Quantcast

Is gunsmithing a dying trade?

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by TMiller556, Jul 31, 2013.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Dec 19, 2002
    Messages:
    20,090
    Gunsmiths are not a dying trade. Rather, many smaller businesses are being forced out thanks to regulations (Fire Inspector, local ordinances, etc.). Another cause is the poor business practices of the small gunsmith. Some are just gunsmiths and not businessmen. They've no business plan or idea how to run a business.

    Gunsmiths are increasingly specialized nowadays too. Pistolsmiths who work only on 1911s. Riflesmiths who only work on custom guns (Custom Gunmakers' Guild), blackpowder, shotguns. There's very few general gunsmiths nowadays.
     
  2. HeardNotSeen

    HeardNotSeen Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2011
    Messages:
    16
    It's most certainly a dying art. I've been smithing for a few years now(around 10), and honestly would say I work more as an armorer now than anything else, mainly due to drop in parts. I learned the trade from a older friend of mine that owned a shop near my house, he was going blind and his kids didn't really want to follow in his footsteps so I did. He told me years ago that it was drying up business wise, and he wasn't lying. I still stay busy, but it's usually trigger jobs and AR builds, mostly things any armorer or enthusiasts could do themselves. I'm still glad I learned the trade, and am very appreciative of the older generation that took the time to sit you down and teach you face to face. I hope that part never dies, even if the business does.
     
  3. Swichblade

    Swichblade Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2011
    Messages:
    85
    Location:
    Earth, maybe
    If I had to take a guess, I would say that easily accessible information about guns on the internet may have affected gunsmiths. If I have a problem with my gun, I can check on the internet to find what's wrong with it and fix it myself. Same goes for installing parts or doing trigger work.
     
  4. B.T.Henry

    B.T.Henry Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2013
    Messages:
    2
    I don't think the demand is dying as much as the old men that introduced us all to guns are dying. They came up in a generation of walnut and steel, when guns where guns. I like the modern day plastic brass burners of today, they're fun. BUT once upon a time, gun making was art. Craftsmanship meant something. I'm not knocking Glock or anybody, but tell me, does picking up a brand new Glock spark the same since of appreciation and admiration as say picking up a beautiful double barrel or a new Model 700 BDL. I just bought a Uberti Walker and an 1860 Henry in .44-40, my Glock 23 has never captivated me like these old replica of our history.
     
  5. JFtheGR8

    JFtheGR8 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2006
    Messages:
    694
    Location:
    Central Illinois
    I was a general machinist for a large off highway mining equipment manufacturer for 14 years. My duties included repairing production and machine tool parts however I could. Often requiring hand fitting. I was laid off over 10 years ago because the company learned it was cheaper to outsource to third world countries and just throw away the bad parts as opposed to fixing them. I considered going into gunsmithing but the reality of startup costs hit me pretty hard. Instead I went back to school and became a healthcare provider. Many of my fellow workers who were also laid off left the skilled trades for either healthcare or tech jobs. With the manufacturing base either leaving the country or changing to automation people with hands on skill are becoming few and far between. I buy guns I can fix myself or that are cheap enough that I can just take them to a "buy back" if I can't.


    Posted from Thehighroad.org App for Android
     
  6. HexHead

    HexHead Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2008
    Messages:
    3,442
    Location:
    TN
    They are going the way of the watchmaker. You think it's hard to find a good gunsmith?
     
  7. HexHead

    HexHead Member

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2008
    Messages:
    3,442
    Location:
    TN
    When was the last time you saw someone wearing a pair of shoes with leather soles?
     
  8. larryh1108

    larryh1108 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2008
    Messages:
    2,869
    Location:
    NC
    2 words, MIM and Internet.

    In the "old days", pre-MIM, the all steel guns were hand fit by gunsmiths. If/when a part broke, a smith would call his list of contacts and if the part wasn't there, he made the part with one of his many machines. He then hand fit it and checked it for fit and function. The obscure parts were just hand made and fit. It took talent, ability and time.

    Today, if you need a part, you can search the corners of the world. Chances are you can find what you need and either replace it yourself or take it to a parts swapper who has some ability and knowledge but not the storefront and machinery.

    The newer guns are made with drop-in MIM parts. One breaks, another usually falls in place and life goes on. Custom blueing is an art, Cerakote and other coatings can be done at home and are more durable. Unless you have a collectible gun or want one built for a specific need like competition then the gunsmith is not for you. He can't make enough to make a living if he has to charge $200 to work on a $400 or $500 gun and it sits there for 6 months or longer. Trigger jobs and upgrades are done by professional companies who specialize in that particular specialty and the wait is long and the cost is expensive. We can do 90% of the legwork ourselves and the final fitter just provides the labor and experience. It is a dying art due to progress.
     
  9. Sav .250

    Sav .250 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2007
    Messages:
    3,768
    Location:
    Central Fla
    Like any craft,if you can`t make any money .........take you a/c repair.
     
  10. atomd

    atomd Member

    Joined:
    Jul 7, 2006
    Messages:
    1,298
    Same as with television repair shops. There's not many of those around anymore either. Even appliance repair isn't as popular as it used to be and those are big, expensive items too. Everything is becoming disposable. If it's not disposable, there's a good chance it's somewhat modular and you can just change out the part that is broken or put in an upgrade kit to change something about it you don't like.

    Now if you wanted a 1911 customized or some work on an heirloom or real high end hunting rifle/ shotgun.....that would seem like an item a lot of people might bring to a gunsmith instead. That must represent a very small % of items out there though.
     
  11. Drail

    Drail Member

    Joined:
    Jan 17, 2008
    Messages:
    6,191
    The biggest reason IMO is liability. You would have to carry so much insurance to survive one idiot customer in today's "sue happy" society that it would be hard to make a profit for most common gunsmithing work. Ask Ruger about liability. They have been dealing with this for quite a few years now. I agree wholeheartedly with atomd's point about everything is "disposable" to consumers now. The idea that products should give years of service is completely foreign to them. Just go to Walmart and buy a "new" one.
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2013
  12. jrdolall

    jrdolall Member

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2012
    Messages:
    2,695
    Location:
    Southeast
    I know that what passes for a gunsmith is usually an armorer. The 2-3 guys I have used are good at what they do but they don't really do a lot of true gun builds. More repairs and such which, while that skill is valuable and requires a lot of training, it is not the same as true "gunsmithing".
    I have to agree that guns, like appliances, are so much more "plug and play" now than they were even 20 years ago. In 1990 you took your TV to a TV repair store and they kept it for a couple of weeks, replaced a tube or gizmo, and charged you some ridiculous price. When was the last time you took a 3 year old TV to a repairman? Warranty work on a new one yes but repair an old one?
    My number one gunsmith just retired a couple of months ago. He will still do work for me and some of his other valued customers(translated into people that spent a lot of money with him every year) but he closed his shop after 35 years.
     
  13. Gaucho Gringo

    Gaucho Gringo Member

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2006
    Messages:
    1,104
    Location:
    Vancouver, WA
    I haven't worn them in awhile but I still have the pair of leather wing tips my father bought for me in 1968. Also have the pair of leather boots I got married in over 30 years ago. But gunsmithing like all the skilled trades are a dying art. My in-laws owned a large clock and watch business, both sales and repairs for almost 40 years. Towards the end they were unable to find competent repair people and they were squeezed on the retail end because of manufacturers selling to the places like Wallmart, Costco and other large retailers. People didn't want to pay the price for repairs or the clocks they were trying to sell. They were the last clock shop in the area but they finally gave up and closed. My brother in law who was in the business moved away but he still repairs clocks as a side job after he comes home from his day job. Kind of parallels what is happening to gun shops and gunsmiths.
     
  14. royal barnes

    royal barnes Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2011
    Messages:
    369
    Location:
    Wendell, N.C.
    My best friend is a "jack of all trades" gunsmith for the last 40 years. Custom 1911 builds to making an extractor for Mr. Smith's father's favorite .22 rifle. He has had a couple of apprentices over the years and paid them a percentage of the work they completed. Both left after 6 months . One because he wasn't making enough money and the other because he didn't like getting his hands greasy. One of the reasons most gunsmiths don't do work on a lot of today's firearms is not a lack of knowledge it's because the manufacturers will not send parts to local smiths. There are certainly fewer gunsmiths today than 30 years ago. My friend is the only one in about 25 miles and stays busier than he wants to be. He'd rather be fishing but the gunsmithing pays for the bait, the gear and the boat. ;)
     
  15. oneounceload

    oneounceload member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2008
    Messages:
    15,710
    Location:
    Hot and Humid FL
    There is just as much, if not MORE, BAD information on You Tube as there is stuff that has merit. The issue then becomes knowing which guy is the idiot, and which one knows what he is doing
     
  16. Zeke/PA

    Zeke/PA Member

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2005
    Messages:
    2,306
    Location:
    Southeastern Pa.
    I am a class of "61 Graduate of TSJC and I was fortunate enough that I was able to parlay that gleaned knowledge into a Toolmakers Apprecenticeship here in PA resulting in a very rewarding career in the Tool & Die making profession. Years ago with Milsurp actions/barreled actions, being available, the "custom build "thing prevailed.
    The "trade" has taken a different avenue these days and I'm not really sure where it is going. Certainly, to make a living, the" smith" will have to specialize and establish an "on line" clintele. The days of the local Gunshop have gone the way of the Dodo.
     
  17. bainter1212

    bainter1212 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2012
    Messages:
    1,175
    I think you're right. Look at Dean's gun restorations or Shuffs parkerizing. These guys have picked a specialty and made a living at it. They found a niche where people are willing to pay good money for the work.
     
  18. shafter

    shafter Member

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2011
    Messages:
    1,119
    ^^ This
     
  19. Dentite

    Dentite Member

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2009
    Messages:
    786
    The last three pairs of dress shoes I've bought all have leather soles. Sure, you aren't going to get leather soles for $75 but once you reach a certain price threshold, leather soles are very common.

    But you are right, they are less common than they once were.

    Back to gunsmiths I think it goes both ways. Sure, with warranties and more modular firearms people are able to do more themselves or send it back to the manufacturer.

    On the flipside I think in general people do less stuff themselves these days. I know people who have a landscaper, pool guy, house cleaner, etc. The same type of person will also have someone mount their scope, replace parts on a modular rifle, etc.

    Also there seems to be plenty of demand for quality custom pistol work. I waited 6 months for a BHP to have custom work on it by a nationally known 1911/BHP gunsmith.
     
  20. Art Eatman

    Art Eatman Moderator Emeritus

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2002
    Messages:
    46,824
    Location:
    Terlingua, TX; Thomasville,GA
    Heh. My gunsmith friend here in Thomasville, Georgia, stays busy. But, he's a smith, Class 3 license and Type (Class?) 2 manufacturer. Plantation folks, cops, others who want full service restorations.
     
  21. The Lone Haranguer

    The Lone Haranguer Member

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2006
    Messages:
    11,716
    Location:
    Johnson City, TN
    It seems to me that gunsmiths want to spend thousands of dollars of your money - while taking months or years to do it - building custom firearms. This is all well and good, but I want someone to troubleshoot and repair my guns, and this kind of repairman is hard to find. I had not one, but two SIG "armorers" put a trigger bar spring in the wrong hole, thereby binding the spring up on the grip panel, and eventually figured it out myself, being an auto mechanic by trade. For that matter, a good mechanic is hard to find.
     
  22. YZ

    YZ member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2012
    Messages:
    1,066
    Location:
    Midwest
    That gunsmith question makes me reluctant to shoot my Colt Python anymore. Does anyone know a gunsmith who is competent to work on those?
     
  23. LoudMouthSchnook

    LoudMouthSchnook Member

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2013
    Messages:
    9
    Gunsmithing is not a dying art but competent gunsmiths are a dying breed.

    I like the analogy of the leather soles. I've had a pair of western style boots (I will not call them "cowboy boots") for 35 years. I've lost track of how many times I had the resoled and finding a shoemaker to re-do them is getting harder and harder. It's at the point I will only wear them for special occasions now.
     
  24. Deltaboy1984

    Deltaboy1984 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2008
    Messages:
    7,033
    Location:
    Johnson County Texas
    My hometown guy died 4 years ago and no one is there to replace him. Today is send it back to Factory or find a parts replacer.
     
  25. mrcooper

    mrcooper member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2009
    Messages:
    84
    Location:
    N.E. Oregon
    I do not believe gunsmith make enough money figure in the time they spend talking to a customer about their gun and what they think they want done and the time working on the gun then the time spent talking to the customer that comes after his gun, Also I be our muslim government will be putting on some new taxes and license that will put him out of business:cuss:
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice