There are estimated to be at least 200 million firearms in the United States today. At any given time, some might need repairs, maintenance or cleaning. A person who repairs, modifies or builds firearms is called a gunsmith. This is a good professional choice for a person who likes to work with their hands and can creatively resolve mechanical problems.
A gunsmith’s job is to troubleshoot, repair, disassemble and reassemble all types of firearms ranging from handguns, rifles and shotguns. In addition, they can also diagnose and fix accuracy problems.
Many gunsmithing jobs require or strongly prefer candidates with a certificate in gunsmithing. Check out the programs below which offer free information:
Gunsmith Job Responsibilities
The responsibility of a gunsmith is to ensure that the firearms they work on function safely. During inspection, gunsmiths use their in-depth knowledge to determine if there are any unsafe mechanical problems with a firearm. They either repair or adjust a firearm to make sure that it is safe to use/shoot.
The following are just a few of the problems that might be encountered by a gunsmith:
- Firearm is improperly assembled
- Malfunctioning safety mechanism
- Obstructed, dented or bent barrels
- Parts missing
- Location of the chamber and bolt outside of specified tolerances
- Deformed firing-pins
- Some parts are cracked
- Timing is inaccurate
- Sear edges are worn
Since there are a wide variety of firearms, many gunsmiths specialize in certain aspects of the profession. Some specialize only in shotguns, pistols or certain brands and models. Some specialties are listed below:
- Custom designer and/or builder: Builds firearms from scratch using raw materials and custom specifications.
- Finisher: Applies special finishes for color, to prevent corrosion, and more.
- Stockmaker: Carves and finishes stocks from many types of wood and fits the metal parts of the firearm in accordance to the required body dimensions.
- Checker: This skill is frequently combined with that of a stockmaker by using checkering tools to decorate the stock of a firearm.
- Gun engraver: Cuts simple/elegant designs or pictures into various parts of the metal surface of a gun.
- Pistolsmith: Works primarily on pistols and revolvers.
- Manufacturer: Works as a small manufacturer of firearms, usually specializing in only a small selection of firearms.
The following are only a few things that a general gunsmith can accomplish:
- Repair ejecting & firing problems
- Inspect, disassemble, clean, oil and reassemble
- Repair damaged parts
- Repair barrels on dented shotguns or install new ones
- Re-blue metal parts
- Change the caliber of an existing barrel
- Refinish or repair wooden stocks
- Building a custom designed firearm starting with blank steel, wood, and gunsmith tools.
To become a gunsmith, it requires the knowledge of many trades. Basic mechanical knowledge, metalworking skills, engraving and wood-working knowledge are necessary. Metalworking skills help when forging iron and steel into a gun barrel. When pieces of the firearm are put together, basic mechanical knowledge is necessary. Wood-working skills are helpful when making a stock out of maple, cherry or walnut and fitting the metal parts into place. Decorative engraving is usually the final work done on the metal part of a gun. The ability to produce precise and accurate work is absolutely necessary to become a successful gunsmith.
Gunsmithing Training and Education Requirements
Many gunsmiths learn their trade working with other gunsmiths and through years of experience. Below are some ways to learn the trade:
- Attending a well-known gunsmith school
- Taking correspondence courses or attending community colleges
- By working as an apprentice directly with a gunsmith
- Taking short courses offered by the National Rifle Association
- By involvement in firearm training in the military
A few tools are listed below that must be mastered in order to become a gunsmith:
- Specific tools for firearms
- Variety of hand tools
- Bench clamps and vises
- Vises for barrels
- Action wrenches
- Power and hand tools
- Drill bits
- Rasps and files
- Tools for engraving
- Hammers, punches and stamps
- Bolt tools
- Gun checking tools
Gunsmithing Salary and Wages
The wages of a gunsmith varies widely, according to the location, the specialization, and other variables. Per www.salarylist.com, the average salary is $36,267 and per www.payscale.com, the average salaries range from $25,470 to $48,605.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
There are a few colleges across the United States that offers certificates and associate degree programs to certify a gunsmith. Possessing a gunsmith certification qualifies someone to work in factories, armories, law enforcement agencies, in sporting good stores, small gunsmith shops, and with antique gun dealers. They can become specialists in certain models and brands of firearms.
Gunsmithing Professional Associations
Gunsmiths have found that visiting www.american-gunsmith.com and placing an order for their magazine serves as a type of professional association with others who share a love of the profession.
A gunsmith must work well with customers and keep abreast of federal, state and local laws regarding firearms. Word-of-mouth news spreads easily regarding the quality of the work of a gunsmith. A skilled and talented gunsmith can command premium prices for their services.