
Local reputation means NOTHING.

If you want to be a pro, DO NOT even think about opening a shop on your own until you've been in the business for years.
Price of equipment, and overhead is VERY expensive, and chances are in the high 90% that you'll bust out quickly.
Making a living wage without having the experience AND CONTACTS in the business as a start-up business is almost impossible.

Also remember: As a self-employed gunsmith you ARE NOT A GUNSMITH. You're a BUSINESSMAN who does some gunsmithing.
MOST of your day will be spent doing businessman work NOT gunsmithing work.
You'll be on the phone talking to customers and suppliers, and doing paperwork, mostly for State and Federal governments, that has nothing to do with gunsmithing.

Most of this paperwork will be of absolutely NO benefit to you or your business, it'll be for the benefit of various bureaucrats .

If you LUCKY, you'll get to spend an hour or so actually gunsmithing.

The best way to handle it, is to go to a big school with a national reputation, then go to work for established business as a hired hand.
First, you'll learn more practical skills in your first year than you did in school, and second, the owner will be the one doing all the paperwork while you put in 8 hours solid of real gunsmithing.

There are more employers of gunsmiths than most people think.
The US government employs gunsmiths in many federal agencies and departments, and even the military employ some civilians.

Many big companies that aren't gun companies employ gunsmiths for research and development.

Custom gun makers like Wilson employ gunsmiths as do ALL the gun companies.
Some companies use gunsmiths on the assembly line, and the better ones do actual customer repairs.

Many big police departments and federal law enforcement agencies employ gunsmiths as armorers.

So, go to a good attendance school, and when you start your last year, start looking for employment. Most of the good schools offer placement services, and a lot of potential
employers often visit looking for the better graduates.

By the time you graduate, you should have either 3-4 GOOD interviews lined up, or actually have a job offer.

Work for the other guy for some years to build up experience and contacts in the industry, and to get a feel for what kind of gunsmithing you want to do.
Save your money and start picking up the more expensive equipment and tooling.

THEN take the risk of starting up on your own.
And remember, No matter WHAT a new business is, or WHO's running it, MOST of them go bust within 2-3 years.
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Old January 31, 2006, 06:13 AM   #12
Join Date: October 12, 2005
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I gunsmith (or smith guns) six and sometimes seven days a week. If I average my time out I will make about $4 to $5 an hour. That's not a brag or a complaint, but sometimes that's how it works out. It's those 5-minute jobs that take about 3 hours to do.
Don't waste your education. Personally, I think Forensic Science would be a fascinating subject.
You might think about directing your skills to ballistics as well. You'll have the benefits that go with a career and you can leave those problems at the door when you go home at night.
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Old February 9, 2006, 05:47 PM   #13
Harry Bonar
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a gunsmith

Dear Sir;
Good ole Dfariswheel! Listen to him!
Harry B.
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Old February 10, 2006, 10:51 AM   #14
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I'm 23 and already have a bachelors degree in criminal justice (which at this point I think was a waist of 4 years of my life).
LOL. Try being 54 with degrees in theology.

You're only 23. Ask yourself what's important? Job satisfaction or money? Because there's no money in gunsmithing.

Are you married? Kids? Have a mortgage, etc? If you're foot loose and fancy free, go for it. Otherwise, you're still young enough to select a career that will compensate you fairly. (But that's a whole 'nuther post.)
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Old February 10, 2006, 11:22 AM   #15
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Not to bust your bubble most of the guys here have given you some great advice. I have been doing it for just a few years and if I had to count of it to pay the bills I'd be in deep stuff. You will find that everybody says I have a pistol or rifle I need fixed but you will see very few. I am a retired Paramedic and started out as I wanted to fix my own and I do work on many guns for costumers but it ain't easy to get a business going if it was everybody would do it. My advice is start part time and see how it goes from there. One other school that I didn't see listed is here in AZ. it's in Prescott from what I understand it's 2 years and a very good school. No matter what anyone says you'll do what you want so what ever you decide good look in your quest . Be Safe Out There. Kurt P.S. If you do it a piece of good advice is if your don't know how to do something tell your customer he might not like it but in the long run you'll keep the ones you have and make new one from being as honest as you can.
Kurt Pietrzak
Maricopa Shooting Service
S.W.A.T. South West Airsoft Tactical
CCW Instrutor
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Maricopa ,Az.
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Old March 4, 2006, 09:37 PM   #16
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Gunsmith… A wonderful and exciting dream for the young gun lover. As so many have said you’ll die poor. And maybe that’s ok, but as with any hobby you really love, when it becomes a J O B – the romance seems to disappear. And it’s not just because it’s a job, but everybody wants a better deal. I smith part time as a hobby from my own shop (worked in a store for awhile) I always give my price up front and have the customer agree. It never fails – when they come to pickup the firearm, they’ve just had some disaster in their life and can’t afford the agreed price for repairs. More times than not I’m lucky if I can pay for parts. [I’m a sucker for a sad story so sue me] Every year I work on less guns than I did the year before. The customer has taken all the fun out of it.
As already suggested unless you work for a larger company or the military, you might be better off keeping gunsmithing as a hobby. If you do a good source for partime/hobby knowledge is
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Old March 8, 2006, 12:38 PM   #17
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Thinking further on some of the ideas provided in this thread. Maybe you should continue into the LE/Criminal Justice field.

First, follow where your degree will take you. Get established and take care of your yourself and your family. At the same time, continue some part time work as a Gunsmith. Attend as much Gunsmith schooling as you can. Your employer may even pick up some of the costs of a Gunsmith education.

Once you have more experience, begin transistioning into the Gunsmith/Weapons field within LE/Forensics. With that type of specialty your pay and benefits should be decent.
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Old March 8, 2006, 01:32 PM   #18
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Well, having tried almost exactly what you're describing, I would say go to work and make a living with the CJ degree, because most gunsmiths don't hardly make a living. Besides, if you like working with guns, the hobby quickly becomes just another job. Best reasons I can think of not to be a gunsmith:
1. You don't get to go hunting because you're fixing everybody else's hunting guns.
2. You don't get to go to matches and have fun because eveybody is after you to fix their guns for free.
3. You can't afford to buy ammo for your guns because gunsmiths are always broke.
4. You work evenings and weekends because that's when your customers can get time from their jobs to buy your stuff.
5. You work for less than minimum wage to fix somebody's Grandpa's gun, and when they come to pick it up they moan about how much you're asking for your time.
6. You know a lot of people, but have no friends because you can never afford to go do things with them.
7. If you do build a rifle that is one-hole accurate, you end up selling it to pay for the parts you had to buy to build it.

I could keep going, but you get the idea. Being a gunsmith was fun for the first few years until my partner decided he needed a job to pay for working at the gunshop. So remember: home, work, play, in that order. If you try to change the order you can't afford one of the others, usually play or home.

On the other hand, if you do want to learn gunsmithing, several trade schools around the country teach gunsmithing. You could go to school, buy a small lathe and mill, invest in the tools, and turn out really nice rifles for the rest of your life as a hobby.
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Old March 8, 2006, 04:31 PM   #19
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I’ve just been sitting back and reading the new replies as they’ve come in and I have to say I’m impressed at the number of replies and the genuineness of their content. Thanks so much guys for your advice I particularly like the suggestion of working in Law Enforcement and letting my employer pay for the additional schooling. (assuming I’m working for a department with tuition reimbursement). Problem is around here there is just no work to be had in Law Enforcement right now. The wife and I plan on moving in a year or two anyway but in the mean time I graduated Suma Cum Laude from a reputable local university with a four year degree and I’m working third shift security. I know things will get better, but in the mean time it sure leaves one wanting more. I probably shouldn’t complain despite the fact that it hurts my pride to work security I make more than a lot of the smaller departments in my area pay their cops.
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Old March 8, 2006, 07:44 PM   #20
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I would suggest getting in touch with a job placing company like and see if they can put you in touch with a department with a pay scale that you wouldn't mind working for. Keep in mind if the Dept pays well, the cost of living most likely will be higher for the city or town you would need to live in. You might take your degree and consider trying to go into the military or working for the gov't in a different capacity. MP's in the military need folks with the same training as your degree and they might be able to cross train you in their armory as well which might be right up your alley so to speak. I know if I was starting over and had a degree, a future with the military would be where I would look at first. That might not be something that interests you, but a degree will usually start you off in an officer training program which is a little better than starting off as a patrolman for a local police dept. The gov't has other positions that you might be able to move into as well working with your degree. Several departments such as the Marshalls and Post Office need LE folks and would be an excellent job for you.

I can tell you from working as a fireman for two different towns that pay scales usually vary with the cost of living. The town I began working for was a small community of 30,000 and paid only a few thousand more than the small town of 7800 that I was working for when I retired. The smaller town cost a lot less to live in due to real estate costs being a lot less. The first town I worked for had a military base which drove up the cost of real estate due to pilots having a little larger living expense than the average working joe. Little things such as this play into figuring out where you might want to work and live.

The thing is simply this, don't limit yourself to a patrolman job unless that is simply what you want to do. You spent the time to get a degree, spend some more time and find that perfect job for you. The gunsmithing can be picked up and carried with you with any job and can be a hobby or a side job that you love as well.
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