Gunsmith: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Educational Requirements

Explore the career requirements for becoming a gunsmith. Get the facts about a gunsmith's duties, job outlook and required eduction to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Gunsmithing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Gunsmith?

Gunsmiths not only have the knowledge to make firearms from scratch - they can customize existing weapons and repair a variety of weaponry. Positions for gunsmiths are usually found in both full- and part-time capacities, depending on the level of knowledge and experience that a potential candidate embodies. Gunsmiths must not only be good at working with metal, but they must be excellent designers and have an ability to work closely with clients to achieve the finished product they have ordered. Gunsmiths must also be able to identify potential safety hazards in guns that they work with.

The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Education Required High school diploma at minimum; formal gunsmith training programs available; gunsmithing programs at community colleges available
Other Recommendations Experience in metal and wood working
Key Responsibilities Designing, repairing, assembling, or modifying weapons; mounting scopes and sighting in weapons
Licensure Firearm dealer's license from the ATF required
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024) -5% for all metal and plastic workers*
Median Salary (2016) $39,935 for gunsmiths**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

What Will I Do as a Gunsmith?

As a gunsmith, you will typically design, clean, repair and analyze malfunctions in firearms. When designing a weapon, you might start from scratch or modify an existing firearm for client-specified customization. More specifically, you may be responsible for accurizing (improving gun accuracy) a gun, restoring old or dilapidated firearms to working conditions, mounting scopes, bluing (providing rust protection), installing gun sights and creating custom load mechanisms for user-specified ammunition.

What Educational Requirements Do I Need?

You generally only need a high school diploma or the equivalent to work as a gunsmith. While a diploma may be your only requirement to enter into a formal gunsmith program, the ability to work with metals, wood and understand blueprints can be helpful. Pre-professional high school classes such as woodshop will help you achieve these skills. Additionally, basic math, reading and technological skills are of great value to an aspiring gunsmith.

An actual gunsmith program typically requires you to learn how to use the various machinery and tools required for building and repairing firearms. Courses should cover topics such as gunsmith safety, basic stock making, machine tool theory, precision measurements, welding and machine print reading.

Since you will deal with firearms and their sale, you are classified as a firearm dealer and need a license from the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives). The licensure requirements typically involve keeping a record of sales and completing various background checks to affirm your status in lawfully using firearms.

What Can I Expect the Career Outlook to Be?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not currently measure career statistics specifically for gunsmiths. However, the BLS does note that metal and plastic workers as a group may expect a decline in job opportunities of 5% over the 2014-2024 decade. These statistics may not reflect the situation relevant to gunsmiths individually, though. According to, gunsmiths were paid a median salary of $39,935 in 2016.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you like working with your hands to create unique fixtures for clients, other career choices that might interest you include custom furniture maker or cabinet builder. For either occupation, you'll need hands-on training through an apprenticeship or experience working with someone in these fields. Furniture and cabinet makers work closely with clients to create customized installations, so you'll work primarily in shops before installing your work in businesses and private homes.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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