Quantcast

Wanting to become a Gunsmith

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by DoubleTapDeadeye, Sep 20, 2011.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. DoubleTapDeadeye

    DoubleTapDeadeye Member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2011
    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    Okay, guys, I'm sure this thread has been done before but I wanted to get the opinions, thoughts and advice from people who have been there, done that. I'm 25, I've been shooting firearms since I was 6 and I am a self-proclaimed gun enthusiast. However, I've been wanting to step up my game lately and instead of just talking about and shooting guns, I've actually been wanting to work on them and even build them for a living.

    So obvious question first: How does one go about becoming a gunsmith?
    Second question: Is there a school that teaches you the finer points of gunsmithing?
    And Finally: Which school is considered the best i.e. has the best all-around curriculum?

    I'm very serious about this and have even been considering opening my own shop if I'm able to actually get all the tools and training that I need.
     
  2. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Member

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2002
    Messages:
    6,300
    The WRONG way: Sign up for an internet or mail order course.
    About all the internet courses are good for is taking your money.
    Mail order is only marginally better and I'd argue the "marginally".
    These will get you started on doing hobby work on your OWN guns, but not for other peoples guns.

    Consider: You own a expensive car that you HAVE to depend on and you drive at high speeds. Would you like your mechanic to be some guy who learned car repair on a computer or by mail?
    Apply for a job with a "degree" from one of these schools, and your resume gets pitched in the trash as soon as you're out the door.

    There are several ways to become a true professional.

    1. Apprentice with a gunsmith.
    Problem: Is he a truly competent gunsmith who also is a good teacher, or is he a hammer mechanic that will teach you to be a gun butcher?
    In many cases you have no way of knowing for sure.

    Second problem, if you intend to get a job, the teacher has to be a well known gunsmith who has a history of turning out competent students, and is known for this in the industry.
    A resume listing Joe the Gunsmith who no one ever heard of will not get you a job.
    Last problem, FINDING a good gunsmith who'll take an apprentice and can spend the time to teach you sometime this century.

    2. Attend a good gunsmithing school.
    Top schools like Colorado School of Trades or Trinidad Junior College are internationally known for the quality of their graduates.
    They have a reputation for turning out hard corp professionals.
    A degree from either will get you an interview.
    A business looking to hire a gunsmith will hire graduates from these schools.
    There are other good schools also.

    3. Attending a machinist course to learn how to operate lathes and milling machines is a good way to get a leg up in school.
    However, being a good machinist does NOT make you a good gunsmith.
    Most good gunsmiths are good machinists.
    Most good machinist are horrible at gunsmithing.

    4. Opening your own business right out of school is a very fast way to go broke.
    No matter what, you'll starve the first year of two. If you can't survive financially that long you'll go bust.
    Remember, something over 50% of all new businesses go broke, and it doesn't matter what they are or who's running it.

    Always remember if you open your own business that you are NOT a gunsmith. You're a BUSINESSMAN who's business happens to be gunsmithing.
    Most of your time will be spent doing businessman functions like talking to customers, ordering parts, filling out forms for the government, running your books, etc.
    Somewhere in there you get to work on guns.

    Don't plan on making a lot of money.
    The average self employed gunsmith is working for about minimum wage at best, considering the number of hours he has to put in doing all those businessman functions and doing gunsmithing.
    The only gunsmith's who make good money are those who work for someone else, or who own big gunsmithing companies like Wilson's.

    There's an old joke: "How's a pizza and a gunsmith alike? Neither can feed a family of four".

    Best advice: If you're serious, attend one of the good gunsmithing schools.
    Take some business courses either at the school or in community college night schools.
    Go to work for someone else for a few years. Learn your craft working on guns for 8 hours a day while HE does all the businessman stuff.
    Buy equipment as you can, and build up contacts for a potential customer base.
    Investigate WHERE is a good location to open a new business and learn what type of work that area is most in need of.

    Even then, remember, that you stand at least a 50% chance of loosing your shirt.

    Here's as list of gunsmith schools:

    Colorado School of Trades
    1575 Hoyt Street
    Lakewood, CO 80215
    Phone: 800-234-4594

    Lassen Community College
    P.O. Box 3000
    Susanville, CA 96130
    Phone: 530-257-4211

    Modern Gun School
    80 North Main Street, P.O. Box 846
    St. Albans, VT 05478
    Phone: 800-493-4114

    Montgomery Community College
    1011 Page Street
    P.O. Box 787
    Troy, NC 27371
    Phone: 800-839-6222

    Murray State College
    One Murray Campus
    Tishomingo, OK 73460
    Phone: 580-371-2371

    Pennsylvania Gunsmith School
    812 Ohio River Blvd.
    Avalon
    Pittsburgh, PA 15202
    Phone: 412-766-1812

    Piedmont Community College
    1715 College Drive
    P.O. Box 1197
    Roxboro, NC 27573
    Phone: 336-599-1181

    Pine Technical Institute
    900 4th Street
    Pine City, MN 55063
    Phone: 800-521-7463

    Trinidad State Jr. College
    600 Prospect
    Trinidad, CO 81082
    Phone: 800-621-8752

    Yavapai College
    1100 East Sheldon Street
    Prescott, AZ 86301
    Phone: 520-776-2150
     
  3. rcmodel

    rcmodel Member in memoriam

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2007
    Messages:
    59,076
    Location:
    Eastern KS
    What he said!

    You can be a successful gunsmith longer if you start out with a lot of money.

    Because it takes longer before you run out of money.

    rc
     
  4. Jim K

    Jim K Member.

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2002
    Messages:
    17,848
    I liked the version that says, "The best way for a gunsmith to make a little money is to start out with a lot of money."

    Seriously, this subject has been covered on this site at least a dozen times, and every time folks like dfariswheel take their time to respond. And the OP is never heard from again, or worse, says the responses are silly and all he needs is a screwdriver, a file and an FFL because he knows everything.

    If you really want to be a gunsmith, and not a gun tinkerer, or worse a gun butcher, read and heed good advice. If you plan to set up a business without any training, please let us know where you will be so we can avoid you.

    Jim
     
  5. dprice3844444

    dprice3844444 member

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    Messages:
    4,263
    Location:
    se fla i love claymores 01/sot
    get your gunsmith education,then get a degree in business management
     
  6. oneounceload

    oneounceload member

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2008
    Messages:
    15,710
    Location:
    Hot and Humid FL
    Disagree - get the business degree FIRST, then decide on whether pursuing guns is a wise decision
     
  7. dirtyjim

    dirtyjim Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2007
    Messages:
    1,152
    Location:
    alvin texas
    trinidad is considered to be one of the best gunsmith schools.
    a few other have also said to get a business degree & thats also good advice. at the minimum i would take a small business management course at the community college.
    you'll also need to communicate with your customers as well as the tire kickers.
    there are a lot of good smiths who for some reason will not answer their phone or return emails for weeks at a time.
    learn how to run a mill & a lathe. a part time job at a machine shop or a machine shop/metal working class at the community college if the offer it.

    i'd also say to try and specialize in a certain type of gunsmithing be it high end sporting rifles, pistols, or shotguns instead of trying to be a general gunsmith. you might start out as a general smith but would try to specialize as soon as possible.
     
  8. USMC8541

    USMC8541 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2010
    Messages:
    162
    If a Gunsmith could land a full time gig at Colt or one of the other Gun companys so he could eat while he gains experiance that would be good. You're 25 why Don't you go in the Navy and start with the Machinist welder course. that will give you a foundation. Lots of good smiths have full time jobs to pay the mortgage and get decent health care.
     
  9. DoubleTapDeadeye

    DoubleTapDeadeye Member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2011
    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    Wow. A lot of really good advice and information on here. Half of this stuff I didn't even know before posting. Thanks a lot guys. You've all been very helpful.
     
  10. ball3006

    ball3006 Member

    Joined:
    Dec 26, 2002
    Messages:
    2,874
    Location:
    Texas
    I am Trinidad class of 1964. Alot has changed in the gunsmith area but I am sure they are up on the latest info and training......They also offer a business assoc degree to get started in that area too.....chris3
     
  11. bgr2014

    bgr2014 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Messages:
    89
    Location:
    Texas City, Tx.
    Begining Gunsmiths

    I had a young man call me today wanting to work with me and learn the trade, he just finished a gunsmithing school and is looking for someone to teach him what else he needs to know. I wish he had contacted me 3 or 4 years ago. I'm getting old and trying to retire but would like to help him out since a lot of the older good gunsmiths have gone to the happy hunting grounds. He said he would come and talk with me tomorrow, and I hope he does. I had another one about 2yrs ago came by one time and is changing tires at a tire store now. He had been to a smithing school, but didn't seem to understand what he went there for. Someone has to give the young people a chance to learn more than what they teach at the schools. I worked with several gunsmiths and butchers since the early 1960's and learned something from each. some good and some bad, but that is called experiance. I served a 4yr. machinist apprentice ship and worked with local smiths when I could, but there don't seem to be anymore of those guys left around that are willing to help.
     
  12. Jim K

    Jim K Member.

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2002
    Messages:
    17,848
    OK, I will do this again.

    1. Get training, a school or apprenticeship. Would you want to have heart surgery done by a guy who took a TV course? Take advantage of any local courses in machine shop; community colleges often offer such courses at low rates and they can be very helpful.

    2. Learn how to run a business. Too many gunsmiths consider it a hobby; they BS with the customers all day, get no work done, and eventually have plenty of time to BS but no customers. Hire some kid to do the BS while you do the work.

    3. Hire a lawyer and make sure you comply with all the laws and rules, everything from zoning laws, to OSHA, to ATF, etc., etc. Make sure you get all the state and local business licenses; just an FFL is NOT enough.

    4. Carry enough insurance to cover you if a gun goes off in your shop and kills someone, even if you aren't at fault. Also to cover you if the place burns down with somebody's $120,000 hand-built Purdey in the rack.

    5. Buy good equipment. If you start off with cheap Chinese junk, the work won't be done well and your reputation will suffer.

    6. You probably won't be able to do everything at the beginning, but don't farm out too much. If you are continually shipping guns somewhere else, the customers will catch on and send their guns directly to the "real" gunsmith - they won't pay you to do what they can do themselves.

    7. Don't work out of your home. You don't want some nut whose gun broke last year pounding on your door at 3 AM on opening day demanding you fix it. Also, you don't want the local drug gang coming to your house at night looking for guns.

    8. Don't underestimate, time or price. If you think a job will take a week, say a week or ten days, not three days. And don't underprice. Better to tell the customer the job will cost $50 and charge $25 than to tell him $50 and charge $100.

    9. If you didn't notice, all of the above costs money. You will need to have or be able to borrow capital. And you need to be able to afford to lose it if things go wrong. Starting a gunsmith shop is not cheap; a set of reamers costs $100. You can decide if you want to be a dealer as well as a gunsmith, but keep the businesses separate; don't count on gun sales to support the shop or vice versa. Remember that BS business, though; being a dealer adds to it and makes it even more imperative to have good help.

    Jim
     
  13. TheHighRoadDude

    TheHighRoadDude Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2010
    Messages:
    121
    Location:
    Way out west
    So you want a Job working on guns??

    Ever consider the military? I'm no recruiter, But you can work on guns and serve your country... Its not for everyone, but its another option. The MOS is 91F (Small arms and Artillery Repairer). Plus no debt when your done, You would be a veteran, something to hang your hat on.

    Take a look here: It might interest you.
    http://www.goarmy.com/reserve/jobs/browse/mechanics/small-arms-artillery-repairer.html
     
  14. bgr2014

    bgr2014 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2011
    Messages:
    89
    Location:
    Texas City, Tx.
    Begening Gunsmith

    Like you have been told, get the schooling done first. I got lucky having older gunsmiths that would help me with what ever I needed, and being a machinist it was easier to learn the smithing, I also got lucky and married an accountant and she kept me straight on the business end. Good Luck
     
  15. DoubleTapDeadeye

    DoubleTapDeadeye Member

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2011
    Messages:
    5
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    Yeah, I already served my time (USMC, Infantry) and while I enjoyed it, I'm more than happy to move on. Thanks again guys for all your help and advice. I feel like I'm more prepared now than I was a week ago.
     
  16. poidog

    poidog Member

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2009
    Messages:
    4
    You sound like a good guy bgr2014. Wish more people would be willing to share the knowledge.
     
  17. blackDdefense

    blackDdefense Member

    Joined:
    May 10, 2011
    Messages:
    205
    Location:
    IL
    I just started a small shop after about 1.5-2 years of research on laws, regs, and standard business stuff. The ONLY thing that I am NOT doing is some of the higher end machining. I am not a professional machinist and the shop I am using is 15 miles away so no shipping of customers guns. Also, they will not work with single customers. They want a credit line and your LLC papers in order to do work for you. I was an armorer for the Army for six years and learned their weapons but it takes alot more research and knowledge to learn other types of firearms. I have been what they call a "tinkerer" for many years before I got older and wiser and starting taking advise from my elders. Sometimes cocky will ruin your rep quicker than anything. My advise to you is start learning through an elder or trade school and see if you will really enjoy doing this full time. Sometimes the idea and the anticipation is actually better than the act itself. The hardest thing for me is to seperate my love for firearms with trying to run a business. YOU DON'T NEED EVERY GUN THAT WALKS IN THE DOOR.
     
  18. olyeller

    olyeller Member

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2006
    Messages:
    206
    step one; start shooting, be competitive. Learn how to work on the guns you love to shoot.
     
  19. JG727

    JG727 Member

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2011
    Messages:
    94
    Location:
    Tampa Bay Area, Florida
    As a 1st year student at Montgomery Community college I can say that I am truly enjoying the program there.

    The teachers are excellent, the work enjoyable. I learn something new everyday and wake up excited to go to school every morning.

    There is a waiting list, so apply now.

    It can be expensive. Tuition is reasonable, but materials and tools can add up fast. No matter where you go. Either have savings, get a student loan, use the GI Bill, get scholarships, or work a lot.

    Getting a job isn't a lonely task. The instructors work with you and you go to SHOT show every year to network.
     
  20. gunpartsearch

    gunpartsearch Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2010
    Messages:
    17
    Start setting up at gun shows.

    Once you have your FFL start setting up at gun shows and tell People what you can do, if your Good the word will get around and you will have all the work you want,Good luck.
     
  21. Jenrick

    Jenrick Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2005
    Messages:
    2,034
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    Realize that you will do thousands of boring repetative tasks, that a trained monkey could do, for every custom 1911 you build. People will take their firearms to you to do them, so they don't have to mess with it. To be honest you'd be extremely successful if you did nothing but recrown barrels, drill tap and mount scope mounts, and bore sight rifles. Oh and install sights on pistols. Those are the "average" type of jobs that pay the rent, and actually make you money (ie you've already paid for the tooling and you're not spending a lot of time on labor).

    As has been said study business/finance if you are ever going to work for yourself. It also makes you much more marketable. If you walk into a gunsmiths shop with basic shop knowledge, you're joining a hundred other people who want to work there. If you walk in capable of doing their books, doing the taxes, etc. you are suddenly a very hot commodity.

    Good luck,

    -Jenrick
     
  22. Jim K

    Jim K Member.

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2002
    Messages:
    17,848
    I will suggest that you decide what types of jobs you will turn down. You will be tempted to try anything just to build your reputation and show what you can do, but some work, like repairing old junk revolvers (solid frame and breaktop) is so time-consuming and frustrating that it is best to simply turn away all such work. For example, you can easily spend hours making or fitting a spring for an obsolete clunker that is not worth $20, then, when you present the bill, have the customer tell you to put the gun in a dark place. Repairing old shotguns, especially Damascus barreled ones, can also be bad news. Often, the old folks deliberately disabled those guns because they were dangerous, but if you fix the gun so it fires and the customer loses his fingers or worse, he or his family will sue you. No matter that you warned him, you will be sued.

    Jim
     
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