How to Become a Gunsmith

So you are wondering how to become a gunsmith.

A gunsmith is someone who is in the business of fabricating, maintaining, repairing, assembling/disassembling, cleaning, engraving, customizing and selling firearms. As a gunsmith, you may specialize in just one or two of these areas.

Skills Required to Become a Gunsmith

Although the education requirements vary, a qualified gunsmith should be skilled in machine tool processes, ballistics, metallurgy and woodworking, just to name a few. Many gunsmiths have a background in metal working, although simply being a machinist does not guarantee your success as a gunsmith.

Steps on How to Become a Gunsmith

If you have your sights set on becoming a gunsmith, you first need to understand the process.  A guide on how to become a gunsmith is highlighted below:

  • The first place to start when working towards being a gunsmith is a formal education through an accredited gunsmith school. Many community colleges and trade school offer associate’s programs. In addition, the National Rifle Association offers gunsmith courses.

  • Along with a formal education, a career in gunsmithing is not complete without an extensive apprenticeship. As any gunsmith will tell you, there is absolutely no substitute for hands-on, on-the-job training. Working alongside a seasoned gunsmith is a must when gaining the practical experience necessary for a successful career in gunsmithing. Most apprenticeship programs require at least 8,000 hours of on-the-job training.

  • Learning how to use a lathe, a drill press, a reamer, gauges and a milling machine is a must! Take a machine shop course and make sure you are comfortable working with these hand tools
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  • Educate yourself on the federal, state and local laws surrounding becoming a gunsmith. If you plan to either build or sell firearms, you must have a Federal Firearms License, more commonly referred to as an FFL.

In addition, states, cities, townships and counties often have their own set of rules regarding gunsmithing.  Do your homework and stay abreast of new laws and regulations.

  • Consider working part-time as a gunsmith. In other words, don’t quit your day job – at least not right away! Establishing a customer base and having enough work to pay the bills can be quite difficult for a new gunsmith. In addition, the high start-up costs involved with starting your own business can be downright expensive, especially considering the cost of machine tools.

Instead, many professional gunsmiths often recommend that newcomers to the business keep their gunsmith businesses as second jobs.

  • Consider working for a gun maker, a custom gun maker, the government, or for a police department as an armorer. You can use this opportunity to gain practical business experience, to build up a solid customer base, and to gradually purchase your machine equipment.
  • If you are considering starting your own gunsmith business, remember that it is a business! You should therefore consider taking a business course and becoming educated on local zoning laws, licenses and insurance.

Insurance premiums are often costly and state and local licenses are often hard to get. If you are not comfortable with the business aspects of gunsmithing, such as accounting, bookkeeping and billing, then you may be better off working for someone else. This may enable you to do what you love without having to deal with the business side.

For those who want to learn how to become a gunsmith, many steps are involved.  However, there is no substitute for the satisfaction one receives in doing something he loves!