The Wild West is well known for its colorful history, and it’s often portrayed as a place that was replete with saloons, gambling and gunfights. And whether lawmen or outlaws – nobody was anyone in the Old West unless they knew how to handle a gun. Some applied their skills as gunslingers to robbing trains, others combined quick-draw shooting with fiery tempers or a seemingly psychotic need to kill, and yet others used their abilities to enforce the law – even though their conduct was often questionable. Still, while we may not admire them for their exploits, we can certainly appreciate the skill of these renowned gunfighters. Here’s a look at 10 of the deadliest Wild West gunslingers.
Legend has it that famous outlaw Billy the Kid had killed as many as 26 men by the time he died, aged just 21 years old, although the total seems more likely to have been under 10. While there’s conflicting information about Billy the Kid’s true name and origins, he is widely reported to have been excellent with a gun. It seems most likely that he was born in an Irish district of New York City on November 23, 1859 and then settled in New Mexico in 1873, after being moved around the country by his mother.
In 1877 – following his engagement in criminal activity such as livestock rustling – Billy the Kid was hired by a wealthy English cattle rancher named John Tunstall in Lincoln County, New Mexico. The Kid’s job was to protect Tunstall and watch over his animals. And he was known for his lightning-fast draw, his lithe frame, and his readiness to fight with his fists if necessary. The Kid is said to have thought highly of his boss, and the two had a mutual respect. So when Tunstall was murdered in cold blood, Billy vowed to exact revenge on the killers.
Billy the Kid’s favorite gun is believed to have been a .44 caliber Colt “Peacemaker,” and he became notorious due to his involvement in the Lincoln County War. Much violence and many escapades ensued, and on July 14, 1881, he was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett.
James “Killin’ Jim” Miller was born in Van Buren, Arkansas on October 25, 1866, but his family moved to Texas when he was a baby. Miller’s parents died when he was young, and he moved in with his grandparents. Yet he was orphaned for a second time when his grandparents were murdered, with Miller himself arrested for the crime, even though he was only eight years old. In the end, he wasn’t charged, and he went to live with his sister and her husband. Later, as a teenager, Miller blasted his sister’s husband in the head with a shotgun after a quarrel. He was handed a life sentence for the murder but escaped justice owing to a technicality.
Next, Miller was implicated in another shotgun attack, this time on Ballinger City lawman Joe Townsend. Following this incident, “Killin’ Jim” spent time traveling and ran a saloon. He then turned lawman himself, eventually becoming the marshal of Pecos. In 1894, an ongoing feud between Miller and Pecos sheriff George A. “Bud” Frazer led to Frazer shooting Miller in the arm, groin and chest – but thanks to a steel plate under his shirt, Miller survived.
“Killin’ Jim” went on to become a Texas Ranger as well as a professional assassin. However, on April 19, 1909, following the murder of former Deputy US Marshal Allen “Gus” Bobbitt, Miller was hanged. Apparently, he screamed, “Let ‘er rip,” before stepping off the box. This outlaw once claimed that he’d killed 51 men; other sources say he dispatched with 12 in gunfights.
According to an article in True West magazine, a contemporary of John Wesley Hardin’s claimed that Hardin “could get out a six-shooter and use it quicker than a frog could eat a fly.” And describing Hardin’s skills, Texas Ranger James B. Gillett said, “The quick draw, the spin, the rolls, pinwheeling, border shift – he did them all with magical precision.” Hardin is also said to have been a crack shot from horseback, able to unload his ammo into the knot of a tree trunk while galloping past.
Hardin favored cap-and-ball six-shooters and, on at least one occasion, a double-barreled shotgun. Unfortunately, he used his skills for ill. Born on May 26, 1853, this Texan desperado and gunfighter shot and killed his first victim in 1868, when he was just 15 years old. Publications of the period say that he dispatched with 27 men during his lifetime. However, he got his comeuppance on August 19, 1895 when he was shot and killed at the age of 42 by outlaw-cum-constable John Selman.
Interestingly, whilst he was a teenager going by the alias Wesley Clemmons, Hardin encountered another individual covered in this article, “Wild Bill” Hickok. Hardin was captivated by Hickok and in awe of his gun-fighting reputation.
Born in Alabama in 1860, Dan Bogan relocated and grew up in Texas, where he started working as a cowboy from an early age. Bogan seemed to have a quick temper, and he was always on the lookout for a fight, which earned him a reputation as a troublemaker. He later left Texas for Wyoming after being blacklisted in a wage dispute.
It is believed that by 1886 this cowboy had taken the lives of three men. What’s more, Bogan’s rabblerousing didn’t end there, and on January 15, 1887 he murdered Constable Charles S. Gunn, shooting the onetime Texas Ranger with a revolver. Before he could get away, though, Bogan was himself shot in the shoulder and then captured – although he managed to make a getaway in the midst of a raging blizzard.
Bogan later turned himself into the authorities because his wounds had caused him to get sick. However, in October 1987 he succeeded in breaking out of jail. And although famous detective Charlie Siringo pursued him, Bogan vanished without leaving much of a trace and possibly escaped to Argentina. While Bogan is not as well known as some of his contemporaries, author Robert K. DeArment considers him among the Old West’s most underestimated gunslingers.
William Preston Longley – better known as “Wild Bill” Longley – is regarded as one of the most lethal gunfighters of the Old West. He had a notoriously short fuse and killed upon the slightest provocation. In fact, he may even have been what today we’d call a psychopath. By his own account, he was instructed from an early age to “believe it was right to kill sassy Negroes,” and by the age of 17 he had committed his first murder.
Longley was born in Austin County, Texas on October 6, 1851 and grew up on a farm close to Evergreen in Lee County, where he mastered the art of shooting. This dangerous gunfighter was known to carry two Dance .44 caliber revolvers, but he used a shotgun as well. At the time of his hanging, on October 11, 1878, Longley said that he had killed eight people – although he earlier claimed the figure was 32. Either way, CBS News calls him “one of the first two-gun fast draw experts.”
Born in Tama County, Iowa in 1867, Harvey Logan – otherwise known as “Kid Curry” – was caught up in criminal activity such as robbery from a young age, and in 1894 he got on the wrong side of the law in Montana. As the story goes, a miner and lawman named Powell “Pike” Landusky believed that Logan was involved with his daughter and accused him of assault. Logan was taken away by police and beaten. So on December 27, the 27-year-old Logan confronted Landusky in a saloon and shot and killed him with a pistol. Forced to flee, Logan would ride with outlaw Black Jack Ketchum, form his own gang, and eventually join Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s Wild Bunch.
According to some, Logan was considered “the fastest gun in the West” and is thought to be the basis for the Sundance Kid character as depicted by Hollywood. Logan participated in a series of robberies in South Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado, and Wild West magazine even claims that he was “the wildest of the Wild Bunch.”
This gunman escaped from prison on two occasions and allegedly killed nine men in various shooting incidents during his time. In the end, on June 17, 1904, Logan took his own life after being wounded in a gunfight in Parachute, Colorado – perhaps to evade capture one last time.
Fast-drawing gunslinger and killer Luke Short was born in Mississippi in 1854 but was raised in Texas. Leaving home whilst in his teens, Short worked as a cowboy, an illegal whiskey trader and a professional gambler. He also later invested in various saloons. Short had practiced with a gun in his early years and would acquire a reputation for his skill, but the most famous event he was involved in was probably the so-called Dodge City War.
After buying shares in the Long Branch Saloon, Short was branded “undesirable” by the Dodge City, KS authorities, and they made attempts to get rid of him. However, determined not to go down without a fight, Short reached out to prominent Old West lawman Bat Masterson, who in turn got in touch with Wyatt Earp. Earp then descended on Dodge City with a posse of desperados. And in order to prevent any conflict, Short was allowed back into Dodge and given permission to reopen his saloon – all without a single gunshot sounding. Short is also famous for winning a duel against Jim Courtright on February 8, 1887 in Forth Worth, Texas, where his ability to pull a pistol saved his own life – and ended Courtright’s.
Dallas Stoudenmire was born in Aberfoil, Alabama on December 11, 1845. As a 15-year-old, he spent time in the Confederate Army – although he was discharged when officers found out that he was underage. Still, undeterred, Stoudenmire signed up again and fought in the Civil War, and he later operated as a Texas Ranger for three or more years. Armed with two guns, Stoudenmire was an accurate shot with both hands, and he had a reputation for being tough and dangerously short-tempered when he had a drink inside him.
In April 1881, Stoudenmire became marshal of El Paso, Texas – this being an infamously lawless and violent town at the time. On his third day on the job, Stoudenmire killed three men with two .44 caliber Colt revolvers in a famous incident known as the “Four Dead In Five Seconds” gunfight. By February the following year, he had dispatched with a further seven men in gunfights. Although the crime rate in El Paso fell significantly, and Stoudenmire earned himself repute as a legendary lawman and gunslinger, he also made himself a lot of enemies. On September 18, 1882, he was shot and killed during a shootout with the Manning brothers, the culmination of a feud. He was 36 years old.
Born around 1845, William Brocius, better known as “Curly Bill” Brocius, may well be Arizona’s most famous – or infamous – outlaw. He was involved in multiple gunfights and related incidents, including the accidental shooting of Tombstone town marshal Fred White on October 27, 1880 and the March 8, 1881 killing of a cowboy named Dick Lloyd.
Brocius may have also been mixed up in the March 18, 1882 assassination of Morgan Earp. Whether or not this was the case, what is certain is that Brocius was good with a gun. In fact, a contemporary said he was capable of shooting coins from between people’s fingers and could comfortably take down fleeing jackrabbits. He was also said to have the ability to snuff out a candle by firing at it with his pistol. In the end, though, on March 24, 1882, Wyatt Earp killed Brocius during a shootout involving the Earp posse, Brocius and several other cowboys in Iron Springs, Arizona.
Deadly gunman and Old West folk hero James “Wild Bill” Hickok was born in Illinois on May 27, 1837. Hickok is said to have been a great shot, even as a youngster, and was well known for his marksmanship with a pistol. In 1855, after a fight Hickok mistakenly believed had ended with the death of his adversary, the 18-year-old headed west. He first found work as a stagecoach driver, prior to working as a lawman in Kansas and Nebraska. Hickok then spent some time fighting for the Union Army – possibly as a spy – during the Civil War.
In 1865, “Wild Bill” was involved in an iconic public quick-draw duel with David Tutt. Harper’s Magazine featured it in a story, which elevated Hickok to hero status. Hickok’s weapons of choice were a brace of 1851 Colt pistols with ivory handles and silver plating, which he kept in his belt or sash and drew in a reverse “cavalry” style.
On April 15, 1871, Hickok took over as the marshal of Abilene, Texas. However, in December that same year he was discharged of his duties following a string of dubious shooting incidents – including the accidental killing of his deputy. After that, Hickok traveled with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show for a few years, performing as himself. He also tried to support himself as a gambler and was even arrested for vagrancy on a few occasions. Fate caught up with Hickok on August 2, 1876 when a man named Jack McCall walked into the Deadwood, Dakota saloon in which Hickok was playing poker and shot him in the head from behind.]]>
Despite the ever-increasing firepower of tanks, planes and artillery, the humble infantry weapon still has a vital place in determining the outcome of war. Throughout history, from Agincourt to Afghanistan, the soldier with the most powerful and effective gun has had a decisive advantage over his enemy. From the matchlock musket to the most modern of machine guns, we catalog the most revolutionary guns in the history of warfare.
Matchlock guns quickly supplanted the Yumi longbow in Japanese warfare thanks to their ease of use and excellent armor-penetrating qualities. The Battle of Nagashino in 1575 saw one of their first notable uses: the generals Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga cunningly concealed their soldiers behind stakes and wooden stockades and poured a continuous stream of fire into the enemy to break their cavalry charges. Ironically, the use of massed horsemen was also a new tactic that had been introduced only a single generation before. This victory led to a revolution in Japanese battle tactics that lasted until the Edo period, a time of relative peace in which guns weren’t needed quite so much.
In the 17th century, the clumsy matchlock and arquebus were soon swept away by the development of the flintlock, a more reliable style of musket that used a flint striking on steel to ignite its charge. The new flintlock-era guns were a major development in firearm technology that made soldiers more mobile and firing easier and quicker. The weapon was so successful that it quickly replaced all previous versions of the musket (such as the Wheellock) and became the most ubiquitous weapon of the common soldier. This in turn moved the fighting style of European armies away from mixed pike and shot and into the more familiar early-modern musket lines.
In the early 1860s, an American doctor named Richard Gatling patented a revolutionary new weapon: a hand-cranked, multi-barreled piece of light artillery capable of spitting out a continuous stream of bullets into the enemy ranks. This early machine gun had an unprecedented rate of fire of 200 rounds per minute and as a result was quickly adopted by both sides during the American Civil War. It was later to be refined into more powerful and portable forms as the machine gun, which would become the single most influential weapon on the battlefield and forever change the face of infantry combat. This is ironic, considering the fact that the gun’s inventor created it to demonstrate the futility and brutality of war.
In the increasingly fast-paced battlefields of the 19th century, a quicker rate of fire was always necessary, but there was a limit to what could be accomplished with muzzle-loaders (which had to be rammed and primed after every shot). The Dreyse needle-gun, the first mass-produced breech loading rifle, completely changed the playing field by allowing soldiers to fire up to 12 rounds per minute, three or four times faster than contemporary muzzle-loading weapons. The weapon quickly entered Prussian service and gave the army a decisive advantage in the Austro-Prussian war, and later variants of the gun formed the basis for the standard weapons of most armies of that era.
With its short, stubby body and pepperbox head, this gun didn’t appear very impressive compared to larger contemporary rifles and machine guns. But despite appearances, the MP 18 was a crucial component of German offensive tactics in WWI, particularly in the final series of attacks against the Western Front in the spring of 1918. The weapon’s 500-round-per-minute rate of fire could sweep a trench of soldiers in seconds and contributed greatly to the German gains in the final offensive of the war. This devastating new class of gun was thought to be so inhumane that it was specifically banned in Germany by the Treaty of Versailles.
Although other pistols had been produced which could fire multiple shots, the first truly practical version was developed by Samuel Colt in 1836. This weapon was based on newly developed cartridge technology and could shoot six times without needing to be reloaded. The new weapon soon became highly valued in law enforcement, in the underworld, and as a secondary weapon for soldiers. In fact, the Colt revolver is so iconic that an example from 1873 sold at auction for $242,000!
Originally a simple hunting weapon, the American longrifle (or Kentucky rifle) soon found another use during the American War of Independence. The weapon’s most important feature was its rifled barrel, which caused the bullet to spin as it was exiting the weapon and made its trajectory far more predictable than that of smoothbore musket bullets. This in turn made it far more accurate at long ranges, perfect for skirmishing and guerrilla warfare. The longrifle played a decisive part in winning the War for the colonists, which has perhaps helped it earn the reputation of being a distinctly American weapon.
A military favorite for decades, the Browning was developed to provide supporting fire for infantry while they attacked. Lightweight and compact, this automatic weapon’s unique feature was its versatility and consequent ease of use by infantry. The automatic rifle’s design made the later infantry tactics of WWI and WWII possible and helped to break the stalemate which had been created by trench warfare: by greatly increasing the firepower of individual soldiers while allowing them to maintain their mobility, it made them more tactically maneuverable and capable of penetrating enemy defenses.
Introduced in 1943, the German StG 44 was the world’s first true assault rifle. The weapon’s revolutionary design combined the best elements of the bolt action rifle, the submachine gun and the light machine gun into one compact package, allowing the infantry soldier to use automatic and semi-automatic fire while still having reasonable range and power compared to contemporary submachine guns. Both British and American military intelligence were skeptical of the weapon, believing it to be impractically heavy and even rather fragile. While the StG 44 may have been invented too late to do the Germans much good in WWII, it still led to:
The former standard rifle of the Soviet Army, the Kalashnikov is now the most ubiquitous gun in the world: these firearms are produced in at least 14 countries and are used by the state armies of another 82. In modern conflicts they have been fired by everyone from African warlords to Iraqi infantrymen to terrorist guerrillas in Afghanistan. The gun’s low cost, which can be as little as $30 in some parts of Africa, makes it the weapon of choice for impoverished countries; AK-47s are also so simple that 10-year-olds can be, and are, taught to fire them. At the present time, this rifle has probably killed more people than any other weapon in history. In modern warfare, nuclear weapons are confined to cold, concrete bunkers, while the real weapon of mass destruction is named AK.]]>
A gunsmith is a firearms expert who modifies, repairs or manufactures guns. Training options for this profession include online certificates and career diplomas in gunsmithing. All gunsmiths must have a Federal Firearms License in order to be in compliance with the Federal Firearms Act of 1938. A Federal Firearms License can be obtained by making application to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. There are a number of online gunsmith programs that have a great reputation.
[Click HERE for free info on degree programs in Gunsmithing]
AGI is one of the nation’s best online gunsmithing schools. This school offers an expansive selection of courses for both career gunsmiths and hobbyists. Those seeking a career in the gunsmithing industry can obtain a professional gunsmith certification. Unlike most trade schools, the AGI gunsmith certification can be completed in as little as three months. With over 108 hours of instruction, students learn about shotguns, rifles, revolvers and pistols. Students also learn about the design, function and repair of these firearms.
All of the gunsmithing courses offered by AGI are presented by accomplished gunsmiths with well-known reputations in specialty areas. The video presentation of the courses offers great specific detail, and the techniques of gunsmithing are easily learned. One of the unique features of the online gunsmith program at AIG is that students can pick and choose their own curriculum. Students can choose to pursue a complete gunsmith certification program or take individual courses. The professional gunsmith certification costs approximately $700, and individual courses are approximately $49.
The online gunsmith program at Penn Foster offers a diploma upon completion of the program. Typically, the program can be completed in less than three months. Students learn how to use, repair and customize a wide array of firearms, including shotguns, rifles and pistols. Instruction is also given on how to fit and mount telescopic sights, design metallic rifle sights, restore antique firearms and custom load ammunition.
The tuition for the program is $695. Tuition includes all books, industry guides and complete instructions for getting a Federal Firearms License. Upon completion of the gunsmith program, students are qualified for work at a gun shop or can start their own business repairing and customizing firearms. Students are also prepared to custom-make ammunition and restore valuable antique firearms. This online gunsmith school also provides excellent student support with online advisers.
>>>>Click HERE for free info on Penn Foster’s Gunsmithing Program<<<<
Ashworth College is an accredited member of the Distance Education and Training Council and provides an excellent online gunsmith program. The college’s program is comprised of 19 comprehensive lessons. The online presentation is easy to follow, challenging and stimulating. Each lesson has defined objectives, an introductory note from the instructor and a vocabulary builder for industry nomenclature. There are reading assignments, practice exercises and open-book exams at the end of each lesson.
Each lesson is packed with detailed information of the topic area. In the hands and tools lesson, students learn all about the industry techniques for using drill presses, lathes, polishing wheels, checkering tools, vises and much more. The lever action rifles lesson covers the operation cycle of the loading gate, carrier spring, locking block, barrel, bolt assembly and cartridge carrier. The lesson on semiautomatic pistols gives in-depth information on adjusting trigger pulls, troubleshooting, maintenance and tuning for high-performance ammunition. Upon completion of the gunsmith program, students are qualified to work at firearm dealerships, hunting or sports shops, armory management companies or operate a gunsmith business.
The online gunsmith program at Ashworth is affordable. The total cost is $754. Students can pay upfront or opt for convenient monthly payments. Ashworth College offers great academic support for its online students. Support is available from student advisers, tutors, instructors and a peer forum. The college is committed to providing a comprehensive support team to help students achieve their goals. Many of the college’s support personnel can be contacted via email, Twitter or Facebook.]]>
To perform the assorted tasks required of their trade, gunsmiths must use a variety of tools. These tools may include hand tools like hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers. Machine tools are also necessary for gunsmithing tasks, especially the lathe, which cuts, sands and drills, and the milling machine, which is used in conjunction with metalworking tools like reamers and borers. Measuring and safety equipment are also important for successful gunsmithing work.
Gunsmiths may work in factories, commercial sporting goods stores, armories or private gunsmithing establishments. Some gunsmiths are general practitioners of the trade, but many specialize in certain skills. Different specializations may require different areas of expertise.
A gunsmith who specializes as a custom builder/designer creates customized guns according to specific customer requirements.
A specialist called a finisher uses chemistry to modify the metal surfaces of a gun. Using processes like bluing, the gunsmith coats these metal surfaces to protect them from rust, corrosion and other damage. Finishing can also provide aesthetic value, as is the case with the technique called cyanide case hardening, in which heat is applied to the chemical finisher to create color on the steel.
Stockmakers create the gunstock, the part of the firearm that, in rifles, is held against the user’s shoulder. A stockmaker will traditionally use tools like saws and chisels to carve the gunstock out of wood, preferably walnut, and finish the stock using any of a variety of techniques from sanding to lacquering. Stockmakers also have a part in building the gun, by attaching the wooden gunstock to the firearm’s metalwork pieces.
Checkerers use saw-toothed tools to imprint the texture of many small, evenly-spaced diamond shapes on wooden gun surfaces designed to be gripped. A checkerer may also provide aesthetic appeal to a firearm by adding decorative designs to the edges of checkered wood gun parts.
Gun engravers primarily add aesthetic value to firearms by cutting designs, patterns or other images into the gun and, in some cases, inlaying the designs with decorative metal. These gunsmiths use a variety of tools to do so, including chisels, hand-powered tools called hand gravers and more sophisticated engraving system power-tools, like GRS Tools’ Gravermeister.
Pistolsmiths are gunsmiths who specialize in pistols and sometimes other handguns. Customization is a large part of the pistolsmith’s job, and these specialists often have related skills and specialties such as checkering and finishing. They may also be skilled woodworkers, metalworkers and machinists and should be knowledgeable about the mechanics of specific types of firearms.
Niche manufacturers create and sell specific gun components to other gunsmiths, who use them in the assembly of custom firearms, and to other gun builders. These manufacturers can produce a variety of gun parts, including essential parts like barrels, receivers and trigger assemblies.]]>
The trade requires basic hand tools, like hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers. Other important hand tools include punches, files, stones and other tools commonly used in metalworking.
Accurate measurements are necessary for the successful building and modification of firearms, so tools like inside and outside micrometers, which measure circular metalwork, and inside and outside calipers, which measure length, are essential. Vice grips and clamps are necessary to hold firearms in place during gunsmithing work.
Machine tools are especially important in gunsmithing. Gunsmiths use lathes to cut, sand and drill, among other purposes. Milling machines, which are used in general machinery to manufacture metal parts, are also necessary for certain aspects of gunsmithing and may be used with attachments in the form of other tools. The benefit of pairing reamers, which are used to make holes in a precise size, with the use of a milling machine is the reliable ability to apply consistent pressure and ensure that no human error causes the tool to go off course during use.
Certain specialties may require other tools, as well. Gun engravers usually use either manual tools called hand gravers or more sophisticated engraving systems, like GRS Tools’ Gravermeister. Gunstocks may be made with the use of saws, chisels, gouges, rasps, and files. Checkerers use saw-toothed checkering tools to perform their work. Finishers practice a range of chemical processes and may need a variety of tools and chemicals. Popular finishing processes in firearms include hot bluing and case hardening, which require heat sources and chemicals like sodium hydroxide, ammonium nitrate and cyanide salts.
Safety equipment is as important as any other gunsmithing tool. Gunsmiths should make sure they wear proper safety attire when working with hot or mechanical tools. Heavy-duty gloves and sleeves will protect a gunsmith’s skin. Gunsmithing safety means protecting the face and head, too. Facemasks for welding, safety glasses or goggles and noise protection equipment like earplugs and earmuffs are necessary gunsmithing equipment.
Aspiring gunsmiths learn how to safely and properly use gunsmithing tools during their training. Whether they learn the gunsmithing trade through traditional college courses, online or distance-learning career certificate programs or apprenticeships under experienced professional gunsmiths, their education should include instruction on operating hand tools, measuring tools and machine tools.]]>
Firearm customization separates gunsmiths from other firearm repairers. Professional gunsmiths can make practical or aesthetic modifications to existing guns, changing not only appearance but also handling and even accuracy. An important part of a gunsmith’s professional responsibilities is to ensure that firearms are safe to use.
Professional gunsmiths may find employment in a variety of workplaces. Some own, manage or work for commercial gunsmithing establishments or sporting goods stores. Others work for factories that produce firearms. Still others find employment in armories serving military and law-enforcement personnel.
Salaries of gunsmiths vary by employment setting. HigherSalary.com lists the range of $25,470 to $48,605 a year, with the average salary of $36,267 annually. Successful self-employed gunsmiths earn the highest income, though like many entrepreneurs, they may lack the benefits provided by employment within a larger company. Gunsmiths who are longtime employees in gunsmithing shops also earn income on the higher end of that range.
Legally, United States gunsmiths, like other professionals involved in the sales and repair of firearms, are required to obtain a Federal Firearm License from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Local licensing laws, such as state, county or city laws, also apply to gunsmiths. Professional gunsmiths must record all work they complete on firearms. Their records should include specific information about the guns they have repaired and the owners of those guns. Gunsmithing establishments are also subject to unannounced inspections by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Gunsmiths may be general practitioners of the trade, but many also specialize in particular skills or firearm types. Specializations may be based on skills involving the creation of specific parts of a gun, assembly of the whole gun, improvement of accuracy and decorative customization.
Specialists like custom builder/designers, stockmakers, checkerers and niche manufacturers are involved in the design and building stages of gunsmithing. Stockmakers, checkerers and niche manufactures make specific gun components, like the gunstock, barrels and trigger assemblies. Custom builders/designers build the gun as a whole based on customer requests.
Other specialists work mainly with artistic and aesthetic modifications of guns. Gun engravers use hand-powered tools and engraving system tools to carve designs and images into a gun and may even add decorative metal inlays. Specialists called finishers use chemical processes, including heat treatment, to create coloring in the metal of a firearm as well as to help prevent rust and corrosion.
Some gunsmiths specialize in particular types of firearms, such as pistols, rifles and shotguns. These gunsmiths possess skills such as woodworking, metalworking and machinery, which enable them to offer many different services in relation to their specialty firearm.]]>
Aspiring gunsmiths can begin learning the trade in a few different ways. Gunsmithing apprenticeships allow student gunsmiths to work under the guidance of an experienced gunsmith and gain hands-on experience learning directly from experts. Pending government approval, The Association of Gunsmiths and Related Trades intends to match experienced sponsors with students pursuing gunsmith apprenticeships. The organization currently is accepting applications for both sponsors and apprentices.
[Click here for free information on degree programs in Gunsmithing]
Gunsmith apprentices learn how to safely use gunsmithing tools, including how to properly operate lathes and milling machines. Instruction also teaches apprentices how to make fixtures, make and fit gunstocks, and perform barrel work and action work, among other skills. An understanding of firearms theory rounds out the apprentice gunsmith’s training. Apprentices are paid for their work, though that pay may begin as low as minimum wage and increases with experience. Gunsmithing apprentices may also be required to purchase tools to use during the course of their training.
To help ensure proficiency, The Association of Gunsmiths and Related Trades has developed standards like competency exams. Completion of a gunsmithing apprenticeship requires specified numbers of hours spent gaining hands-on experience and will last a minimum of four years for standard gunsmithing training. Certificates may be earned based on the apprentice’s fulfillment of hourly experience requirements and their specialty. Possible certifications include Firearm Repair Specialist, Firearms Restorer, Stock Maker, Barrel Maker, Firearms Engraver, Journeyman Gunsmith, Journeyman Rifle Smith, Journeyman Pistol Smith, Journeyman Shotgun Smith, Journeyman Classic Firearms Smith and Master Gunsmith.
Some colleges and technical schools offer certificate and associate degree programs in gunsmithing. Trinidad State Junior College in Trinidad, Colo.; Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz.; and the Pennsylvania Gunsmith School in Pittsburgh, Pa., are three of the more well-known schools to offer these training programs. Students frequently complete gunsmith education programs within two years.
Educational gunsmithing programs require students to spend time gaining hands-on experience in settings such as machine shops. Students may have the opportunity to work with different types of guns during their education. Trinidad State Junior College also recently opened the Brownells – Trinidad American Firearms Technology Institute, where students who have completed their gunsmithing education have the opportunity to gain an extra year of hands-on training working in and managing a gunsmithing establishment.
Students who are unable to attend on-site college gunsmithing programs can also learn the trade through online or distance-learning courses. Students can take as long to complete the curriculum as they like, or they can finish their educational requirements more quickly than traditional courses. Notable online gunsmithing programs hosted by Ashworth College and the Penn Foster Career School are advertised to be possible to complete in as little as five or six months. These programs usually consist of a number of learning modules that require students to complete assigned readings, online examinations and practical exercises.
Additional sources of training include the military, in which several branches train variants of gun repair personnel, and the National Rifle Association.]]>
Taking courses from an accredited college is one way to begin a gunsmithing career and prepare for entry-level positions in workplaces like firearms factories, sporting goods stores and small gunsmithing businesses. However, travel concerns, time and even tuition costs can make it difficult for some students to take traditional classes on a college campus. Some aspiring gunsmiths choose to develop their skills through correspondence or online and distance-learning courses at reputable traditional or online-only colleges.
[Click here for free information on degree programs in Gunsmithing]
One benefit of online gunsmith courses is the flexibility to complete required courses in a personal timeframe. While many certificate and associates degree programs can be completed in a period of two years, students in distance-learning gunsmithing programs can take as long as they need, or they can complete their program curriculum more quickly than students in a traditional program. Distance-learning gunsmithing courses frequently include the cost of course supplies – textbooks, online examinations, and digital and print supplements – in the cost of tuition. Some online gunsmith training programs also offer students assistance in obtaining their Federal Firearms License and even guidance on how to start and manage a small gunsmithing business.
Like traditional gunsmith education, distance-learning gunsmith training may include basic courses in subjects like firearm history and gun safety. Students will also learn general skills like gun repair, stockmaking and metal finishing. Other lessons or courses may focus on different categories of firearms, like various types of rifles and shotguns, pistols and single-action and double-action revolvers.
When choosing an online gunsmithing program, be sure that the institution is accredited. Ashworth College and Penn Foster Career School are two popular institutions that offer online gunsmith training.
Gunsmith training at Ashworth College consists of 19 learning modules, which can be completed in as little as six months. Ashworth College’s program begins with lessons in basic firearm maintenance, the hand and machine tools needed for successful gunsmithing and the correct way to use those tools. Other lessons focus on work with particular gun parts, such as triggers, and making modifications like installing scopes and repairing stocks. Several modules specialize in particular types of firearms, including types of rifles, shotguns, pistols and revolvers.
Distance-learning gunsmith education at the Penn Foster Career School can be completed in only five months and requires the student to complete only one hour of coursework each day. This program includes a focus on techniques use to customize, alter and restore firearms, all of which are important gunsmithing skills. The Penn Foster Career School’s distance-learning gunsmith training program consists of six instruction sets. Each instruction set covers a cluster of related topics, and nearly every instruction set includes a practical exercise.]]>
Trinidad State Junior College in Trinidad, Colo., has offered gunsmithing courses since 1947. Aspiring gunsmiths can choose to take only gunsmithing courses to earn a certificate, or they can add general education classes to their gunsmithing course load to graduate with an associate degree. Trinidad State Junior College also collaborated with commercial firearms manufacturer Brownells to create the Brownells – Trinidad American Firearms Technology Institute, which opened in January 2010. The Trinidad, Colo.-based gun shop, which provides a full range of services to customers, provides graduates of gunsmithing programs with the chance to learn how a gunsmithing establishment operates and develop their business management and entrepreneurial skills.
[Click here for free information on degree programs in Gunsmithing]
Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz., offers both a certificate and an associate degree in gunsmithing. Each of the college’s gunsmithing instructors owns a business associated with firearms. Gunsmithing students at this institution can expect to spend many hours in the school’s machine shop, learning to properly and safely use the tools of the gunsmithing trade. The program goes beyond simple firearm repair skills and prepares students to create custom firearms.
The Pennsylvania Gunsmith School of Pittsburgh, Pa., has been training student gunsmiths since 1949 and currently offers a master gunsmithing program that prepares students to find entry-level positions that require a variety of gunsmithing skills. The program can be completed in a period of 16 months and requires gunsmithing courses only. The Pennsylvania Gunsmith School boasts a unique classroom setting designed to resemble the real-life work setting of a gunsmith shop.
Students who are unable to attending on-site gunsmithing programs can also learn the trade through online or distance-learning courses. Gunsmithing students in online programs can take as long to complete the curriculum as they like, or they can finish their educational requirements more quickly than standard courses. Notable online gunsmithing programs hosted by Ashworth College and the Penn Foster Career School are designed to be possible to complete in as little as five or six months, whereas on-campus college programs generally take 16 to 24 months. Online programs may require students to complete assigned readings and online examinations.
Online gunsmith programs often include many of the same basic courses that traditional gunsmith education programs cover, like firearm history and theory and gun safety. Some lessons teach general gunsmithing skills, including gun repair, stockmaking and metal finishing. In other learning modules, students may learn about particular types of firearms, like various types of rifles, shotguns, revolvers and pistols.]]>
Apprenticeship instruction includes the proper use of gunsmithing tools. Correct operation and safety practices are especially important in the cases of machine tools like milling machines, which are often used with metalworking attachments such as reamers and borers, and lathes, which are used for cutting, sanding and drilling. Gunsmith apprentices usually spend a minimum of four years learning from their sponsors. They develop skills in making gun parts like fixtures and gunstocks. Apprentice gunsmiths also learn to perform repairs and modifications on barrels and other parts of firearms. Apprentices earn income for their work, though their wages may begin as low as the federal or state minimum wage and increase with experience. The Association of Gunsmiths and Related Trades outlines requirements for apprenticeships, including an hourly requirement of work experience, and administers competency exams. Successfully completing an apprenticeship will earn the apprentice a professional certificate.
Colleges and technical schools also offer certificate and associate degree programs. Curricula usually call for students to gain hands-on experience with different types of firearms over a period of four semesters, or two years. Classes may focus on skills like design, repair and customization. Courses may also teach skills in gunsmith specializations, like work with a particular type of gun. These programs frequently require students to complete a number of hours of work in a machine shop setting. Noted gunsmithing schools include Trinidad State Junior College in Trinidad, Colo.; Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz.; and the Pennsylvania Gunsmith School in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Trinidad State Junior College and firearms manufacturer Brownells have collaborated to launch the Brownells – Trinidad American Firearms Technology Institute. The full-service gun shop provides students who have already completed college-level gunsmith training at any school to spend an additional year developing experience working in and learning to manage a gun sales and gunsmithing establishment.
Some traditional colleges and online-only institutions also offer distance-learning gunsmithing programs that allow students to complete the curriculum from any location at their own learning pace. Some programs, like those offered by Ashworth College and the Penn Foster Career School, are advertised as able to be completed as soon as five or six months after beginning. Like apprenticeships and traditional college courses, online gunsmithing programs also include basic instruction in firearm and gunsmithing tool safety. Skills like gun repair, stockmaking and metal finishing can also be taught through online programs. Additional lessons or courses can focus on particular types of firearms, including types of rifles and shotguns, semiautomatic pistols and single-action and double-action revolvers.
Additional sources of training include the military, in which several branches train variants of gun repair personnel, and the National Rifle Association.]]>