Gunsmith Education

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by unlimited4x4, Aug 22, 2016.

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  1. unlimited4x4

    unlimited4x4 Member

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    Simply, I would like to learn to be a gunsmith. Does anyone have any recommendations on the best way to achieve this goal? Schools to look at? Any suggestions based on your own experience?

    Thanks
     
  2. entropy

    entropy Member

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    Last edited: Aug 22, 2016
  3. unlimited4x4

    unlimited4x4 Member

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    I saw that earlier, not thrilled. I'm tired of government. I'm still going to proceed with the idea of training. Even though lesson 1 sucks.
     
  4. BBBBill

    BBBBill Member

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    Several different gunsmith degree programs -
    Montgomery Community College in Troy, NC http://www.montgomery.edu/
    Trinidad State Junior College in Trinidad, CO http://www.trinidadstate.edu/
    Lassen Community College http://www.lassencollege.edu/
    Murray State College Tishomingo, Oklahoma http://www.mscok.edu
    All of the above offer two year programs as well as the NRA sponsored summer gunsmithing courses that will let you get your feet wet.

    The following also offer two year programs.
    Colorado School of Trades in Lakewood, CO http://schooloftrades.edu/ Pennsylvania Gunsmith School in Pittsburgh, PA http://www.pagunsmith.edu/
     
  5. unlimited4x4

    unlimited4x4 Member

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    Thanks BBBBill, those seem to be the schools I also found while searching. What about the Apprentice route? Is that even acceptable?
     
  6. Jim K

    Jim K Member.

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    To be honest, most GOOD gunsmiths today are too busy to take on the job of training an apprentice in the basics. If you are already a skilled machinist or have extensive knowledge of firearms or have specialized skills, like wood working, then you have usable knowledge.

    Let me ask you one question. If you now have a job, what do I have to know/learn to do your job? Can I just walk in, express an interest, and get hired to do your job?

    Jim
     
  7. boom boom
    • Contributing Member

    boom boom Contributing Member

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    You can get a taste of gunsmithing by signing up for the NRA short courses which are generally held at many of those schools above. Might give you an idea whether or not it is to your liking without spending big bucks.
    http://training.nra.org/short-term-gunsmithing-school.aspx
     
  8. weaselfire

    weaselfire Member

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    First question: Can you afford $30,000+ and the two years it will take, plus wait time for acceptance, plus qualify for, a traditional resident gunsmith school? If so, there are about six to choose from, all with wait times and admission procedures to go through.

    If not, you have a choice of online/correspondence schools. If you need a college degree, the only one you have as an option is Sonoran Desert Institute. If the degree is not required, American Gunsmithing Institute and Modern Gun School are alternatives.

    AGI has a better teaching technique and great support, SDI uses a lot of YouTube personalities and teaches at a lower overall knowledge level and Modern Gun School has specific tasks they teach, along with projects you must turn in.

    You will see many posts on the internet about how people will never go to a gunsmith with online training, how you must have machinist's training, how online training doesn't qualify as training and how you can never get a license to work from home. All of those are false. You'll also hear how you can't earn a living as a gunsmith, how you're going to get raided by the feds and how you'll have to pay more in fees and taxes than it's worth. All of these are mostly false.

    There are over 50,000 working gunsmiths in the US now, a number that hasn't changed that much over the last few decades. If there is no way to earn a living at it, that number would be going down. There are about 25,000-30,000 FFL holders working from their homes. Puts that "You can't get a home FFL" argument to rest. Many gunsmiths don't own or use a lathe or mill. Since gunsmith schools graduate about 100-150 students a year, there are a ton of working gunsmiths who never went to one.

    As for a living, you won't make as much as an airline pilot, software engineer or CPA. But you can make a living wage, doing what you want, where you want to do it. You may get raided by the feds, but you have to be doing something wrong to have that happen. If you're buying 10,000 AR rifles a year and your records show 120 sales each year, you're going to get raided. As for fees and taxes, they are part of every small business. If you don't want to deal with those, go to work for someone else.

    Now, your question is about the best way to achieve your goals. Sadly, nobody here can give you an accurate answer. The best way is individual, and your best way may be different from mine or the guy down the street's. Do your research, study your options and choose what you find to be best for you.

    Good luck.

    Jeff
     
  9. unlimited4x4

    unlimited4x4 Member

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    weaselfire, thanks for the post. I am currently an engineer looking for a career change doing something that I have enjoyed doing on my own and I'm good with metal working. My kids are gone and my lifestyle is such that I could take a pay cut if I had to and would do so to do something I enjoy. I figured a school vs. apprenticeship would be the most feasible. I know there will be obstacles to this type of career change, and that is why I started this thread. Being an engineer, I don't do a thing without research. And part of that research includes hearing form those in the gunsmithing field. This may not be feasible for me. I definitely don't expect it to be easy, but anything worth doing is hardly ever easy. Just looking for some real experience.
     
  10. weaselfire

    weaselfire Member

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    The apprentice system is not as prevalent today and it's a young person's path. If you have a family friend in the business it's doable, but not as possible as it used to be.

    Resident school means moving and living in a new area, full time school for two years and a guaranteed job prospect. Like most schools though, it will be years before you pay off the education.

    If you belong to a shooting club, work to become the goto guy for repairs. Do these as favors to build experience.

    If you want to work for someone else, look to your local gun and sporting goods stores. You'll get $10-12 an hour cleaning guns, mounting scopes and swapping sights, but it's experience on your resume. There are also 200 applicants for each opening.

    Gunsmithing requires two things - knowledge and skill. You can get knowledge by reading and studying, as in the online or correspondence schools, but skills only build with hands-on time.

    Buy beg or borrow broken guns and work on them to build your skills. Once you learn the functions of the parts, you can figure out and fix just about anything. Knowing how to adjust the timing in a Colt Police Positive doesn't make you a gunsmith, knowing why you're deepening the locking bolt recess in the cylinder does.

    And get over the "I don't know how to do this" mindset. No gunsmith knows how to fix a gun he's never seen before until he works through how the gun is supposed to function and solves the problems with the gun.

    Jeff

    Sent from my XT1254 using Tapatalk
     
  11. unlimited4x4

    unlimited4x4 Member

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    Thanks again weasel. Never been afraid to fix anything the first time. I fix pretty much everything myself. Part of the interest to me is learning how something works by fixing it for the first time. I think finding the time for the school will be my biggest challenge. I'll figure it out, I always do.
     
  12. entropy

    entropy Member

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    Don't forget Pine Tech, in Pine City Minnesota. Good program, great area of the country. I did it the hard way; self-taught since 14, plus Armorer in the Army. I don't do it professionally anymore; just for family and friends for (root) beer money.
     
  13. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Apprentice route depends on the "master" you wish to learn under. Unlike the olde days, modern gunsmiths tend to specialize. You have rifle builders, 1911 smiths, Colt SAA smiths, shotgun smiths, some only engrave, some only refinish, some specialize in black powder, etc.

    If you want to go this route, might I suggest taking a year plus of machine shop at some junior college? Also learn some wood working so as to develop familiarity with hand tools. Throw in some NRA summer school classes and then try to find a smith who will accept you as an apprentice.

    Mind you, some smiths don't want to bother teaching and will hire only grads from a two year gunsmithing program. Some are even more particular and want people from specific schools that they trust.

    Quite recently the FBI was looking for an armorer who would work at Quantico. You had to be a grad of Co School of Trades or the equivalent.
     
  14. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    BTW, there are at least a dozen schools in this country and Sonoran Desert Institute is not the only one that offers an 2 year degree. Lassen and Trinidad both do and so do others. You have to find a school that has a program that suits you both in what you want to learn and within your budget. As suggested to, don't overlook the NRA Summer School programs that are offered at numerous junior colleges.

    If you already have machining, there is a jr college in Montana that offers a two year degree too.
     
  15. Zeke/PA

    Zeke/PA Member

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    From my personal experience , Trinidad is your best bet.
    When I was there, Custom Rifle building was really in vogue.
    Custom pistol work seems to have taken over and right now, it ain't easy to get into Trinidad!
    I graduated Trinidad in 1961 and the instructors at the time were superb.
    Bill Prator on metal work Lou Mrace on stock work and Jim Wilson on quite a bit of theory.
    I was encouraged to make a set of stock making chisels hat I still use to this day.
    I parlayed my Trinidad days to a career in the toolmaking field and was VERY successful at it.
    GO TROJANS!!
     
  16. Zeke/PA

    Zeke/PA Member

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    From my personal experience , Trinidad is your best bet.
    When I was there, Custom Rifle building was really in vogue.
    Custom pistol work seems to have taken over and right now, it ain't easy to get into Trinidad!
    I graduated Trinidad in 1961 and the instructors at the time were superb.
    Bill Prator on metal work Lou Mrace on stock work and Jim Wilson on quite a bit of theory.
    I was encouraged to make a set of stock making chisels hat I still use to this day.
    I parlayed my Trinidad days to a career in the toolmaking field and was VERY successful at it.
    GO TROJANS!!
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2016
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