With over 200 million firearms in the United States, a gunsmith’s trade is cemented into society. Ensuring the trade’s future stability, this number is only expected to rise as is the desire for guns with custom parts and designs. A gunsmith’s occupation requires education, common sense, hard work and creativity. Combined, these provide the knowledge to diagnosis problems, ability to recognize danger, passion to care and a style that makes the work their own. As with most occupations, starting out is difficult. Sometimes it will be important to ignore fear as just an emotion and do a little risk taking. It is, also, important to develop an ability to communicate with people, understand their wants and needs and what makes them different.
All gunsmiths need the ability to interpret a firearm and pinpoint any failures in its functionality. They then must be able to narrow down the specific reason causing the problem. To an untrained eye, these problems are usually invisible and a threat to individual safety. Gunsmiths need an attention for details. They are also trained in metal and woodworking as well as to operate larger equipment, such as a drill and sandblaster. Some are even trained in chemical work. Mostly, these skills work together and allow gunsmiths to examine, clean and repair any type of firearm. On the side, gunsmiths may also restore antique firearms or do custom engravings. Their average salary is between 18,000 and 35,000 dollars depending on their location and clientele.
Gun experts are made from gunsmiths. These individuals can mold and design guns for a specific task. They can even create one from random shelf or designed custom parts. For this reason, they often work as consultants to gun manufacturers. Government and state agencies contract gun experts to design guns for both the military and law enforcement. They are also used by the justice system to testify in court on a gun’s capabilities. Currently, there is a shortage on gun experts in the trade. However, between contracts and patents on custom parts, the ones who do exist can make as much as six figures a year.
When & Where
Gunsmiths are found indoors in a mostly low-pressure environment that can change depending on the season, such as during hunting months. Most gunsmiths work in small or sporting goods stores. Some work for themselves or find work on a military base or for a gun manufacturer. Self employment is an expensive option, but the flexible hours and personalized schedule can even out the negatives, which include having to provide your own parts, tools and health insurance. Those who find themselves attached to a manufacturer are usually in the warranty department and doing repairs on broken and returned guns. Gunsmiths tend to have a 60 to 70 hour work week. However, the books usually read that they have only spent 20 to 30 hours in the office. For most of them work is a passion as well as an occupation and gunsmiths often take their work home with them.
Industry and society have not only cursed gunsmiths with unrealistic pressure to perform, but have also stripped away their ability to be recognized as artists. Improvements in the production and design of guns have allowed people to purchase custom guns without a gunsmith’s custom work or price. This increase in manufactured and distributed custom gums has drastically reduced a gunsmith’s chances of being recognized as an artisan and has basically erased any chance of making an impact on the industry. Gunsmiths carry the burden of having to cope with unrealistic expectations, which are attached to the trade by industry and society. These false expectations often lead gunsmiths to feel disappointed in their own abilities and to disappointed customers. Gunsmiths feel the pressure to quickly locate the root of a problem and instantly pass diagnosis and prescription. Caused by an unrealistic preconception, this pressure often leads to trouble. Speedy decisions made under the sweat of a clock can lead to fatal errors in a machine’s functionality, while slower and more careful decisions can lead to disgruntled costumers and lost money. So many hours and so much money can be lost over finding the correct solution for a particular gun. Feeling disappointed in the gunsmith’s performance, a customer may refuse to pay. However, a gunsmith may, also, feel disappointed in their performance and not charge for their labor out of guilt.
It’s important to remember that the pressure would not have an effect on gunsmiths if they did not care about the quality of their work. Most gunsmiths love guns. They enter the trade to be close to them and share their knowledge and passion for them with other people. For most gunsmiths, seeing the joy in a customer who has just discovered what their firearm can do tends to be worth more than the amount on the bill.
Learn more about gunsmithing through participating in an educational gunsmithing program!