With the right to bear arms remaining intact in the United States, the need for gunsmiths is a constant thing. Not every person who purchases a firearm is knowledgeable how to properly maintain and clean it; after time, neglected firearms may corrode and need replacement parts. This is when a gunsmith is required, however gunsmiths perform many other tasks other than simply fixing neglected guns.
According to salary charts, the average gunsmith earns about $36,267 annually. According to projections from Payscale, the average range of annual gunsmith salaries were between $25,470 and $48,605. Apprentice gunsmiths often work for very low wages, but once an apprenticeship is completed, wages will increase accordingly. Self-employed gunsmiths earned the highest incomes, followed by those who were employed for a lengthy time by other gunsmiths or companies. Benefits for gunsmiths employed by companies were better than those employed by independent gunsmiths; self-employed gunsmiths were responsible for providing their own benefits, as well as absorbing the costs of running a business. If gunsmithing is done as a hobby and money is charged, income must be reported to the IRS accordingly.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Gunsmiths are responsible for ensuring that a firearm is safe before putting it back in the hands of its owner. The first process a gunsmith completes is a thorough inspection of the gun. The firearm must be disassembled, parts analyzed and inspected for problems. Most guns, especially rifles, tend to have mechanical problems with jamming and misfeeds. Sometimes the gunsmith may not need to repair the firearm or even adjust it; some problems experienced by gun owners may be solved by using a different type of ammunition or magazine clip. Gunsmiths must be knowledgeable about how guns are put together and how each component is related to another. With this knowledge, a gunsmith is able to identify timing problems, missing parts or pieces that are assembled incorrectly.
A gunsmith may choose to specialize in rifles, handguns or both types of firearms. Not all of the work gunsmiths perform is related to repairs and fixing mistakes made by the gun owners. Some gun fanatics may want to personalize their gun or modify it. Gunsmiths should be aware of federal laws regarding modification of firearms; each state has its own regulations in addition to national rules. The gunsmith may be hired to change the caliber of a firearm, add scopes and mounts, change stocks, refinish wood stocks, engrave gun metal or even build a completely customized gun from parts. As gunsmiths will learn in apprenticeship, each firearm must have a manufacturer’s stamp and serial number; without this, a gun would not be able to be registered and would be regarded illegal to sell.
Training and Education Requirements
Gunsmith training is usually completed by an apprenticeship term. Working with a seasoned gunsmith, apprentices learn the valuable skills necessary to be a successful gunsmith. To qualify for such a position, a person must demonstrate a genuine interest and aptitude for mechanical studies and firearms. Gunsmith schools are very few in numbers. When attending these schools, it is important to first ensure that the school has some form of credibility. Consulting seasoned gunsmiths for advice is the best way to start. Schools open and close frequently, with many not being reputable. Accreditation for classes from colleges may be verified on the Department of Education’s website. Many reputable colleges offer an Associate degree in this field.
The National Rifle Association, commonly referred to as the NRA, also offers courses. Firearm training received in the military is also very helpful when seeking a gunsmith position. In order to receive an education, most gunsmith apprentices and students must purchase necessary tools. These tools are designed for firearms; also several hand tools are required. Gun checking tools, hammers and drill bits are also required. Courses will usually list what tools are required. Gunsmiths hiring apprentices will either provide the necessary tools to borrow or will produce a list.
There is no major licensing division that regulates every gunsmith. Since this profession is not a common trade and education is not regulated, licensing regulation is difficult. Gunsmiths who complete courses in the military, through the NRA or other specialty programs will often receive certificates upon completion. Collecting various certifications from such places will help build a gunsmith’s reputation and trust of gun owners. Some courses that are offered are designed for a specific brand or type of firearm; these programs also come with certificates upon completion. Gunsmiths who plan to pursue a career as a specialist in that area will benefit from such certification.
While there are no major established national associations specifically for gunsmiths, every apprentice and seasoned gunsmith will benefit from receiving a subscription of American Gunsmith Magazine. Also subscriptions to Guns N Ammo and an NRA membership are useful tools. By keeping informed by these sources, gunsmiths will learn about new techniques, parts and guns. Another important part of keeping informed is staying up-to-date with current national and state laws regarding firearms. State laws often change frequently, so it is important to stay informed.