Feedback Score: 0 reviews
Join Date: Nov 2010
I went to the Colorado School of Trades. I loved it. I didn't want to leave when the time came.
CST is a school that gives you a pretty good overall training is most aspects of gunsmithing. Some other schools tend to specialize in one of more aspects.
You need to find out what kind of smith you want to be and then find out what each school specializes in.
None of the schools will make you more than a beginner. There is so much to learn as a smith and you never stop learning. No school can teach you everthing you need to know, not even close.
As far as being a smith, it's something you really need to think about.
You will never make more than maybe 40K a year if your lucky.
There is a tremendous amout of money needed to equip a shop. You need a lathe, mill and all the tooling. The tooling ends up costing more than the equipment. There is so much to buy, so many tools and you always need new tools for projects or to be able to do something. The constant buying of tooling and desposables cuts into your profits really bad.
There are only so many guns that you can fix of modify , so only so much money comes in.
I went to an old smith who was going to retire in 6 months before going to CST. I told him I'd sweep the floors, do anything, I didn't want to get paid. I worked at his shop 3 days a week. He was a great guy, got me into a lot of aspects of gunsmithing. He had a huge library, much of it old stuff not available such as gun repair fliers and books manufacturers used to supply, but don't anymore.
I had acess to a copy machine at work and coppied thousands of pages of his material. I also bought every gunsmithing book available. I got a lot of the older one's off e bay and saved a lot on them.
A good library is essential, and reading it all and understanding it is essential also.
The old smith taught me a lot.
It gave me a huge leg up when I went to CST.
When I got in the section on repairing guns, I told the head instructor I wanted the toughest repairs he had, the worst of the worst. he took a chance and I ended up getting streight 4.0's on every repair.
I finished about 2 months earily and was made a student instructor, helping the newer students or ones that were having problems.
What I found was that if you really wantd to learn, the instructors would bend over backwards to teach and help you. I finished at the top of my class.
I then worked for another gunsmith for a while before opening my own shop.
I loved being a smith, but had to have another job to make ends meet. No way to earn a living, buy medical insurance and everthing else just smithing.
I am friends with one of the best riflesmiths in the country, Scott Null who owns Savagegunsmithing and S&S Sporting, a web business (Savagegunsmithing) I started and gave to him when I retired. He also has all the local business and customers all over the world. he works on any kind of gun, there is nothing he cannot fix unless the gun is totally shot.
He has more guns than you can count waiting to be worked on and he still has trouble making ends meet.
You will have to heir someone for the front counter and to do paperwork and a thousand other things, no way you can do it all yourself and get guns out.
I had a full time job, was open in the late afternoon to the evenings and on the weekends. I went to work, came home and worked on guns till 11 every night and all weekend. Everyone else was out shooting, I did nothing but fix, modify and accurize guns. I didn't have a life and no time to enjoy shooting and hunting like all my customers did.
it got old after a while even though I loved gunsmithing.
My advise is forget being a Gunsmith. It's not like the old days. Today, so many people fix their own guns. Tools are available to everyone, not just smiths anymore. Everyone wants their gun done now and complain if it's in the shop for 6 or 8 weeks. Many gun companys will not sell you parts or at least certian parts. Guns are made of poly, not metal anymore. Info on how to fix guns is on CD's, books and all over the web, so many fix or modify their own guns anymore, you just get the things they can't do.
If your a good smith, you will have at least a months worth of guns backed up, if your really good, 3 to 6 months. people keep calling, wanting their guns, they think you just throw them in the air and they are fixed.
Some repairs that should be easy, take hours. Some jobs you make good money from, others you loose your rear end.
Ruin a customer gun, you just bought it.
It sounds wonderful, but it's so hard to make a living at.
Then there is the time spent talking to customers, sometimes several hours a day, your not making money on the phone, even though it leads to jobs, there is all the paperwork, packaging guns to be sent out, the people who want to come and BS with you that slow you down.
Buy old guns, fix them and sell them as a hobby, you will be much happier and still make money without all the headachs.
Talk with several good smiths before going to school, find out what they think of the business, because it is a business, not a hobby.
In times gone bye, being a smith was something you could make some money at. People really needed your services, not so much anymore. A car mechanic charges $125 for an hours work, you can't charge that, the customer will go elsewhere even though you have to know more than a mechanic.
Consumable materials are getting very expensive, but you have to have them. Specialized tools are needed, but may not be used often, most costing $50 to $100 each. You can make a lot of your own tools, but that takes time.
It's the cost of running the busines that leaves very little for you. You will work 80 hours a week just to try and keep up and still not make a great living.
If you specialize in just one or two things, you can make better money, but it gets old just doing one thing.
If you are hell bent on being a gunsmith, go to a good machining school first, many colleges offer such classes. If your not a good machinest, you will never be a good smith and they don't have the time to make you a good machinest.
become a good machinest, then find a good gunsmith who will let you work for him for cheap. Let him teach you. When you are ready to go out on your own, you'll be better off and will not have a 20K ed loan to pay. Save money to buy equipment and tools. Buy an older american made lathe and mill, many can be had in excellent condition for a fraction of the price of a new one and it will be a better machine.
Better yet, be a hobby gunsmith as I suggested. Buy old guns and fix them and sell them. No FFL needed.
That's the other thing, your shop has to be seperate from your home. If you rent a shop, it has to be hardened so none can break in, a state of the art alarm system is required. Some places will give you a bad time about getting a business license for a shop because they are anti gun. The cost of rent and electricity is a large expense
I loved being a smith, but knowing what I know, would not do it again. If I really wanted to be smith, I'd do what I suggested, be a great machinest first, work for a smith and learn all you can from him, a good smith will show you things you will never learn in school, then open a shop.
You pretty much have to be crazy to do it. Most smiths do it because they love guns, how they work and repairing and modifying them, you'll be poor as a church mouse. You don't want to be a parts changer, you want to be a craftsman, that takes many years to become one.
You have to know what you can do and what to pass on or farm out.
Be a hobby smith, get a job that will suppot your family and you'll be way ahead. Learn to be a good machinest and find nice old guns from years past, repair them, make parts for them or restore them if it's not going to destroy the value, then sell them, you'll be miles ahead, have more fun and in a while most likely make more money. I know several people who do that. They don't have the headachs, love what they do, do it on their time annd make decent money,
My best, John K
Last edited by rifleman55; 02-15-2011 at 01:50 AM.