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Newbie getting into firearm industry

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by PaleRider27, Jul 4, 2020.

  1. CapnMac

    CapnMac Member

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    Don't get yourself locked into getting a degree if you want to learn to machine things yourself.
    Even in a serious ME degree plan, you'd probably only get 3-6 hours (out of 120-130 total) of hands-on machining experience, really just enough to to know you don't know enough.
    Now, if you want to be neck-deep in design, the college route is likely to help. Just note that you are looking at 4-5 years of college, then at least year as an EIT before you can take a State test to become a Professional Engineer (and you will want to have 3-5 years office experience and a PE to compute for most advertised Engineering positions.

    Becoming a machinist will want time in a trade school to get the time needed to be able to set up any of several machine tools.

    Historically, more "gun people" followed the Tool & Die/Pattern Maker career path, which requires a very deep knowledge of machine tools, and of the design documents needed for those, and an on-the-job knowledge of industrial process engineering, too. (Ask Colt what happens if you design a fancy one-off pistol and fail to make any consideration for the needs of bulk industrial manufacture--the Colt 2000 just could not be mass-produced.)

    Body armor and ballistic protection is very niche, you want a huge background in materials science (which is ME in some universities and CE in others). It's a long slog to get enough experience to be a decider rather than a documenter. Easily a decade before you can really break in.

    Sadly "the gun industry" uses a lot of off-the-shelf skills in a tiny fraction of the skills market. For every job in the firearms industry there's probably 20, 30, 40 is some other industry.

    Want to have a million bucks running a gun store Start with two million.

    Does not mean it can't be done--only that "Lyf is short, and the Crafte sae lang to learn."
     
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  2. reddog81

    reddog81 Member

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    Going the military route probably isn’t a bad idea. I have friend who was some type of weapons specialist in the Army and visited various bases in Afghanistan working on all types of hardware. Now he works for the Dept of Defense going around to various National Guard bases gauging and replacing parts on their arms.

    Going that route let’s you get experience with stuff normal civilians can only dream about. Of course he paid his dues and got in plenty of fire fights hoping from base to base in Afghanistan.

    Working for one of the big name manufacturers probably isn’t likely unless you live in one of the few cities were they have manufacturing plants. However just about every medium sized city or larger has a gun shop that needs a gunsmith.
     
  3. Bill Raby

    Bill Raby Member

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    Learn how to run machinist equipment if you want to get into the gun business and not be broke.
     
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  4. Offhand McFlan

    Offhand McFlan Member

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    Being a ballistics expert in a police lab would be an awesome job and I dont see why it would it would have to ruin one's hobby. I would think one hand would wash the other quite nicely...and vice versa.
     
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  5. Poper

    Poper Member

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    Absolutely. I have been using firearms since I was big enough to hold both ends of a .22 rifle off the ground. I am now 65. I discover everyday just how little I really know about guns, reloading, ammunition and the people that use firearms. Many of the folks here on THR have forgotten more than I know.

    Welcome to THR, PaleRider27!
    You have joined the finest bunch of shooting sports and industry enthusiasts on the internet.
     
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  6. Mike OTDP

    Mike OTDP Member

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    There are several paths you can follow.

    The retail sales path is a paycheck, but it's not a big one. On the other hand, it doesn't require a lot of preparation or high-end skills.

    Engineering is excellent, if you have the intellectual horsepower to survive a good engineering college. That's a great, big IF. My B.S. is in Aerospace & Ocean Engineering, I speak from first-hand experience here. The math starts with Calculus, and you'll spend three years studying it. Chemistry. Physics (the sort with math). While everybody else is partying, you'll be doing homework. On the other hand, the battle cry of the Engineers come graduation is, "We've Got Jobs!" Good-paying ones, too.

    Gunsmithing can be good, but I concur with the people recommending a solid background as a machinist. There are a lot of parts-swappers out there, damned few people who can do more than that. Be one of the few, and you can make a decent living.

    Training? The market is awash with people offering "training". What do you have that stands out? What can you teach that the other dozen instructors in the local area can't? If you don't have an answer, don't get into the business until you DO have an answer.
     
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  7. Archer

    Archer Member

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    Take careful heed of this. Working in any [XX hobby] industry is a great way to kill your passion for actually participating in said hobby.

    If you are willing to take that risk, start by better defining exactly what you want to do.

    And if you're looking for firearms trainers in UT, you cannot do better than Larry Mudgett. Google "Marksmanship Matters".
     
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  8. Ernie Bass

    Ernie Bass member

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    It don't pay enough---- to be a cop these days. And what a shame that is.
     
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  9. Pat Riot
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    Pat Riot Contributing Member

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    :rofl: Okay. I get it. Sorry. :)
     
  10. entropy

    entropy Member

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    I believe Gunny is our resident expert on that.........
     
  11. FFGColorado

    FFGColorado Member

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  12. Offhand McFlan

    Offhand McFlan Member

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    There's a gunsmithing school about 18mi from me. A good one at that. The certification and 2yr course is $22,000 and maybe more. But I think may actually look into that within the next 10yrs as I get ready to retire from meat cutting. My parents have informed me that I will eventually inherit their estate so I may actually be able to finance that eventually and then have something I can do later part time when I start collecting a pension. I figure it could pay for itself after a couple years at it.
     
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  13. 1942bull
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    1942bull Contributing Member

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    I think the first thing you must do is narrow your choices. The firearms industry is huge and diverse. You can be in ammunition, guns, gunsmith work, firearms training, and sales of guns, ammo, and accessories. You need to focus on what you want to do in more specific terms. Then you learn about that aspect of the industry. Regardless of your choice you will need to have a good understanding of the basics of firearms. You will not get that in a classroom or on YouTube or in forums like this one. There is helpful information on forums and YouTube, and there is also bad information on them. The best way to learn from scratch is by reading. There are numerous books to choose from. There are numerous writings in the Internet to choose from. The more you understand the different aspects of the industry. That will make a career direction and choice easier. As for me, if I were to be wanting a job in firearms, I would,learn to be a gunsmith. Repairing and modifying guns is a skill set that that there will always .be a demand for. Today you might be smith in.g firearms. Tomorrow you might be working on laser firing pistols and rifles. Good luck in your quest.
     
  14. labnoti

    labnoti Member

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    I'm going to focus on training since the OP mentioned it. I'm going to make my suggestions practical because there are a variety of ways to acquire the expertise that's needed, but these are some things you can do that will not involve extraneous commitments like obligations to military or law enforcement. It will cost money, a lot of money, but less than a lot of technical schools or university.

    Start with local firearms training. There should be several people offering NRA-based introductory courses in your area. You can learn something from any course (even how not to do it), but you'll want NRA certification because it's often stipulated for state-acceptance as a CCW or hunter safety instructor for example. After you've taken a few courses as a student, pursue NRA certifications as an instructor. The bar is pretty low and this doesn't make you a good instructor, but it is an entry-level certification.

    Check with your local 4H about instructor training. Do the background check and start volunteering to teach kids in shooting sports. Get the instructor certification for 4H.

    Enroll in an Appleseed class. Pay attention to how it is taught and take notes. Think about how you would teach it.

    Register for classes at Gunsite and Thunder Ranch. In Utah, you're within driving distance of either. Also consider classes at Rogers. Schools like these are where a lot of your "tuition" would go if you're willing. Their fees are not high for $/hour of instruction, and the quality is widely recognized as top-notch, so they are not the "luxury" that some people dismiss them as, but to attend them they add both travel expenses and extended time off work (if you're already employed or running a business) -- because they're farther away and they run 3 to 5 day long classes which means you can't do it on your weekends.

    After you get through the introductory courses at the big-name academies, start taking their instructor-development classes.

    Are there other good schools? I'm sure. I don't know them all. Guns are popular in Utah and I'm sure there are good instructors there. Learn from wherever you can.

    At some point you will have the confidence to offer to work for the instructor(s) or school. You're NRA-certified. You've already taught in 4H. Your firearms training resume is filled out. Not everybody is hiring and right now a lot of people are looking for work. Volunteer for "internships" if it makes sense. If you need work in the mean time, you could try to get work as an RSO or behind a retail counter. That will keep you on the scene at least.

    Get to know the work of influential firearms instructors. Get to know them in person if you can.

    Jeff Cooper (while he is deceased, you should be familiar with him)
    Clint Smith
    Massad Ayoob
    Claude Werner
    Greg Ellifritz
    Scotty Reitz
    Tom Givens
    Grant Cunningham
    John Farnham
    Rob Pincus

    My list is far from complete, maybe others can fill in some more. These guys are not necessarily "the best," but they do have popularity and "celebrity" influence that makes them familiar to almost everyone "in the industry." Some people might not even like one or two of the people in my list. It doesn't matter. If you ask anyone "in the industry" and they don't know these people, they've been under a rock. As an instructor, you'll be guaranteed to encounter students who have learned techniques or formed opinions because of the work of these people. You don't want to be ignorant of them.

    If you get a good education and show some talent, you'll probably get a break some where. It's rare to make a career of it on its own. The only people for whom it is their primary source of income and who are making a lot of money are the ones who sourced enough capital to start and run their own schools (including facilities) and hire other instructors and run many hundreds of students a month.
     
  15. Telekinesis

    Telekinesis Member

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    I’m not very familiar with training schools out west, but Thunder Ranch is definitely a good choice if you can make it to a class. Clint Smith is a very well respected trainer. He also recently released another book on using rifles in urban fighting and it might be worth picking up.

    If you’re looking at designing firearms and then owning your own business, an engineering undergrad and a MBA would be a good combination (it is the “classic” combination after all). Firearms should be in mechanical engineering, but some of the other areas (body armor, gauss rifles) would probably involve chemical or maybe even electrical engineering. Firearms design is still a very small field and it’s unlikely that your classes would actually address firearms or that it would be easy to find a firearms related job right after graduation, but it would give you the tools to be able to eventually find a job designing firearms.

    The military does have a lot of advantages and it’s not a bad choice, but outside of a few specific jobs, you’re not going to be shooting a lot. Even in the infantry, there are a lot of other (arguably more important) things that they do and practice above just shooting (like tactics, land nav, etc). The AMU is about the only group that actually gets to just go out and shoot as much as they want (and even they have other duties).
     
  16. kBob

    kBob Member

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    Be Ian. He has "Forgotten" more about "Weapons" than most folks.

    -kBob
     
  17. kBob

    kBob Member

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    If you want to go into the service let me encourage you not to seek a position as a unit Armorer where you will learn to replace a few broken parts on maybe five firearms. If you actually do any gunsmithing at unit level you might well be up on charges under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Ask me how I know. Old CO "good and anything that enhances mission", new CO "Oh my Gohd! He is working beyond the Dash 20 level, AGAINST REGULATIONS!!!!!"

    If you go into the Army and can get branched Ordinance, and somehow avoid being an auto mechanic of some sort, you might learn more than a supply weenie assigned as unit armorer, but still only on the current issue weapons.

    The only folks in the military that get to shoot a lot are folks likely to get shot at a lot.. and they don't get to shoot as much as many hobbists on this board.

    The ballistics guy in most Law Enforcement Agencies is an additional duty and usually someone that sends stuff out to larger agencies....and when he is not doing that, he is doing other work "as necessary". Gunny seems lucky and happy in his department, but do not count on it. Also if you are not already a well informed and experienced gun geek, why would a department hire you for that position?

    Go to school.

    There are trade schools and what used to be called "Junior College" opertunities all over the country. Many offer classes in engineering drawing though now they tend to concentrate on Computer assisted Drawing by whatever title. Many offer actual machine classes in how to operated machines that make from the simplest to 3D printing. An AA can help someone that could not get into a Four year school to begin with get into a BS in Engineering or materials or Computer Science at a "real" university.

    Decide to do the Colorado School of Mines AA degree or a set of their courses in Gunsmithing.....it ain't cheap.

    Dare I say it? There are a bunch of "learn at home" courses for working on various firearms. Choose a gun that you are interested in and buy one , find and order the course for trouble shooting it, buy the necessary tools, do the course three or four times using your gun and tools to take all apart and put back together....sell the gun and buy another, put your "school materials in your personal library and start on something else. Put all the materials in an organized and cataloged personal libreary. Wow, expensive you say! Yep. What is your point?

    Some of us were lucky enough to be old when actual Gunsmiths were not so thin on the ground and were able to buy lots of sodas and crackers at a local gunshop and offer to sweep floors and windex the glass cases and wipe down the display guns and eventually help doing customer gun cleanings and minor parts replacement and fitting.... but I think you are about 40 years late for that. Still you might give it a try.

    Read a lot. Remember what you read. Take every opportunity to learn about a new or different system.

    Scared you off yet?

    -kBob
     
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  18. Robert

    Robert Administrator Staff Member

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    There is an excellent gun smithing school in Trinidad CO.
     
  19. Old Dog

    Old Dog Member

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    Well, I got lucky; because of my military background, and then getting on a tactical team early in my second career (lotsa shooting and opportunities for additional training), I got selected as a field and academy firearms and deadly force instructor, which then meant I shot less, but also got me in a position where I occasionally met manufacturer's reps, got to T&E new guns, equipment and accessories and even got to tag along to SHOT a couple times.

    Had I wanted to network more and had the desire to get into the industry in the private sector, I'm pretty sure I could've. So what I'm trying to say, OP (if you're still with us), if you still have any ambitions to "get into the industry," it can take years of doing what's necessary to qualify for some of the cooler or higher-paying jobs.

    Don't get into retail firearms, it's a dead end.

    I'd say, if you're still young, complete an enlistment, go to school while on active duty, get an MBA with the G.I. Bill ... then apply to SIG-Sauer or Springfield Armory or whoever.

    And for gosh sakes, don't try and get into the crowded gun-writer field ... if you want to make real money.
     
  20. kBob

    kBob Member

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    "And for gosh sakes, don't try and get into the crowded gun-writer field ... if you want to make real money. "

    Amen and Amen.

    -kBob
     
  21. Meeks36

    Meeks36 Member

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    Learn to run a lathe and CNC machine. Can use both to make a decent living and work on parts for firearms/silencer's.
     
  22. CWL

    CWL Member

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    I agree with the ones who recommended the military route, although rather than Army, I suggest Navy or Air Force.
    These two branches need more technicians and specialists so recruit heavily. Talk to your recruiter and get directed towards missile programs. You'll get to prep and service the "big stuff" and get to know the civilian contractors/program managers who would be the first step in introducing you to jobs in the defense industry after your term(s) of service is up. Having a career in missiles & space would provide you with a challenging and enjoyable career that pays real well compared to any job in small arms. I
    Firearms are fun, but it isn't a growing industry either retail or manufacturing.
     
  23. Phillip Farney

    Phillip Farney Member

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    You will not do a lot of shooting in the military. They just don't train like that anymore. You might shoot a handful of times over a four year enlistment. I live in a USMC town and see Marines at the range all of the time who clearly have little to no knowledge of shooting. Most are very young and will tell you they don't do it in training.
     
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