Gunsmiths use hand tools and machinery to build, repair or customize firearms. They can launch their own gunsmithing business or choose to work for firearms manufacturers, stores or other employers. Read on to learn if the craft of gunsmithing is right for you.
The NRA Institute for Legislative Action estimated that more than 250 million guns exist in private ownership within the United States (www.nraila.org). Gunsmiths build new firearms and fix used guns. Many gunsmiths are self-employed. Their business services may include maintaining, repairing, cleaning and selling firearms.
After learning the craft, you could open your own gunsmithing business or get hired to work at an existing gunsmith shop. As a trained gunsmith, you might get a job working for a firearms manufacturer, a sports warehouse or another type of store that sells firearms. The skills you learn in gunsmithing school might even land you a job as a machinist, metal finisher or woodworker.
Gunsmiths should like shooting and working with their hands. They should also be detail-oriented and respect the power of firearms. The work, which includes bouts of sitting and standing, can also be recommended for individuals who are physically disabled.
Gunsmithing programs are taught at community and junior colleges, trade schools and privately operated gunsmithing schools. You can earn a diploma, certificate or associate's degree in gunsmithing. In programs like these you'll learn about using hand tools and machinery to build and repair guns, stock making, handling firearms safely and learning to pinpoint the causes of gun malfunctions. Gunsmithing programs typically include courses in metallurgy, firearm design, welding, business methods, gun laws and how to install sights, recoil pads and other parts. You will study in the classroom as well as gain hands-on shop experience in most gunsmithing programs. You may also learn gunsmithing through an apprenticeship program. The National Rifle Association (NRA) affiliates with a handful of schools that offer firearm hobbyists short gunsmithing courses lasting days or a week or two (www.nragunsmithing.com). These short courses are taught in spring and summer.
You'll also need to get a license from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to legally operate as a gunsmith (www.atf.gov). The ATF only requires gunsmiths to acquire only a dealer's license, but a manufacturing license might be necessary depending upon the gunsmith's scope of business activities.