Gunsmithing School/Certification?


April 1, 2008, 07:28 PM
Well, I've looked around on the internet and only could find one "Gunsmithing Certification course" with PSU (Pheonix State University) and honestly I've never heard of them and don't know if they're legit or not. So, I was wondering if anyone knew of a place to get a gunsmithing certification or degree in Texas? I like to tinker with guns but would like to know a lot more before I do anything really serious. Plus it's on my wishlist to get an FFL one day and I've heard it helps a bit if you're a gunsmith. Any help on this would be appreciated.

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April 1, 2008, 07:53 PM
Getting your FFL does not require being a gunsmith, the ATF doesn't care so long as you check the right box.

I don't know of any place in Texas, but check the NRA's website, they have a listing there, which includes such places as PGS (my alma mater), Colorado School of Trade, Larson Community College, etc.

IMHO, most of the places you see online, from the "certification" given by the video gunsmithing course, to a particular website that "certifies" you if you pay a membership fee are all garbage. Nothing meets a brick and mortar institution for a gunsmtihing course.... no matter how many times you read/watch about how to chamber a barrel, drill and tap for scopes, etc. you will never accomplish it without lots of trial and error. A flesh and blood teacher is invaluable, especially after you graduate and you need some advice on a customer's project.... they generally have been there and done it.

April 1, 2008, 09:46 PM
The online "certifications" are like the "college degrees" you can buy on line..... Totally worthless.
Apply for a job as a gunsmith with one of those, and the employer will simply toss them in the trash.

The better gunsmithing schools are either fully accredited trade schools or junior colleges that offer real degrees.

Here's the available schools in the USA.
The top schools are Colorado Schools of Trades, Trinidad Jr College, and Lassen College.
Get a degree from one of these, and employers sit up and take notice.

Colorado School of Trades
1575 Hoyt Street
Lakewood, CO 80215
Phone: 800-234-4594

Lassen Community College
P.O. Box 3000
Susanville, CA 96130
Phone: 530-257-4211

Modern Gun School
80 North Main Street, P.O. Box 846
St. Albans, VT 05478
Phone: 800-493-4114

Montgomery Community College
1011 Page Street
P.O. Box 787
Troy, NC 27371
Phone: 800-839-6222

Murray State College
One Murray Campus
Tishomingo, OK 73460
Phone: 580-371-2371

Penn Foster Career School
925 Oak Street
Scranton, PA 18515

Pennsylvania Gunsmith School
812 Ohio River Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15202
Phone: 412-766-1812

Piedmont Community College
1715 College Drive
P.O. Box 1197
Roxboro, NC 27573
Phone: 336-599-1181

Pine Technical Institute
900 4th Street
Pine City, MN 55063
Phone: 800-521-7463

Sonoran Desert Institute
10245 East Via Linda, Suite 102
Scottsdale, AZ 85258
Phone: 480-314-2102

Trinidad State Jr. College
600 Prospect
Trinidad, CO 81082
Phone: 800-621-8752

Yavapai College
1100 East Sheldon Street
Prescott, AZ 86301
Phone: 520-776-2150

April 1, 2008, 09:53 PM
The top schools are Colorado Schools of Trades, Trinidad Jr College, and Lassen College.

I disagree with the Lassen College part... I had a classmate of mine at PGS who graduated from there, said all he really learned was repair/part replacing, and at PGS he learned stock making, machining, repair, blueing, and numerous other things that employers are looking for.

April 2, 2008, 01:19 AM
Awesome guys ;) Seriously, I should have just come here first like I do for other gun questions. Would have saved me quite a bit of time last night. I will definately keep all this in mind.

April 4, 2008, 12:24 AM
I'm attending Colorado School of Trades, good school, I'm learning alot. Stocks, mill and lathe work, bluing, welding, trouble shooting, and custom work. There are a lot of advantages to going to a good school, the deals I can get on guns right now is just obscene.

April 5, 2008, 06:48 AM
I emailed CST a while back asking for info and never got a response!
must try again

April 6, 2008, 02:54 AM
Wow, ieszu, I would question your friends experience at Lassen. I am currently attending, and it is not like that at all. We have learned machining and welding, refinishing and bluing and have done lots of work on bolt action rifles so far. I just made my Enfield 1917 feed 375 Ruger cases, with a barrel I contoured, threaded, chambered, and cut the extractor cut. I also welded up the bathtub on the rear bridge, made my own bolt handle and welded it on, crowned the barrel, drilled and tapped it for scope mounts, etc. It is definitely not parts replacement. The second year of the program is DFR, or design, function, and repair classes. This covers some parts replacement, but is not limited to it. You also learn how to make most of the tools you use. The whole program is two years, and you get two degrees if you have general education with the gunsmithing.

September 26, 2008, 06:35 PM
I'm very interested in learning as much as I can about gunsmithing but I'm afraid that I cannot move to another state to attend a brick & mortar training program.

I understand that in terms of getting a paying job as a gunsmith the online degrees are junk.

Is there nothing available for self study that can get you to the point where you can work on firearms as a hobby or even as licensed dealer other than a brick and mortar degree? Maybe studying on your own and asking a local gunsmith if you can volunteer some labor?

Sorry if these questions are dumb but I'm quite ignorant about this.

September 26, 2008, 07:09 PM
The mail correspondence courses are better than nothing, but again, since no real pro sees your work, you have no way to judge whether you really know what you're doing.

Problem with getting a local gunsmith to help is, you have no real way of knowing if HE really knows what he's doing.
Since there is no competency requirement for gunsmiths, anyone can go into business and claim to be a gunsmith.
Local reputation does help, but I've seen a fair number of gunsmiths with good local reputations that were terrible hacks.

If you intend to charge money to repair guns, you'd BETTER know exactly what you're doing.
People get really unhappy when their gun comes back and it's not perfect.
Even good friends can be quick to sue.

So, unless you can find a genuinely good gunsmith to help you out, (most won't because who wants competition) you're left with messing up your own guns to learn the trade before taking in anyone else's guns.

You CAN become a good gunsmith without going to a real school, but the deck is very much stacked against you, and you'll be unlikely to make any money at it versus the outlay in licenses, tools, and equipment.

September 26, 2008, 07:34 PM
I've seen the advertisement for this gunsmith school and it's a mail order school so it so be kicked off the list as a "school". I think all of the senior moderators should open a Gunsmith school. I'm grateful for this web site and the expert advice I've found here.

September 26, 2008, 09:55 PM
If some of ya'll know, what are the best books on gunsmithing?

Appreciate the replys, thanks.

September 26, 2008, 11:05 PM
Most gunsmithing books are old books written back in the days when new parts were almost impossible to get, and they had to make parts.
Most of these books have lots of info on heating and bending, and soldering.

These techniques aren't really acceptable these days were new parts are fairly easy to get.
For that reason, probably the best books are the gun-specific Jerry Kuhnhausen series.
These books are actual shop manuals written as teaching aids for gunsmith trainees by Kuhnhausen.
Each book covers one specific type of gun. Many of the techniques and procedures will work on other guns:

For some books, there are also videos.

Since Kuhnhausen trained gunsmiths for the industry, he insisted on "doing it the RIGHT way, which is the factory way".
This is how the factories do it, not the old "get it to work somehow".

September 26, 2008, 11:20 PM
Penn Foster is legit, I'm currently enrolled in a diferent course but plan on doing the gunsmithing one as well

September 27, 2008, 08:56 PM
Forget gunsmithing until you're a CNC machinist if you're after making a career of it.

Jerry Kuhnhausen's books are the single best reading source available today.

BATF insists that you be a for profit business before they'll issue a license to you, and that means that you've got local business licensing issues taken care of and have a state license issued by your state's franchise tax board or whatever it's called in your state. Your city and county folks will want to know that you aren't near schools, that you have methods to secure your wares, to assure that you aren't polluting, that you have adequate parking, that you aren't going up in smoke, and on and on, and then on some more. Thing is that all licensing agencies are tax collectors and they will insist on having you up on their lists as a source of revenue. When you aren't making money and paying into the coffers they'll come a calling to see what the problem is and if they think you're up to something besides tax generating activities they'll shut you down before you can say "But...!".

September 28, 2008, 10:26 AM
Thanks very much for the Jerry Kuhnhausen recommendation. There are so many books out there on firearms maintenance and gunsmithing an uninitiated person like me has a hard time sorting out the good from the not-so-good.

It makes good sense to use factory parts when you can get them.

However I'd also be very interested in "the old ways". Number one because we really can't be sure there will always be factories that supply spare parts. That can depend on many factors, especially unfortunately politics. But also because there are many firearms for which there are not any parts available even now. My father has some of those, handed down from his father.

So any additional info on authors who describe "the old ways" would also be much appreciated.

I think I'll be living in a very rural area and maybe I'll have less trouble with state and local approval if I decide to try to get licensed and earn $$$ with gunsmithing work.

Thanks again.

September 28, 2008, 10:46 PM
I have to disagree with krs, I retired 3 years ago as a full time gunsmith after more then 29 years of owning my own shops, and I have never used a cnc machine in my life, I don't know of any gunsmith that even has one in his shop. Now if you are going to build lots of guns from scratch yes they might come in handy but many gunsmith have built thousands of guns with manual machines, they just aren't cost effective for the number of parts you would use them for in a normal gunsmith shop. Many shops have manual lathes and mills maybe a few other machines but for most gunsmiths that's it.

I know several very good gunsmiths who make a very good living and they have only a drill press and a few hand power tools, they replace parts and do stock work and metal coating.

I have been a coordinator for TAOGART, , for a couple of years in there gunsmith apprenticeship program, I find it hard to place an apprentice applicant with a sponsor if they have only a correspondence course as experience. some courses will give you a basic understanding of firearms theory but you get little or no hands on experience. I would not say not to do the course I think any information we get is valuable but understand what you will be getting from the course a basic understanding of firearms theory.

PSU is not a certified course by any real certification program it is a scam and if you show up with a certificate from them you wouldn't be taken seriously.

What ever you decide good luck its a great trade.

September 28, 2008, 11:26 PM
I agree with Koginam. I know a very good Gunsmith that is self taught and has used only Manuel machines. He builds some of the best shooting rifles and 1911's I've ever seen. I've been to a few factory armorer's course's and seek out and pick the minds of those who know, like on this web site or people I met at the factory. I have a small mill. drill press and lots of the tricky gunsmith tools that make the job possible. I do a pretty good business and I'm often called a Gunsmith, which I educate them in the difference between Gunsmith and Armorer...I'm an armorer with basic machining skills.
With the cost of moving to another state and full time school is just not realistic to some of us to attend a brick & mortar school. In short. Any reliable info and practical application under a competent person in this field is better then nothing. Just remember! Be honest to yourself about your capabilities and most honest to your customer about your skill.
I've seen a lot of half $#* jobs from guys that will tell you they can cut a dove tail and cut a frame and have never done it to begin with.
I will now step off of my soap box. for the younger crowd, that means I'll shut my ^&#* mouth.

September 29, 2008, 12:47 AM
I think havoc7usmc has described what I would like to acheive, armorer with basic machining skills (at least as a first goal, which is lofty enough).

I'm curious as to the small mill you have, havoc. I do other kinds of repair stuff as a hobby (motorcycles) and have done some tightly supervised machining for some modifications on a RE 500.

Having a manual mill / lathe is something I've considered from time to time.

I'm stuck with self-education although the idea of apprenticeship crossed my mind. I'm glad koginam posted the link to TAOGART. I'm pretty old and not looking for a career per se -- I've got that and it's not related to firearms at all. But I'm after a hard skill. Is it possible to apprentice part time as a volunteer -- ie no pay -- long as the student is serious about it?

September 29, 2008, 09:38 AM
It is absolutely possible to trade labor for training, unfortunately to qualify for a U.S. department of labor journeyman's gunsmith certificate you have to be a paid apprentice. Its their rule not ours.

I have had several volunteers help in the shop doing grunt work like cleaning guns, stock finishing, working the counter, in return for training and using my equipment. Many are good craftsmen. A gunsmith can use help in those areas and as you learn they may give you more responsibilities, make the offer and be prepared to show what you can bring to the deal in the way of experience.

While the objective of TAOGART is to provide qualified journeyman gunsmiths to the trade, they will help anyone with advise, and training.

September 29, 2008, 10:25 PM
I have a Grizzly mini milling machine. I like it and it's perfect for us taking the slow road to gunsmithing. It's perfect for dove tails, cutting frames for ramped barrels and porting slides and barrels. It's come close to hunting season so it's mostly set up for drill & tapping scope mounts right now. I'll tell ya, when it comes to scope mounting, and the amount that I do, this is what I've come up with. We have a lot of granite companies around here and they have a lot of good finished scrape pieces of various sizes. I got lucky and found one that was 18 x 18 inches. I have it on a level table with various scope mounts attached (epoxy to the top). When someone comes in to have a scope mounted I take their rings and scope and mount them on the table, then I place an index mark on the rings and the scope, I have a line on the wall that is leveled for reference to the cross hairs. I then remove and remount on the customers rifle it saves a lot of time and guess work...simple, cheap and accurate. As always I'm open for any ideas.

September 30, 2008, 06:35 AM
I have been thinking VERY hard about using my GI Bill to go to the Pennsylvania Gunsmith School when I get home from Korea. Would a few of you current certified gunsmiths mind if I PMed/emailed you and asked a few questions? Just who all is actually certified here? haha

September 30, 2008, 05:31 PM
Thanks for all the information, fellas.

I went straight out and looked at the Grizzly stuff.

I'd like to know about lathes guys use too, for pistols and for long guns.

Much obliged.

September 30, 2008, 07:19 PM
I just applied this morning for the Montgomery Community College in NC for gunsmithing.

Hopefully it's worth a damn. The course descriptions looked okay.

And at any rate it's a start.

September 30, 2008, 10:02 PM
:confused:Hey Koginam, Can you tell me a little more about TAOGART, I've never heard of it. my small, simple wondering mind wants to know.

Guns out.

October 1, 2008, 02:41 AM
Anyone here been through or have info. an oppinion on, whatever , the gunsmith program at Piedmont Community College??

I'm not exactly able to be going there any time soon but Barring a catastrophe (or a sudden avalanche of "don't bother with them!!" type responses) i'm hoping to enter the program in a few years, and would appreciate any outside oppinions on their program.

currently i'm enrolled in the local (manual) machinist program. my logic is that I'll need basic machinist skills for gunsmithing, and Roxboro NC isn't known for having a diverse local job market, but rare is the town that doesn't have work for a machinist.

as always when i ask a question on the forum, any and all input or information is welcome thank you (Please PM me)

October 1, 2008, 10:11 AM
TOAGART was started several years ago to help returning Vet's who were interested in becoming gunsmiths but were unable to go to a stick built school for one reason or another but wanted to use their GI benefits. At this time Benefits for training can only be used for accredited schools and for accredited apprenticeships, accreditation has to be through the U.S. department of education, U.S. department of labor, or a states version of either, as well as a states office of apprenticeship training.

TAOGART is a group of gunsmiths, and members of the firearms industry, trying to build a frame work for a std. of training within the trade, for the last couple of years many, many, many gunsmiths have been asked their opinions as well as all of the major gun manufactures and the gun schools have been asked to contribute to the program.

TAOGART is not trying to compete with the schools, just the opposite, training from any state recognized school is credited and the required time for apprenticeship is adjusted. Actually the program will help a professional gunsmith that meets the requirements get a journeyman's certificate from the U.S. Department of labor.

Not many states have a gunsmith apprentice program so TAOGART helps them design a program and also helps set up classes in community collages that helps the apprentices meet the machine requirements and related study requirements, we help find sponsors and we help find aid for the apprentices and sponsors in the way of funds for tools, tuition, wages, etc..

All this is free except for a fee of $100 dollars a year for the apprentice which covers cost of booklets and test materials. So far because of generous donations from some of our members we have not had to charge any of the apprentices anything.

You can check out the web site at

This isn't a scam, paper mill or a money making scheme its just a group of professional gunsmiths who volunteer their time and experience to provide gunsmiths for the trade.

If you are a professional gunsmith I urge you to look at their site and ask about your states program and the benefits you get by training an apprentice. It makes very good business sense in so many ways and the information is free.

October 1, 2008, 03:23 PM
I dunno, it sounds to me like the sort of crap set up by a lot of tradesmen to cut down on the competition.

For instance, to become a 'licensed' surveyor you did have to put in 8 years of full time work before you could apply and test for the license. Now it's been changed to 10 years.

In addition to cutting down on competition, it also enables them to charge a higher price for their services.

I'm not entirely sold on TAOGART. I don't want gunsmithing to turn into something you have to be licensed or 'unionized'.

October 2, 2008, 03:29 AM
You couldn't be more wrong, The idea of TAOGART is to make it easier for people interested in the trade to get training, many can't afford to attend school out of state and the apprenticeship program helps get them tools and training through state and federal programs. As to the time spent in training TAOGART is following the rules set by the U.S. Department of Labor for apprenticeships.
The feds say you have to be licensed to work as a gunsmith, TAOGART is not a union or trying to change any laws.
It really is what it appears to be, no hidden agenda.

October 2, 2008, 01:57 PM
"You couldn't be more wrong, The idea of TAOGART is to make it easier for people interested in the trade to get training, many can't afford to attend school out of state and the apprenticeship program helps get them tools and training through state and federal programs." That may be their reason but, I feel the following is germane to the discussion. The many who cannot afford to attend one of the brick and mortar schools should work and earn their way, as I have. It is not impossible to find an apprenticeship with a gunsmith either. That again also requires initiative. The problem with this program is that it is just another way for people, the majority of whom either fail the programs or do not go to work as gunsmiths upon completion of training (I have inside info on this) to leech off of an already bloated government whose money comes from those of us who work. It is not hard to find people to work in the industry.

"As to the time spent in training TAOGART is following the rules set by the U.S. Department of Labor for apprenticeships." And this program will work just like all of the other FedGov apprentice programs: The administrators benefit, TAOGART included. I will bet dollars to donuts that they are looking forward to quiting their real jobs and living of the FedGov largesse created by another unnecessary program.

"The feds say you have to be licensed to work as a gunsmith" You are wrong or misinformed on this point. You do not need a gunsmith license. You must have an FFL in order to keep a customer's gun overnight or to manufacture a firearm for another person though.

"TAOGART is not a union or trying to change any laws.
It really is what it appears to be, no hidden agenda." They are most definitely trying to limit the entry into the field to those who submit to and are approved by their organization. Sounds like a union or old fashioned guild to me.

October 2, 2008, 04:34 PM
TAOGART is not part of any federal or state agency, it is made up entirely of volunteers, All monies for this program have come from the members, their is no public money involved. 99% of the members are professional gunsmiths if they wanted to limit competition they wouldn't spend their money and time to help pay for the program. I know the members aren't doing this out of the goodness of their harts they want qualified workers in their shops which helps them meet completion dates, finish more guns which means more money.

The programs I mentioned that can aid the apprentices are the G.I. bill, dislocated worker programs, Labor and industries, rehab programs, worker retraining programs, reduced tuition programs for apprentices, all programs available to anyone. these people have served their country, lost jobs due to their jobs going over seas, been hurt on the job and unable to return to that job, These people have earned the help of the programs. they have paid taxes and been good citizens.

How is setting up state programs in states that have no gunsmith apprenticeship programs trying to limit people getting into the trade. TAOGART has offered help to people not in the program for free to get the training on their own when they are not interested in getting a journeyman's certificate. TAOGART is not saying you have to get a certificate to be a gunsmith we just offer to help those who want to use one of the programs mentioned above. Most of these programs like the G.I. bill require the person applying be enrolled in an approved school or apprenticeship to get the benefits.

My comment "The feds say you have to be licensed to work as a gunsmith" was referring to having a ffl. By the way the rule for being required to have a ffl for gunsmithing has nothing to do with keeping a firearm overnight, that is a reference to when a licensed person has to log a firearm into his bound book, the litmus test is if the person is doing the smithing "with the principal objective of livelihood and profit" you can smith all you want for anyone if you can prove you do it for the cost of the parts and materials only.

I suggest you look at their web site before you make wild unfounded accusations. Not everyone is looking to scam people.

October 2, 2008, 05:49 PM
You must be getting you inside info confused with welfare. Most of the time any privately funded program doesn't have the pork barrel benefits that federal programs have and therefore have to really apply and meet realistic goals in order to stay with / in the program.

I work because millions on welfare depend on me, I won't vote for Obama because I want to make a living as a gunsmith.

October 2, 2008, 06:00 PM
The inside info I have is on those receiving state benefits to attend gunsmithing programs at colleges. I have no reason to believe that any other program that is involved with the state (any state) will not be just as wasteful of others' money.

There are two classes of people: Those who create and those who plunder. Those who help the state take from those who create and give to those who have their hands out are plunderers. Perhaps well intentioned plunderers, but plunderers just the same.

Edited to add that I did not accuse anyone of a scam. I just feel that the industry does not need any organization limiting entry or qualifications, TAOGART is positioned to do just that. I also, obviously, object to use of taxpayer money for ANY training but military and other CONSTITUTIONALLY proper uses. Kinda old-fashioned like that.

October 2, 2008, 10:21 PM
I can't give you any assurances as to rather or not the apprentices in the program will run their own shops but for someone to spend 4 years working in a program and then not working in the trade does not seem likely. As a mater of fact all of the studies done on worker training show apprentices stay longer and miss less work then workers trained in other ways.
These programs are not welfare the people in them have earned the right to use the benefits by paying taxes. All of them are working or attending school full time most work 6 to 8 hours in the gun shop as well as attending school.

I don't see how TAOGART is positioned to limit entry into the trade, anyone legally able to own a firearm is free to get a ffl and start a gunsmith business. with or without help from TAOGART.

October 5, 2008, 06:53 PM
I'm new to this forum but not new to gunsmithing; I am a retired gunsmith of 50 years, having graduated from the Colo. School of Trades in Sept. of 1960 and have never done anything else. I guess I'm not really a gunsmith as I'm not a "Certified" gunsmith....and gee, I worked all these years and wasn't certified' , I can't believe I didn't get into trouble!
Don't buy that certified crap, it's like being a 'journeyman gunsmith'; this is mainly a title given to you by admiring friends or customers.

October 5, 2008, 11:02 PM
No one is implying you have to be certified to be a gunsmith
Part of the requirements the Dept. of Labor sets is that their be a certificate at the end of the program.
Instead of trying to cut this program down look at the good it does, and try to help it. It is helping a lot of people to accomplish their dream.

October 29, 2008, 03:12 PM
American Gunsmithing Institute has a home course which is considered to be one of the best, they can be found on the internet.

October 29, 2008, 04:42 PM
No one is implying you have to be certified to be a gunsmith
Part of the requirements the Dept. of Labor sets is that their be a certificate at the end of the program.

The problem with this is that states that accept this certification tend to use it to place pressure on those who are not certified to apply for it, which creates bureaucracy and can eventually lead to the creation of limits on the numbers of gunsmiths in the areas... similar to what has happened to plumbers and steam-fitters.... their certification system started with good intentions, but it ended up leading to forced unionization in many states and created rising prices instead of letting the free market decide pricing rather than a union board.

October 30, 2008, 02:33 AM
I know of no state that requires anyone in a trade to be a union member. I know of many plumbers that are non union and their is a big difference in the prices they charge so the free market place is working their. Now I know Electricians and steam fitters have to pass tests before they can do certain work but again they set their prices, not the state.

October 30, 2008, 08:29 AM
but again they set their prices, not the state.

Do they set their own prices, or does their union board set the prices? Also, do they work to keep others out of the profession?

Also, some states require one to apply to act as a gunsmith (I know NY does, I assume others do as well.) At this time, there are no requirements other than the applicant signing a piece of paper stating that they intend to engage in the business of gunsmithing. How long before they require some form of certification, one that will likely end up with the state getting involved in setting guidelines?

Please realize that I understand why someone would support TAOGART. I just worry that it could have bad consequences, and that in the end we will be screwed by it.

Taurus 617 CCW
October 30, 2008, 10:00 AM
In the Brownell's catalog, there is a shop price survey section. Brownell's took shop prices from all over the country to come up with averages for most common gunsmith services. Many new shops refer to that when setting prices.

+1 for Colorado School of Trades. I learned more in 14 months there than I have working in the various shops around my hometown.

October 30, 2008, 12:22 PM
Look in the phone book and you will find many non union shops doing business in your area, they do not use the union scales because they can do it cheaper and they get more work for that reason. How can they keep someone from the profession. Again I know of no state that requires you to be a union member to work in a trade. I think some of you are looking for problems that are not there.

July 28, 2009, 07:21 PM
Hope I don't get blasted for reviving an old thread....

But it is the exact topic I was searching for.

I am interested in learning about gunsmithing and possibly doing it as a hobby/second income source. I actually found this forum/thread in my search for information.

After reading through this thread, TAOGART doesn't really appeal to me (time wise it just isn't practical).

Looking through the list of schools on the first page I noticed that:
Penn Foster Career School
925 Oak Street
Scranton, PA 18515 relatively close. Checked into it and it appears to be an online/correspondence program. So if I am stuck with a correspondence program I might as well find a good one. Any suggestions?

I have a couple questions into AGI, waiting for a response. Their website and catalog seem a bit cryptic. PSU's website seems to have NO information besides "rah-rah" infomercial BS.

What does a "gunsmith certificate" entitle the bearer to? Is is necessary for an FFL as the PSU site claims?

Any help or direction?

July 28, 2009, 08:45 PM
First get Gunsmith Kinks from Brownells read it if it bores you then gun work is not for you.

July 29, 2009, 12:15 AM
First get Gunsmith Kinks from Brownells read it if it bores you then gun work is not for you.
Uhhhh....thanks for the book suggestion. But really didn't address my questions at all.

Hopefully there is someone a little more knowledgeable and a lot more helpful out there.

July 29, 2009, 12:34 AM
Jbaker gave you a much better suggestion than you seem to think.

July 29, 2009, 12:35 AM
I am a 2001 graduate from Colorado School of Trades. I thought it was a lot of money for a little bit of knowledge other that common sense. Mostly the students teach each other. I didn't learn anything there that you could not get out of 500.00 dollars worth of books and a basic machine shop class at your local community college. I just now finished paying off 14000.00 worth of student loans. I am now in the fertilizer business and work part time as a gunsmith. I am thinking about going back to school for my BS in Business and the associates degree I have is only useful for wiping my butt. I have to start over. I really felt like they push you through like cattle and don't really care what you learn as long as you have the $$$$$$$$$$$$$. Just hope I can help someone not make the mistakes I made and waist almost 2 years of life. Good luck to all who enter this business.

July 29, 2009, 07:11 AM
I am a 1999 graduate from Trinidad State Jr College with a Gunsmith Degree. Tyler sorry to hear that about School of Trades. I also no longer work in a gunshop, I help manage a 3000acre hunting camp in Alabama. Schooling just gives you the basics and it got me a job at Great Gun Works in Pensacola Fl where I did learn gunsmithing under a very good smith. I sure did enjoy being at TSJC it was fun I did learn a bunch and like I said my degree help me get a job that I enjoy. So if someone dont want to take some advice and spend $30 on a book then sign up at TSJC they will teach you about gunsmithing and help you get a job after you get your degree or start your own shop.

July 29, 2009, 07:37 PM
Well, as I said I am looking into this as more of a hobby or side gig. I'd like a bit of structure. I've read books on the subject although I will be picking up the suggested book.

As far as student loans go...$14,000 is a drop in the bucket. Sallie Mae has my last loan payment date as March 2033...and I currently owe on my SL exactly twice as much as I owe for my mortgage.

So I would like to ask again...

So if I am stuck with a correspondence program I might as well find a good one. Any suggestions?

I have a couple questions into AGI, waiting for a response. Their website and catalog seem a bit cryptic. PSU's website seems to have NO information besides "rah-rah" infomercial BS.

What does a "gunsmith certificate" entitle the bearer to? Is is necessary for an FFL as the PSU site claims?

Any help or direction?

July 29, 2009, 07:48 PM
"What does a "gunsmith certificate" entitle the bearer to? Is is necessary for an FFL as the PSU site claims?" You must not have read any of the previous posts concerning certificates.

July 30, 2009, 08:46 PM
To be clear, a "gunsmith certificate" value depends entirely on WHERE it comes from.

As example, a Master's degree in some field from Harvard has a high value.
A "Master's Degree" from an online correspondence school has just about ZERO value.

A gunsmiths certificate from a school like Colorado School of Trades or Trinidad Jr. College is a "gold standard" that's recognized throughout the industry and will usually get you hired.
A "certification" from an internet school will get your job application tossed in the trash while they continue looking for a "real" gunsmith.

Bottom line: If you want to do hobby work on YOUR OWN GUNS, an internet or correspondence school is better than nothing.
If you want to work on other peoples guns, if they trust you (and you're insured out the wazoo) a correspondence certification is again, better than nothing.
Want to go to work for someone else, forget the correspondence degrees, they're literally not worth the paper their printed on.

Again, a internet or correspondence certification in gunsmithing has no real value, and is largely meaningless.

As for getting an FFL, you need no certification. ANYONE can open up a shop and claim to be a gunsmith.
All the government cares about is that you can meet the requirements to get an FFL license. There is no official licensing test for gunsmiths as there is in some other trades.

As an example, I had to pass a test to get licensed as a watchmaker. I didn't have to pass any kind of test to be a gunsmith.
For this reason, its pot luck when using the services of a gunsmith. You might be getting a highly qualified Master of the trade, or some bozo who managed to take a cheap single shot .22 apart and now thinks he's a real gunsmith.
You really have no sure way to know since there is no "standard" certification or license requirement to open up shop.

August 1, 2009, 11:16 AM
I got my degree from Sonoran Desert Institute. It was a correspondence course. I am happy with it and I feel I learned alot. What I still have problems with are Checkering, and Machining/Lathework. These are both covered in the course, but checkering takes alot of practice and a certain touch (that I cant seem to develop) and I dont have access to a mill or lathe. Both these topics are covered in depth, but in order to take advantage of the lessons you need to have access to machining equipment. However I still recomend this course.

August 1, 2009, 12:01 PM
"To be clear, a "gunsmith certificate" value depends entirely on WHERE it comes from."
True to a point. A certificate doesn't prove you can do the work no matter WHERE it comes from. It only means you have been EXPOSED to training materials(and remembered enough,long enough to pass the test).

August 1, 2009, 07:57 PM
Also "true to a point".

With the better attendance schools, you don't get a diploma or certificate just for showing up.
You also have to pass tests to prove to them that you've learned the information and skills.
The diploma or certificate is proof that they thought that you learned the course.

From a correspondence or internet school this usually means nothing since these schools have no credibility in the trade. EVERYBODY passes.
A certification or diploma from someone like Colorado Trade or Trinidad MEANS something in the trade because of their reputation for not passing fools or boobs. Everyone does NOT pass the course.

August 2, 2009, 12:26 AM
Certainly a law degree from Harvard Law School is better (it would seem)than one from a little known college in southern Bolivia. However, if my southern Bolivian lawyer wins my case handily what do I care were his degree came from? Results ,not pieces of paper on the wall,define any professional. Bottom line If you can do the job and do it well,what difference does it make where you learned how?

August 2, 2009, 01:19 AM
Triniad and other schools have the students learn by doing getting the good ones there faster.

Jim K
August 2, 2009, 04:25 PM
Don't worry about not having some skills, like checkering. I freely confess to being possibly the world's worst wood worker. The shops where I worked always had a stock man who did the wood work and checkering, a specialty in itself. One stockmaker had only a vague idea about gun work in general, but his rifle stocks were works of art, and the few pistol grips he did were absolutely beautiful as well as being perfectly fitted to the customer's hand.

IMHO, if a gunsmith can do the normal work, he can always hire someone to do the wood work.

Jimmyray, I agree to a point, and many gunsmiths (including the writer) learned as an apprentice rather than at a school. But part of the problem is that very often "learning by doing" means "doing" to someone else's gun, and there is plenty of room for mistakes and customer ire. I have seen the disastrous work of too many "self taught" gun tinkerers to say that school learning isn't better.


August 3, 2009, 10:04 AM
Jim, I never said that training wasn't better. In fact I agree with you. How many know where their lawyer got his law degree,or where your doctor or (as in my case) your heart surgeon got their medical degrees? How many professional gunsmiths on this forum have ever been asked by your customers if you were certified and if so by whom? Just saying that being certified doesn't prove ability.

August 3, 2009, 10:53 AM
I too have been searching for training. I work full time so can't do the traditional brick and mortor school. I also would do work PT as more hobby than source of income. This thread has been great, as it answered some basic questions:

I want to be a gunsmith: All I need is my FFL, and a shingle with my name on it. No training required. Will I be any good? NO Will I be dangerous? YES

But to actually be able to understand theory I need training, and online/correspondence are my only options. So now I UNDERSTAND THEORY.

To actually gain experience, I either start buying scrap guns to work on; or risk ruining a customers gun(not gonna do that one)

Any trade is more hands on than a business degree. BTW-that business degree may just be to wipe with also in this economy.

I also agree on the certification does not=quality. I have CPA qualifications, and a masters degree in accounting; I have met MANY others that simply scare me with their mis-knowledge, although they have state issued credentials.

August 3, 2009, 02:13 PM
I think that in any schooling you get out what you put into it. When I did my correspondence course, I tried my damndest to learn the material and practice the skills, and on top of that I augment my knowledge and skills with books, articles and practicing whenever I can.

August 3, 2009, 02:23 PM
Very true blaisenguns. I took the Gun Pro correspondence course in the late 1970s and found it laughable. I took the Modern Gun School Advanced correspondence course in 2002 and found it very educational. A lot of hands on projects had to be completed and sent in for scoring. A LOT of the course was dedicated to working with a lathe. I found the resource material worth the cost of the course. I took the course for my own use, not to become a professional gunsmith.

August 3, 2009, 03:24 PM
There was a saying in my dental school:

"What do you call the person that graduates LAST in his class???"


So, even simply graduating from a good school doesn't mean as much as some would like it too.

I am at the stage in my life where it is the information and curriculum that is more important. I am looking for a quality foundation in knowledge.

A "certification" from PSU may not mean crap to someone in the business looking at resumes because they give them away to anyone that pays but if they have a sound course curriculum and materials what's wrong with paying the least for that information? Especially if I NEVER intend to apply for a job in the field?

August 3, 2009, 04:24 PM
Something that is also worth noting, I aplied for a job as a gunsmith, and they told me when I interveiwed that they either wanted someone who either went to a practical school, or had a corespondence course and several years experience in the feild. Now yes the correspondence course is not enough for employers, but if you have that, and a few years experience, a few good references, and maybe a piece of your work to show, you have as good of a chance as the guy fresh out of a practical school.

August 3, 2009, 04:52 PM
Many moons ago I graduated from Trinidad State and parlayed the knowledge into a very successful career as a Toolmaker.
Great school, excellent instructors and a nice little college town to boot.

August 10, 2009, 06:23 AM
Student loans that are in good standing.
I.e. no delinquencies - are... A
s long as you pay regularly and on time,
I'd say this is very.

August 10, 2009, 09:23 AM
I'm going to reiterate my recommendation to forget a gunsmithing course and learn modern machining, i.e. CNC machining. It's the future of all metalwork, and gunsmithing IS metalwork.

The day of the small gunsmith shop are gone, but some don't know they're dead yet. The thing is that unfortunately people don't pay to have things fixed anymore. Increasingly it's "Broke? Oh, well, get a new one" and much of the time it's because getting that new one is cheaper than helping some guy in a blue shop coat and a magnifying visor keep his family fed, especially when you don't know going in what the result will be.

The successful young gunsmiths are those who are either creative and skilled with modern machine tools, or those who are less creative with skills in modern machine tools. The former might have a chance starting up on his own and we can all think of examples of these - we call them bulders of custom 1911's. The latter get jobs working for the most successful of the former and if they learn their craft well while working there they might get together with a bud or two and go out on their own - Ask where did the guys who are Nighthawk work before there was a Nighthawk.

The energetic and creative young gunsmith who has gotten able to run the machines to make his custom guns will need to have excellent, not just good, knowledge of business operations. If you feel you must have an AA certificate then get yours in business administration. That one will do more to keep the roof over your head than your hands alone will, even when you know to program a milling center. (See, it's not "Lathes and mills anymore - it's "turning and milling center" now :) )

With all due respect to the fellows who post saying "I'm a retired...." or I've been for forty years an...." .Well, good on you for building the level of trust in your communities that gave you the amount of business you needed to stay afloat all these years. But your day is gone and it's not going to return. If some young guy starts out like you did he's most likely gonna starve.

Don't get me wrong ..I hate what the world has come to I'm glad I don't have to face what it is becoming. But I know that if I were twenty again and as smart as I still am I wouldn't think long about the idea of setting my path in the world as a small town gunsmith.

August 10, 2009, 09:50 AM
I used to run a large automotive repair facility for a federal agency that serviced 2200 vehicles in six counties in California. At full compliment I had 24 journeyman auto mechanics, two junior auto mechanics, two garagemen, and two bodyfender repairmen and a painter under my pervue.

I once had a guy hired for me by the personnel department because he'd passed the test and had graduated from the Sequioa Technological Institute of Automotive Repair - a two year full time expensive course. The guy was hired and so he got a probationary period of ninety days. Nice guy, everybody liked him and he did what he was told without issues, within the skill package he brought to the job.

The probation was used as much for training as it was for evaluating personnel type factors and we did everything we could to help the guy succeed with us. I was never one to not recognize the simple value of having people on the roll who made it to work each day ready to work.

But this guy just didn't get it. He didn't have good hands and he didn't have a good head for vehicle repair. He couldn't figure things out. Within a couple of weeks it was plain that he just wasn't going to make it. He couldn't get easy things done in anything near a time allotted and the rest of my guys were holding him afloat before the end of a month. I told him at a 30 day point that he should prepare for the possibility of being let go.

At the end of the second month I knew I had to draw the line and I terminated his employment with us. I couldn't afford to keep him and it wasn't our fault.

The guy had made a bad choice to persue the schooling he had. It was not for him, or he was not for it, and his certificate(s) didn't help at all. He'd made a bad career choice.

I ran into him about a year later - he was a pharmacist, or pharmacist helper or something, passing out pills at the counter in the Kaiser Permanente hospital in Santa Clara, CA. and he seemed as happy as a clam there. Gave me the right pills too, and smiled and said Hi.

I know this is long and I hope it makes a meaningful point for someone. Just seemed to me to apply...

August 10, 2009, 04:51 PM
I can't agree with you more.
You have pretty much summed it up in your posts.
The day of the small gun shop is over.
No lathes or mills but all CNC stuff in the Machine Shop except maybe in a highly specialized development enviorment.
Too bad.

August 10, 2009, 05:26 PM
Point very well made,krs.

August 10, 2009, 08:56 PM
My wife and I were talking about this today after I had posted the above and when I talked about how people don't get things fixed these days, buying new when something fails them she thought of the guy who used to have a business in sharpening things. She said that where she lived there was a guy who kept a regular schedule driving around in a van equipped to sharpen scissors and knives and whatever else.

It was a fun moment because where I grew up there was a guy who did exactly the same thing. He'd be at the corner near the market (not SUPERmarket) every Tuesday morning and my mother would gather her sewing scissors and kitchen knives and she'd walk me and my brother down to the store to have him make them sharp again. It was a regular thing and I remember that my mother made a big deal if she was late or heaven forbid we missed him. He'd only be there a couple of hours and then head off to some other location making his rounds.

My wife has exactly the same memory only she grew up in a town some fifty miles away from my home town so we figure that it couldn't have been the same guy. I remember that the guy could also make a new key and my wife THINKS that their guy did that but she's not positive sure of it. We do agree that neither of them were old guys, at least not older than our fathers were.

Think of the early 1950's a guy could make a living if he was good at sharpening tools and household cutting implements. Came out of the service and got enough to get an old van and some grinders and sharpeners for whatever came along needing his work. Every town needed a guy like him. I remember that he was nice and always had some joke to tell us kids but my wife doesn't remember anything like that.

I hope it lasted long enough for him to retire.

Jim K
August 10, 2009, 09:55 PM
I don't think the comparison to a doctor holds. Doctors not only have degrees and various types of certification, they have to be certified by the state. So do lawyers and beauticians.

But, possibly because it could be used as a gun control tool, the firearms community has always opposed state certification of gunsmiths. (The FFL means nothing except that the applicant submitted the application and had the money; it says nothing about competence or even honesty.)

While most gunsmiths are reasonably good, and school certification is OK, there really is no way a customer can check on a local gunsmith except by word of mouth. With most jobs, it won't matter much, but if I were to trust, say, a $150,000 shotgun to a gunsmith, I sure would like to know that he is not the kind who disassembles guns with a dull screwdriver and a big hammer.


4v50 Gary
August 10, 2009, 11:56 PM
What Jim Keenan says. Some "smiths" specialize in their work. You've got restorers. You got fix-it guys who make their money as factory authorized warranty repair stations. You've got custom gunsmiths. You've got pistolsmiths. As a consumer, you have to go by word of mouth including the wait time for something to return.

Old Guard Dog
August 13, 2009, 09:10 AM
I have taken the Modern Gunsmithing School's correspondence course. If you want a course to give you a better general knowledge, I think it is the best for the money. I paid $1350.00 for both the basic and advanced course. You get tools (some junk). It covers many specific guns (disassembly, troubleshooting, repairs), operations like stock refinishing, blueing, etc, and it covers the business end including getting a FFL. An NRA disassembly guide for pistols and long guns is supplied, along with a lot of other literature. You have projects that you must do and send back for grading. If you can learn from printed material, it is a great value. The printing is poor. They have continuing support with the instructors after corse completion.

I shopped around before starting it, and the one I liked the best was AGI. The quality of the videos was good, but the price (about $10k) was too high for my budget.

I agree going to a good school is the best, but I couldn't afford it. You will get a certificate of completion from correspondence schools, which makes you a "Certified" gunsmith, but it won't carry much weight. You will learn a lot, though. I've been working on guns all my life, and am doing this to prepare for retirement in a few years. You need to decide what direction you want to go. If you are young, and want to become a gunsmith as a career, find a way to go to a good school.

That's my opinion on correspondence schools. I know they are frowned upon by oldtime gunsmiths, but they have their place.

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