Starting my new business.

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing Forum' started by GSmith1883, Jun 16, 2014.

  1. GSmith1883

    GSmith1883 New Member

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    I just opened my Gunsmith business out of my home. I've got the education (Colorado School of Trades), I've got more than just the basic tools (including a drill press) and some books, and I've got all the licensing. Everything is all set up. So far I don't have a lot of experience, I couldn't afford quitting my day job to take a apprenticeship, so aside from my schooling and doing small jobs on friends and my personal firearms I have little experience. I've invested a lot of time and money into this and I really need it to work out. This is a passion I've had for a long time, and my day job sucks! Does anyone have any advice for starting my business on a successful path and avoiding mistakes due to my lack of experience?Any pitfalls or lessons I can avoid learning the hard way? Any advise would be greatly appreciated.


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  2. DrFootball

    DrFootball disappointed & disgusted, But DETERMINED... Lifetime Supporter

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    Congrats and best of luck. I did the same, and going back to School at 52-53 was not easy, and still is not. I did also get tools, and a drill press, but stopped short at a lathe,...I'm lucky I'm retired( Taught HS and college undergrad for 26 years after active duty Army). I'm short a few hands on Machining classes, and have a 3 semester wait to take them locally, but two friends in the biz already have been very helpful. One lets me watch him work and explains stuff to me, and the other lets me just work on his machines...


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    Last edited: Jun 16, 2014

  3. danf_fl

    danf_fl Retired Supporter

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    There are a lot of people who are too lazy to clean their guns or the family relic.

    Offer that, and as you continue, you will get to have "hands-on" with different models.

    As you clean, look for parts that need replacement. The internet has loads of information on guns and use it to your advantage.
     
  4. clr8ter

    clr8ter New Member

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    And maybe offer scope mounting & sighting, and some other low-key work. ^^^ Sounds like a good idea. There are soooo many lazy people out there, take advantage of that.
     
  5. Highpower

    Highpower New Member

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    First of all I'd make sure I have a good product liability insurance policy to protect myself. Trigger jobs are the quickest way to get oneself sued if done incorrectly and someone accidently shoots their favorite dog. :(

    What extent of services are you prepaired to offer? Gunsmithing covers a lot of ground in both metal and wood working. Do you plan on doing just certain types of repairs, or are you going to tackle any kind of work that comes through the door?
     
  6. hiwall

    hiwall Active Member

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    Put ads out for general gunsmithing. If someone has a job too big just turn it down. Like said above 95% of the jobs are cleaning and putting in replacement parts. Go to all rifle/pistol ranges and see if you can leave business cards there. If possible join a shooting league so you are mixing with other avid shooters. Put an ad out that you will buy broken or incomplete guns. Fix 'em for the experience and sell them. Try to get your business cards in the hands of every shooter in the area. Get certified to teach firearms safety classes or concealed carry classes.
     
  7. rn-cindy

    rn-cindy Active Member

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    You could try the gun shows, and do simple upgrades....There is a Glock Armorer that travels around to the Bill Goodies shows...I see him every time i go to one...He sells spare mags / lasers / lights / etc. And does simple upgrades, Night sights / stainless guide rods and springs / Lone wolf barrels / extended slide lock and mag release / etc. This guy always has a line wrapped around his booth...Probably making a killing $$$$$$$$.......
     
  8. rn-cindy

    rn-cindy Active Member

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    He has a cute girl in hoochie shorts and a tube top selling the accessories, Glock shirts, hats, etc. while he is working on the guns...The Glockies are lined up there...:D
     
  9. John_Deer

    John_Deer New Member

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    You really need more equipment than a drill press and a lathe to be a gunsmith. If I brought in a revolver and a gunsmith went to work on the hammer and sear with a file or whetstone I would get a stick and beat him senseless. There are tools and jigs that will cut each part perfectly square and to the same size every time.

    Gunsmiths can make a lot of money. But it is a sizable investment to equip a shop properly and efficiently. One cannot make a decent living filing away at parts like Geppetto. Not to mention the liability that one assumes by doing work without proper tools and equipment. if you do work that is not up to industry standards your liability insurance will not pay a penny. You will lose everything you own just on attorney fees.

    I hate to see anyone work at a job they hate. I am not looking to smash dreams. Someone has to be realistic and point out insurmountable problems that exist in ones business model.

    If you don't know what this tool is you are not a gunsmith.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2014
  10. hairbear1

    hairbear1 Member

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    Good on you for having a crack at going into business but be warned that it's like a lost dog at times as the work/phone calls will follow you home.

    You can if you get good at it have people ringing you at all times of the day and night and on weekends and while this sounds good it will be a big pain the in rear end because you also want time away from the game as well. Remember you work to live not live to work.

    Make sure you stay on top of your money as in paying bills and collecting money and it probably is a real good idea to not run accounts to start with as you'll be wanting liquid cash so as that you can pay for parts and other things.
    Parts suppliers will probably not give you an account to start with because they don't want to be caught short either with an unknown and make sure you charge enough to pay yourself a wage.

    Don't get into a price war with anybody as this is also a quick way to a financial/business death. If your work is good enough and you keep getting repeat customers and new ones charging the right money while it may seem dear to some will always get more people because your doing a good job and people will pay for this knowing it's going to do what they want.

    Big rule in business is to make sure you pay yourself 1st and then everybody 2nd your not in it for love and NEVER employ friends or family if the pooh hits the fan for whatever reason involving either party's you'll be the 1 on the receiving end of what ever happens afterwards and it can get very nasty.

    Try not to do love jobs for people as these will be the one's who'll dump s&*t on you for doing a part job even though you tried to help them out. It's either a proper job or nothing at all. Let some other sucker cop the s^&t and lose their name/reputation.

    Get a good bean counter if things start going better than you expect trust me a good bean counter will save you money and grief from the tax man.

    With customers always listen to them because they're the reason you've got food on the table even the Mall Ninja 2000yd tactical sniper shooter because even they contribute to your business but don't let them consume your day as they're not paying your bills where as the 5 blokes who want a scope and bedding job do.
    Always call a customer back if you promised to do so as this generates more goodwill and if you aren't sure on how to do something let the customer know this and possibly refer them to somebody who does this will pay itself back down the track as they may refer people to you..............a bit of back scratching if you will.
    Finally if it's a major build get a deposit on the work before you start probably 20% so that when you get going you know old mate is serious and don't let the job go till paid in full.
     
  11. danf_fl

    danf_fl Retired Supporter

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    Everything in writing!
    Gun cleaning, part replacement, refinish jobs, everything!

    The first time someone says you did more than you were suppose to, you will understand why the customer's signature and yours on a piece of paper is important. (also, give the original copy to the customer.)
     
  12. hiwall

    hiwall Active Member

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    Specialized equipment can be purchased when needed. Most gunsmith jobs require no real specialized tools. Your business is NOT going to go gang busters overnight. Your business will build slowly. Once I was proficient in my work two large local gun shops aligned themselves with me and I was set from then on. But do not expect that to happen right away. Always conduct your business with honor and soon you will have a growing business.
     
  13. John_Deer

    John_Deer New Member

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    I am not a gunsmith. But I have been in business of some fashion most of my life. I always get enough money up front to pay for materials and labor. People lie, some will try to nit pick until you walk away. Lots of people have a game of some fashion. If your costs are covered in the beginning no matter what happens you won't lose on a job. Get your money even if it is another shop sending you the work. Another shop is the one that will pencil whip you or be slow to pay. I have never given another contractor a sub contractor price. There is a reason they don't want to do that job. You can bet there is more to the job than it seems to be.

    I had a guy that wanted me to paint an addition. I take the job. I send my guys over there. They come back in a couple hours saying they are not working on that job. I go over there to see what is going on. The homeowner has a Great Dane with nothing but a child gate between me and the great dane. The dog is foaming at the mouth. The homeowner is still trying to get someone to paint his addition for all I know. Yes, I kept the money.
     
  14. Axxe55

    Axxe55 The Apocalypse Is Coming.....

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    a lot of good information is being given here. most of which i agree with.

    first thing i would suggest, keep your day job. if unhappy, find another that you like better. much better to have a regular job that pays the bills and use the proceeds from gunsmithing to further that business with better tools and equipment, the services of a good bookkeeper and accountant and business related expenses.

    i will also say, that most of the gunsmiths i know, do gunsmithing on the side as extra income. somei have talked to say there just isn't enough business in their areas to support them doing gunsmithing as the only means of income. a couple have said that more and more gun owners are learning and doing work they were doing years ago. and i agree. i am a hobbiest gunsmith and tinkerer on my own guns and for the most part am self taught. so with the fact that i have the tools and the knowledge to do my own repairs and customizing, why would i pay someone to do what i am capable of? simple answer, i won't. the only jobs gunsmithing i have farmed out in over 20 years, are those i lack the equipment or tools or the ability to do. more and more gun owners are becoming like me, and learning to do their own gunsmithing, which cuts into the work available for a someone in business doing gunsmithing work as an income. look at a Brownell's or Midway catalog or on the internet and the tools are available to do just about anything to a firearm now. look at the YouTube videos at what people are posting showing how to work on just about any gun there is. as people learn more and more about how to work on their own firearms, it puts more of a crimp in the business that will be available to the professional gunsmith looking to make a living doing it.

    times have changed and if you want to be successful, you need to adapt to changing times and customer needs. most gunsmiths i have known or met over the years did it because they loved guns and it was a passion and a vocation they took much pride in doing and if they were successful and made a good living, that was just icing on the cake.

    i wish you much luck. above all, do the best job that you possibly can, know your limitations and abilities, but always look to expand or increase your knowledge and abilities, and always do a good job, refuse to do crappy work for any price and gain a reputaion of doing a good job at a fair price, honestly and you will be successful.
     
  15. GSmith1883

    GSmith1883 New Member

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    Thank you everybody for the input. In response to some of the questions and comments I will try to move down the line.
    I work during the day with a lot of hunters who in turn know a lot more hunters, so I've been doing quite a few cleanings and safety/function checks. Usually bolt action rifles, or shotguns. I did three pillar bedding jobs, two wood stock refinishes, repaired a sticky safety in a Winchester model 70, fitted a new extractor in a Springfield EMP, installed a trigger kit in my Springfield XD and in a buddy's S&W M&P, and replaced the sights on both those pistols as well. I might be missing a few but that's the majority of what I've done out side of school.
    As for jobs I'm taking on now, I'm kinda taking anything I have the confidence and tooling to handle. So far the only jobs I've had to turn down were a couple metal finishing jobs, I learned the hard way it takes way to long to strip a metal finish with sandpaper, scotch brite and a polishing wheel, just to turn it over to someone else to blue or parkerize it.
    As for tools, I am a strong believer in the right tool for the job. Aside from the $8,000 in tools I got from school, I have easily spent another $2,000 over the past 4 years (that's aside from the drill press). And if I didn't need the tool at the time, it was a tool I could foresee using often in the future.
    And as for this photo View attachment 145346
    I believe that is a sear jig. Haven't used one, but our instructor in triggers class demonstrated and explained it to us. It's for adjusting the sear/trigger engagement. And that tool along with a sight mounting jig for drilling and tapping scope mounts is high on the list.
    On the business aspect, my step daughters father is a Tax Accountant, and he has already been a big help, and I'm sure even more so the more I get into my endeavor. Plus I am currently talking to a friend to set up liability insurance.
    I really didn't mean to make this reply so long. Just trying to give you guys a feel for where I'm at. Again I really appreciate the advice, it has given me a better idea of what to focus on and how to cover my ass.


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  16. GSmith1883

    GSmith1883 New Member

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    And just to clarify my day job sucks but I am good at it and it is very stable. It has fed my family for a long time now. So if I need to do this business part time the rest of my life I can handle that.
    So far I haven't been working on firearms long enough to really find a niche, at this point weather it's a DCOA, or a pillar job with a stock refinish, I really enjoy doing the work, it has definitely become a passion. Thank you guys again for the advice and wishing me luck, I really appreciate it.


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  17. Axxe55

    Axxe55 The Apocalypse Is Coming.....

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    GSmith, sounds like you have somewhat of a direction to head in and are looking at the big picture.

    might i suggest looking at getting the equipment to blue and do other types of finishes. many times in the past, this was one of those jobs i did farm out simply because it too cost prohibative for DIYer to spend the money for doing just few guns occasionally. might be something other gunsmiths or gun shops would farm out to someone with the equipment to do such jobs along with the DIYer's in your area.
     
  18. weaselfire

    weaselfire Member

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    That's half the business. Add in mounting and zeroing scopes and you have most of what gunsmiths really do. :)

    A lot of work is merely parts replacement. Changing sights, swapping trigger assemblies, building a 10/22 or AR, that sort of thing. A lot can be made with refinishing, Cerakote, hydro dipping and so on. Until you get to custom work, rebarreling and restoration, there are really not a lot of tools needed, and none of them even need to be power.

    That said, I think what you're looking as is a good technical education with a lack of any business training. One simple thing you should do is put together a business plan. The process of doing it will force you to think through and research how you can, and want to, grow your business.

    You might also look up your local SCORE resource. These guys don't know gunsmithing, but they know business. They can help with the basics you didn't get in school (face it, you got a gunsmithing degree, not a MBA...).

    Good luck and keep us posted.

    Jeff
     
  19. GSmith1883

    GSmith1883 New Member

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    I am looking into a cerakote kit , now if I can talk my wife into letting me put a firearm coated with chemicals in our oven (correction, her oven) is another story! I'd really like to get a bluing set up, but aside from it costing a couple thousand for a basic set up, I'm really limited in space, so it will have to wait. A friend offered for me to set up a hydra dip tank in his garage as long as he can dip a few of his guns, so that might be a option. I did order a Lyman Power Professional Turbo Sonic Cleaner though. With all the cleanings I have been doing, and hopefully a lot more to come, it seemed like a worth while investment. Should be here in a few days.
    And I looked into the Score resource and printed out a 33 page article on how to create a complete business plan. That should be very helpful.
    I can't thank you guys enough for the advice and support.


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  20. clr8ter

    clr8ter New Member

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    Why not get a free or nearly free oven on Craigslist and set it up in the garage or basement? Running a 240V line isn't really a big deal...