A top-tier gunsmith is a highly skilled, multi-talented firearms professional. There are a number of specializations within this occupation, including gun engraving, making gun stocks, and crafting custom guns.
A solid, wide education is key to becoming a gunsmith. The knowledge and skills of a master gunsmith are carefully crafted over time and a gunsmith’s expertise evolves from a firm foundation of active learning. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best gunsmithing schools for you to take a closer look at.
What is Gunsmithing, and Is It Worth It?
In simple terms, gunsmiths are professionally licensed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and make a career out of constructing, maintaining, and repairing guns. Engraving and embellishment work also fall into the category of gunsmithing.
The technical and mechanical tasks involved in working with guns are many, requiring a deep pool of knowledge and a broad range of skills, supporting expertise encompassing everything about a gun, from chemical processes and tasks involved in creating the gun’s finish, to the manufacture and function of even its tiniest inner working parts. A master gunsmith’s expertise doesn’t stop with the mechanics of the gun but also includes a true understanding of the physics of its function and the science of its impact.
Naturally, individual gunsmiths often choose to specialize, perhaps focusing their talents on the repair and restoration of antique weapons, the building of custom-designed guns, or meeting the repair and maintenance needs of their local gun owners. Skilled and licensed gunsmiths enjoy a wide array of career options.
Since there is an established demand for gunsmith services throughout the nation, they aren’t limited to a specific geographic region as those in some industries are. A talented gunsmith can take his or her skill-set just about anywhere in the nation and find work.
Careers in Gunsmithing
Gunsmithing offers a wealth of career opportunities. Some of the more common careers that gunsmiths choose include:
- Opening their own businesses offering gun maintenance and repair services.
- Custom Designer or Builder.
- Piston Smith.
- Stock Maker.
- Working at a company providing warranty-related repairs.
- Producing guns at a small gun factory.
- Maintaining and repairing guns for law enforcement agencies.
- Becoming a teacher at a gunsmith school.
However, for the more adventurous gunsmithing soul, there are also plenty of exciting career opportunities. A talented gunsmith with nerves of steel could travel the world with private Blackwater-type armies, providing gun repair and maintenance in all sorts of situations and settings. Gifted gunsmiths may work at museums, restoring, repairing, and maintaining rare and antique guns.
Some companies providing safari and hunting tours and adventures keep a gunsmith on staff to keep all firearms at their best. Working with gun makers in research and development, gunsmiths can use their design and fabrication skills to bring concept guns from paper to actual testing on the firing range. The gunsmith career possibilities are almost endless.
Gunsmith Job Descriptions and Duties
The basic gunsmith job description – fabricating, maintaining, repairing, and embellishing guns – doesn’t begin to do justice to the full range of possibilities and potentials a talented, skilled gunsmith has before him. Naturally, amongst those possibilities would be the usual sorts of job descriptions, including a gunsmith working in a firearms factory, or the tasks performed by a gunsmith working at a sporting goods retailer. However, there’s also the potential for far more exciting jobs, such as maintaining, repairing, and even fabricating replica firearms on-site at historical reenactments of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
Nuts and bolts, blow by blow, gunsmith job description could contain any combination of the innumerable tasks involved with gun making, maintaining, and repairing. Common tasks include inspecting guns carefully to make sure that all parts are working correctly and safely, cleaning and lubricating, restoring dents and dings, replacing worn parts. Fabricating parts to make repairs with, diagnosing gun malfunctions and implementing solutions, and customizing guns with after-market add-ons also appear frequently in gunsmith job descriptions.
Here is an extensive list of gunsmithing tasks that many will be doing in their careers:
- Disassemble, clean, inspect, lubricate & reassemble.
- Repair or replace damaged parts and
- Remove any corrosion due to improper storage.
- Add after-market customizations
- Refinish and/or repair wooden stocks.
- Deepen or clean up worn or damaged engravings & markings.
- Repairing dented barrels and re-crowning muzzles.
- Solder repair.
- Troubleshoot and repair firing, feeding & ejecting issues.
- Fabricate wooden stocks and fit to the existing receiver and barrel.
- Glass-bed actions to stocks to improve accuracy.
- Blue metal parts.
- Fabricate replacement parts.
- Modify trigger-pull weight.
- Replace worn barrels.
- Change caliber of an existing rifle.
- Design and build complete rifles.
The salary of a gunsmith can vary depending on many factors including:
- and Education
Average Gunsmith Salary is $36,000 per year
The salary for a gunsmith in the U.S.A is $36,000 per year which is $3,000 per month, $692 per week, or $17.30 an hour.
Gunsmithing Requirements: Certification and Licensing
Becoming a licensed gunsmith is a lengthy procedure, involving a multi-step application process that, upon approval, permits you to build, sell, and perform repairs on small firearms. Those who wish to work with firearms in the United States must obtain, fill out, and submit a Federal Firearms License application from the U. S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). There are separate licensing procedures for manufacturing licenses and dealer licenses.
A completed Federal Firearms License application will include, but not necessarily be limited to, the following items:
- The full completion and submission of an application form. This form will include your personal information, immigration status, criminal history, and military service history.
- Payment of an application fee. The amount is dependent upon your licensure type.
- A background check with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. You may have issues if you have something on your record in which case this might not be the best career for you.
- Provision of fingerprints for your background check.
- Provision of transaction records and permission for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives to inspect your business.
Additionally, you may be required to abide by additional local, state, and federal laws that are not mentioned above, and the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives will conduct additional checks. Since there may be other licenses that you will need to obtain based upon local and state regulations, it is good practice to be in contact with the department that regulates gunsmith licenses in your area. This way, you will be able to avoid any filing or application mistakes, and will be informed about the turn-around time for license processing and approval.
Finally, it is important to remember that the regulations surrounding other aspects of gunsmithing vary by local and state. Activities such as record keeping within the gunsmithing industry, transportation of firearms, and participation within gun shows and other events may require additional certification and licensure.
Gunsmith Certification and Tests
The first step in achieving the training and certification necessary to operate as a Gunsmith is to research what programs are available for you to complete in your area or through online coursework. If you are looking for a self-paced training course, there are online or at-home coursework that can support an independent learner, before completion of any final in-person testing that may be required.
Other learners might look for a learning environment that is structured and guided by an in-person professor. Gunsmithing certification courses might be offered through a local technical school or educational institution near you. You should expect your coursework to take anywhere between six months and two years to complete.
Upon the completion of your gunsmith certification training, it will be necessary to undergo an examination to provide proof of your skills and knowledge of the necessary rules and regulations of the gunsmithing profession. The certification test level that you will need to pass depends upon your preferred career path after certification and licensure.
How to Prepare for Gunsmithing School
When learning how to become a gunsmith, education is the ideal way to get started. Follow these steps to help build a Build a strong foundation of skills in the gunsmithing hobby and knowledge before beginning a formal gunsmith training and education program. A student who is planning to be a gunsmith should work to develop expertise with the guns he has. Students should strive to be an expert in gun laws and safe gun use protocols and habits.
- Study Algebra, technical math, chemistry, and physics.
- Take a variety of woodworking, metalworking, and machine shop classes to develop the wide range of these skills that gunsmiths use frequently.
- Learn about small engine repair and auto mechanics can provide valuable experience in how small parts function, both independently and as a group, and how mechanical systems operate. These types of classes can be taken at community colleges and are sometimes offered by local community centers and social organizations.
There are a number of options to choose from today, including online study, certification programs, trade and technical school programs, and the standard college degree program. While in many industries and occupations, online instruction is just as effective, sometimes even more so, as learning in a traditional classroom setting, when it comes to gunsmithing, an online course can be great for the do it your-selfer.
What Comes Next? Consider Apprenticeship
After completing a formal gunsmith study program from one of the accredited gunsmith schools, the urge to jump right into business and start earning some money can be tempting. However, the better course of action is to continue the education process by seeking out an apprenticeship opportunity under a master gunsmith. There are some things that are simply best learned through watching an expert and by doing.
The gunsmith apprenticeship period is also prime time for networking. Use the opportunity of meeting and spending time with people in the gunsmith business to establish and build relationships. These gunsmith industry contacts can be valuable sources of information and employment throughout a gunsmith’s career. With careful attention to networking and a little bit of luck, many apprentices succeed in securing solid employment offers during their apprenticeship, so they can start working in the field right after their apprenticeship program is completed.
Top Gunsmithing Schools
These top gunsmithing schools are located across the US and offer a variety of opportunities from single classes to hone your skills, to degrees and apprenticeship programs to help you launch a career in the trade.
1. Colorado School of Trade
Address: 1575 Hoyt St, Lakewood, CO 80215
Phone: (303) 233-4697
Founded in 1947, a gunsmithing training program has been offered from the start, making this school a top 30 pick rated by Forbes magazine. Accredited through the Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), a unique hands-on system helps create project-oriented training for job skills and workforce entry-level knowledge. Since the school also offers gunsmithing to the public, students are allowed to work with customers and order through small class size instruction in real-world scenarios under instructor supervision.
2. Montgomery Community College
Address: 1011 Page St, Troy, NC 27371
Phone: (910) 898-9600
Offering a huge range of options, Montgomery Community College provides everything from short term classes and weekend certifications for hobbyists to various certificates in refinishing, technology, design, and repair. A gunsmithing A.A.S degree is also available and requires 75 credit hours for completion and qualifies students as professional gunsmiths upon completion.
3. Murray State College
Address: 1 Murray Campus Dr, Tishomingo, OK 73460
Phone: (580) 387-7000
Located in Oklahoma, Murray State College offers a 2-year gunsmithing program that provides instruction in all aspects of building and repairing with various opportunities to work within the field. Students are required to build 3 of their own firearms while in attendance and are able to hone their basic repair and specialty custom work through the entire process.
4. Penn Foster College
Address: 14300 N Northsight Blvd #125, Scottsdale, AZ 85260
Phone: (800) 471-3232
Complete a gunsmith career diploma in as little as three months with Penn Foster’s affordable online program that provides you the chance to work at a pace that is right for you. A training facility for over 30 years, dedicated faculty is available for excerpt instruction and offers the opportunity to complete Brownell’s practical exercise, a comprehensive program designed by one of the oldest gun manufacturers in the US.
5. Pine Technical and Community College
Address: 900 4th St SE, Pine City, MN 55063
Phone: (320) 629-5100
Founded in 1965, Pine Technical College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Students can choose to pursue a few different options to prepare for a career as a gunsmith. The Firearms Technician Skills Certificate includes courses in business, computer applications, computer-aided design, regulations, design and function of firearms, welding, and measuring tools. The Gunsmithing and Firearms Technician Journeymen Diploma includes stockmaking, computer-aided manufacturing, machining, and gunsmithing of metal, rifles, and shotguns.
6. Flathead Valley Community College
Address: 777 Grandview Dr, Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: (406) 756-3822
Focused on a series of classes that teach various techniques, students can pick from armorer and customization courses, wildcat cartridge design, checkering, stock making and metalsmithing, and engraving to name a few. With an associate of applied science degree available, students can focus on entry-level job and apprenticeship opportunities, or the knowledge to open their own business. Located in Montana, it is one of the most comprehensive programs offered in a state that is listed as 3rd in the nation for firearm and ammunition manufacturing.
7. Sonoran Desert College
Address: 1555 W University Dr #103, Tempe, AZ 85281
Phone: (480) 314-2102
Complete either an associate of science or certificate in firearm technology from Sonoran Desert College that specializes in a foundation for firearm industry professionals. The focus of the college allows hands-on training from day one through a mix of both online and in person opportunities to help anyone complete courses on their own time. The discipline is designed to be flexible with weekly assignments as an innovative approach to building professionals in the industry.
8. Piedmont Technical College
Address: 620 Emerald Rd N, Greenwood, SC 29646
Phone: (800) 868-5528
Offering 3 types of educational certificates and degrees, Piedmont Technical College is focused on one-of-a-kind programming for the state of South Carolina. Focused on professional entry-level jobs after graduation, the school works closely with specialized career outlooks, available positions, and employee networking for student success. From blueprinting, basic and advanced use of tool operation, customization, barrel finishing, and refurbishing are included within the programs.
9. Pennsylvania Gunsmithing School
Address: 812 Ohio River Blvd, Avalon, PA 15202
Phone: (412) 766-1812
The Pennsylvania Gunsmithing School was founded in 1949 and is still focused on teaching future professionals in the industry through a master gunsmithing program. The hands-on program requires the designing and creating a portfolio of custom guns to highlight all the skills learned, and to use later when seeking professional positions. They grow students from basic skills to perfecting finished products with engraving and decorative techniques for one of a kind firearm creation.
10. Lenoir Community College
Address: 231 North Carolina Hwy 58, Kinston, NC 28504
Phone: (252) 527-6223
Designed to provide students with all the skills needed for refurbishing, diagnosing and repair, complex customization, and manufacturing, Lenoir Community College qualifies professional gunsmiths through their program. Hands-on course work is done on sight with actual gunsmithing technique with supervision by teaching professionals in the field. Various program certificates for all levels of gunsmithing, as well as diplomas and associate degrees, are available for students to choose from.
11. Marshalltown Community College
Address: 3700 S Center St, Marshalltown, IA 50158
Phone: (641) 752-7106
Fitted with their own repair shop, Marshalltown Community College in Iowa approaches their programs with hands-on training set in a real world situation for students to learn from under direct supervision of industry professionals. Focused on both technical and mechanical skills, the artistry of the skill is also directly approached in all aspects of the offered 2 year program. Building firearms are also a part of the student’s portfolio along with diagnostic and repair work in order to work with a huge variety of firearm makes and models.
12. Trinidad State Junior College
Address: 600 Prospect St, Trinidad, CO 81082
Phone: (719) 846-5011
Founded in 1925, Trinidad State Junior College was Colorado’s first community college. The gunsmith courses at the college were offered in 1947, and since that time students from all over the United States have been attending one of the top rated gunsmithing schools in the country.
An associate in applied science degree in gunsmithing through courses that include topics in gunsmithing tools, firearms customization, machine tools for gunsmithing, repairing firearms, and stockmaking. According to the college, as of 2011, 80 percent of graduates of the program are employed as gunsmiths after graduation.
13. Piedmont Community College
Address: Roxboro, NC
Phone: (336) 599-1181
Looking to support your hobby, enter into a professional gunsmithing career, or want a step up for an apprenticeship? Piedmont Community College offers a short-term training diploma focused on hands-on techniques to ready students for any direction they choose to take their education. Refurbishing, diagnosing, and custom tasks are the main focus of the lessons in an integrated learning environment that is specific to real-world scenarios.
14. American Gunsmith Institute
Address: 351 2nd St, Napa, CA 94559
Phone: (800) 797-0867
Created specifically for self-paced education, training, and accreditation, this video supported, at home course can be done at a student’s pace without having to meet scheduled deadlines. Videos provided replay of any section to further learning, and all hands-on experiences are scheduled with the school’s master instructors. You can also tie in your learning with local gunsmithing businesses for an enhanced experience. This is the program designed for those who want to enhance their career, hobby, or start a new business without giving up their current salary. .
15. Modern Gun School
Address: 1000 N. West Street #1200, Wilmington, DE 19801
Accredited and VA approved, the Modern Gun School has been around since 1945 and offers quality education for career gun repair or entry-level positions in the gun industry. This is an online course that provides all tools and materials, instructor feedback and guidance, and a lack of deadlines to allow you the ability to work at your own pace. Federal Firearm Licensing guides and information is also included.
16. Lassen Community College
Address: 478–200 Hwy 139, Susanville, CA 96130
Phone: (530) 257-6181
One of the oldest gunsmithing programs in the United States, Lassen Community College has been training students in gunsmithing techniques since 1045. The school is fully accredited and is a recognizable and reputable name in the gunsmithing industry for producing knowledgeable, skilled professionals. In addition to an associate in science degree in firearms repair and an associate in science degree in general gunsmithing, students at Lassen Community College can also earn certificates of completion for long guns, gunsmith machinist, metal finishing, riflesmith, and pistolsmith. The curriculum includes coursework in machining, welding, optical sight installation, action blueprinting, blowback principles, and firearms laws and regulations.
17. M T Training Center
Address: 1801 S Great SW Pkwy, Grand Prairie, TX 75051
Phone: (972) 262-5395
The MT Training Center located in Grand Prairie, Texas offers both a 44-week course and a 62-week course so students can pick the best approach to a new career that is right for them. The 44-week course in a day class for fully enrolled students to fast track their materials. The 62-week course is for evening classes so students can continue in their current workforce choices without having to give up their paycheck. All students will graduate with entry-level skills for the professional gunsmithing industry.
18. Eastern Wyoming College
Address: 3200 W C St, Torrington, WY 82240
Phone: (307) 532-8200
Eastern Wyoming College offers an AAS program that allows students to graduate with the knowledge to find quality employment as professional gunsmith. Use and building of tools, welding, woodworking, building, and creating a business plan are all part of the instruction. Strict admittance requirements are also in place to ensure all students are focused on the program.
19. Yavapai College
Address: 1100 E Sheldon St, Prescott, AZ 86301
Phone: (928) 445-7300
Since 1965, Yavapai College has worked to provide quality education to the Prescott, Arizona, and surrounding area communities. Yavapai College has one of the best programs for gunsmithing in the United States, consistently ranked in the top three by various organizations. There is a special admissions process, and the training is in high demand for students from all around the United States. Yavapai College offers an associate of applied science in gunsmithing, focusing a large part of the gunsmithing classes on learning the nuances of operating machine tools to help students learn various techniques and processes for working with shotguns, handguns, rifles, stocks, and custom firearms. In the gunsmithing major coursework, students complete apprentice, journeyman, professional, and master level courses.
When a person makes the transition from a gunsmithing student to a capable, credentialed gunsmith, that is quite an achievement. The amount of learning and knowledge that successful transition represents is impressive. It demonstrates a willingness to work hard to achieve important goals and is something to be proud of. In the same way, it takes time to build that collection of skill and knowledge, it takes time for a new enterprise, whether it be a business or a career, to grow and flourish. With work, however, it will show just how rewarding a gunsmith career can be.
We’d love to hear about your experiences with gunsmithing schools or have the chance to answer your questions. And, as always, please share!