Young kid wants to go into the world of gunsmithing


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TA_Raider
November 15, 2006, 09:31 PM
Hi, I am 15 yrs old and already know the career that I want to go into. I have a love for guns and want to work with them. I really want to start out now, but I don't know where to start. Does anybody have advise about what I should do for now? I was told to go to a gunsmithing college in Pennsylvania but am too young. Should I just soak up as much as I can now and then go into the field later? I need help. This is driving me crazy :banghead:.

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Jim K
November 15, 2006, 09:49 PM
"Should I just soak up as much as I can now and then go into the field later?"

Yep. Since you are too young for any trade school and cannot even buy a gun of any kind, just hang in there. Read what books you can, and examine guns you or your parents have if they let you.

When you are 18, go to trade school or, if there is a local gunsmith shop, try for an apprenticeship. But if you have the opportunity, go to college. If the gunsmithing doesn't work out, the degree helps a lot in getting a decent job.

But, as I keep preaching, there is more to being a gunsmith than knowing guns or having an FFL. If you want your own shop, you will have to learn about how to run a business. So in the near term you might want to see about business courses at your community college. Those may be open to anyone without full enrollment, under a "continuing education" program.

So for now, apply yourself to your studies. Guns are fascinating in many ways, but they are so interconnected with history that a good knowledge of history can make a gun that was part of it even more interesting. I cannot see a 1914 or earlier British SMLE without thinking that it might have been at the Somme or Mons, or an M1 carbine without remembering pictures of them in the hands of our troops on D-Day.

And a real understanding of guns involves mathematics, physics, chemistry, metallurgy, and even English.

Jim

MountainBear
November 15, 2006, 09:58 PM
Take some shop classes. Both metal work (hand and machine work) and wood work are important to gunsmithing. Since you need to be 18 to sell guns (at least in my part of the country), working at a shop is pretty much out of the question.
So I would suggest you getting a job in a small business somewhere that you can learn the ins and outs of running a small business. A good business sense is going to be more important to running the business than how good you are with a mill file.
And besides, you're only 15. Enjoy life. Hunt. Fish. Shoot. Do all the things that make being a kid fun, it won't be too long before you are going to have more responsibilities that you can count...
Good luck.

--MountainBear

dfaugh
November 16, 2006, 10:05 AM
Take some shop classes. Both metal work (hand and machine work) and wood work are important to gunsmithing.

Roger that...People often consider gunsmithing as some kind of voodoo, specialized black art. When it's really just a trade, using both common and specialized tools for a specific purpose. Learn metalworking, welding, wood working. All are components of gunsmithing. While I'm not a gunsmith, I do alot of my own work, including some pretty extensive stuff. But I have extensive experience in all of the above areas. And the results have always been positive, at least from all the guys at the range!

Also, having owned multiple small businesses, and worked/run a couple othes, that is good advice as well. Alot of high schools are already offering basic business courses, so you should check that out. Running a small business isn't rocket science, but it's not nearly as easy as most people think, either.

kaferhaus
November 16, 2006, 01:46 PM
Just to add to the other good information that's been offered... Once you graduate "trade school" get a good "day job"....

It's very hard to make a living as a gunsmith until you've established yourself with a good reputation.

All the tools, equipment and supplies you'll need will add up to many thousands of dollars.... I have several thousand dollars tied up in chamber reamers alone..... tens of thousands of dollars in machine tools...(lathe, mill etc.) and several thousand tied up in jigs and fixures.

Add to that a place to "do business" and you'll get the idea.

Good luck!

2TransAms
November 16, 2006, 02:16 PM
Listen to MountainBear. For what it's worth I don't think these gunsmiths are getting rich either. One of you smiths may want to correct me if I'm wrong.:D

I went to work full time when I was 15...finish high school, maybe go to college if you need to, and enjoy the next couple years. The real world will be on you before you know it. You've still got plenty of time to learn a trade,and you may even change your mind about it in a few years.

TA_Raider
November 16, 2006, 04:24 PM
Well, I was talking with a guy at a local gunshop and he said that around here, gunsmiths are in great need and make about $60 - $80 an hour starting out. We also talked about the jobs there and he said the reason why you have to be 21 to get a job there is because the owner wants everyone to have a carry. I was also looking at the comunity college here and probably next year I will do a dual enrollment there and at my highschool.

I know that my school will help me a great deal in life, but I have no real interest in it. The only thing that is interesting is history. Thanks guys, you have been a big help.

RogersPrecision
November 16, 2006, 04:39 PM
$60 - $80 an hour starting out, huh?

Hey, wanna know how to make a small fortune gunsmithing?


















Start out with a large fortune!

;)

Beatnik
November 16, 2006, 04:49 PM
Okay, here's the advice of a complete stranger, to be taken with the appropriate grain of salt.

First of all, you sound like you've gotten something out of your education so far. There is only one misspelling in your post, which is impressive in a 15 year old. If you are doing well in school and can tolerate more after you graduate, then shoot higher.

By that I mean that you shouldn't just plan on taking a gunsmithing course and call it quits. You're asking about this really early in your game. If you play your cards right, you could be the guy designing the guns instead of the guy fixing the guns. But in order to do that, you'd need quite a bit more education - you'll need lots of math, physics, engineering, materials science, and so forth.

That wasn't meant to demean gunsmiths. It's a fine and respectable occupation. But at 15, maybe you shouldn't be putting all your eggs in that basket.

The next point I would make is that you should look around and see what's possible first. There is a lot you can do with guns besides gunsmithing. I'm not playing that particular trade down - I'm simply saying you should think outside the box. There are hundreds of other possibilities - trainer, hunting guide, CSI ballistics expert - find out what's common between them and go study that.

The guys that own Google probably went to school only thinking that playing with computers for a living would be fun. But they got a generalized education in computers and then put that education to use in a specific way. If you jump straight to gunsmithing, then as mentioned before, you've got one option - gunsmithing.

Whenever I hear someone young asking this kind of thing I always add this general advice as well: Read regularly, write clearly and succinctly, speak correctly and confidently, and you will not go hungry.

Oh, and after you hit 18, never, ever miss an election.

The Deer Hunter
November 16, 2006, 04:51 PM
Well, you still need to know math and what have you if you want to live a good life, at least for the most part.

Owen
November 16, 2006, 05:00 PM
$60 to $80 isn't what they make, it's what they charge. If your lucky enough to have enough work you'll make a nice living. If you can only get 5 or 6 hours of work every week, you are in big trouble.

TA_Raider
November 16, 2006, 06:19 PM
$60 to $80 isn't what they make, it's what they charge.

Then what do they make? I know that there is not many gun shops around here. I can count them on two hands. So work would not be a problem.

I was planning on working at a shop for a while and then eventually open up one for my own. My over all goal would be to own a few shops around town that are under my reign. What would save me some time is if you could list what things all those occupations have in common.

As far as examining my and my parent's guns, I am very limited. I have a Russian Makarov and know the ends and outs on that. I also have a Remington 700 ADL that I just got and am still messing around with that. My dad has a Ruger Mk I that I can't find much on but can now take it down and put it together. He also has a Savage 110. I am still "examining" the rifles. I am currently saving up for an AR-15. Hopefully by getting the AR-15, it will add to my knowledge greatly.

BTW, I will never, ever, will miss an election. My parents brought me up to know better than that.;)

daysleeprx
November 17, 2006, 12:29 AM
I was planning on working at a shop for a while and then eventually open up one for my own. My over all goal would be to own a few shops around town that are under my reign.

I've never heard of any smith doing such a thing. Seems like there would be issues with quality control for a gunsmith "franchise".

To my knowledge, all the known smiths only have one shop. But hey, I could be wrong. But if I were a smith, I'd want every gun that had my name attached to it to come through my hands. That might be kind of hard if I have to be in three or four places at once.

And I agree with the above posts about not limiting yourself at such a young age. You're still in high school after all. College is a whole different ballgame, with MANY MANY more opportinities. Plus in college you get to choose what to learn, rather than being told what to learn. You'll need a business background anyway. My smith has a college degree in business administration.

Howdy Doody
November 17, 2006, 03:25 AM
I have seen some gunsmith correspondence courses offered. Maybe you could get started now with one of those and then when you finish high school enroll in a good college program like they have in Colorado or in Susanville California. Just a thought. The world needs gunsmiths of good quality. There is a market, but you have to be a businessman too. Learn all you can about business and gunsmithing and the world will come to your door.

Beatnik
November 17, 2006, 10:10 AM
Heh, that's right, didn't Sally Struthers mention a gunsmithing course in commercials for that 1980's correspondence school?

TA_Raider, the problem is that in a lot of places (Woodbridge, VA for example), if you want to live a comfortable middle class life with a wife who doesn't have to work and 2+ children who can take saxophone lessons if they want to, then you're going to have to make $60 to $80/hr in personal gross income. It's obviously less in Florida, and if you're well outside of cities, but in my mind living in the country means maintaining acreage, too...

Which brings me to another good point I'd share with 15 year olds. When I was 15 everybody said "Get good grades, determine in your junior year of high school what you're going to do for the rest of your adult life, go to college and study it, and then pray that society doesn't decide that we don't need that career anymore."

What I wish they'd said is "This is the US of A, dammit, there's money by the truckload for people who are clever and motivated enough to go out and get it, and getting your truckload doesn't have to be what you do for 8 hours a day!"

I have a 32 year old friend who owns a couple houses he rents, plays around with online investing, and makes enough of a living to just go to school part time. I think he has a master's and 2 bachelor's at this point. That's what he likes to do, so he figured out a way to spend 6 hours a day doing something that makes no money, and 2 hours a day making a lot of money.

Just food for thought. You need money, but don't let it stop you.

Oh, and no offense, but advice is free - doing your homework for you is not. People will always throw information your way when you want to know which direction to take. They'll never go that way and tell you what they saw.

2TransAms
November 17, 2006, 10:17 AM
TA_Raider, the problem is that in a lot of places (Woodbridge, VA for example), if you want to live a comfortable middle class life with a wife who doesn't have to work and 2+ children who can take saxophone lessons if they want to, then you're going to have to make $60 to $80/hr in personal gross income. It's obviously less in Florida, and if you're well outside of cities, but in my mind living in the country means maintaining acreage, too...

Which brings me to another good point I'd share with 15 year olds. When I was 15 everybody said "Get good grades, determine in your junior year of high school what you're going to do for the rest of your adult life, go to college and study it, and then pray that society doesn't decide that we don't need that career anymore."

What I wish they'd said is "This is the US of A, dammit, there's money by the truckload for people who are clever and motivated enough to go out and get it, and getting your truckload doesn't have to be what you do for 8 hours a day!"
Are you talking about gross income for your business or gross income just for yourself? I know my excavators charge $125 an hour and I still net more than some of them. And I don't bring home 60 bucks an hour,that's for sure. Included in that $125 is machinery,maintenance,fuel,and labor for their employees. They get to keep whatever's left.

Owen
November 17, 2006, 10:31 AM
How much does a gunsmith make? Depends on the gunsmith. Les Baer, Wilson and Clark probably do pretty well.

The guy that works in the back of the local gunstore probably makes a little more than the clerks.

The problem is this:

As a gunsmith you will need equipment and a place to work. Therefore you will have debt on your machinery, and rent to pay. If you do a wide variety of work, you will end up with an extensive collection of tools, some of which you will use everyday, some you will use once a decade. In addition, the $60/hour is what you are charging for your services. If you don't have 40 hours a week of work you are in trouble.

There isn't anyone out there that will make sure you have work.

That means you may have to do some marketing. Time spent marketing can be profitable, but it doesn't make money directly. If you are busy with paying work you aren't marketing yourself, so there will probably be a dropoff in business shortly. Gunsmithing is also seasonal. You are going to be blitzed during the hunting season, and absolutely dead in, say, February. That means you have to have enough money in the bank to service your debts and rent when you may have little or no income.

What does a gunsmith actually make? Call up some of the local ones. If they work out of their house, take a look at the house and the cars in the driveway. Is it typical for the area, nicer than usual, or is the house smaller than most, and are the cars older? (Older cars and small houses aren't definitive; the 'smith could just be frugal.)

Assuming a 40 hour week of paid work, you are looking at $120,000/year As a business owner you will have alot to do that isn't paid work. Things like taxes, warranty work, redoing stuff you made mistakes on, etc. If you are lucky enough to have enough work, I think you are looking at maybe $50 to 70k/year, before taxes, assuming that you are competent, have good people skills, and are lucky enough to find enough work to keep you busy.

GRIZ22
November 17, 2006, 10:34 AM
The colleges that have gunsmith programs will also teach you the required business skills. Many people who open small businesses fail not because they are not good at what they do but because they don't have the business sense required. The $60-80 an hour rate is what one needs to charge to pay the rent, utilities, etc. You also have to pay for all the tools you need milling machine, lathe, reamers, gages, and other specialized tools. I'm guessing that would have to cost $20-25000 to get started.

I admire your ambition about having several shops but you have to face the reality that the community will support only so much of some kind of business. Look in your local phone booth and see how many gunsmiths are listed. Jacksonville is a big area but I'd guess you won't find more than 10 or so gunsmiths.

As far as being 21 to work for a gunsmith I don't think it's because of having to have a carry permit. You need to be 21 to get a license and there's also liability insurance. If you work on someone's gun, it breaks thru no fault of what you did, who do you think they're going to come after? This is just one of the many factors you need to learn in business.

Gun Plumber
November 17, 2006, 02:10 PM
TA RAIDER,
Let me help you out here. I HAVE a degree in gunsmithing I got from the Colorado School of Trades almost ten years ago.

Lots of good info in the posts above, but you BETTER take into account certain expenses that if you ARE going to be a gunsmith will have to be addressed sooner or later.

For example, hours billed and hours worked are NEVER the same. I've got friends that bill WAY more than the fifty hours a week they actually work. Generally they bill specific times for specific jobs. Times the shop rate. So they can effectively bill out over twice the amount of time they are physically in the shop working. Just like an automotive mechanic. And just like any mechanic, hopefully you will get better AND faster at each job. I know I did, though the amount of time I had in any given firearm rarely mattered much to me, because I ALWAYS bill BY THE JOB. A trigger job is so much, mount a recoil pad something different, mounting a scope or DCOA (disassembly/clean/oil/assemble).

Second, NO ONE HERE mentions the cost of liability insurance. Trust me, as a gunsmith, you BETTER have liability insurance. A million dollar policy is bare minimum and it's not free (or even cheap). These days, a good personal injury attorney can run that up well above the $10 M level really quickly. And the LAST person you want to meet is your client's WIDOW'S ATTORNEY.

How to get experience? There are several companies that produce gun specific videos. Like for the 1911 or for Smith & Wesson J frame revolvers, etc. Books on disassembly/assembly from several different sources (there is a series put out by the people who publish Gun Disgest). Plus several books on specific TYPES of firearms, like those published by Jerry Kuhnhausen (his books on the 1911 are THE WORD when it comes to this specific firearm).

THE gunsmith provider of all things a gunsmith will need, including books, videos, tools, parts, etc is BROWNELLS. http://www.brownells.com/

Also, if you really want to become a gunsmith you need to learn to think critically. Be able to look at a problem and learn to see the things others do not. Learn to take a problem and turn it 180 degrees on it's head and see if that gives you a different perspective to the problem. Yes, that means you need to learn the right way to fix something as well. But before you can fix it, you must figure out what's wrong with it. Which leads us into know the 'cycle of operations' of all firearms.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER.

So start purchasing the books. Start purchasing the videos. Then if you want to practice, have your folks find you a BROKEN firearm. Like a 1911. Or a 1903 Springfield bolt action rifle (or a 98 Mauser). Or perhaps a beat up old M1 Carbine. Or a S&W revolver. All of these firearms have problems or issues that have been dealt with over the years by others who came before you. A broken firearm is always cheaper than a working one, so go find one on the cheap. Then figure out what's wrong with it, order the parts and away you go.

Last but not least, continue to use the internet as your source for asking questions, just like you did when you started this thread. And continue going to school, especially keep your computer skills up to snuff.

If you have any specific questions, let me know and I'll do my best to answer them.

I may be incorrect, but Susanville Comm Coll no longer offers an associates degree in gunsmithing. OR anything else related to becoming a gunsmith anymore.

TA_Raider
November 17, 2006, 09:29 PM
Thanks guys, you have been a big help. To those guys that commented on the 3 or so stores I wanted to own, I was not just talking about gunsmithing alone, I was talking about selling/buying guns. The reason why I want to keep a lower number of stores is because I DO NOT want to go into franchise. The more stores you have, the less you run. I have checked with a few gunsmiths at shops and they have said that they make decent money and stay busy all year.

Check List :

Do good in school
Stay computer savy
Get a business degree
Go to a gunsmithing college
Learn as much as I can
Save money for machines



Anything else I should be aware of?

grendelbane
November 17, 2006, 10:33 PM
Anything else I should be aware of?


Study marketing. I am a little reluctant to mention this, as I don't know anything about modern marketing courses. Still, the successful gunsmiths sell products and services that people want.

Some will make your Gov't model talk, others repair vintage S&W or Colt revolvers. Some will refinish that color case hardened receiver that was made over a century ago.

Some will get that Thompson Sub-machine gun roaring again . Lots of room for everybody!

SRMohawk
November 18, 2006, 12:33 AM
Colorado School of Trades. Get there, kid! It's the best gunsmithing school in the western world!!!

Sniper4Life
November 20, 2006, 10:48 AM
Hey, I know how you feel I have the same problem, except worse. My parents are extremely strict on the amount of guns I can have so I only have my .308 to hunt everything with, and one other gun of my choice. What I do is my FFL dealer gets me cruddy mil-surplus rifles for about $50-100. I fix them up and sporterize them, I make about $20-$30 for each gun, it isnt much but I get a lot of experience.

GreyMauser
November 22, 2006, 11:16 AM
TA- There's a lot of good advice on this thread, and it looks like you are paying attention.

At 15, I could have written your initial letter. I was planning on going to gunsmithing school in Northern California, and meanwhile I was taking machine shop in highschool. Long story short: accident to hands, couldn't use tools, college degree in history, economics, accounting= office jobs, good income. Presently have nine custom bolt action rifles being built for me by various gunsmiths.

Remember Yahoo- You Always Have Other Options.

Sniper4Life
November 22, 2006, 11:51 AM
Ohh I amost forgot there are a lot of good books out there. If your library isnt to libral they should have a few books on gunsmithing. Heck in my county we have 2000 people and we have a few books. Another thing If you get a new gun and you dont know how to dissasemble it grab $20 and go to a gunsmith and ask him to show you he will be more than happy to show you and he might give you a few tips as well:p

Caimlas
November 22, 2006, 02:36 PM
When I was your age in the mid-1990s, I was dead certain that I wanted to "work with computers". I loved them: so versatile, and able to do the most amazing things! I took it upon myself to learn all that I could before heading off to college - programming, operating systems, and what have you.

Well, I'm 24 now, and I'm still "in college"; I changed my degree a couple times, dropped out twice, and will finally be graduating with an Information Technology degree in March. To put it simply: I still don't know "what I want to do". Part of me would like to gun smith. Part of me would like to do IT work, too - but it's not the glamourous thing I once thought it was, at 15. This is partially due to the fact that I simply didn't know what the field really entailed - now I do, as I've had some professional experience as well as educational experience. Educational experience alone isn't going to give you a feel for the job.

It's just annecdotal, but hopefully my story is useful. Take from it what you will.

What I recommend: see if you can't convince the store owner/gunsmith to let you hang around and watch what he is doing. Offer to be an 'apprentice'; that is, ask him if you can hang around, clean up shop, and maybe prep things and help him keep organized. This will be to both your benefit: he'll get free 'grunt' labor, you will get an education and an appreciation for the less pleasant parts of the job (which is necessary for any field, I think).

For instance, people get into criminal justice think they're going to be heroes or do exciting CSI-style forensics and people get into nursing because they think they'll be tending to the sick and/or helpless - reality is MUCH different.

Also, I have found that something of interest is quickly made sour by day-in and day-out repetition, or focusing your time and efforts on a part of the field which is infuriatingly frustrating or simply of little interest. For instance, I love system administration and security work, and enjoy system design, some programming (C++, perl, and php mostly) - but other things (Visual Basic, COBOL, coding on the same project day-in and day-out) drive me absolutely batty and make it difficult for me to enjoy my day.

Find out what you are good at; find out what irritates you. Don't get too frustrated when you find that you can't do something, or that you don't like something as much as you think you would: every bit of experience helps, and finding out what you dislike is often more helpful than finding out what you do not like. Always have a plan - but realize that it might not necessarily get completed to execution.

As for gunsmithing itself, my observation has been that the better gunsmiths tend to not work out of a shop (working on everything) but work part-time on smithing, and only on specific things that they're both good at and enjoy (for instance, building custom hunting rifles, custom 1911s, building AK kits on the cheap, trigger jobs, 'sporterizing' milsurps, etc.). They get new business by word of mouth.

If I were to do things over again? I'd try and get into organic agriculture, I think. (Which is what my wife and I are aiming for in our '5 year plan'.)

TA_Raider
November 22, 2006, 03:00 PM
Like you, caimlas, I also do computer programming and I also work on hardware. I mainly do web page design and what not with that. I have done this for many years now and it is starting to get to me. If I did not find a great interest in firearms then that is what I would be doing with the rest of my life as of now. Right now I am trying talking with certain smiths around town and get to know them a little bit before I bring the apprenticeship in the conversation. I am doing what I can right now with the guns that I have access to.

The_Antibubba
November 26, 2006, 03:23 AM
I haven't seen it mentioned, and I don't know about it either, but what about seeking an Armorer MOS in the military? It would be a way for TA to learn smithing, while getting paid, sheltered, and money for college. And if he decides not to gunsmith after that, he hasn't sunk thousands of dollars into tools and machinery.

Or am I way off here?

Owen
November 26, 2006, 11:17 AM
Most of the armorers in the Army are serial number accountants, not repairmen. Further, most of the repairmen are part switchers, working off of a "if this, change this" list, not gunsmiths.

I am sure I have seen more detail about this somewhere else on THR, with MOS numbers and all.

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