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Gunsmithing + Career--Question

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by Tanegashima, Nov 7, 2007.

  1. Tanegashima

    Tanegashima New Member

    Nov 2, 2007
    I am currently a college student and all my life I have wanted to go into gunsmithing. However, I'm currently pursuing my other passion: History. I just want to know, however, is pursuing a career in gunsmithing a good idea? Are there really a lot of opportunities out there for someone who is schooled in gunsmithing? I am strongly considering going to a gunsmithing school after I get my masters degree and I want to know from those out there if this is really something that one can support oneself on. If it makes any difference, I live in Los Angeles right now, but I would move if I could get a decent gunsmithing job. I have noticed that none of the big companies (after years of constantly looking) ever seem to have gunsmithing positions available/open...is this because they hire from the inside or is this a really closed field? Firearms are my passion and I would love nothing more than to be able to pursue a career related to them. So I would love your opinions.
  2. eastwood44mag

    eastwood44mag Participating Member

    Oct 25, 2005
    Most on here will tell you that gunsmithing will leave you broke.

    My experience: Everyone wants a gunsmith, but no one wants to pay for it (at least around here, can't say for anywhere else).

    Go for it, but don't plan on making a living on it. Nights and weekends only.
  3. jpcampbell

    jpcampbell New Member

    Aug 24, 2006
  4. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Mentor

    Dec 26, 2002
    You can make a decent living as a gunsmith, but you do it easier by working for someone else.

    As I've said before, if you run your own shop, you're NOT a gunsmith, you're a BUSINESSMAN who does gunsmithing.
    The difference is, you'll spend most of your time doing businessman functions like paper work, tax papers, talking to potential customers, talking to irate and unreasonable customers, ordering parts and equipment, keeping books, etc.
    Somewhere in there you'll get to do a little gunsmithing.

    Almost NO self employed gunsmith works only 40 hours a week. Most work MUCH more including many weekends.
    Figure up the total hours gunsmithing and doing the businessman functions and most are barely making minimum wage.
    Working for someone else is good because while you put in 40 hours a week gunsmithing HE does the businessman stuff and worrying about paying the bills.

    If you attend a top school that offers some type of degree you should be able to line up a job BEFORE graduating.
    Potential employers include larger gun shops, bigger custom gunsmithing companies, gun manufactures, police departments, government agencies, defense companies, and companies that do experimental work.

    They often look to the schools for potential employees, but they DO NOT look at anyone who has a certificate from a correspondence "school", nor do they look at anyone who served as an apprentice unless it's under a nationally known master who is also known for turning out top apprentices.
    In other words, unless you have a degree or certificate from Colorado School of Trades, Trinidad State Jr College, Lassen , or one of the other top schools, they won't give you a look at all.

    Most of the top schools offer placement services to help you line up a job.
    When you've got about one year left in school, start actively looking for a job.
    There's a gunsmithing "network" out there, it's up to you to tap into it and use it to find the leads.
    By the time you have a couple of months left, you should have SEVERAL interviews lined up, and by the time you graduate you SHOULD have a FIRM job offer.

    Going into business yourself right out of school is a non-starter.
    The expense for equipment, tooling, and the various local, State, and Federal business licenses and permits is HIGH.
    Without a customer base of ready business, you'll bust out in less than a year for simple lack of customers.

    There is a real need for qualified gunsmiths, but what's needed are GOOD gunsmiths, not more hacks.
    The way to get good and know you're good is in one of the top schools.
    If you simply lack the talent for the work, they'll let you know unless you're totally dense.
    Many, if not most of the people you'll see in the schools will either never really work as a gunsmith because they're simply no good at it, or will fail within a year and will go into other work.
    Only the really good ones will be successful, and most of them will at least start out working for someone else.

    There's room in the trade for good people who can do top work, but not for duffers who aren't stone-cold professionals.
    You have to be one of those kind of people who never do a "perfect" job, and know that a "perfect" job isn't humanly possible, but who never tires of trying for perfection.
  5. glockman19

    glockman19 Senior Member

    Mar 16, 2007
    If you're getting a Masters degree then get a good job and take up gunsmithing as a hobby. When you become good enough you may want to open up shop.
  6. Tanegashima

    Tanegashima New Member

    Nov 2, 2007
    Dfariswheel said: In other words, unless you have a degree or certificate from Colorado School of Trades, Trinidad State Jr College, Lassen , or one of the other top schools, they won't give you a look at all.

    I actually was looking at the Colorado School of Trades, and got preliminarily accepted, however, I declined because I want to finish my masters and pay off my massive student debt now.

    This is all very interesting, thanks much so far.
  7. ogree

    ogree New Member

    Apr 24, 2006
    Middleton, ID
    +1 on what glockman19 said.
    Save your passion for firearms as a hobby, working as a smith full time even for someone else will eventually leave you burnt out on the subject and turn your enjoyment in to just a job.
  8. jpcampbell

    jpcampbell New Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    I can agree with most of what Dfariswheel said it was well thought out, but I am going to disagree about his comparison with apprenticeship and schools, until my retirement I had three sporting goods stores, each had a gunsmithing section with 4 gunsmiths in each and only one of them was a school graduate two were from my apprenticeship program, the rest had worked in other shops before coming to me.
    You can get a good basic understanding of smithing from the schools but 2 years or a little less of class room and lab experience is not the same as working with customers and the vast amount and diversity of firearms in a running shop. as an apprentice you learn from the ground up you learn a lot of things the schools don't have time to teach you,The schools do turn out many good smiths with basic knowledge, but they have very little time to teach business practices and how to deal with real world problems, with customers, suppliers, employs, insurance, time restraints, inventory, equipment maintenance, and so on but in an apprenticeship you see and deal with these things, and you can get yourself prepared for them when you open your shop.
    I learned pretty quick that as the owner you are as Dfariswheel put it a businessman who does gunsmithing so I hired a manager who took care of the paper work, one other position you may need to fill is counter man, you need someone very knowledgeable about firearms and who understands customer relations other wise you will spend way to much time answering questions instead of working.
    Two of my shops deal in general gunsmithing, repair of firearms not in the business of building firearms from scratch, but just diagnoses of problems and replacing parts, metal coating, scope mounting, stock fitting, bedding, etc... the third does the same plus we build a few custom hunting rifles and do checkering.
    If I had it to do over again I would just do general gunsmithing and leave the building to others, in expense of equipment, space and time you make more money in the general gunsmithing part of the trade.

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