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."