How to Become a Gunsmith in 5 Steps
Explore the career requirements for gunsmiths. Get the facts about training requirements, salary and career outlook and job duties to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Gunsmithing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.
Career Information At a Glance
Get the facts about what a gunsmith does and how to obtain the training needed to work in this role. While specific career data on gunsmiths isn't available, this field is listed among 'precision, production, craft and repair occupations- mechanics and repairers', according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The career details are highlighted in the table below.
|Training Required||Apprenticeship or postsecondary courses, diploma or associate's degree|
|Education Field of Study||Gunsmithing|
|Key Responsibilities||Inspect, repair and clean weapons; provide training on firearm use; maintain inventory of weapons and accessories|
|Licensure||Federal firearms license is required to build or sell firearms|
|Job Growth (2012-2022)||3%-7% (for all precision instrument and equipment repairers)*|
|Median Hourly Salary (2014)||$15 (for all gunsmiths)**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ** PayScale.com
What Is a Gunsmith?
Gunsmiths are engaged in a variety of activities related to firearms, including fabricating, assembling, disassembling, cleaning, troubleshooting, engraving, customizing, selling and repairing. In this career, you can choose to specialize in one or a few of these areas. You may pick up skills informally before pursuing a professional career, but you may also complete an associate's degree program in gunsmithing before entering the workforce.
Step One: Take Courses to Learn Gunsmithing Skills
You may want to acquire skills in general machining and using hand tools such as grinding, polishing, sanding, chiseling and filing before entering an apprenticeship or a formal training program. You may also consider taking courses in machine tool processes, ballistics, metallurgy, report writing, drafting, algebra and woodworking. You may find these courses in high school or through attending a technical school.
Step Two: Gain Experience
You may work with a gunsmith as a helper or assistant. Even part-time work will help you gain useful skills. Alternatively, you may find a gunsmith who will let you observe his or her work. You may pick up on the basic skills, such as being detail-oriented, having patience and having steady hands, which gunsmiths need.
Step Three: Complete Formal Training or an Apprenticeship
Many aspiring gunsmiths enroll in formal training programs offered by community colleges or trade schools. These formal programs typically lead to a diploma or an associate's degree in gunsmithing. The NRA (National Rifle Association) offers short-term, non-credit courses for individuals interested in becoming gunsmiths. Gunsmithing is a registered apprenticeship in the United States and programs are usually offered through each state's apprenticeship program.
Step Four: Check Licensure Requirements
Depending on what activities you plan to engage in as a gunsmith, you may need to hold a government-issues license. According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), gunsmiths who either sell or build firearms must obtain a federal firearms license (FFL) license as dealers or manufacturers, respectively (www.atf.gov). In addition, cities, townships and counties may have specific laws regarding licensing requirements.
Step Five: Apply for Jobs
After you have received the necessary training and licensure, you will be ready to get a job as a licensed gunsmith. Licensed gunsmiths find work at gun shops, armories or firearms distributors and manufacturers.
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