So You Want to Go to Gunsmithing School?
Well then, you are certainly starting off on an incredibly interesting, highly-skilled career path! Or, perhaps you just want to tinker around with your own firearms as a hobby? Either way, learning the art and science of gun smithing can be quite rewarding, both monetarily and in terms of personal fulfillment.
Before you begin your journey as an artisan in this field, there are a few things that you need to understand. Being a gunsmith is hard work! Not only that, but it also requires a wide range of skills. A competent gunsmith has to be able to work with both wood and metal. He or she also has to have the trouble-shooting mind of a mechanic, and the same steady hands that are required to fire the weapons that he works with.
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Duties and Responsibilities
Gunsmiths primary function is to build and repair firearms of all kinds. They have to be familiar with all of the parts of a weapon: stock, barrel, trigger/firing mechanism, bullet, casing, etc. Of course, all different varieties of gun will each have their own particular pieces, and the gun smith has to understand how to work with rifles, revolvers, semi-automatic weapons, and more.
The day to day tasks of a gunsmith will be much different depending on where he or she ultimately finds employment. Some people in this field like to work for themselves. These people open their own shop where they fix firearms for their customers, or even do custom work for them. In this sort of role, a person will need to have good business sense (and people skills!) to be successful. This will include being able to handle accounting, payroll, inventory, shipping, and all the other things that come along with being self-employed. Another option would be to work for a firearms company. All of the well-known manufacturers like Colt and Smith & Wesson hire qualified personnel to work in their facilities.
If you want to run your own shop, then a license from the ATF (assuming that you are in the United States – if you are not, then you will need to research how laws apply in your local area) is necessary (see below). Many schools, however, offer a certificate program. The terminology here can be a little confusing. In many fields, a “certification” is offered by some sort of regulating body as proof that the bearer has passed some exam or otherwise proven himself or herself to be competent in that field. For instance, teachers receive certifications from their state’s board of education. They must receive this before seeking employment in their area of specialty.
“Certificates,” on the other hand, are typically granted by colleges or other educational institutions for completion of a given regimen of course work. It is these sorts of certificates that we are discussing here. Depending on where you attend, you will receive a certificate or a degree. This will be determined by the class that you enroll into.
Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. You need to read and understand all applicable laws before doing any work as a gunsmith.
Asmentioned above, there are a number of regulations that are controlled, instituted, and enforced by the ATF (www.atf.gov) regarding licensure of gun smiths. You will definitely need to make sure that you comply with all state and federal laws!
A license is not something that is issued by the school, program, or course that you attend. It is something that will be granted to you by the government. These are primarily required if you are doing work for your own customers. If you are working in a plant, manufacturing items for a large company for instance, they you may not need a license. Again, be sure to do your research and find out! It is absolutely your responsibility to make sure that you are following the laws of your locality, state, and, of course, the federal government.
Online or Classroom
As with many different training programs in a wide variety of industries, there are courses for gunsmith both online and in-person. While, ultimately, your choice of which one to attend comes down to your own personal decision as to what you are comfortable with, there are a few things that you should consider.
An online gunsmithing school might give you the foundational knowledge necessary to understand gun basics. These can teach you all about the theory of how firearms work and how to work with them. However, you will not have the very important hands-on training that you would get in a live classroom. You will also have less access to your instructor, which is something to keep in mind, especially if you are the type to ask a lot of questions! Perhaps if you are already a skilled machinist or metal-worker an online course would be great to get the basic understanding down, since you are already good at working with your hands. If you aren’t already skilled in this area, however, then you are going to have a lot of trial and error to go through before you can really consider yourself skilled.
A brick and mortar institution, on the other hand, can offer a ton of great benefits as part of their training. A large machine shop of all kinds of tools can help you familiarize yourself with the tools of the trade. Just because you’ve seen a video of a machine in an online class doesn’t mean you could really use it! Getting your hands dirty with the real thing is the only way to truly know what you are doing. Plus, at a real-life school you will be able to speak directly to your professor and have him or her show you exactly how to improve and hone your techniques.