A gunsmith’s job involves working closely with a range of firearms and explosives.
Gunsmiths design, build, clean and restore all types of firearms, from small pistols and revolvers to double-barrel shotguns. To work in this field, you need a range of skills and experience with metal, wood and other materials. Gunsmiths need to be experts on firearms technology, care and safety. Formal education requirements are minimal for this career, and many of the necessary skills of the trade are learned on the job. Gunsmiths must also be licensed to work with firearms and explosives in their state.
A gunsmith’s education can begin as early as high school. StateUniversity.com recommends that candidates take courses in technical drawing, metallurgy and woodworking while in high school. Students should also develop basic reading, math and technological skills during their high school years. Associate degrees are available for gunsmiths at many colleges around the country. These programs usually take two years to complete and prepare students for the career. Many technical skills offer degrees and courses in general mechanical crafting fields, which is another option for prospective gunsmiths.
While pursuing their degree, gunsmith students will study a range of topics in order to meet the requirements of the job. Subjects covered typically include diagnosis and repair of non-functioning firearms, function and design of different types of firearms, wood and metal crafting, ballistics, machine tool processes, blueprint reading, stockmaking and firearms safety. Students may also take classes on the specific elements of guns, such as bolt action, hinges and levers and self-loaders, according to Education Portal. Many programs require more general coursework in areas like English, history and mathematics in addition to gun-related studies. Most gunsmith degree and diploma programs result in a license that allows students to work as professional gunsmiths in their state.
New gunsmiths typically complete an apprenticeship with an experienced gun manufacturer. An apprenticeship can last from a few months to a few years and provides new gunsmiths with professional experience. Many of the required skills for this career are learned on the job during the apprenticeship. In many cases, a lengthy apprenticeship can replace formal studies, as the individual winds up acquiring the same skills and knowledge taught in an academic setting.
Gunsmiths must be licensed by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in accordance with the Gun Control Act of 1968. The federal firearms license and can be obtained by sending an application to the ATF and passing an interview screening test. The application requires, among other things, your Social Security number, criminal status, fingerprint cards, list of “responsible persons” and two photos used for identification purposes. The interview allows ATF officials to verify information in your application, clarify any questions you have about federal and state regulations and assess your readiness to be a licensed gunsmith.