I want to learn gunsmithing

Not open for further replies.


Jan 4, 2009
If you could recommend one book that will teach
me the fundamentals of gunsmithing, which book
would it be?

If not a book, what other resources can you point me to?

I'm guessing I will need some tools and a few cheap, used
guns to break while learning.

This seems to be a lost art in my area and I see a strong
need for it in the future.
There is an old NRA publication called "Complete Gunsmithing". It has some fundamental projects in it that will get you started. If you have an interest in checkering, get Montey Kennedys book on the subject.
Go to Brownell's website and look thru the books they have to offer.
(while there, order thier catalog, you will need it)
They put out 4 books titled "Gunsmithing Kinks" Volumes 1-4. a must have.
Advice, do not approach this endevour with "used guns to break while learning" atitude. Keep in mind "used guns to respect and renew" attitude.
Brownell's wil have every book that you could want and or need to learn the subject. They also have an exprienced and very helpfull staff for any questions you will have.
Relax, be patient and read, read, read, read READ.
I don't know if Brownell's has this one but if you can find a copy of Jim Carmicheal's, "The Rifle", it will give you a great understanding of all aspects of the rifle.
Get your hands on any and all firearm schemtaics that you can find. There are books dedicated o only these out there. These will familiarize you with the workings and internal parts of jist about every gun made. Not to mention help you dissasemble and get 'em back together.
Stay away from magazine racks and the writings of "type writer shooters".
Have fun and enjoy !!!!!!!
I don't know of a good gunsmith with one book, most have many many books, and keep notes on guns they have worked on. If you are able to attend a gunsmith school you will get experience on many firearms and training on machinery.
Not all gunsmiths use lathes and mills many just replace parts do stock work, and metal coating. There are apprenticeship programs in some states www.taogart.org is a good source for gunsmith apprenticeships, they also have a list of gunsmith schools on their web page.
Wow! the Taogart program is the most energetic and well designed such facility I've ever seen attempted.

I don't think much of the so-called gunsmithing books that are widely available - the one's with a few cute projects and a basic explanation of a few action types. I mean how many times have you installed an ebony cap on a riflestock?

But for books that go to detail for specific firearms it's hard to beat Jerry Kuhnhuasen's for guidance in those guns he's done his books on - the 1911, the M1 - M14, the M1 carbine, the S&W revolvers, both the Colt and Ruger DA revolvers, both Colt and Ruger single action revolvers, Mauser M91 thru M98 bolt action rifles, and the Remington 870 and 1100 shotguns. With these in hand a person can diagnose, repair, and modify the subject guns.
Last edited:
I dont know of a single book that explains how to do a proper trigger job. Funny because this is a gunsmiths most important skill. BTW I know why there arent many of these books out there.
There is an old book called "Gunsmithing" by Roy Dunlap, one of the old masters. It is pretty dated by now, but there is a lot of information that is still of interest, if you can find a copy.

Ditto on the Roy Dunlap book as there is a lot of good info therein.
It's an old publication and my copy was printed in 1950.
It would help if you develop some personal skills like machine shop work, welding/ soldering and woodworking.
The first book you need is a Brownell's catalog.

It will not teach you to be a gunsmith.

But it will open your eyes to what you do need to learn to just get your feet wet.

Knowing some of the tools and what they do will make it much easier to understand other books.

There is also a very complete section of books & videos that are available from them.

Every old coot has a copy of Roy Dunlap's book copyrighted in 1950 and once when I mentioned it to another similar query I was quickly corrected in saying that it might be hard to find by someone who posted a link to it's availability from Amazon so now I'll do it too: http://www.amazon.com/Gunsmithing-s...=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1238359810&sr=1-1

It's last update was apparently in 1963 so it's probably still somewhat dated material....(sorry guys, it's a hard truth :) )
Allow me to ask this:
What defines a 'gunsmith'?
Is it competency with simple cleaning jobs? Or building exotic pieces from the ground up?
Is it wearing an OptiVisor 12 hours a day? Or treating everyone younger than 45 with disrespect?
Tuner and Old Fuff know more than more 'gunsmiths' have forgotten, yet neither will tolerate that label.
I have been a professional gunsmith for more than 30 years, and I think a definition of a gunsmith is a guy who spends 16+ hours a day on a bench fixing guns by replacing and fitting parts both bought from suppliers or making them if necessary, fitting stocks, installing accessories, metal coating, bending barrels, re crowning barrels, checking barrel cylinder gap, installing screw in chokes, installing a new trigger, explaining to a customer what it takes to convert a 30-06 to 7mm mag, bore sighting, and that's what I have done in the shop in my first 12 hours today, and I am retired.
As a general gunsmith you need to know how to diagnose a guns problem and how to fit parts. Not all gunsmiths build guns or customize guns they don't have the time or equipment.
I don't know tuner, I couldn't find any posts from him, but Old Fuff has provided a wealth of information to members of the forum if he doesn't want to be labeled a gunsmith that's his proagitive, but I am proud of the label. I am sorry if I am over reacting but I take offence about some one not tolerating the label of gunsmith, I have dedicated my life to the trade and find it hard to accept comments like those.
The trade has been very good to me, I made a very good living sent my childeren to collage without any student aid and I have put away enough for my retirment.
I will say this again, though no one pays any attention.

If you want to run a gunsmithing business, instead of paying out money for the privilege of tinkering with guns, the first thing you should do is take a couple of small business courses. Then if you can't take a gunsmith course, at least take a general machinist course.

And have enough capital to get started; machines and tools are not cheap. People on here talk, for example, about checking headspace, but a set of gauges costs close to $100 per caliber. And that is only a tiny part of startup costs.

Koginam pretty well describes a gunsmith's day. If you are good, you can get into a specialty and do most of your business by mail, but a general gunsmith needs to know and be able to do a lot of jobs on a variety of guns.

Yeah, I know, all you need is an FFL, a screwdriver set and a file and you are automatically qualified to be a gunsmith. Yeah. Sure.


It's "1911tuner" and you can find a sampling of his posts by lookng for his username atteched under two of the 'stickie' threads at the top of this forum.
Good news / bad news:

Bad first:

Mr. Koginam & Mr. Keegan give very good advice, I think. Good small businesspeople are very rare, and very busy.

This is a business first. you must know how to operate a business. This will not happen by accident.

That means (at MINIMUM): building a capital / debt structure, obtaining adequate working capital (two years), location, real estate, maintenance, utilities, taxes (personal, property, business) & insurance, licenses (FFL, business), loss provisions, payroll if you're lucky enough to afford employees, inventory, record keeping, tools and equipment. What happens if you get hurt or sick and cannot work? This is only a partial list.

More than 90% of startup businesses fail, nearly all within the first year.

Very few of the gunsmiths I've known of actually make a good living.

Most people get an attack of common sense and decide it's a better hobby.

Good news:

It can be done succsessfully. Messrs. Keegan & Koginam demonstrate this.

It probably is a very satisfying profession, once mastered and established. Learn to be a machinist and welder if you want to specialize later on.

One good book is "Pistolsmithing" by George Nonte. Applies mainly to handguns, but very strong on the principles which apply to anything. Long out of print, but usually available on Amazon.
Last edited:
I work as a volunteer for Taogart www.taogart.org as a apprenticeship coordinator, All apprentices are required to take 140 hrs. of related study which includes several semesters of business classes. you can be the best gunsmith in the business and fail without good business practices.
Getting a name built up is very important and specializing is a good way of doing it, it requires less tooling and fixtures than General gunsmithing, plus unless you do it a lot, things like engraving, stock work, checkering, and finishing take up to much time for a general smith to do, metal coating makes enough money for time invested for a general gunsmith to do. other wise your money is made in bench time. Don't under price yourself that is one of the main things that causes a shop to fail, I don't know of a smith that isn't backlogged. I wish we would have had the Internet back when I started it opens up a customer base from hell.
If you plan to do it as a business then you better (as suggested) learn how to be a good businessman first. If you do it as a hobby then you will have some nice memories tinkering with your private collection and if you use it to pick up some side cash to help pay the bills expect to make less than $5 an hour and to be up past midnight many nights because your simple job just won't come together. Also, your friends will think your services are free "just because" you're their buddy! It can be rewarding if you take pride in your work and you actually enjoy what you are doing. It can be a nightmare if your attention span is that of a 3 year old or you just aren't good with your hands. Also, a keen eye helps a lot and if you don't have one then you should consider another trade.

Lastly, try to specialize and become really, really good at something you really, really enjoy. The expression of "jack of all trades, master of none" can certainly apply to gunsmithing. If it's something you do not like to do or never got the handle of it's perfectly ok to pass on the job. Better to say "no" and lose a job than it is to gack up someone's family heirloom that belonged to his great-great grandfather before the turn of the century, even if the gun is practically a worthless piece of steel. It's priceless to the owner.
I think GBW hit the nail on the head with learning to be a machinist and welder. If you can master the basics of those two disciplines you will have gone a long ways towards knowing how to work with, measure, cut, drill, tap, turn, burn, mill, chill, heat, beat, shrink, expand, bend, manipulate and make pretty metal. Perhaps we could add furniture and or cabinetmaker to the skill set for a well rounded background?

And that list is for the apprentice! :evil:
AGI is Okay for a hobby gunsmith to learn about doing some work on your own guns.
It's in no way suitable as training for a payed professional. NO correspondence or internet course is.
Not open for further replies.