Gunsmith wages

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing Forum' started by sgthooah04, Feb 25, 2014.

  1. sgthooah04

    sgthooah04 New Member

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    Starting another topic that I hope will be made into a sticky.
    I'v read alot of the threads that cover this topic but most of them were lacking alot of solid info. They mostly seamed.to be "gunsmith don't make much" or you just got out of the school and your wanting to make top dollar? You crazy" not the sort of responses I'm looking for.
    What I'm looking for is what are the starting wages a new graduate could expect to make. Either from a well know manufacturer, a custom shop or even a sporting goods shop. A decent hourly rate that a new gunsmith could expect would be what?
    just looking for realistic expextations because I know this question crop up from time to time. If someone wants to give a estimate of what a good Smith might make down the road say 5 or 10 years that would be awsome as well.

    Thanks for the help

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  2. mountainman13

    mountainman13 New Member

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    It tends not be an hourly pay situation. Expect to keep your day job. You get work, you get paid. If you're a good Smith you'll make money. If not you won't. It takes time to build a customer base. It's basically like tattooing. You get an apprenticeship and hang around the shop. Occasionally you have customers come in. If you do good work customers come back and word spreads and eventually you're busy and making money. If you suck you run out of customers and work fast. Average rate for a tattoo artist is about $100 per hour per appointment. A good Smith can make the same.
    It also depends on licensing. If you are licensed as a manufacturer you can do Very well. When you don't have work you can build guns.
    It is virtually impossible to answer your question.

    better judged by twelve than carried by six.
     

  3. danf_fl

    danf_fl Retired Supporter

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    The Dept of Labor Wage determination for a gunsmith is $13.78 for beginner to $18.49 for a master (an hour on a service contract) in my area.
    Add $3.59 per hour for health and welfare.

    Compare to an Automobile Body Repairer, Fiberglass at $21.33, or Automotive Glass Installer at $19.43, or a Personal Computer Support Tech at $19.86.

    So "gunsmith don't make much".
     
  4. mountainman13

    mountainman13 New Member

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    Never thought to try looking it up like that. Interesting albeit kinda useless.

    better judged by twelve than carried by six.
     
  5. Beezer

    Beezer Member

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    I have no way to vouch for the accuracy of this site, but it should give you a good idea of what to expect in terms of salary, based on your location.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 27, 2014
  6. hiwall

    hiwall Well-Known Member

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    I haven't worked as a gunsmith since 1990. When I quit (after 15 years) I was actually making a fair living. I worked from home but two fair sized gun shops in the area that sent all their work to me plus what I got locally. I never advertised after the first couple years when I started. It was a very slow start. I was friends with the owner of one of the gun shops and the other shop found out I did the first shop's work and that was how I got theirs. I made alot more money after I quit gunsmithing.
     
  7. mountainman13

    mountainman13 New Member

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    Considering I was the only gunsmith in the area I feel relatively confident saying there is No gunsmith in leominster making $37.5k/year on average.

    better judged by twelve than carried by six.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 27, 2014
  8. CardiacColt68

    CardiacColt68 New Member

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    That's because other than you there are only about 6 guns in Mass.


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  9. mountainman13

    mountainman13 New Member

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    Lol. I'd be amazed if there were 6 gunsmiths honestly.

    better judged by twelve than carried by six.
     
  10. CardiacColt68

    CardiacColt68 New Member

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    I've got some in law folks in Mass and I'd swear they are Martians. WTF happened to that State? People think weird there. But I know some freedom loving, gun wielding people up in NH. So maybe there is hope with some cross border pollination.


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  11. sgthooah04

    sgthooah04 New Member

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    Thank you all for the info you have provided. I was really hopping that there would be some stronger info or at least a general consensus of what a new Smith at an established shop could expect to make but the info you have given is still very helpful for those looking to become a smith.
    Also I understand that if your starting your own shop things in the beginning are going to be rough until you get a good client base. That's pretty true of any business starting out

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  12. danf_fl

    danf_fl Retired Supporter

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    As a side note:
    Break down the cost per hour of everything you have invested in opening a new shop.

    Rent, electricity, inventory, tools, water and sewage for the shop, advertising, book keeping, furniture, etc...

    That $45 dollars to clean a client's shotgun gets divided for the above.

    The best way to have a small pile of money is to open a new gunsmith shop with a large pile.
     
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  13. hiwall

    hiwall Well-Known Member

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    Even working in a large shop the wages can not get very high. There is a limit as how much a customer will pay for some jobs and yet they do take time. Then out of what the customer pays all the overhead has to be paid. You might do a good job stripping, cleaning, and lubing the gun but take 45 minutes doing so.
     
  14. JonM

    JonM Moderator

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    Gunsmithing is one of those things you don't make much money doing it for someone else for a living.

    The folks that make bucks doing it start by doing it as a hobby business, during that time they perfect and master a skill, after a decade or so they become an artist at it, at that point they either start their own shop and hire staff or keep doing it as a hobby business.

    It is NOT a career path.

    That's the reality of it. This has not changed since the caveman carved the first stick into a club.
     
  15. awahlster

    awahlster New Member

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    To give a reference I was a Custom Knifemaker full time I made approx. 200-250 knives a year worked out of my home shop (extremely low overhead) owned all my own tools and only sent out heat treating to be done. In a good year I figure I cleared about $12.00 an hour and paid taxes etc out of that.

    As a Dump truck driver for a Paving company I started at $16.00 an hour and now after 10 years I make $21.40 an hour + bonuses and profit share (good year about 4K) and I get 4 months off a year during which I get approx. 8K in unemp)

    So another words 3 times what I made as a Knifemaker and I do it in 8 months.

    Crafts bases businesses rarely equal a decent trade income.
     
  16. Hookeye

    Hookeye Active Member

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    You will be in competition with others.
    You gonna charge 30 or 40 bucks to clean a nasty old .22 rifle when a shop with inventory and a range, will do it as a "customer service" for $5? (or if really bad, maybe $10)?

    They may even do fixes or small mods for "parts" price only.

    To compete you must have skills/equipment others do not have. And you need to build a customer base, and that means you can't charge top dollar right from the start.

    Every other retired factory operator, tool and die guy or gun nut wants to be a "gunsmith".
    Many do not have the proper problem solving skills to debug/fix stuff. Then there is the issue of people skills. Tinkering at the bench for $10 an hr might be tolerable.

    Dealing with the public for that? Is a screwing.

    Even if making $20 an hr.

    Buy the tools, learn to work on your own stuff.
    That way you will continue to enjoy guns and shooting as a hobby.
     
  17. JohnJak

    JohnJak New Member

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    I make $30.00 to $60.00 an hour depending on the type of work.
     
  18. danf_fl

    danf_fl Retired Supporter

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    I have to ask if your normal 8 hours day is constantly busy or are there down times. $30 an hour is good, but if the next hour is dead, then it goes down to $15 an hour ($30 /2 = $15).
     
  19. CardiacColt68

    CardiacColt68 New Member

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    I would think either starting out part time, or as a second job would be a good, safe way to build the business, and earn a reputation. Another idea would be to specialize in a certain niche or type of firearm. Be the 'go-to' smith for your specialty. you can always branch out and build the business as you grow.


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  20. mattybock

    mattybock New Member

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    How much does a gunsmith make? Sadly it is not a yearly salaried thing. There is no hourly wage. Annual income numbers range from 20K to 60K per year, but the variables are mostly as follows;
    - specialties; if you are a specialist you get specialist customers and their money.

    - fees; price yourself out of the market and you'll get no where, only customers who are later resentful once they find other's fees.

    - options/ service types; the more you can do the more you get paid. Even simple things that are plainly standard should be mentioned, just to keep it in the customers mind.

    - advertising; get a facebook, get a website, sponsor sports teams, offer giveaways in local papers and church raffles, get listed in the yellow pages, etc. No one stops there if they don't know you're there.

    what does not matter so much;
    - seniority; now the old guys will go on and get your panties in a bunch. All the older gunsmiths I've ever known thought they had some kind of secret old guy knowledge, but they were just prideful and behind the times, often making pennies as compared to other smiths to supliment their fixed social security checks they earned as a non-gunsmith. It doesn't matter if you're been in the industry 6 months or 6 decades, if you don't do the things that matter you're going nowhere financially.

    - skill; gunsmithing is very mechanical, just like the learning process. Turn one screw, you've turned 99% of all screws. Bluing one barrel is the same as the next, as 4140 is 4140 no matter what. As long as you're not a peanut-head you can do it. Just follow the steps to complete the job. All jobs have been done before, there is nothing new under the sun.