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.

What Does A Gunsmith Do?

Gunsmiths build and design guns. They also repair guns. When they're designing a gun they may have several meetings with clients to determine their needs and desires, and work on design plans and revise them until the client is satisfied. Some of the repairs they may perform include adding sights, repairing scopes and modifying the weapon to improve accuracy. They need a high school diploma, and usually prepare for their career by completing a gunsmithing program. Gunsmiths need to be licensed, and they should be experienced with handling guns.

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 (2014-2024) -1% to 1% (for all precision instrument and equipment repairers)*
Median Salary (2016) $39,935 (for all gunsmiths)**

Sources: *O*Net, ** 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-issued 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) 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.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Engineering technologists assist engineers or scientists with the design and development of tools or products. They usually need a degree or related postsecondary training. Design engineers need a degree in civil, mechanical or electrical engineering, and they work on schematics for machines, equipment or systems. CNC machinists do not necessarily need postsecondary training. They use specialized equipment to make pieces from metal. Engineering technologists and design engineers have similarities to gunsmiths because they are involved in designing new items that may be tailored to a client's needs. Gunsmiths may work to develop metal pieces that are incorporated in their gun designs or repairs, which is how their work is similar to the work CNC machinists do.

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