Wanting to become a gunsmith

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing Forum' started by colmustard, Jan 31, 2011.

  1. colmustard

    colmustard New Member

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    So I am wanting to go to a gunsmith school and get into the trade. I live in ohio and was thinking about the pennsylvania gunsmith school. Does anyone know anything about it? Or what about other schools or programs? I want to use my G.I. bill for the school, then when I am done with the gunsmith school come back and start on my college degree and do gunsmithing on the side. Thanks for any info.:)
     
  2. danf_fl

    danf_fl Retired Supporter

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    A co-worker is sending his boy to the one in Colorado. He did a lot of research and ended up going there.

    (By the way, even after the years in the business, I am also wanting to be a gunsmith.)
     

  3. stalkingbear

    stalkingbear Well-Known Member

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    I have no experience with the gunsmithing school in Pa so I can't help you there. The Co School of Trades in Denver is an excellent 4 year on campus program (or at least it was years ago).
     
  4. colmustard

    colmustard New Member

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    Thanks for the info, I need all I can get.:)
     
  5. Stratton

    Stratton New Member

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    Gunsmithing schools...

    Trinidad State is a good school to go to. I have a degree in gunsmithing from there and it has opened many doors for me over the years.
     
  6. Ruzai

    Ruzai New Member

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    Trinidad, CO is where I'm heading this summer. Their program is sponsored by Brownells, and the third-year building is the one that's primarily sponsored and donated to by Brownells. All the people I've talked to over there are very nice and extremely knowledgable.
     
  7. truc

    truc New Member

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    pa school

    hello,,a friend of mine went to the pa school and even taught there for awhile ,,he highly recommended it and his work was top notch ,,i wouldn't hesitate going there ,,and it would definatly be closer than CO.
    just my 2 cents worth
    truc
     
  8. colmustard

    colmustard New Member

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    Thanks alot guys, looks like I have some big choices to make.
     
  9. rifleman55

    rifleman55 New Member

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    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: Feb 14, 2011
  10. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

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    Really, REALLY Excellent post Rifleman! *MUCH RESPECT*

    /thread

    JD
     
  11. rifleman55

    rifleman55 New Member

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    Thank You. I wanted to give an honest view of being a smith.
    It's not just my view, but one of many smiths I've talked to.
    The one thing all have in common is their love of guns. That's what keeps them in the business.
    Unless you love the design, the way they work, the craftsmanship involved, you won't make it. To many, it's kind of a romantic thing. Being the guy others look up to. Having all the cool tools and machines, having the answers (hopefully) and having the respect of gun owners. But if you do not have a real passion for firearms, the hassles of being a smith will soon outweigh the love of the craft, and it is a craft.
    I'd still be doing it, but I hurt may back very badly. I can't stand for more than a couple of hours and got arthrisus in my hands. I miss it and spend a fair amout of time at my friends shop, just to keep my hands in it.

    It's something anyone thinking about being a smith should really do a lot of soul searching about and honestly ask themselves the questions I have posed.

    We need new gunsmiths, many of the really good oldtimers are retiring.

    Guns have also changed. Many are just parts guns, something wears out, it takes 5 minutes to drop a new part into. Some you can't even work on anymore. Many, company's like Ruger won't sell parts for their guns, internal one's anyway.

    It's a big decision, one that involves a lot of money and should not be taken lightly.

    There were many young kids in gunsmithing school that you just knew would not make it. When it came time to do the repairs, all they wanted were the easy guns so they could get to the part of the school where you built your own projects, they learned little and learning as much as you can still only makes you a beginning smith, not enough experience for the many things you will run into that you never saw in school. With a good background and library, you could figure things out if you really paid attention and learned to think things through.
    Having a mentor, like an experienced smith to help you with the tough things is always a big help also.

    Don't jump, really think it out. If your willing to make the sacrfices and truely love firearms, you may have a chance.

    John K
     
  12. Ruzai

    Ruzai New Member

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    Its harder to find an apprentice opportunity that's close to some people. There isnt a lot of gunsmiths within a 2 hour radius of where I am and the ones that do actual work are saturated with apprentices, so much so that they seem to groan everytime someone asks if they is something, even free, open.
     
  13. rifleman55

    rifleman55 New Member

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    Well, I've given you a very honest look at the good and the bad.

    If you feel you are the right kind of person to be a smith and don't mind making little money for your efforts, then go for it, but you have been warned.
    Be sure to have a good amount of money put away to open your shop, it costs far more than you might think it will. You will need not only a gunsmith license, but a Manufacturing license.

    Any money that you espect to make during the first 3 to 5 years will go to buying tools you didn't ralize you needed. If your very lucky, you'll clear 20K profit by the 5th year.

    My friend who is a master gunsmith, has been in business for over 20 years, has a shop full of guns waiting to be worked on is thinking about pulling the plug. He's tired of not being able to support his family well. With the skills he has as a machinest, welder and helicopter mechanic, he can make a far better living doing one of the things mentioned. He works 12 hour days in the shop and after expenses, is not making enough to make it worth his while. He loves what he does, but the reality of supporting his family in todays times is really taking a toll on him. It would be a great loss to many shooters if he hangs it up.

    That's the cold truth.

    Best of luck, John K
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2011
  14. PerpetualStudent

    PerpetualStudent New Member

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    Wow. Rifleman, thank you very much for that excellent, excellent post.

    The Mind is like a Parachute. It only works when it's open.
     
  15. Ruzai

    Ruzai New Member

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    Thread is a bit old but may as well. I got shut down on going to Trinidad's gunsmithing program but managed to get into Colorado School of Trades (CST) in Denver.

    I actually see the kids Rifleman55 is talking about, the ones who want just the easy guns. I'm currently working on a Remington 740 and many of the other students want to know why in the hell I wanted to do something so complicated since its not a bolt gun like most of theirs. My answer is simple "to learn". I had one of the old pros (Jerry Fisher) come by when I was redong the stock on the gun and I think I soaked up enough info about his techniques my brain wanted to ooze out of my ears.

    I did screw up the buttstock (didnt keep my lines straight). Its un-avoidable to screw something up in gunsmithing school. I've seen several drill bits and taps broken in the last week its become the norm. You WILL have to start over on stuff and if you dont learn from mistakes and/or manage your time well you'll pay for it one way or another; grades or customer wise.
     
  16. PerpetualStudent

    PerpetualStudent New Member

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    Thanks for the update Ruzai! I'm glad to hear about your pursuing a calling for you. How long have you been attending?

    I am only ever planning to do home hobby work but as with anything I pursue, I'm more than serious about it. I won't pursue this professionally, but I would love to be able to build something from nothing.

    I have no machinist skills, but I'm patient and persistent and, fortunately pick stuff quickly. LoL. In time, all things.

    I would like to ask, what has been the one thing that you've experienced that has had the most impact for you? Besides realizing that mistakes are often and inevitable.

    The Mind is like a Parachute. It only works when it's open.
     
  17. Thegunbildr

    Thegunbildr New Member

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    I have bought quite a few of there videos thought out the years out first one was a long while ago when i was first getting into guns and gunsmithing The Video quality is not excellent, they look like they were filmed in someones basement, but informational wise they are excellent. I will say sometime they are a tad hard to follow and there have been a few i have had to rewind a couple of times and watch to fully understand what there were saying. the armorer courses it is best to have a complete gun there and go over everything with it as they do, you will be amazed how much that really helps.


    well good luck
     
  18. Alphawolf45

    Alphawolf45 New Member

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    This subject interests me.. I would have enjoyed going to school for gunsmithing.. I am machinist and have built more than a couple guns from barstock over the last 6 years or so...Gunsmithing is a huge subject, I will never learn it all. ..I'd like somebody to show me by example how you buy a beater and rebuild it, and re-sell it for a profit? That sounds impossible.. Here is picture of one gun I built .Copy of .22 Marlin 1892 . I made every piece but the barrel blank and tubular magazine. I am into classic American made rifles..Mostly .22s..A working gunsmith wont make all the parts that a hobbiest will have at. ;-)
    [​IMG]
     
  19. PerpetualStudent

    PerpetualStudent New Member

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    Wow. Excellent job. Would not have guess that was made almost purely from scratch.

    The Mind is like a Parachute. It only works when it's open.
     
  20. Ruzai

    Ruzai New Member

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    There is no magical answer for that question unfortunately, there's just too much to choose from. I suppose if I had to widdle it down to the bare minimum one I'd say "measure twice and cut once". I originally had that concept in mind when I started school, but its easy to get carried away and forget it.

    Alphawolf45: I'm not sure if you know this but making guns from bar-stock requires a manufacturing license. And working gunsmiths do make a good bit of parts but I'll admit, its much better to just order them if we can find them lol. By the way, nice color case hardening.