engineering positions in firearm industry


Ukraine Train
September 27, 2005, 10:43 AM
So I'm graduating in December with my ME degree. I was thinking of what kind of job I can get in the firearms industry. Obviously there are jobs with the manufacturers but I suspect that openings don't come up too often since there aren't that many manufacturers and their engineering departments aren't very big, compared to say Ford or GM. Where else might be a good place to search? Maybe some kind of military contractor?

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September 27, 2005, 03:00 PM
The military contractors are the obvious place to start, but you'll need to be a bit more specific. Are you interested in weapons systems as a whole, or specific parts of them (e.g. the weapon itself, the hydraulic systems, the aiming/control systems, the mobile chassis, etc.)? Once you've narrowed down your specific field of interest, you could then search for companies producing systems in that field, and take your inquiries from there.

Ukraine Train
September 27, 2005, 03:12 PM
Hmm I was actually thinking small arms like pistols and rifles but since you mention systems... things like tanks, cannons, etc. would be pretty cool too. I guess I'd be interested in the actual firing mechanism design. I'll have to do some digging.

September 27, 2005, 03:42 PM
Military contractors are definitately a place to look. I work for an Air Force contractor as a software engineer, though I don't do anything with weapons systems.

I don't know of alot of contracting companies, but one that sounds interesting to me is Battelle. I've heard that they do some weapons systems work.

Ukraine Train
September 27, 2005, 03:44 PM
Is there any way to get a list of suitable companies somewhere?

September 27, 2005, 04:00 PM
Get a manufacturing FFL and start making your own.

A few CNC tools and you can make many different firearms.

Many popular firearms are no longer patented, the specs are freely available.

You could be churning out your own brand of 1911...

Molon Labe
September 27, 2005, 04:10 PM

I am an EE working at a University-based R&D facility in SW Ohio. There is an R&D group in our facility called "Impact Physics." Here are some links:

Link 1 (
Link 2 (

They test targets using anything from small caliber ammo on up to chickens! They test everything... concrete bunkers, bullet-resistant windows, F-16 canopies, etc.

I don't work for this group, be my group shares the same building with them. I hear guns going off all day long while I'm in my office! :)

It's a pretty big facility. In fact, it is touted as being "The Free World's largest commercial firing range."

I am friends with the group leader. I have no idea if he has any job openings. If you're interested in this kind of work, send me a PM, and I'll put you in touch with the group leader.

September 27, 2005, 04:29 PM
If you're graduating in December you're a little behind the curve on this.

Pull the SHOT Show site up and look at weapons manufacturers and start cold calling.

September 27, 2005, 04:53 PM

Be really careful for what you ask. As an engineer, you will be happiest in the design of a weapon, not in the manufacturing. The real fun is in the design and fabrication of prototypes. So I'm thinking you'll be happiest in calling the Winchester's of the world and finding what opportunities exist in their R&D departments.

Who knows, maybe Wilson is looking for a protoge?

In summary, you want to be an design engineer, and not a manufacturing specialist or a gunsmith. Right?


Molon Labe
September 27, 2005, 05:16 PM
Once a manufacturer designs a gun, they usually don't change the design for a very long time. So my guess is that very people actually design guns for a living, and consequently it would be difficult for someone to find a job in firearms design. I would bet there are many more jobs in other areas, such as quality control, testing, manufacturing, etc.

Not only that, but be careful what you ask for. Being a firearms designer is probably not as glamorous as you think. It's unlikely your boss will come up to you and ask, "Design me a cool semi-auto rifle with these bells and whistles." A more likely request would be this: "According to our accountant, its costs $48.28 to perform the machining steps on the slide for our model XJ123 handgun. We want you to design a drop-in replacement slide that costs no more than $30 to perform the machining steps. Can you have this done in two weeks?" Is that what you want to be doing? :uhoh:

Speaking as a 38 year old electrical engineer... if I were Ukraine, I would first-and-foremost look at getting a job that pays well and has some security, and then tinker with firearms design on the side. Isn't that what Glock did?

September 27, 2005, 08:31 PM
Companies to look at if you want to do defense contract type work include: Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrup-Grumman for the big players. There's also any number of smaller places, some will be sub-contractors to the big boys, some will be trying to become big boys in their own right (or hoping to get bought by the big boys).

If you want to do missiles and bombs, Raytheon Missile Systems in Tucson is a good place to go.

If you want to do tank guns, and similar armaments, General Dynamics in Vermont may be worth looking into.

Boeing does most of their military aircraft in St Louis (the former McDonnel-Douglas facility) and to a lesser extent Wichita, KS. They do some military stuff in Seattle too (F-22). Boeing Helicopters (think Apache) is here in Mesa (Phoenix area).

If you want to work in satalites PM me. I work in that field as a structural analyst.

Then there's submarines and surface Navy ships. For that look to N-G and GE in Mississippi and Maine.

There really is not a whole lot of effort going into the design of new pistols and rifles. Most of the work that is going on is refining the ergonomics, or improving reliability or developing a new whiz-bang caliber. There's probably not that many people involved in that kind of work, and I doubt it pays nearly as well as defense contractors.

Edit: Are you a US citizen with a clean criminal record? If you can't answer yes to both of those questions you probably won't get a job at any of the companies I mentioned above. Minor stuff like simple speeding tickets won't matter, but a DUI or anything violent or that shows you're not trustworthy (fraud, theft, etc) will probably be an automatic rejection.

Eskimo Jim
September 27, 2005, 08:41 PM
to make a long story short, check out your career placement office on campus, head hunters that specialize in the technical fields, internet etc.

Although I have a Civil Engineering degree, I went to school with people who sought work in the defense and firearms industry. The way they did it is that they approached the company in regards to doing a school project with the company. It helped them get work after college.

Check out the company websites etc and don't overlook sending blind resumes. Within your ME classes do you have a concentration that might be appealing to the firearms industry? If it isn't too late, could you pick up some Industrial Engineering classes so that your background would be a little more diverse? Not only would you be able to engineer a product, but you could also have some education regarding the production of your design.

For defense contractors, check out Electric Boat in New London/Groton CT, Newport News in Virginia. Sikoursky is in CT as well. Raytheon tends to have a huge website for job postings across the country and around the world. The subcontractors to the 'big dogs' is a good route too but they are harder to find.

Good luck.


September 27, 2005, 10:06 PM
don't overlook the companies that manufacture ammunition, propellants, pyrotechnics, and explosives.

also, USGOV occasionally has jobs related to firearms and ammunition (and larger weapons and devices)

for example:

September 27, 2005, 10:23 PM
For defense contractors, check out Electric Boat in New London/Groton CT, Newport News in Virginia. Those two were both bought out in last few years. One by Nothrup-Grumman, the other by (IIRC) GE. Can't remember which was which, but I think NG bought Electric Boat, and GE bought Newport make a long story short, check out your career placement office on campus That's where I would go if I were you. Their whole job is to put you in touch with companies that want to hire people like you.

pete f
September 27, 2005, 10:32 PM
Alliant Tech systems. aka ATK is a booming concern and they use ME all the time. I know several who work there. they like it. ATK owns several different companies. Federal cartridge, the old honeywell arms business, and several of the famous old companies.(RCBS,speer, estate cartridge,Outers, hercules powders, weaver scopes,) try

There are many smaller companies that are always looking for good people, get on the net and start looking for anyone who is into the leading edge of hardware.

September 27, 2005, 11:51 PM
You could always start near the bottom and work your way up:

September 28, 2005, 09:09 AM
One other piece of advice. Don't fixate on what you think you want to do. This is particularly important when coming out of an academic background and entering the real world. Design may float your boat but testing is where you learn what works and what doesn't. The important thing is to make sure you understand a typical career path for the company you interview.

Another factor to consider is what are your personal likes and dislikes which play into whether or not the ideal job will keep you happy. My experience is personal likes and dislikes will always trump technical enthusiasm. An example would be you professionally love design because of the intellectual challenge, but you detest being stuck inside behind a desk. So look for something that gives you the challenge of the head combined with mobility (tech service for example).

Another point. Start networking now. Build you contacts. Ask them for advice. See if they can give you a few companies to consider. Networking is the single most important skill you can develop and it receives zero mention in the halls academia. All ways network.

Ukraine Train
September 28, 2005, 12:26 PM
So how about this, "One of our best clients is looking for a talented “tinkerer” with a background in Mechanical or Electro-Mechanical Engineering. The exciting part is that this individual will be involved in the research, design and development of new products in the firearms industry." It doesn't say the company name but it's in New Haven, CT so I'm assuming it's Winchester. That's right up my alley except it's at the opposite end of the country that I'd like to live in lol. How are CT gun laws?

Molon Labe
September 28, 2005, 01:52 PM
Connecticut? Connecticut?

Connecticut does not deserve you. It would be like selling your soul to the devil.

Ukraine Train
September 28, 2005, 01:55 PM
It's that good, huh? I could live in RI and drive to work from there lol. I don't know if RI is any better, though.

Eskimo Jim
September 28, 2005, 09:02 PM
CT isn't that bad compared to NY, NJ, CA, MD etc. You can get a CCW here. RI has problems with that and MA is very iffy town by town. NY you can get it upstate but all bets are off when you want ti visity NYC.


Ukraine Train
September 29, 2005, 09:30 AM
Pete f,

Do you have any more info on the "old honeywell arms" business? Are they still affiliated with Honeywell? I've been co-oping with Honeywell's spark plug division (Autolite, Motorcraft brands) for four years now.

I definitely don't want to work in manufacturing. I've been in the product engineering department and spend some time working with production and it's a night and day difference to me.

Henry Bowman
September 29, 2005, 05:22 PM
Try Crane ( Naval Surface Warfare in southern Indiana.

September 21, 2007, 05:30 AM
Crane job.....

This position is with the NAVSEA design agent for small arms ammunition. Incumbent will be required to design, develop, research and test various types of small arms ammunition ranging from .22 caliber to 25MM, including special purpose ammunition and up to 40MM grenade ammunition, hand and rifle grenades and shoulder-fired anti-armor ordnance. These functions include the initial conception of innovative designs that result in improved safety, accuracy, desired economy and performance.


September 21, 2007, 06:55 AM
Try FN Manufacturing in SC. They have an opening.:)
Go to:


September 21, 2007, 08:26 AM
I sent you a PM with some, but then read further down in the posts. Looks like you need a starter:

Here's a start:

Some other places would be your University job placement office, local newspapers surrounding military installations, etc.

If you are looking in the Defense world, you won't have any problems.

September 21, 2007, 09:25 AM
HSM is in Montana.
Speer is in Idaho.
Double Tap is in Utah.
Crimson Trace is in Beaverton, OR (my backyard per se)

I'd personally stick to the West myself, but I'm biased, I was born and raised here.

R&D is only exciting for so long. These departments are notorious for burning out people quickly. I worked in R&D in semiconductors for 5 years, what a pressure cooker environment that was. It was satisfying for a while, then the appreciation for the effort becomes expected and it eats up any hopes of having a social life just to compete with your peers.

I don't want to discourage you, for the firearms industry might be entirely different, but R&D is typically viciously competitive. Get in, enjoy it while it lasts, then peel back to manufacturing based engineering to enjoy your life a bit more. Having seen both sides, the work is nearly identical, but the satisfaction is definitely better in manufacturing than R&D in the long haul. If you like sleep and a social life that is.

Good luck, as an ME holder myself, I can tell you that you have a better grasp of engineering and physics than nearly any other degree program out there. It will serve you well and provide you with many avenues to pursue.

September 21, 2007, 09:28 AM
Here's a link and website to look at:

BAE builds tracked vehicles for the military. There are facilities all over the place.
One thing about the defense's a real roller coaster ride as far as job stability goes.

As far as jobs directly in the civilian firearms industry, go directly to their websites (Marlin, Mossberg, Colt, etc.). Some will have a careers link on their home page. The specialty manufacturers (Wilson, Les Baer, etc.) are pretty small companies.

ME is a good degree. Just remember a lot of what you learned will have little applicability in the real world.

September 21, 2007, 09:58 AM
Jobs in the civilian firearms market are going to be hard to come by, many are rather small firms with probably very little in the way of R&D going on (they have a couple of products that they make well and they tend to stick to them). Look hard at the defense contractors. You should be careful and understand what it is you are getting into. As has been mentioned, if you go to work for a defense contractor your job will not be permanent. Do some research on it before you jump in. They are not the most stable job environments. Depending on what you plans are (a family, etc.) this may or may not be a big deal for you.

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