A gunsmith is responsible for the construction, maintenance, and repair of firearms. This career involves a wide array of skills, including mechanical expertise and knowledge of science and mathematics. Guns are designed to exacting tolerances and precise measurements, which requires precision metalworking and woodcraft skills. Knowledge of gun safety and safe operation of power and hand tools are also important factors for any gunsmith. Most gunsmiths have some technical training from a community college or technical school and must have a federal firearms license (FFL). PayScale.com lists the median pay of gunsmiths to be $16.45 an hour as of February 2020.
|Education Required||High school diploma, certificate, diploma, or associate degree|
|Field of Study||Gunsmithing|
|Licensure||Federal firearms license is required|
|Key Skills||Familiarity with lathe, mill, and grinder operations; ability to use precision gauges and measuring instruments, vises, polishing tools, drill presses, hand tools, checkering tools, wrenches, edge finders, files, and chisels|
|Additional Requirements||Must pass drug test and background check with no felony convictions and no disqualifying misdemeanor convictions; must be at least 21|
|Median Salary (2020)*||$16.45 per hour (for gunsmiths)|
Sources: Gunsmith job listings (November 2012); U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF); U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; *PayScale.com
Pass Background Checks
Prospective students will not be admitted to a gunsmith program without first passing a firearms background check. Since convicted felons are prohibited from possessing firearms, schools are required to ensure that their students are legally permitted to work on firearms. Domestic violence misdemeanor convictions and restraining orders against the student are also disqualifying circumstances. Prospective students must also not have been adjudicated mentally incompetent nor have been committed to a mental health institution.
Complete a Gunsmith Program
Associate degrees, technical diplomas, and certificates in gunsmithing are available from colleges and technical schools nationwide. These programs range from 6-month diploma or certificate programs to 2-year associate degree programs. Gunsmith courses focus on the tooling and mechanical skills required to craft and repair firearms. Students learn the differences in function and design between types of firearms, methods for diagnosing non-functioning firearms, and how to make the necessary repairs. Gunsmiths often need to craft both the metal and wood components of firearms from scratch, so courses are fairly universal and include firearm safety, stock-making, and metalworking, as well as other machine shop skills. Curricula for gunsmith programs can also include classes on various elements of guns, such as triggers, hinges and levers, bolt action and self loaders, and specific crafting techniques, such as soldering, metallurgy, and reverse engineering. Some gunsmith programs include classes in chemistry and ballistics.
Obtain a Federal Firearms License
Because gunsmiths often retain possession of clients' firearms for more than a day, they are required by federal law to have a federal firearms license. The application for this license requires information similar to that provided for the background check and also requires that the license holder be at least 21 years of age and meet more stringent ethical and legal requirements. The federal firearms license also requires that the gunsmith have a building detached from the residence where the gunsmith work is performed. A field agent conducts an inspection of the premises for compliance with federal regulations and conducts a personal interview with the applicant before approving the license. Stringent requirements are associated with the license, including that the guns be stored in a locked safe when the gunsmith isn't working on them and that detailed records of all transactions be kept for all firearms worked on.
Although not a legal requirement, gunsmiths who are new to the field might want to consider joining any and all gun-related professional organizations. The American Custom Gunmakers Guild, for instance, offers networking opportunities and the chance to learn from experienced gunsmiths. The National Rifle Association is another well-known organization that focuses on a variety of gun-related issues.
In order to become a gunsmith, prospective workers must pass a background check, complete a gunsmith training program, and obtain a federal firearms license.