A Gunsmith is someone who works to repair, design and build firearms.
Gunsmiths can work for themselves or be employed in a variety of industries including sporting goods and firearms stores, firearms manufacturers, and armories.
Gunsmiths are building on firearm knowledge that has evolved over centuries, from the time when mankind first harnessed gunpowder to the modern era of semi-automatic, magazine-fed, firearms. Talented gunsmiths are proficient in repairing, restoring, and refinishing a wide range of firearms.
Sometimes, gunsmiths will carve out a niche for themselves, such as working solely on ‘Modern Sporting Rifles’ or MSRs (the much maligned AR-15 platform is one such rifle), or working mostly on putting together high-end, competition ready pistols, or perhaps even restoring antique firearms from the Civil War era or even earlier!
Because this specialty can take many forms, salaries can vary.
In general, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies gunsmiths in the same category as metal and plastic machine workers. Their data indicates that the national median pay in 2018 for these groups was about $36,000 per year.
In order for a gunsmith to earn more, he/she must generally practice this trade for several years as an apprentice, with a firearms manufacturer or in a machine shop.
A gunsmith averages $52,000 a year in Hawaii and $85,000 a year in New York.
Pennsylvania, for example, sells more than 1 million hunting licenses per year, and thus has a higher number of firearms owners.
The most popular hunting states, including Alaska, Montana, Texas, Georgia and Pennsylvania, report gunsmith salaries between $61,000 and $79,000 a year.
Independent gunsmiths can charge upwards of $40/hour for their services.
What Types of Skills Do I Need?
Most firearms are built to very tight tolerances and specifications, in order to achieve both accuracy and ensure safety during firing.
After all, a firearm, like an engine, is merely a hunk of metal that contains, and directs, an explosive charge. because of this, a gunsmith must understand not only how to work with metals, woods, and in more modern weapons, polymers based in plastic and carbon, but also how to meld them together in a way that produces a manageable, and accurate, firearm.
Here are a few of the most important gunsmith skills:
- Math skills are important for gunsmiths, since they must measure and cut wood and metal.
- Gunsmiths have excellent wood and metalworking skills. A gunsmith will know how to use lathes, drill presses, and even advanced machines such as CNC machines.
- Gunsmiths have mechanical expertise. A decent gunsmith will understand how all the many working parts of a firearm come together to allow a trigger to activate a striker or firing pin, which will set off the primer in a shell, which will set off an explosion (powered by gunpowder) and expel the bullet from the firearm’s barrel. They will also understand how to diagnose problems with the inner workings of a firearm, and how to correct them.
What Should I Specialize In?
Consider specializing in a certain type of gunsmithing, including:
- Custom gun designing and building.
- Stockmaking, which involves building the gun stock using wood.
- Gun engraving, which adds aesthetic value to guns with decorative or patterned engravings in the wood or metal.
- Pistolsmithing, which is practiced by people who custom design and build only pistols. Other gunsmiths focus primarily on rifles or shotguns.
- Competitive gunsmithing, wherein competitors can spend three thousand dollars or more taking a ‘stock’ handgun, rifle, shotgun, or MSR (or sometimes a combination of the four) and fine-tuning it to fire faster, more accurately, and to customize the firearm for certain specific types of competition, such as IDPA or Three-Gun competitions.
How Do I Get Started?
Stratford Career Institute’s convenient and affordable gunsmith home study program can help you gain fundamental knowledge to help you work toward a career in gunsmithing.
Our top-quality, comprehensive course is designed to prepare the gunsmith beginner, but can also provide helpful information to individuals with more advanced gunsmith knowledge.
Interested in Becoming a Gunsmith?
Stratford Career Institute offers a convenient and affordable home study course to teach you the ins and outs of a gunsmith career.