Prospective gunsmiths may have a background in metalworking, woodworking or machinery. They comprehend the mechanics of firearms use and are frequently firearms enthusiasts.
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.
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.