Depending upon your goal, there are several ways to approach learning gunsmithing. Certificate programs offer hands-on practice with professional materials and tools. Associate's Degrees and other trade school programs can be broader and more in-depth, so it pays to research which program is right for you.
A certificate program is brief. It may be completed during one week or even a weekend. These are usually designed for the following individuals:
- Gunsmiths who desire to brush up on techniques or learn something new
- Individuals who want to work on their own weapons
- Prospective students who are considering obtaining a degree in gunsmithing
Certificate programs are focused; they do not try to cover all aspects within one session. Instead, each course concentrates on a particular element, such as the following:
- Basic gunsmithing: common repairs, barrel alterations
- Black powder rifles: history, competitions
- Design: rifle and handgun technology
- Engraving: tools, designs
- Police Firearms: handguns, shotguns
- Refinishing: metal finishes, latest technology
- Specific weapons; e.g., 1911 series of handguns
- Scrimshaw: tools, materials
Associate Degrees and Trade School Diplomas
Associate degree programs in gunsmithing typically take two years to complete. Some trade school programs can be completed at an accelerated pace and some diploma or certificates in gunsmithing can be compelted in 12 months. Each program covers similar coursework, but the longer programs will be cover those topics in greater depth.
Each of these program options is designed for people who are considering a career in the field with a goal of preparing students for entry-level positions. Most trade school will offer classes in business practices in addition to the coursework on gunsmithing. Typically these programs do not have the traditional introductory college prerequisite courses (e.g. writing, math, or computers) or electives that the associate degree will require. Diploma programs will also have less emphasis on liberal arts.
An individual who is planning on being a full-time professional gunsmith should consider an associate degree or trade school. Government agencies and businesses that employ gunsmiths often seek a combination of education and experience.
In addition to famliarizing students with the basics of gunsmithing, including the common tools of the trade, coursework in this field covers topics in repair, fitting and altering barrels, customizing handguns, working with gun metal finishes, stockmaking and more.
The gunsmithing courses are practical and students obtain hands-on experience with real firearms, tools, and materials. Although beneficial to the student, this can become quite expensive as most programs require students to purchase their own sanding belts, screwdrivers, stock, etc. These tools of the trade will be useful in future work. However, many consumables are required for practice. There may also be laboratory fees. For instance, a few of the common tools and materials are:
There are some on-line educational opportunities for learning gunsmithing. Many of the same topics are covered as in the brick-and-mortar schools, and there is a hands-on component. There is no instructor looking over your shoulder while you work, however.
This approach may be useful for someone seeking to work on personal firearms. It also may be appropriate for someone who does not have the flexible schedule needed for a traditional program. Online learning allows you to work at your own pace, in your own setting, and on your own schedule. If you are not geographically close to a brick-and-mortar school, an online course may be your best option.
The Distance Education and Training Council provides voluntary accreditation for on-line institutions. It is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.