Is majoring in Mechanical Engineering in attempt to design firearms unrealistic?


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TMiller556
October 26, 2013, 02:59 PM
I have always been interested in designing firearms as a career, mainly due to my fascination with the inner workings and operations of them. In addition, I've always had the ability to grasp mechanical concepts.

My question is: Is majoring in ME simply to try to land a job in firearm design for a manufacturer an unrealistic goal? I know with the current economic situation as well as many other factors, the likelihood is slim.

I am interested in the discipline of Mechanical Engineering itself. However, I honestly wouldn't enjoy the majority of careers that the degree leads to.

Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

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fallingbird
October 26, 2013, 03:02 PM
I would think that a degree in ME could land you a job basically anywhere on earth, if your primary goal didn't pan out.;)

BradN
October 26, 2013, 03:09 PM
I would try to contact designers at modern day firearms manufacturers and ask which educational/trade course they would suggest. Perhaps you could offer to intern for one of them.

I would also search out biographical information on Browning, Pedersen, Garand, Stoner, Ruger, and Glock (for example) and see what their backgrounds were.

Good luck!

Lex Luthier
October 26, 2013, 03:26 PM
That is awesome. You could also get your J.D. after all the math classes and become a patent attorney. Good luck.

carbine85
October 26, 2013, 03:32 PM
I would think that a degree in ME could land you a job basically anywhere on earth, if your primary goal didn't pan out.
What he said.
I would think you could pick and choose a few directions to go in with a ME Degree.

USAF_Vet
October 26, 2013, 03:33 PM
Fundamental firearms design hasn't changed much in a long time. It doesn't seem likely too, either. I suppose you could go work for KelTec and design their latest vaporware.

I don't know, spending a lot of time, effort and money on what is essentially a pipe dream doesn't jive with me. But, you could go work for any number of different corporations as an ME.

Big Mike
October 26, 2013, 03:36 PM
I would think that a degree in ME could land you a job basically anywhere on earth, if your primary goal didn't pan out.

^This. Almost a win/win career choice. Good luck!

LeonCarr
October 26, 2013, 04:15 PM
Engineers in virtually all disciplines are in very high demand right now with some starting salaries near six figures with a Bachelor's Degree.

Do it.

Just my .02,
LeonCarr

Sniper66
October 26, 2013, 04:29 PM
I would encourage you to keep your options open and try to visit with as many gun companies as you can. I was an executive recruiter for a few years and learned that companies welcome enthusiastic and curious inquiries. Some have programs that offer training and education in exchange for future commitments. You may discover, after spending some time with a company, that your vision changes slightly or significantly. You may also decide that getting the degree is the most important first step. You could also get some training in gunsmithing.

vamo
October 26, 2013, 04:45 PM
To echo previous comments engineers are in very high demand in the professional world, if you could not get a job at a gun company you would still be well positioned for a successful career. There is a general perception that somebody with an engineering degree can do basically any job.

barnbwt
October 26, 2013, 04:59 PM
Firearms are extremely simple machines; basically single-piston engines without the complication of a driveshaft :D. Their manufacture is what's complicated. An engineering degree, honestly, is overkill for mere gun design; engineering as we know it now didn't exist when most designs we use today were perfected, and hundreds of self-taught inventors and machinists design and build excellent weapons everyday. Check any gun building forum for examples. But making designs that can be mass-produced cheaply and effectively while satisfying customer needs is what engineering is all about.

That said, a Mechanical Engineering degree is about the broadest type of engineering qualification there is, and can get you entry into any field requiring design, manufacture, optimization, or maintenance (pretty much everything). I would think that if you wish to end up designing firearms (or ultimately managing those who do), you'll need a good background in mechanical design (from the degree), machine work (from extra-curricular experience in a shop), as well as knowledge in the field of marketing, so you can effectively pitch your ideas and contributions. Ironically, those attributes (plus some courses in business management) are basically what you need to strike out on your own.

If you go to work in any organization where you will be responsible only for part of the process, you will find "design" and "engineering" are two different things. In a field as competitive and non-innovative as firearms (by which I mean there are few new products that can't be directly compared to old ones), I imagine the marketing guys are the primary drivers of design goals, while the technical guys' job is to figure out how to produce that design fast and cheap enough. Try to determine if you have a preference for either (there's plenty of creativity in both, but different kinds, and there is much wider need for the latter).

With the massive sustained increase in demand for guns (and ammo), there's a lot of shops trying to tool up for expanded production right now. If you can convince them you're qualified to help with that (degree or otherwise), that's your "in". Good luck.

TCB
--BS Aerospace Engineering

PS-most mechanically minded guys are drawn to firearms, but I think it's more because they are the last remaining purely mechanical system around anymore, than because the design challenges themselves are anything particularly special.

rockhopper46038
October 26, 2013, 05:00 PM
As an ME myself, I can tell you that the course of study can lead you to a wide variety of opportunities. To your original question; I don't see why not. Wilson Combat has/had a posting for a mechanical engineer either last week or the week before. Of course if we don't get our <[i]deleted[i]> together politically, there may not be any firearms manufacturers operating in the US in 4 years. The current Bozo in office is going to try at least one more bite at that apple before he leaves, and the Bozette that is most likely to be our next President (if the press has anything to say about it, and they do) will give banning firearms a go as well.

119er
October 26, 2013, 05:12 PM
I am in my third semester heading towards a bachelor's in ME. I have always had an interest in, and have been proficient with mechanical things my whole life. I'm 31 and starting has been easy except for a few mathematical concepts that I lost through the years but they're coming back.

To your point, you really can't go wrong with engineering. I have seen that there are a lot of younger(not implying you are) people not willing to put in the effort to earn this degree. Therefore, the job is in high demand and is being filled by immigrants that have the education. I work with ME's and I can tell you that if ME is your thing there will be no shortage of things to become interested in. I find myself being pulled towards ICE's and gas turbines currently. Very interesting.

Just go do it and your goals will adapt. It will change the way you see the world around you!

Reloadron
October 26, 2013, 05:18 PM
I am interested in the discipline of Mechanical Engineering itself.

I just retired from over 40 years in Electrical Engineering and if I had it to do all over again I would have went the ME route. I always enjoyed working with our ME group and there is always a high demand for good mechanical engineers.

While designing guns can be a nice touch if I were you I would just focus on mechanical engineering and let the cards as to specialty fall where they may.

Ron

gym
October 26, 2013, 05:25 PM
Coming from that background myself, working under my dad in a defense plant that did subcontracting work for every major aircraft manufacturer. I think you better really like the job description and be good at math and disciplined when it comes to studying "hitting the books", in order to get a degree in electromechanical, or Mechanical engineering first.
The takeaway I get is you like designing guns. This is not really what a mechanical engineer does. Perhaps a designer or part of a design team for a large company might be what you are looking for. The principal of how a gun works is pretty basic. Unless you come up with a new way to change the way guns work entirely it's just a matter of enhancing what is already there.IE: the Rhino.
I think you like the idea of designing more than engineering.

Mike OTDP
October 26, 2013, 05:34 PM
ME is fine. That being said, I'd start contacting everybody in the industry - not just the normal small arms makers, but the manufacturers of heavy ordnance and accessories - and the agencies that buy the firepower. Watervliet Arsenal. Aberdeen Proving Grounds. Etc. Get a co-op job if you can, it's a tremendous edge.

230RN
October 26, 2013, 06:02 PM
barnbwt said,

Firearms are extremely simple machines; basically single-piston engines without the complication of a driveshaft . Their manufacture is what's complicated. An engineering degree, honestly, is overkill for mere gun design; engineering as we know it now didn't exist when most designs we use today were perfected, and hundreds of self-taught inventors and machinists design and build excellent weapons everyday.

Agreed. That's where I was headed in this thread.

"Designing" a small part of a product like the dovetail in a rear sight is relatively simple, which is probably a good example of the kinds of tasks you'll be assigned at first.

You specify depths, angles, tolerances, from some other designer's drawing of the rear sight itself.

But getting all those simple dimensions and cuts into a smooth production process is what's hard. Especially when it is discovered that the heating of the slide (or whatever) from the cutting disrupts the angles and tolerances you specified and pressing in the sight has to wait until a later step, after the slide cools.

Otherwise the sight either can't be pressed in easily on the production floor, or the sight falls out after the product gets out the door. (Just an imaginative rhetorical example, but stuff like that happens.)

Terry

Guns&Religion
October 26, 2013, 06:27 PM
Here is a link to the Ruger Website regarding employment
http://www.ruger.com/footer/employment.html

They want engineers and technicians.

I say go for it, if that stuff interests you.

Officers'Wife
October 26, 2013, 06:37 PM
Perhaps, many will tell you that firearms are simple machines that hardly need an engineer to design and they would be correct. However, the machines needed to mass produce them are complicated and always have room for improvement. A rifling lathe alone will send quivers of ecstasy down the spine of even the most blase OMB.

Item last, of the chem eng, com eng and mech eng types I went to school with very few of them are working the industry they had planned on. But to a person they are all working.

hey.moe
October 26, 2013, 06:45 PM
If the only reason for pursuing a degree in ME is to work as a firearms designer, I think you'd be spending a lot of time and money hoping for an outcome with a low probability of success. On the other hand, if you constantly find yourself wondering what makes things tick, and would be willing to consider using the degree in other ways, I think you'd find it's a fascinating field with wide applications and almost limitless possibilities.

Now, if you were to get hired by a firearms manufacturer in some other capacity and convince the company to send you to engineering school ...

-Stan-

ugaarguy
October 26, 2013, 07:04 PM
It's not overkill, and it is in fact one of the best ways to work your way up to being a gun designer. We have a member here who has done exactly that. In the interest of maintaining his privacy I'll leave it at that unless he wants to comment on it further.

double bogey
October 26, 2013, 08:33 PM
My industry (hvac) employs a lot of ME's. Large contractors use them for everything from system design, to project management.

gearhead
October 26, 2013, 08:37 PM
While there probably aren't more than a few hundred engineers working in the American firearms industry nowdays it's safe to say that if you DON'T become an engineer you won't ever get the opportunity.

I earned my ME degree 30 years ago, I've designed and helped put products ranging from Naval warships to electric power tools to household appliances to gasoline dispensers to, yes, firearms into production. If you enjoy knowing WHY things work rather than just working on things, if you love finding better ways to do something, if you aren't afraid to tackle challenges that appear to be impossible then you might make a good ME.

Take every opportunity to get practical, hands-on experience while in school and be willing to take jobs not necessarily in your area of experience if they involve the same skills you will need if an opportunity in firearms presents itself later. Tight tolerance machining, design of complex injection molded plastic parts, project planning, and testing are skills that will be very helpful. If you really want to improve your chances you can identify the largest firearms manufacturers and see who hires the most entry-level ME graduates and enroll in a university where those manufacturers recruit heavily.

eldon519
October 26, 2013, 08:52 PM
I'm an ME. As stated, I don't know how much engineering is really required for a lot of small arms designs these days, but it if you also have interest in things like cannons, missiles, bombs, tanks, aircraft, UAVs, jet engines, etc, there is plenty you could work on. I don't know how much things like small arms will evolve, but something like a rail gun...there will definitely be MEs working on that project.

ME is kind of the jack-of-all-trades engineering degree. There are all kinds of things you can get into with it. If it doesn't work out, you could get into space, cars, energy, medical devices, robotics, manufacturing, etc.

Owen
October 26, 2013, 08:54 PM
Mechanical engineering was the technical liberal arts degree for about 100 years. My opinion now is that electro-mechanical engineering, with a good knowledge of micro-controllers is the current title holder for "most-employable."

The gun business is really a pretty small industry with, I'd guess, fewer than 1000 folks involved in design that would be considered players (meaning capability and financial backing to get into production) and a whole crap load of interested amateurs. And that is the problem: the pool of people that want to the design job at one of the larger companies is enormous compared to the number of jobs. This means the gun business, at least in my experience just doesn't pay as well as other industries, like aerospace, biomed, etc.

The next problem is that the business as a whole is relatively low tech. Because the end items are relatively cheap, most of the industry uses the fine art of "make it and break it" and doesn't bother with some things that most industries would consider good practice, because for the most part, it just isn't necessary. This means that when you leave, you may have trouble finding that aerospace or biomed job, because your skillset is obsolete.

Third: if you really like guns, and lovingly caress your beloved hunting rifle every time you pick it up, say good bye to that experience. Guns might as well be toasters after a several years. They'll still be interesting, but any romanticism about them will be long gone. One of the problems with turning a hobby into a career, is the hobby ends up not being much fun anymore.

However, there are a number of perks to the business. Meet strange and interesting people, lots of prestige with other gun nuts, and it you manage to stick it out for a while in the industry, you end up, at the very least, meeting everyone that matters.

Some of the highlights for me have been:

Dr. Dater (founder of Gemtech) calling me to talk about a presentation I gave.

Receiving a personal tour of Reid Knight's museum from Mr. Knight himself. Drinking beers with ST6 plankowners.

Realizing the revolver barrels I was making were going to be put on guns for Jerry Miculek.

Getting fired from S&W by Bill Clinton (sorta).

Laser marking a Savage logo on my thumb (by accident, working in a shop that supplies the industry)

Spending weeks in Belgium and Portugal.

Visiting PGM in the French Alps (Annecy is a beautiful town)

Sending magazine covers featuring items I've designed to my Mom

Shooting a .44 mag until there was blood running out of my gloves,

Shooting assault rifles until my shoulder was bleeding, and then shooting for 3 weeks more,

Eating dinner with a table of SF guys, talking about wound ballistics, and realizing I had their rapt attention, and they weren't throwing anything at me.

But right now, the thing I like the most about my job is passing on the wisdom and skills I've gained to the new engineers we've hired recently and realizing how far I've come.

Anyhow, I'm rambling.

If guns are what you want to do, then go ahead and get the mech eng degree or an electromech degree. That said, getting into the business isn't very easy and there are some significant opportunity costs: relatively low wages, non-portable skillset, etc.

If you just want to tinker with guns, grab one of those jobs in a higher paying industry (which is all of them, as far as I can tell), and do your gun design and prototyping on the side. CNC is getting cheaper every day, and you only need an FFL if you plan on manufacturing weapons to sell, or NFA items.

BobTheTomato
October 26, 2013, 08:56 PM
Industrial and Systems engineering might be a better degree to get into firearms mfg.

gbw
October 26, 2013, 09:00 PM
I'd consider combining it with ROTC. Go where guns get used most. A military career as an officer is another very attractive option for engineers. Then try to steer your military career to the ordnance area - should be doable, talk to your local ROTC liaison. Plus, they'll pay for your school if yo do your part.

Owen
October 26, 2013, 09:14 PM
I wouldn't advise the military route myself, unless you can get a guarantee you'll end up at the PWS shop at Quantico or similar. Very little of the small arms work in the military (other than routine maintenance) is done by active duty personnel, and none of it is done by officers.

Officers don't drive CAD stations or machine tools, they manage the people that do. In the small arms realm, the people that are driving CAD stations and machine tools are civilians. Active duty Marines build weapons at the PWS, but they are generally following a cook book, not innovating. If you want to end up at a military systems command, then military service will help because of hiring preferences, but I wouldn't expect to get any design experience at all as an active duty service member.

That said, if you want to do innovative design for the military, you don't want to be at a Systems Command, you want to be at a contractor that does work for that systems command.

Tejicano Loco
October 27, 2013, 08:19 AM
Another degreed ME here and I can also speak for how turning you dream into your job often robs the romance out of it.

In my first job out of college I was a design engineer but the actual "design creativity" was such a small part of what I did day-to-day. The administrative part was bigger than the actual design. Of course laying it out in CAD was a bjg chunk of the time - and I did enjoy that - but actual creativity was something that rarely came up.

Another angle that made it more work than enjoyment - the design has any number of constraints on it, many of which are mundane things like cost, weight, or things you might not be interested in.

Look at what probably is Georg Luger's most lasting contribution : the 9X19mm cartridge. As I undestand it he really didn't want to design it but his customers wanted his pistol in a cartridge larger than the 7.62mm round he made it in. So he came up with the largest practical bore with a similar energy to his smaller round so he wouldn't have to re-design the pistol from the ground up.

I would say to get the degree if you have the general interest in knowing how things work because it can lead to an interesting career which can pay well - and allow you to buy and even make your own firearms the way you want to.

Uncle Richard
October 27, 2013, 08:45 AM
Go to college and get a degree. Employers want.experienced people. Would recommend working for a gun smith. You might discover that guns is not the desired career.

Regardless, get a college degree. Being successful will be easier and more oppurtunites will be available.

Proud of my chemical engineering degree, even though not in that field anymore. Life has a way of changing things.

lawson4
October 27, 2013, 09:17 AM
From someone in the industry, I have to agree that new, revolutionary designs are relatively rare. Most time is spent making changes to decrease costs, to get products to play nicely with each other, incremental changes to improve performance, and all of the related administrative chores.
CAD is mandatory, so is project management skill. You may spend time finding and talking to suppliers, expediting prototypes and answering questions from the production floor.
But, an ME is the way to go if you want to get in the industry to design firearms.
lawson4

buckhorn_cortez
October 27, 2013, 09:34 AM
ME is a basic area of engineering. You'll need to know: metallurgy, materials science, manufacturing / process engineering, technical writing, and business at the very least. You will also need to learn ancillary skills like the use of computer aided design (CAD) software, finite analysis using SolidWorks software, spreadsheet / database software, and project management skills.

If you can add those type of courses and skills as part of your ME - then you will be a very valuable person in manufacturing which is what making guns is all about.

The thing you need to know about a mechanical engineering degree is that the discipline is very broad - and it's up to you to add the additional areas that will make you valuable within the specific area you want to work.

As an example, the company I work for has ME's that have specialized in: heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) design, bridges (with a second degree in structural engineering), robotics, and manufacturing systems design.

Ironclad
October 27, 2013, 10:05 AM
For years all I wanted to do was be a mechanical engineer and work for one of the gun companies, Caterpillar, or Ford, because I love guns, heavy equipment and trucks. I started out in school as a mechanical engineer, and learned about all of the dry, boring things a mechanical engineer can be involved in. Also at the time a lot of the mechanical engineer graduates I knew were having trouble finding jobs.

I switched to mining engineering and never looked back. I get my trucks and heavy equipment, and got to learn about and use explosives to boot.

The point is that it may be a tad unrealistic to shoot for such a narrow goal with the job market the way it is, but going to engineering school is never a bad idea and will give you opportunities and options that you don't even know exist right now. However, be prepared to work your butt off.

larryh1108
October 27, 2013, 04:18 PM
If it's something you enjoy (ME) then go for it. If it works out that you get to your dream, all the better. If the worst thing that comes out of it is you work in a field you love then it is a win/win for you. Life has a funny way of leading you down paths to the unknown but with hard work you will succeed in whatever you do.

cfullgraf
October 27, 2013, 04:39 PM
The old standby engineering disciplines, mechanical, electrical, civil, chemical, etc, may be in demand these days but it because it is cheap labor for the companies. Being an exempt salary employee, you get paid by the year and employers expect a lot.

Working at something you enjoy is a plus, but i would look at an education other than mechanical engineering.

Working for yourself has lots of advantages and lots of risk.

(FYI, I have a BS and ME in Mechanical Engineering and a PhD in Engineering. Those and $5 gets me a tasty, designer coffee.)

buckhorn_cortez
October 27, 2013, 06:03 PM
Being an exempt salary employee, you get paid by the year and employers expect a lot.

Except...you really don't get paid "by the year." If you have to account for every hour through charge numbers, you're only guaranteed a certain yearly salary IF you charge every hour you work to an authorized charge number.

The latest large engineering company scam being "zero hour employee" where they want to send you home and not pay you until you have at least 20 chargeable hours of work per week.

Nifty way for them to frustrate the employee into getting another job - thus saving themselves laying off the employee and all of those extra dollars associated with things like severance pay, unemployment compensation, etc.

Oh yeah...engineering's a ball 'o fun....

cfullgraf
October 27, 2013, 07:16 PM
Except...you really don't get paid "by the year." If you have to account for every hour through charge numbers, you're only guaranteed a certain yearly salary IF you charge every hour you work to an authorized charge number.



Yes, I suppose in segments of the engineering business such as consulting engineering firms where the customer buys engineering time this would be the case.

In manufacturing companies, particularly the production facilities, we did not have to account for every hour. But, if management wanted you to work over, no OT pay either regardless of the number of hours we worked in a week.

i did work for companies where we accounted for our time for internal purposes but if the "customer" divisions did not ante up enough charge numbers, we had some slush charge numbers to put our time against.

I did work for a company or two that paid the engineers OT but only if it was scheduled and getting it scheduled was as easy as finding hen's teeth.

Yes, there are lots of ways employers can make an engineer's life miserable.

btg3
October 27, 2013, 07:36 PM
...interested in designing firearms as a career, mainly due to my fascination with the inner workings and operations of them.

Is majoring in ME simply to try to land a job in firearm design for a manufacturer an unrealistic goal?

I suggest materials science/engineering/technology. Metallurgy and polymers.

Suggest that you contact a few gun manufacturers as well (at least three!). Don't settle for Human Resources. Ask to be put in contact with the Design VP.

As an engineer for 30+ yrs, I've been in manufacturing, quality, product design/development. Contributed to warfare electronics and high modulus air-to-air missile bodies.

Mike OTDP
October 27, 2013, 09:09 PM
As I mentioned, consider the Department of Defense. All the services are looking for MEs to work ordnance development and testing.

btg3
October 27, 2013, 10:04 PM
^^^...and looking for MEs to do lots of other stuff. As mentioned further above, what you have in mind may not be what the military has in mind for your career path.

Bill50
October 27, 2013, 11:03 PM
I would think that a degree in ME could land you a job basically anywhere on earth, if your primary goal didn't pan out.

Only petroleum engineering degrees have good prospects in the US. All other engineering, computer science, and math/statistics degrees will only help if you have at least 3 years of experience. There's a huge shortage of STEM workers, but companies refuse to hire anyone straight out of school. H1B's are cheaper and have fake experience.

*Edit* If you are a US citizen, defense contractors might take you over an H1B.

JustinJ
October 28, 2013, 10:01 AM
I find all the comments that guns are relatively simple machines somewhat laughable. A nuclear powerplant is just a chunk of stuff that heats water that turns a turbine but in reality it is an extremely complex system. Obviously guns are nowhere near that complex but to design a modern gun that actually functions without injuring the operator actually does require substantial engineering. Especially when one considers the new materials being utilized. Sure, there have been savants in the past who designed new guns at home with very little training or background but such individuals are few and far between. They are also all but unheard of today as guns and the materials have become far more complex.

bobalou
October 28, 2013, 04:47 PM
Design a gun that is quiet without having to have a silencer?

bobalou
October 28, 2013, 05:04 PM
http://world.guns.ru/handguns/hg/rus/pss-silent-e.html The PSS uses a specially developed 7.62x42mm necked round SP-4 (СП-4).[1]The*cartridge*contains an internal piston and a propelling charge, with the stem of the piston against the base of the bullet. On firing, the piston delivers enough impulse to project the bullet from the barrel to an effective range of 25 meters. The piston then seals the cartridge neck, preventing noise, smoke, or blast from escaping the barrel.[2]

Double_J
October 28, 2013, 05:05 PM
I am an Electrical Engineer by both training/education and title. I would go with a double major if I had it to do over. Mechanical Engineering with either a minor in Electrical Engineering/Computer Engineering, or a true double major of Mechanical and Electrical engineering. That will give you the best shot at a job as you can do both sides of the fence so to speak. PLEASE learn how to write software properly, it will help immensely when you are in the job market as most engineers can not write code for beans. I currently spend most of my time either working on ancient software, assisting the production process stay efficient, or assisting with the mechanical/tooling design side. I am glad that I have a slight mechanical mindset as it has helped me see things in the right way.

I would also look at an internship with just about any company I could get in with, just for the resume building experience. I currently work for a LARGE defense contractor and they want experience above all else. They do not really care if all you did was fetch coffee for senior engineers as long as you have something on your resume. We also do very little true design work, most of it is integration/systems level engineering, so do not expect to do any groundbreaking design work.

Bubbles
October 28, 2013, 05:08 PM
EE chiming in, get the degree and see where it takes you. If you want to get into firearm, pick up some machining skills along the way if you want to fool around with firearm designs. A lot of engineers are great on paper (or with CAD) but can't run a lathe or milling machine worth a damn.

Of course as an EE I'm still trying to figure out how I ended up making guns...

gym
October 28, 2013, 06:26 PM
Back in the 60's I worked on everything from the wiring harness for the Lunar Module, to fuel gauge units for B52's Hydraulic systems for helicopters going back to Nam, "overhaul work". We doing subcontracting for company's like Republic Lockheed, Grumman, etc. Anything that we bid on and got, was what we did for bread and butter. The side of the business like IC testers, and new types of ground terrestrial radar for F1-11's etc was here the engineering came in.
First they would design something, then design and build and breadboard it, "that's what I did", after which the final touches were put on it and a PC board was made, and prototypes were then constructed. And hopefully we came up with a better mousetrap than the other guys for less money. It's a team effort. You have your engineers working with techs, machine shop foremen, assemblers cost advisors etc. Then you submitted your bid for projects up for bid, and crossed your fingers.
Once you have a degree, you can end up doing something you never even dreamed you would be doing before you got into the field.
That's the military sector, but the private sector, is not that different, you have to come up with an idea for a project, and then turn it into a reality, build it while staying on a schedule and within budget.
I just don't know how much engineering is involved vs designing. You might be better off going into graphic designing, or computer rendering, specializing in weapon related design. I am not sure exactly what they call that but calling a few company's and speaking to their Department heads might help. Just ask them what courses, towards which major, you would be best off spending your time and money on.
In my day we didn't use computers.

btg3
October 28, 2013, 06:34 PM
PLEASE learn how to write software properly, it will help immensely when you are in the job market as most engineers can not write code for beans.
Depends. Some employers are much more interested in whether you have experience with the software they use, rather than having you write code. Although, I've written code, I've also used I.T. to provide that service.

Even if you do write code, it may not be the language needed where you will be working. You can learn to write code as needed, rather than as a prerequisite to applying for a job.

Outlaw Man
October 28, 2013, 06:42 PM
The engineering job market varies with where you are at. I know two engineers who were out of work for over a year and two others who had to move to another location they didn't like to keep their current job because they couldn't find an alternative here. There are jobs here, but you had better make yourself look exceptional. If you want a degree solely to ensure you always have a job, the medical field is your best option.

As for Mechanical Engineering, specifically, make sure there is something else you'd like to do in that field - and there are lots to choose from - in case the firearms job doesn't pan out. I hate to sound negative, but there simply just aren't that many firearms jobs out there. A BSME would definitely help you, though. If you really have some good ideas, follow it up with an MBA, find a good machinist, and start your own company.

Even if you do write code, it may not be the language needed where you will be working.
It has been my experience that if you truly understand how to write code, you can pick up a new language pretty quickly.

btg3
October 28, 2013, 06:43 PM
Once you have a degree, you can end up doing something you never even dreamed you would be doing before you got into the field.

...I just don't know how much engineering is involved vs designing. You might be better off going into graphic designing, or computer rendering...

The first part is so very true!

... are you thinking of concept rather than design?

A typical progression is concept...design... prototype... develop... manufacture --- with large overlaps!

mikhail kalashnikov
October 28, 2013, 07:05 PM
Mechanical Engineering is one of the most employable degrees a person can get, I'm in the process of getting my ME masters. Almost every consumer product that's not grown has went through an engineers hands at some point, even 3rd world countries need engineers and do hire them. If I were you, I'd raise your sights a little higher and just start your own company. If I had to guess an engineering position at a firearm manufacturing company is very highly desired and therefore hard to get. Get a job for a couple years working for whoever ,save some cash ( which won't be hard on an engineers salary if you work near any large city.) and go for it. You will make a lot more money and you will be able to do what you want instead of running numbers and tedious calculations to create your bosses vision. You would be a lot happier, (if it were me) Personally I have my sights set on a new AMERICAN motorcycle company. I kinda feel the "big name company" that dominates the market is a sell out. I want to bring performance and utility to the market at an affordable price, not $40,000 for a shiny turd. imho

decoy562
October 28, 2013, 10:15 PM
Can't go wrong with mechanical or industrial engineering. I studied industrial engineering and have always had a job (knocks on wood).

rfwobbly
October 28, 2013, 10:21 PM
I'm a fourth generation ME, about 5 years from retirement. I'd encourage anyone with a general interest in anything mechanical to get the degree. The only thing I could add is this: remain a generalist. Know your machine tools and sheet metal fab, then you can work anywhere. The guys that analyze gear teeth, vibration, or do fluid flow make more money, but are so specialized it often takes them a year to find a job.

For the last 25 years, my biggest "ace in the hole" has been SolidWorks and Pro/E experience. So go get some 3D CAD experience by working your way through college at a design or manufacturing company.

Don't spend a lot of money going to a big name school for your BS either. The local state college is every bit as good, and probably has machine tool and welding courses the big schools don't.

If you want to work on armament, then there are a lot more careers in the general defense industry. That work tends to be a blend of mechanical and electrical, what's known as electro-mechanical. The next gen of that is called Mechatronics. This will include the next generation un-manned machines of war, all the way down to microscopic machines built into silicone chips.

http://www.mitechnologies.com/images/stories/Products/RCS/Pt.%20Mugu.jpg

I worked my way though college (at the height of the Cold War) with a company that took apart Russian armament systems, figured out how they worked, then came up with ways to defeat them. Now I work for a company that builds one-off equipment to test the seeker heads on cruise missiles, UAVs, and guided bombs. It's been a very exciting ride, and the work has saved the lives of American servicemen.

So keep in mind that there's a lot more things out there that go Bang !!

Also remember that Civil Engineers can only build targets! :D

;)

barnbwt
October 28, 2013, 11:48 PM
An anechoic chamber; neat :D

"The local state college is every bit as good, and probably has machine tool and welding courses the big schools don't."
I always wondered why that is. "University" is supposed to be "universal," right? My grand-pappy designed, cast, and machined an anvil for one of his courses. My Ma designed, cast, and polished an Aluminum ice-cream scoop (:D), while I got to lay up a carbon fiber test-sample (once :o), and spent the rest of my time designing a bunch of cool stuff in CAD. Heck, we never even took an Engineering Economics course (I guess they assumed all their Aerospace guys would go to work for contractors with unlimited budgets :D)

Even having worked in "the biz" for only a few short years, I've had to come to grips with my lack of practical, as opposed to technical knowledge, and am now educating myself outside of work to catch up when I can. You won't weld, but your design had better be weldable; you won't machine it, but you'd better not get on the machinists' bad side by forcing them to hold unnecessary tolerances; you (probably) won't do much testing yourself, but the test plans need to be clear and thorough enough for someone else to do a good job for you. And none of these issues have anything to do with the quality of the design itself :D. Most ME curricula are better about this and offer labs where you can get your hands dirty, but my school's Aero program was very heavy on the computational side of things (fluids and FEM), which was dumb in retrospect, because no one outside of academia bothers with the nitty gritty of CFD/FEM algorithms that have been proven for decades :scrutiny:.

TCB

cfullgraf
October 28, 2013, 11:57 PM
Also remember that Civil Engineers can only build targets! :D

;)

A friend of mine says there are only two kinds of engineers, civil engineers and barbaric engineers.

Remember, the only difference between a civil engineer, a mechanical engineer and an aeronautical engineer is the factor of safety.

barnbwt
October 29, 2013, 12:06 AM
"Remember, the only difference between a civil engineer, a mechanical engineer and an aeronautical engineer is the factor of safety."

And the amount of fun they have. CivE's are a pretty chill bunch in my experience; far less neurotic and obsessive than all the other branches :p

TCB

cfullgraf
October 29, 2013, 12:09 AM
The only thing I could add is this: remain a generalist. Know your machine tools and sheet metal fab, then you can work anywhere.

Yes, as a mechanical engineer, i started in the photographic chemical industry, moved to a nickel refinery and ended up making toilet paper.

For me, this was all just pumping stuff through pipes.

Similar for other aspects of the profession.

Owen
October 29, 2013, 08:47 PM
mechanical engineers make weapons. Civil engineers make targets.

BobTheTomato
October 29, 2013, 09:34 PM
mechanical engineers make weapons. Civil engineers make targets.

and mining engineers profiteer :)

Tejicano Loco
October 29, 2013, 10:02 PM
Another thing I would like to add - once you have an engineering degree and some experience you can find jobs in any number of different fields.

I graduated with a BSME almost 30 years ago and had offers in petroleum, aircraft maintenance, computers, and armaments. I went into computers because it seemed like a more stable career. In that first company I had jobs in manufacturing, design, and thermal analysis.

After that I did industrial engineering in the logistics field - mostly supply chain process analysis and design. Then I was back in manufacturing doing logistics analysis.

Now I am managing a small civil engineering firm.

Kernel
October 30, 2013, 05:47 PM
Where ever you go make sure they have a ABET accredited program. It's not a rare thing. All the best ones are.

http://main.abet.org/aps/Accreditedprogramsearch.aspx

Millwright
October 30, 2013, 06:03 PM
Think far outside the box young man if that's your goal ! All of our present firearms are based upon technology dating back centuries . IMHO the "key" is propellant(s). Find a way(s) to defeat, (or significantly ameliorate) the current logistical stalemate and your fortune is assured ! >MW

hAkron
October 30, 2013, 10:04 PM
I would also search out biographical information on Browning, Pedersen, Garand, Stoner, Ruger, and Glock (for example) and see what their backgrounds were.

Good luck!

Don't forget Josef and František Koucký

lathedog
October 31, 2013, 11:48 PM
Lots of good advice has already been posted.

If you really want to work for a gun company, go to SHOT show or an NRA convention and talk to the company reps. Or call them and maybe you will get lucky and someone will give you 5 minutes of their time.

Bill Ruger converted a Savage 99 into a semi-auto and walked into Remington with it. Not saying that is the only way to get a job designing firearms, but it is hard to argue with a functioning demonstration model. Talk is cheap but "doing" makes an impression.

If you pursue a BSME the real key would be to obtain an internship with a company of your liking. Going in cold after graduation is much less likely to happen than having an internship turn into a regular gig.

Finally, notice how few new designs have come out recently. Imagine how few people are currently getting paid to design guns. Ruger received "Innovation" awards for making a knock-off on a kel-tec pistol. Remington just unveiled it's new knock-off on a Savage. Does that sound like an industry that is experiencing a Renaissance, and therefore needs new DaVinci's?

My opinion is that all the talent out there designing innovative stuff is doing it in the small companies.

My final advice would be to get your degree, work wherever you can earn big money, and design guns on weekends. Start your own part-time company when you have some experience in design/manufacturing, and transition to full-time entrepreneur when your part-time company becomes successful. Don't wait on someone else to be the key to making your dreams come true. Other people will use you to make their dreams come true, not yours.

Propforce
November 1, 2013, 01:22 AM
Do it.

You will have a lot of choices as a Mech. E. including becoming a firearm designer. As an ME, you'll study mechanism/ kinematics, materials, manufacturing processes, (combustion) thermodynamics, plus any advance courses as your electives.

Firearm design is a "mature" (no improvement) field? There are lots of improvements needed/sought by the Army, DARPA, USSOCOM, etc. How about bullets that can be guided by optics? Able to change trajectory in flight? Sniper rifles that can be fired from beyond-line-of-sight? Light weight UAV that can fire remotely & can be carried by advanced recon units for C4ISR? Now a FORMATION of 20~100 of those light weight UAVs under a soldier's control remotely using an iPad as frontal assault weapon?

Many needs for tomorrow's war fighters....

Want to go bigger? How about designing anti-tank, anti-aircraft systems? Missiles & Rockets? Want to go small? How about robotic flying bees that is capable of carrying micro explosives? How about a SWARM of those bees flying in an attack formation controlled remotely by a SEAL team for special ops using an iPad?

Last, getting an engineering degree is more than about getting a job. Through the studying, you'll learn how to THINK, and how to SOLVE PROBLEMS. Those 2 virtrues will help you far more in life than the book knowledge you learned in school. We take fresh out of school kids and TEACH them how things really work in industry. But you'll need the ability to think & solve problems for the challenging problems we throw at you.

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