Gunsmiths are professional craftsmen who design, build, repair and modify guns and, above all, ensure the safety of firearms. Gunsmiths are responsible for inspecting firearms and repairing any problems or defects that can result in potentially dangerous gun failures, including improper assembly, missing parts, cracks, obstructions caused by damaged barrels and safety-mechanism malfunctions.
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.