Some aspiring gunsmiths learn the trade through apprenticeships under the instruction of experienced professionals. Currently, an organization called The Association of Gunsmiths and Related Trades is accepting applications for both professional gunsmith sponsors and prospective apprentices and intends to fill apprenticeships, pending governmental approval.
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.