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Which skill is more important for gunsmithing

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by jalex1941, Sep 19, 2013.

  1. jalex1941

    jalex1941 Member

    Hey guys, ive been working on firearms for myself and friends as a hobby for years and ive finished a gunsmithing program which I know doesn't really matter as much as hands on experience but anyway I am planning on attendig school for machining in hopes or pursuing my dream of being a gunsmith and would like to be given some advice as to which would help me more being lathe operator or mill operator I know that gunsmithing can and often does use both but I would like to know what others feel would be a better foundation.
  2. dsink

    dsink Well-Known Member

    Both. You will use a lathe just as much as a mill. Take a machinest course and find you a job as a machinest some where. Fool with guns on the side as a hobby.

    You say you have been working on firearms for yourself. Not trying to down play what you have been doing but have you ever had to machine new parts for a firearm?

    Getting into gunsmithing is an expensive adventure. If your working at a machine shop and need to make a part, they might let you do that on there machines after work or during some down time. Plus the experience you will gain working there will be worth its weight in gold down the road.
  3. beatledog7

    beatledog7 Well-Known Member

    I suggest a small business course. An English class wouldn't hurt either.
  4. loose noose

    loose noose Well-Known Member

    beatledog, Please tell me, how would an English course assist an aspiring gunsmith learn his trade?
  5. Schwing

    Schwing Well-Known Member

    +1 to what dsink said. I worked in CNC manufacturing for years. I have to admit that I did it more because it was the family business than anything else but it was good experience.

    You will want to be proficient with both. Things like molds or slide work ain't going to happen on a lathe and you won't be doing much barrel work or making parts like followers on a mill. It is unbelievably expensive to get started if you are buying your own equipment but the payoff is huge if you are good at it.
  6. Sam1911

    Sam1911 Moderator

    I can't really see how one specialty or the other would be most important as a decent gunsmith will need both, and a WHOLE lot more.

    If there's one thing I've learned EXTREMELY well, most small businesses fail, and most wind up in trouble because of the BUSINESS end of it, not because there's any problem with knowing the craft or trade involved.

    Business tasks (accounting, business legal issues, contracts, sales, management, taxes, etc., etc.) are the Achilles' heel of almost every small enterprise.

    You want to be a gunsmith, great, learn to run a mill and a lathe and a welder, and all the other physical tasks, but don't go into business until you can write a business plan and stick to it. If "business" isn't your thing, don't go into business for yourself. Or, at least, find someone to partner with who is a genius at that stuff and pay them well to run your business for you.

    The trade is the "fun" part, but the business of business -- is BUSINESS.
  7. beatledog7

    beatledog7 Well-Known Member

    Being able to write well is a boon to anyone in any profession.
  8. Bart B.

    Bart B. Well-Known Member

    If you're gonna just fix broken guns, a good set of tools along with the skills and knowledge to use them plus being familiar with the mechanics of the arms you will work on.

    If you're gonna do that plus put together and repair top grade competition stuff, then a detailed skill and knowledge base of what enables best accuracy is mandatory. Many 'smiths claim to know and do this. Most 'smiths don't know how a rimless bottleneck round fits the chamber when it's loaded then fired.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2013
  9. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Well-Known Member

    I'm going to agree with Sam an Beatledog, actually running the business will likely be the hardest part of being a self employed gunsmith. A lot of gunsmiths I've seen are good technically, but fail at the business aspects of owning a shop. They either can't stay on budget, can't make deliveries on time, or seem to care more about playing with guns than they do about the customer. If you can get the business aspects taken care of, you should get business even if you're not the most technically proficient machinist.

    Along those lines, you may want to look at how you come across when you write. I know that a forum is socially a bit more lax on proper grammatical structure, but good grammar shows that you pay attention to detail (something important in all businesses, let alone one involving harnessing and directing an explosion). Also, if you're planning on marketing by self-promoting online, email will likely be how your customers contact you, and what your future customers look at when deciding if they want to give you their business.
  10. Al Thompson

    Al Thompson Moderator Staff Member

    Another vote for business skills. Off the top of my head, we've had four gunsmiths go out of business here in the last 14 years. We now have no gunsmiths in a city of 500k (including the metro).
  11. Kp321

    Kp321 Well-Known Member

    The best tool a gunsmith can have is a good mechanical aptitude. Unfortunately, that is something you are born with, not acquired.
    To answer the original question, I use my lathe five times as much as I do my mill but would not be without either. I use the lathe more because I do mostly rifle work, more pistol jobs require a mill than rifle. I got by with a good drill press and a milling attachment for my lathe for a while but it was a poor substitute for a mill.
  12. Jim K

    Jim K Well-Known Member

    I agree on mechanical aptitude, at least when it comes to repairing old guns where parts often have to be made or redesigned. The gunsmith who can rechamber a barrel is OK, but it is a good idea to know that if a spring pushes up one end of a pivoting part, the other end goes down.

    As to good English, I can only cite my own case. I was hired as a computer programmer because I knew the application as it was done manually, so the idea was that I could "train" a computer to do it. That was fine, and I did OK. But my main value to the government, and later to private industry, was that I not only could do analysis and programming, but I had a degree in English and I could write! Programmers (or software engineers, as we later became known) came and went, but I was the guy who organized and edited the manuals, and was, almost literally, irreplaceable.

  13. dsink

    dsink Well-Known Member

    I agree with KP321. I do mostly rifle work also and my lathe gets used 4 or 5 times as much as my mill but when I use my mill, I have to have it. Nothing else will work in its place.
    I got by with a Jet mill & drill for a while but ended up getting a Bridgeport mill to replace it with. Now jobs that used to take close to an hour on the Jet, only take about 15 min on the Bridgeport.
  14. Teachu2

    Teachu2 Well-Known Member

    #1 is Customer Service skills. Absolutely critical for a new gunsmith to know how to deal with customers. Many don't - and find themselves without customers quickly.
    #2 is business sense. Realize that most gunsmiths survive off the retail accessories business, along with replacing parts - not machine work. It will surprise you what you'll spend in good hand tools and fixtures, but that's where the money is. Most gunsmiths spend very little time machining - and some sub it out to a local machine shop. A good lathe and mill setup - with tooling - has to get used a lot to pay for itself.
  15. beag_nut

    beag_nut Well-Known Member

    I must agree with the many who have mentioned business skills and clarity in writing, along with proper grammar and spelling. Given a choice between two otherwise unfamiliar people, I will always choose the one who can communicate clearly, assuming everything else is equal. Sloppiness in one aspect of a person's communication is usually indicative of sloppiness in that person's other skills, and I am not talking about how they dress or speak verbally.
  16. cuba

    cuba Well-Known Member

    I would think that mastering a dial caliper and a file, would be a good start.
  17. SleazyRider

    SleazyRider Well-Known Member

    Amen to that!
  18. hentown

    hentown Well-Known Member

    I would much prefer a literate, as opposed to a nearly-illiterate gunsmith. ;) On-the-other-hand, if gunsmiths were paragons of intellect, they'd probably be doing something else for a living, wouldn't they? ;)
  19. Taurus 617 CCW

    Taurus 617 CCW Well-Known Member

    I was hired on at a range as a secondary gunsmith. Because of my customer service experience, organization/computer skills, and ability to work with little to no structure/supervision, I have become the only gunsmith working full time. The mechanical aptitude is great and the machining background will help you immensely but you can not survive as a gunsmith without customer service skills and organization. The customer is purchasing just as much of your personality as they are the service you provide.

    Knowing what to expect before starting a job (and communicating that to the customer) is also very important but that comes with experience. You can avoid many angry phone calls if you stay in communication with your customers.
  20. CraigC

    CraigC Well-Known Member

    Both, along with business and English. You need the skills to do your job but you also need to know how to run a business. Or you won't be in business long. Lots of skilled, hard-working folk out there who do a great job but fail because they don't take care of their business.

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