Gunsmiths work with many different kinds of firearms.
Gunsmiths are trained to do everything from troubleshoot and repair firearms to create custom rifles and pistols. Whether you already enjoy fixing the guns in your collection or are simply a devoted do-it-yourselfer, learning to gunsmith can prove to be a useful hobby, as well as a potentially lucrative business. If you’re a natural mechanic, chemist or artisan who enjoys woodworking and engraving, you may have what it takes to become an at-home gunsmith.
1. Find out what level of training you’ll require. If you want to carry out simple repairs, sight in scopes and add on mail-order parts, then you’ll only need to take some basic gunsmithing classes (see Resources). If you want to acquire master gunsmith skills so that you can machine custom parts yourself, construct custom rifles and load special rounds, then you’ll require extensive coursework, an apprenticeship and certification as an armorer.
2. Take gunsmithing lessons. There are basically three routes you can take: First, you can enroll in a reputable gunsmithing school and learn professional techniques and tips before applying these skills to your home shop—this option will offer you the most training possible in the least amount of time. Second, you can become a part-time or full-time apprentice and learn the skills you need over seven-plus years (see Resources). This option offers a wealth of in-depth gunsmithing knowledge, but how much you learn depends on the person you apprentice under and takes a long time. Third, you can learn through an online course or buy a DVD set that features gunsmithing lessons. Although you may learn more from a school or apprenticeship program, taking online or video lessons from your home is entirely possible if you have the technical aptitude to do so. Some online and DVD lessons (see Resources) are inexpensive, yet still thorough and educational.
3. Find a workspace for your gunsmithing tools. You’ll want a well-lit space that has plenty of electrical outlets and allows you to be loud. Make sure the space is properly ventilated for safety purposes, which means there should be a vented ceiling or window fan removing the air from the room. If you don’t have proper ventilation, this will limit the kind of work you can do.
Master gunsmithing activities include machining metal parts, using chemicals, sanding, carving, varnishing, grinding, beveling and engraving. This means you will require a strong work table that should be partially carpeted or padded to protect delicate materials. If you want to make your workspace organized and appealing, clamp a magnifying lamp over your workspace and provide lots of small drawers for organizing small parts.
4. Purchase the gunsmithing tools you plan to use in your workshop; the tools listed in the “Things You’ll Need” section are a good example of what you’ll want to purchase for your home gunsmithing shop. You may need to add onto your tool arsenal after you’ve been gunsmithing for some time and have a better idea what tools you need the most. Most gunsmithing tools can be found at such firearms suppliers as Midwayusa.com and Brownells.com.
5. Become a certified gunsmith. Although you don’t need a license or permit to repair firearms, you can add more credibility and professionalism to your home business if you do this.
Gunsmith certifications are Armorer I through IV:
Armorer I certification means you’re certified through experience and supervised practice.
Armorer II certification requires attendance in formal coursework or a factory school.
Armorer III certification is similar to Armorer II but for law enforcement.
Armorer IV certification is the same as Armorer II and III but for military personnel.
You can find exams to become certified at BecomeaGunsmith.com.
6. Gather clientele for your home gunsmithing business. The best way to find these clients is to go to local gun stores and firing ranges. Print up business cards and leave a stack of them at each location.
Other options include placing ads in the local newspaper, joining the local chamber of commerce and searching for clients online on firearms repair forums. Many gunsmithing repair jobs can be done by sending parts through the mail, which lends itself well to serving clients you find online.