Gun Smithing/Cleaning Values?

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Mar 16, 2009
Hello All,

I'm an aspiring gun smith, and I've been getting ready to advertise in the paper for gun cleaning and minor gun smithing. There's still alot in the field that I don't know, but one has to start somewhere. I have no certification, but I plan to take a course in gun smithing soon. I've also downloaded several manuals and videos that I'm reading and watching. I'm getting quite a bit of experience just messing with my guns and my parents guns (I'm 24, but I live in a house right next to my parents on our farm) here at home.

I think I'll have a bit of luck because there just aren't any gun smiths nearby. I live in the country though, which is the main downside, but I've known a gun dealer or two to be in the country and get plenty of business. I should think that driving a few miles of rock road would beat an hour plus trip each way to a gun smith in the city? Also, I take great pride in not roughing the guns that I work on up. A couple of the gunsmiths around are very, very rough on the guns that they work on. I should think that would be a desired trait in a gun smith :)

But the main reason I haven't advertised already is that I haven't a clue what the going rate for this sort of thing is. What do you guys think it would be worth to clean guns for people as well as minor gun smithing?

My mom has an H&R .410 shotgun, single shot, that was in a car wreck and the barrel got bent almost straight down about half way out. I did a really nice job straightening it, it's not cracked at all and it shoots quite good again. The couple gun smiths that my folks had called about the gun didn't want to do it because they didn't think it could be done without cracking it. Not bragging, just an example of some of what I've been doing.

Making custom parts and such is beyond my skills as of now however.

Anyhow, thanks for any advice.
The very first thing you MUST do (if you are going to charge for your services) is to get an 01 FFL. The feds frown on being "in the business" without a license. With all of that in order get a Brownell's catalog. It not only has everything you will need,it also has a list of suggested shop price rates. You can adjust those according to your area/clientel. Good luck!
1) Get trained. You may think you know a lot, but you'd be surprised. For instance, mounting a scope properly isn't just screwing the base on and adding the rings. You can get trained by working for a gunsmith, or attending gunsmithing school.

2) If required in your state, get a tax license and proper permits.

3) Get a FFL. Legally, you MUST have one to work on any body's firearms besides your own.

4) Check local laws. Some communities do not allow small businesses to operate out of residential dwellings. Again, you may need local permits.

5) Either learn to keep books or hire an accountant.
Thank you both for all of the information, I really appreciate it.

I didn't realize that any sort of license was required to work on guns, so that's good to know. I was aware that dealers had to be licensed, but not smiths. I find it a bit absurd, but then, I don't get to make the laws so......

I'll check into the law on running businesses from home. I know you have to have a seperate building to be a gun dealer, but around here at least I don't think that's required for gun smithing. I could be mistaken though, so better safe than sorry. I have a spare building that I could convert if I had to. Being in the country I don't think I would fall victim to any city ordanances though.

I think one has to make a certain amount of money per year to need a tax license, but I'll check on that to be sure. Hopefully I can make enough to need one :)

Yes, I deffinately intend to learn more on the subject. After all, you can never know too much. I would like to get a mail order or online course of some type to start off with. And of course I have books and videos already that I am studying. Going to a school would be great though, I'll have to look into that a bit more.

While working for a gun smith would deffinately be a great way to learn, there just aren't any close enough for that to work out. For now I would simply turn down anything that I didn't feel confident that I could do 100% correctly.

I found the Brownell's catalog. It looks quite usefull, thanks for recommending it.

Anyway, thanks again for all the advice and hopefully things work out well for me.
You do not have to have a separate building to be a gun dealer unless your local code requires it. The Feds do not require it - only that it be accessible to the public. Some people don't want their house accessible to the public so they either put their shop in a separate building or in a room of the house with it's own entrance.
The fereral rules are pretty straightforward. The one that can hang you up the most is the requirement to have the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in your juristiction sign off for your FFL. This means you need to conform to local zoning requirements, or get a variance. Check this out before you go too far.

Don't let it discourage you though. The above advice about getting the proper training is important, especially if you want to make a career of it. Remember too, with the internet and UPS you have a market much larger than your local county.
The chief law enforcement officer is not required to sighn off. It is only required they get a copy of your application. If you indicate that gunsmithing is your prime business you don't neccessarily have to be "accessable to the public. I got my county zoning officer to approve a gunsmithing without new fiearm sales(to get around public hours) licesnse and applied fro an 07 manufaturer of firearms license. you can buy;sell; and gunsmith on it. the reason was if a gunsimth buys a receiver and barrels it to a finished forearm it is manufacturing, as is buying a mauser and turning down the bolt and adding a scope and selling for more money than you paid. So it can be done. they approved it but are taking their sweet time in sending it..
Remember too, with the internet and UPS you have a market much larger than your local county.

I hadn't really considered that before. Are there extra regulations if you are receiving and shipping firearms that way?

I got my county zoning officer to approve a gunsmithing without new fiearm sales(to get around public hours) licesnse and applied fro an 07 manufaturer of firearms license.

What do you mean about getting around public hours?

Also, what can I expect to pay for an FFL license?

Thanks for the replies.
Don't forget INSURANCE. If you work on another persons gun and it malfunctions in the future. If someone is hurt or there is property damage expect a lawyer to get involved.
Follow all state and federal rules, their is no gray zone, if you arn't sure ask the ATF in writing and keep their answer on file.
Bussness classes and Insurance are a must, You can be the best smith their is but go out of business without good business prat ices. In over 30 years of business I was never actually sued but once I had a customers AR-15 come apart after he picked it up from the shop, blew the side of the upper apart and bulged the mag well, he threatened to sue but after he took it to another smith for examination the culprit was reloaded ammo he had bought at a gunshow, loaded with red dot. I was glad I had insurance because I might have lost everything if it had been my fault. It is expensive but well worth the piece of mind.

I wish people put their location on as its hard to advise someone when you dont know their general location.there are schools but where is he and were are the schools.he is rural thats all.there is a school in nc or va. there is the denver school and probably others.and he needs to keep books and do book keeping.and finacial records koginam probably know what I am saying.
Cleaning and minor repairs would be a good way to start, but you will eventually come to the point of deciding whether to stop there or go on to other work. And that is a "fish or cut bait" proposition.

Getting into more complex work will require some capital investment in tools, machines, probably building modifications, and the like. And you should take formal gunsmith training at that point. Meantime, see if a local trade school or community college has machinist courses as well as courses in running a small business.

If you can make some money and put it away toward the day you want to grow the business, more power to you.

(One way to make points with the local establishment is to offer to clean and maintain police guns for free. That is a good move where a small police department doesn't have an armorer.)


I have been away from the internet quite alot lately. Also I got a bit discouraged about all the trouble and such that goes into doing this (on the legal side I mean). I shouldn't let things get me down, but I tend to at times. I wasn't looking to have to deal with a bunch of regulations and such starting out. I don't have any money to put into it at the moment, I was hoping to get money out of it instead.

Eventually I would like to have a gun store as well as a more full-featured smithing service, at which time I expected more legal hassle. I wrongly assumed that for basic cleaning and maintenance there wasn't any legal restrictions. I can see the use of insurance though.

I really appreciate all the great advice that everyone has given me and I apologize for not getting back on here sooner.

To Teddy: I live in north central Kansas, right on the Nebraska state line. The road in front of my house is the state line. I didn't mean to leave that out, I thought that I had mentioned it in my original post. My mistake.

To Jim Keenan: yes, I would like eventually to go on to more advanced work. I had planned to save up most of the money from the minor work to put toward equiptment and such. Actually I would like to have all the stuff to hot blue and parkerize firearms just for myself if nothing else. I've found cold bluing to be a giant dissapointment. I did manage to make a rifle look decent that way, but the reciever on a model 94 Winchester didn't like the cold blue at all, but I posted about that on another thread.

On a quick side note if anyone wants to see the .22 rifle I fixed up I have a few pics here:

It is a Gamble Stores Inc. Pioneer Model 26 tube fed, bolt action .22lr. It's actually a Savage model 5B or 86E I believe, sold under that store name.

If I can figure out how to turn my flash off I've been meaning to put up some better pics. The bluing is actually quite uniform, contrary to how it looks in the pics do to flash. I got lucky and the places that the bluing didn't take well are covered by the stock. I stained the stock as well. I didn't put alot of time into sanding it because the stock is cracked in a couple places and I expect it to break sometime soon. I glued it, but I'm not sure how well it will hold. The really light area on the buttstock is from a lamp shining down on it, it's actually reasonably uniform in color. I didn't have any black paint for the trigger guard, so I used bronze (looks more brass though I think). I need to finish filing/sanding the pits out of the bolt handle but other than that I don't think it's too bad for my first bluing/staining attempt.

Anyway I just wanted to thank everyone that has given me advice. To clarify one thing though: if I'm not charging money it's perfectly legal for me to work on someone elses gun?

Thanks and take care.
I believe that an FFL is not required to WORK on someone else's gun. It is required if they leave it with you, say overnight. It must be entered into your ATF approved bound logbook. If someone wants to wait and watch you work on their gun the FFL is not required. If a customer asks you to perform any work on a weapon that seems questionable to you say no.
Drail you are partially correct. You are required to have an 01 FFL if you are "In the business", meaning if you charge for your services regardless of how long it takes to do it. Walk-in,walk-out service ONLY exempts the LOGGING in the bound book not being licensed.
Well, you have to start somewhere. I lived next door to the town repair gunsmith at one time. He did not have formal training and while he would have been out of his league to build a custom gun from parts, he did a good business in repairs and cleaning of guns too complicated for the owners to maintain. He had a FFL to keep guns while waiting on parts, but arranged with the hardware store - yes, hardware stores sold guns in those days - to handle pickup and delivery so as to keep strangers with guns away from his house.

He gave up the practice when parts for obsolete guns became too hard to get. Something else for a budding gunsmith to think of. The internet is full of people asking where to get parts for the ancestral rabbit gun, usually without success.
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