A gunsmith is a professional who builds, repairs or modifies firearms. Gunsmiths may be involved in the creation of a gun from the early stages of design and building or may repair existing guns. 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. Professional gunsmiths practice not only basic firearm maintenance, but also are capable of making functional and decorative modifications, completing extensive repairs and conducting renovations such as re-finishing older firearms.
To complete this work, gunsmiths must acquire an array of skills that require them to use a variety of tools. Hand tools necessary for gunsmithing include several types of hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers. A gunsmith must also have precise measuring tools, like inside and outside calipers and micrometers, and vice grips and clamps for holding a firearm in place on a workbench during repair or modification work. Machine tools greatly expand the gunsmith’s abilities. Lathes, which can be used to cut, sand and drill materials, are important for a gunsmith’s work. A milling machine is used with metalworking attachments like reamers and borers. Safety equipment is especially important for gunsmiths when using machine tools and working with potentially hazardous processes such as welding.
Gunsmiths may be employed in a variety of workplaces, from firearm factories and military armories to commercial enterprises such as sporting goods stores. Regardless of what part of the firearms building, repair or modification process a gunsmith deals in, the primary responsibility of any gunsmith is to ensure that a gun is safe to use. Though some gunsmiths are general practitioners of the trade, many specialize in particular skills or particular types of firearms.
Specialists involved in the design and building stages of gunsmithing include custom builders/designers, stockmakers, checkerers and niche manufacturers. While these gunsmiths may make parts of guns such as the gunstock, barrels and trigger assemblies, they may also build the whole gun and sometimes create customized firearms according to customer requests.
Other specialists may work more extensively with artistic and aesthetic modifications of guns. Finishers employ a variety of chemical processes, including heat treatment, to add coloring to the metal of a firearm as well as to help prevent damage like rust and corrosion. Gun engravers use special hand-powered and engraving system tools to carve designs and images into a gun.
Some gunsmiths specialize in particular types of firearms, such as pistols, rifles and shotguns. These gunsmiths have an excellent understanding of the mechanics of how a particular type of firearm works. They should have experience in a variety of skills, such as woodworking, metalworking and machinery, which will allow them to offer many different services in relation to their chosen firearm of expertise. Specialists who work extensively with a particular type of firearm frequently employ other gunsmithing-specific skills, like stockmaking and checkering, as well. They frequently customize firearms, and their skills enable them to alter the appearance, handling and accuracy of a gun.