Gunsmiths are professional creators, repairers and customizers of firearms. Like armorers and other firearms-related occupations, a gunsmith may also be called upon for such basic tasks as assembling and disassembling, cleaning and inspecting a firearm for damage or mechanical problems. However, professional gunsmithing is not limited to basic firearm maintenance. A gunsmith may design a gun, make parts for it and build it. Gunsmiths can also perform extensive repairs on broken or damaged firearms.
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.