Pros and Cons of a Career in Firearm Repair
Firearms repair is heavily regulated. One of the potential drawbacks of being a firearms repair professional is that you must keep up with federal and state licensing requirements, which are strictly enforced and subject to change.
Professionals responsible for repairing firearms are known as gunsmiths. Below is a table that illustrates some of the characteristics of this career:
|Career Overview||Gunsmiths build, repair and make modifications to firearms.|
|Education Requirements||Some employers require the completion of a formal gunsmithing program|
|Program Length||One year or less for a certificate; around two years for a diploma or associate degree|
|Licensing||Federal Firearms License required; states may also require a gunsmith license|
|Experience Requirement||Varies by employer; 3-5 years of experience could be required|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)||$39,239*|
|Additional Requirements||Must be 21 years of age or older|
Gun owners generally seek out gunsmiths when they need work done on their firearms. In addition to disassembling, cleaning, repairing and reassembling weapons, gunsmiths are qualified to deal in firearms on a commercial basis. They're also familiar with regulations set in place by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and are authorized to fabricate and convert firearms and firearm components. As a gunsmith, you could find work with such employers as sporting goods stores, firearms manufacturers and gun shops.
Some employers require job candidates to have completed a formal training program. Community colleges and technical schools offer programs in gunsmithing that can lead to a certificate, diploma or associate degree. These programs cover general repair and fabrication techniques. You can learn how to use hand and machine tools to thread and fit barrels, shape stocks and create custom finishes. Techniques for diagnosing firearms malfunctions are discussed as well.
To become a gunsmith, you must also hold a type one or type two Federal Firearms License (FFL) issued by the ATF. To qualify, you must be at least 21 years of age, submit fingerprints and successfully pass a criminal background check. You'll also need to submit to an interview and inspection by an ATF agent. A similar process may be required to obtain a gunsmith license from your state of residence.
Below is a sampling of what some employers were advertising for in December 2012:
- A sporting goods store in Pennsylvania was looking for a full-time gunsmith. Candidates were to hold a high school diploma or GED and to have completed a gunsmith training program. Other requirements included being at least 21 and a minimum of five years of qualifying work experience. Candidates should be familiar with all types of firearms.
- An armed services contractor in Kentucky was looking for an entry-level gunsmith familiar with the tools of the trade. Applicants also needed mechanical aptitude, the ability to learn quickly and a basic knowledge of firearms and shop safety.
- A Pennsylvania weapons manufacturer wanted to hire a full-time gunsmith. Candidates were to be graduates of a reputable gunsmith training program. They also needed at least three years of qualifying work experience and the ability to operate computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines, as well as mills and lathes.
If you decide to enroll in a formal gunsmithing program, look for opportunities to familiarize yourself with a wide variety of firearms, as this may enhance your marketability to potential employers. Some schools operate their own gun shops, which can give you hands-on experience servicing actual customers' firearms. You might also consider joining a school's student gun organization.