Gunsmithing is the art of repairing and providing maintenance care to guns, in the same way a cobbler works with shoes. Successful gunsmiths have skills such as manual dexterity, patience, problem solving, and attention to detail. All of these come into play when considering the daily tasks that a gunsmith is faced with. From the more mundane work, like polishing, refinishing, and adding decorative pieces to guns, to far more technical procedures including assessing safety and accuracy of the weapon, gunsmiths must approach their craft with the utmost care and competence. Most gunsmiths are either self-employed or are hired to work for businesses or government agencies. Those who work for themselves may need additional skills in management or business operations.
Those interested in pursuing a career in gunsmithing will find that either a certificate program or an associate degree program may provide them with the education and training needed to achieve their goals. These programs are usually offered through trade schools, community colleges, or universities, and may take one to two years to complete.
As stated above, certificate and associate degree programs for gunsmiths are typically found through trade schools and community colleges. Some certificate programs are offered through continuing education programs at specific institutions.
Certificate programs range in terms of the material covered and the time necessary for completion. For example, some schools offer short-term certificates that are only 12 to 18 credits in length, and hone in on specific gunsmithing skills such as design and repair, gun refinishing or gunsmith technology. Certificates such as these can be completed in a short amount of time and are intended for those who those are considering eventually pursuing a degree, or for those who would like to improve their existing skills. There are also certificates that offer a more comprehensive education and take longer to complete. During this type of program students will take classes in firearm safety, metal finishing, and welding. For students looking for a strong foundation in gunsmith principles and skills, a longer certificate program may be an appropriate route. Other topics that may be covered in a certificate program include barreling and chambering, as well as computer aided manufacturing. Some aspiring gunsmiths may be interested in a Master Gunsmithing Program, which takes 16 months to complete and aims to fully prepare students for entry-level positions in the field.
There are also opportunities for students to earn an associate degree in gunsmithing. This type of program will likely include some general education courses, but will be heavily focused on an in-depth study of the gunsmithing trade. Courses that students will take in one of these programs may include Introduction to Firearms, Stockmaking, Basic Ballistics and Swagging, Firearms Safety, and Firearms Repair.
Admission for any of the above programs will be dependent on the institution. In many cases, students must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, and pass a background check in order to be admitted.
Tuition and Scholarships
Tuition for gunsmithing certificates and degrees will vary by the institution, as well as the type of program. Tuition can range anywhere from $11,500 to $20,500. An associate degree program will typically cost more than a certificate, but students will graduate with a full degree as opposed to a certificate. In addition to standard tuition, many gunsmithing programs require that students purchase their own supplies. This is a cost that students looking to pursue gunsmithing degrees should consider.
Financial aid is available for many these programs. Students can fill out the FAFSA to see if they qualify for federal assistance, as well as look into specific scholarship funds awarded through associations such as the American Custom Gunmakers Guild, American Pistolsmiths Guild, and the National Rifle Association. The application process for each of these will be individual to the organization, but may include submitting samples of one's work, a personal statement, letters of reference, and an academic transcript.
After receiving training a Federal Firearms License is needed in order to begin a career working with guns. These licenses are issued through the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In addition to filling out the extensive, comprehensive forms for application, there is an application fee, background check, and identification verification that includes registering photographs and fingerprints. There are additional regulations and steps with regards to a firearms business, such as obtaining a Dealer's License or a Manufacturer's License.
When looking into educational programs, one should always check that the institution offering the certificate or degree is accredited. Whether it is online or on-campus, accreditation ensures that the educational standards are met and that the school is deemed credible and legitimate by an outside organization. Non-degree-granting schools, like vocational or trade schools, usually receive national accreditation, while degree-granting schools, like community colleges, state colleges, and universities, typically receive regional accrediation.
- American Custom Gunmakers Guild. Accessed October 31, 2016. http://www.acgg.org/index.php/about-acgg.html.
- Colorado School of Trades Net Price Calculator. Accessed October 31, 2016. http://schooloftrades.edu/npc.
- Federal Firearm Licensing Steps. Accessed October 30, 2016. https://www.atf.gov/firearms/apply-license.
- Federal Firearms License List. Accessed October 31, 2016. https://www.atf.gov/firearms/listing-federal-firearms-licensees-ffls-2016.
- Montgomery Community College. Accessed October 30, 2016. http://www.montgomery.edu/continuing-education-classes#nra.
- NRA Gunsmithing FAQs. Accessed October 28, 2016. https://gunsmithing.nra.org/faqs/.
- Pennsylvania Gunsmith School. Accessed October 31, 2016. http://www.pagunsmith.edu/faq.php.
- Pine Technical College Tuition. Accessed October 31, 2016. http://schooloftrades.edu/npc.
- Sonoran Desert Institute. Accessed November 1, 2016. https://sdi.edu/firearms_technology/.
- Trinidad State Gunsmithing Programs. Accessed October 31, 2016. http://trinidadstate.edu/pdf/academics/programs/cte/advising/gus_aas_certificate.pdf.