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Here’s a question for all the preppers out there: how much do you know about repairing and modifying your own weapons? This is an important question, as your guns will only be able to defend you in a SHTF scenario if they are in proper working order. And the longer that the S keeps H-ing T F, the more likely it is that your weapons are going to break down in a manner that makes them difficult or impossible to use.

You don’t have to be worried about the end of the world to think about taking up gunsmithing. In fact, many firearms enthusiasts have taken a keen interest in gunsmithing simply because it can be a lot of fun. But more than fun, it can also be a way to make yourself a little coin, either on the side or as a replacement for a job you’ve lost – or one you’re dying to get rid of.

When we think of trades, we often don’t think of gunsmithing. However, there are a number of private companies and public institutions where you can learn everything you need to know about it. You’ll have to put your time in, have a business plan and have an aptitude for the material, but there’s potentially never been a better time to get into gunsmithing – with five million new gun owners in the United States in 2020 alone, you’re going to have a lot of potential customers in your market.

What Do Gunsmiths Do?

“What do gunsmiths do?” might sound like a question with an obvious answer. But as with most simple questions, the answer has a bit more depth than one might immediately think. So what exactly is a gunsmith and how do they spend their time? This is a question you must know the in-depth answer to before you even start moving the pieces of your life into order to get yourself on the path to a career in gunsmithing.

First, a definition by differentiation: an armorer is someone who merely replaces parts on a firearm. A gunsmith does much more than that. A gunsmith can repair and modify weapons, but he can also design them and create them from scratch. This is a far more detailed and nuanced skill set than simply trading one worn-out part of a firearm for a new one. Those with a creative bent will be attracted to the last two parts of a gunsmith’s job description: If you’ve ever wanted a weapon to be a very specific way, but didn’t know how to make your stock weapons to your own specifications, you can start making guns for yourself. And if other people have the same spec desires for their weapons, you can make a handsome living making guns for those people as well.

What this means is that gunsmithing is effectively an interdisciplinary craft. You will need to learn the finer points of both machine working and woodworking. Engineering skills are not optional. In practice, you will be making what might seem like maddeningly minor adjustments to firearms to better equip them for the personal purposes of the shooter. But to the gunsmith, these minor differences are a world apart from one another. Even when you perform simple repairs, you will likely be fabricating the necessary parts in your own workshop rather than simply swapping out spare parts that you have lying around.

Some gunsmiths focus much more on cosmetic alterations. This would include refinishing and creating intricate decorative carvings on the weapons. But even these will be cutting off a ton of potential customers without intricate knowledge of harder skills with regard to weapons design and repair.

Many gunsmiths start out working in gun shops rather than starting their own businesses. Others work in factories and armories designing and repairing weapons. Most gunsmiths have an area of specialization (such as pistols or hunting rifles), but will generally know a lot about repairing, designing and modifying weapons of all kinds.

Specializations Within the Trade of Gunsmithing

We mentioned that there are areas where you can specialize in the trade of gunsmithing. It’s worth diving into what the major areas of specializations are so that you can gain a greater appreciation of whether or not the trade is for you, as well as what kind of gunsmithing you might like to go into.

• Engraver: There’s no two ways about it – highly customized and aestheticized guns are just cool. And if you want to work simply with making guns more beautiful, this is a specialization area that might appeal to you. You’ll have to have a strong aesthetic sensibility. Since most of this work is done by hand with engraving tools, a steady hand and attention to detail are absolutely necessary. The downside is that most of what you do is going to be abstract spirals, leaves and dogs. Keep in mind that everyone who walks through your door will almost immediately say “I want” – which means you won’t get a lot of opportunity to do original designs of your own choosing.

• Stockmaker: A stockmaker makes customs stocks either because of aesthetic considerations or because a sportsman needs something highly specific. Stockmakers will work with shotguns more than anything, as these require highly customized stocks for the serious sport shooter. Stockmakers also often design and fabricate stocks for disabled shooters. Oftentimes, this specialization is combined with that of a checkerer, a gunsmith who specializes in adding checkering to stocks.

• Pistolsmith: As one might expect, a pistolsmith is one who specializes in the design, fabrication and repair of pistols and revolvers. This specialization actually requires you to know virtually everything about gunsmithing, but you will only be working with pistols. You will, however, learn a great deal about the specifics of how different crafts and trades apply to pistols as opposed to other types of firearms.

• Finisher: A finisher works with the finish of a firearm, subjecting the metal to a series of chemical processes (bluing, browning and Parkerization are three examples of this). This creates an aesthetic effect, of course, but it can also make the gun sturdier and more resistant to the elements.

• Custom Builder: Custom builders work with creating custom guns designed from scratch from the ground up for highly demanding customers who need weapons made to very exact specifications. This could be anything from highly specialized weapons for sportsmen or people looking for a very specific and stylized weapon for their personal defense or private target shooting. It might sound like the most generalized specialization and, indeed, it might be, but it requires a great deal of skill and knowledge to do successfully.

You might have an eye on specialization from the word “go,” but the likely case is that you will begin your career as a generalist, learning about different specializations as you go and eventually moving your career into one of them. Still, if one of these jumps out at you as much more interesting than another, you should focus on that and do the various steps that it will take to get there whenever the opportunity presents itself.

Where Can You Learn to Become a Gunsmith?

There are actually ample opportunities for you to learn how to become a gunsmith, but they all fall into four broad categories:

• The Military: Most people don’t know that the military will train you to be a gunsmith. It’s perhaps more honest to say that the military will train you to become an armorer, however, for many this is the first step in their career as a gunsmith. But there are bona fide gunsmiths in the American military, and while the positions are limited, they are certainly available. For example, highly smithed weapons are required for snipers. Every branch of the military has a place where you can study gunsmithing.

• Apprenticeships: This is a bit of a harder road, as you will need to find a practicing gunsmith with the skill set you are seeking who is looking to take on an apprentice. However, for many people it might be the best option, either because they don’t have the ability to enter the military or to take time off of work for schooling. As an apprentice to a master gunsmith, you will earn a wage while you learn your trade and you will learn in a very hands-on environment. This can be a highly effective way of learning and will fit certain types like a glove.

• Formal Education: There are two ways you can learn gunsmithing through formal education: First, you can attend a local community college with a gunsmithing program. Second, if no such program exists near you, you can enroll in a correspondence program that will allow you to distance-learn gunsmithing. In addition to these options, there are a number of programs through the National Rifle Association where you can learn the basics of gunsmithing. While this might not make you a master gunsmith, it will give you a basic set of tools that allow you to hit the ground running when you start a more formal and intensive course of study.

Each of these options has their own perks and detriments. You will have to evaluate your own situation with regard to finances and location to determine which is the right path toward becoming a master gunsmith for you and your family. In addition, while you're waiting, it can be fruitful for you to learn basic machine working skills, as these will be used extensively by you in your training as a gunsmith.

Continue reading Gunsmithing: How to Make Money From Your Firearm Knowledge and Tools at Ammo.com.
 
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I can do some light smithing, but know my limits and when to seek help. As far as the SHTF goes, I've got spares, extra weapons, and ammo galore, so I'm not too concerned about any of that. I just had Kavarri do the last 2 SKS trigger groups that needed attention beyond my scope.

As far as working on other peoples guns in peacetime, make sure you've got liability insurance, because some folks aint cordial. PAX
 

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There are gunsmiths, parts changers, and pure bubbas. The last real gunsmith around here up and died on us. There are plenty of folks that work in gun shops that are parts changers, and some of them are bubbas.

The best way to become a gunsmith would be to get the formal education and then apprentice under a master. The first part is easier than the second part.
 
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as far as gunsmithing, i do have a catalog of DVD's that i can buy, and i will "some day", regarding a few hand guns, maybe i'll even get one for shotguns. but i'd pretty much want this knowledge for myself, not to earn money on it, due to the possible liability involved.

i wish not have to go and buy insurance. i am retired, so to have any extra expenditures is highly out of the question, in regards to say having a sideline business, and responsibilities.
 

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Why would anyone go to school to be a gunsmith? Spend all that time and money to learn a trade that could be ended at any time by the whims of Congress.
Besides the time and money for schooling, there is the cost of tooling and parts inventory along with insurance.
Next is the number of hours in a day. There are not enough to make any real money. This last item is the real reason to pick another occupation.

I was a gunsmith for many years. I started slowly with being only part-time for many years. This allowed me to gain a reputation in my area, spend profits on added tooling and parts inventory while making a living working for someone else.
Then I went full-time. And I made a living at it. I turned down a lot of work because there just was not enough time in a day. I was making a living doing something I enjoyed. Besides walk-ins, I had a deal set up with the largest gun dealer in my area. I also had other gun dealers wanting to set up deals with me. But again there was just not enough hours in a day to do any extra work. I was adding a little money to our bank account monthly but just not enough to insure a comfortable future for all of us.
So I quit completely. I went out and got a job where I could make some real money for my family. I have never regretted that decision.

Oh, most of the work was parts changing. That is 90% of gunsmithing at least. A gun breaks and they bring it to be fixed. Or they want better sights on their gun. Or they want a different stock or a recoil pad added. But it amounts to being a parts changer.
Oh, I did make a few guns but not while I was gunsmithing. I was too busy then. After I got a different job where I had free time I built a few guns. I really liked doing gunsmithing after I quit. Because then I did it for fun and not for money.
 

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as far as gunsmithing, i do have a catalog of DVD's that i can buy, and i will "some day", regarding a few hand guns, maybe i'll even get one for shotguns. but i'd pretty much want this knowledge for myself, not to earn money on it, due to the possible liability involved.

i wish not have to go and buy insurance. i am retired, so to have any extra expenditures is highly out of the question, in regards to say having a sideline business, and responsibilities.
It is certainly beneficial to be able to work on your own stuff and worth the effort to study to do so. No knowledge is wasted. I have the J.B. Wood books that I use when I get in a tight and have found them well worth the expense. (of course, being a tightwad, I bought them used.)

There is a big difference in working on you own stuff and working on other people's property for money. There are plenty of pretenders in the world that call themselves, gunsmiths, electricians, or plumbers when in fact they are only jacklegs.

Learning a skilled trade requires study, time and effort. I have seen the process through a series of apprentices that I trained over the years of my plumbing career. I have had apprentices that were exceptionally bright, and some that were as dumb as sticks, however, they all held to the following stages of advancement. (at least those that stuck it out) I firmly believe that when I was an apprentice, I followed the same pattern. ;)

In the first year, the apprentice knows that he knows nothing. In the second year, the apprentice thinks he knows everything. In the third year, he is gaining enough knowledge to know what he doesn't know. By the fourth year of apprenticeship, the person is on the way to mastering the trade. It takes time to become a master.
 
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I’ve always been a little critical of guys that think their a genius for putting together a few AR-15’s....
It's true – but it is kind of fun to imagine you're the next J.M. Browning the first time you piece together an AR like a Lego set.
 

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It was a tremendous relief to just admit that I would never be comfortable in a plane that I was flying.

A man has to know his limitations.
You've never lived until you've flown an open cockpit biplane :cool: . PAX
 

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as far as gunsmithing, i do have a catalog of DVD's that i can buy, and i will "some day", regarding a few hand guns, maybe i'll even get one for shotguns. but i'd pretty much want this knowledge for myself, not to earn money on it, due to the possible liability involved.

i wish not have to go and buy insurance. i am retired, so to have any extra expenditures is highly out of the question, in regards to say having a sideline business, and responsibilities.
Jerry Kuhnhausen’s manuals are great for the guns he wrote them for. I think he is died in 2014, so there aren’t manuals for the more modern guns, but he covered most of the classics.

And there are companion DVDs for some of the books.
 

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There was a movie about a 14,000 year old man. Was it C3?
 
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Snappy dresser, good dancer, make great chili and pretty fair wine.
i can open up a can of chili, beans or no beans variety.

i can dress nicely, but i don't wanna attract too many gals, when my wife is with me.

i am an excellent dancer, when i sit and watch others do it.

and i "make" it to the liquor store, to buy my wine....

i think this makes us "2 of a kind"........huh...??
 

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It's true – but it is kind of fun to imagine you're the next J.M. Browning the first time you piece together an AR like a Lego set.
Mr. Browning would have tossed the plastic gun on the ground and spat upon it. An AK he would have appreciated.
 

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I have found that for one to really make a little money by being a good gunsmith is to start out with a lot of money.

Tools, schooling, having the coffee pot on all the time costs money.
 

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I have found that for one to really make a little money by being a good gunsmith is to start out with a lot of money.

Tools, schooling, having the coffee pot on all the time costs money.
we say the same thing in the trucking business, for anyone wanting to be an owner-operator.

just a wee bit different..

"if you wanna make a million dollars as an o/o, start off with 2 million"

thing is, someone needs to do either job, and to me, it's more of a passion to be the owner of any business, than it is to be a millionaire.

otherwise, the best way to becoming a real millionaire..??

buy lottery tickets...
 
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