Shooters Forum banner
1 - 20 of 23 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
17 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm seriously considering going to school to be a gunsmith (Sonora Desert Institute is my #1 consideration). I'm 32 and a welder by trade but I love guns, tinkering, repairing and improving upon things. I recently discovered I'm an ammosexual. Even if it isn't a full time career I'd consider part time.
For you old timers, considering the current political climate regarding guns and firearms, what advice do you have? Is it worth it?
 

·
The Shadow (Moderator)
Joined
·
8,753 Posts
Ammo sexual ? ... trying to work that one out.
It's millennial speak, means he loves ammo.

Even if it isn't a full time career I'd consider part time.
For you old timers, considering the current political climate regarding guns and firearms, what advice do you have? Is it worth it?
"Worth it" is all individual's judgement call.

I did a bunch of work as a side gig, 20 years ago. It got to the point where I was mostly only cleaning filthy guns, and trying to figure out how many rusty parts in a bucket didn't actually belong to this "family heirloom that we care so much about and want shooting again".🙄

To me, that wasn't worth it; and it was the majority of the work.


Cheers
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
854 Posts
I'm going to give you the advice my Dad gave to me . I took his advice and have had no regrets .
Get into a line of work you enjoy ... and never work for someone else . When you are the boss you make the rules .
He also advised me to go into a profession that could be done indoors , stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer ... he was a Utility Linesman and worked in the heat , freezing rain and hurricanes keeping electricity to our homes ...
Get into a profession you enjoy ... I thought about gunsmithing but no schools back then ... I went into building design , architure / engineering ... I enjoyed drawing plans .
When you like what you do ... working isn't so much of a job . I enjoyed what I did and never had any regrets on the job choice .
After learning the trade and ropes I started my own company and ran it for 47 years ...recently retired .

I don't want to even go to ammosexual land ...some things I would rather not know about . I do reload but it's just a hobby !
Gary
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
15,744 Posts
I went to gunsmiths school right out of the Army in '67 and went back to teach there (CST-Denver) in '76. The trade has changed SO much, I'd not do it today.
Sign up for some NRA summer classes and see how you like it, first.
My education was much more draconian than today. CST concentrated on fit and finish and knowing how to run hand tools more than machinery. There were many more students than benches so they could demand three light tight projects to sort out the impatient and unskilled. Today, CST teaches CNC milling, TIG welding and alternate metal finishes not even thought of 50 years ago. About 80% of what they taught in the '60s no longer applies. It's a totally different trade.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
17 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
After doing some research I'm wondering if armorer skills would be a better choice considering the "AFT" (a joke in reference to Biden call the ATF the AFT) paperwork, lack of tooling on my part (lathes, mills etc), a majority of modern gunsmithing is little more than armorer's work and not being close to ANY school that teaches gunsmithing, although machining is around.
I still want to do something professionally involving firearms and wonder if armorer skills could fit the bill and use them as a side gig, minus a majority of the headaches
 

·
The Hog Whisperer (Administrator)
Joined
·
37,279 Posts
Assembling Glocks and ARs is a different kettle of fish, than fine metal work, engraving, and rebarreling old mausers. Decide what interests you the most and look into it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
740 Posts
A friend of mine went to Colorado school in the '90's. He has built several nice bolt rifles over the years. Even built a few smokeless muzzleloaders. As well as the dreaded "Evil Black Rifles".
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
215 Posts
Yes nothing like beautiful cross linked polymer frames and flat mystery finishes. The same care of putting the frames together as Mcdonald's uses to assembling the buns on hamburgers. I bought a cased revolver and a young guy behind the counter whips out a pocketknife carves the stickers off the hard wood case. At a gun shop another guy picks up a bunch of new J frame revolvers open the cylinders and drops the frames over his fingers ( banging them all together and looks like a stringer of fish). Black rifles and polymer pistols have brought about some shooters that should never touch a quality firearm much less than attempt to work on them.

I think working as a gunsmith would be very interesting. I am sure there is room for many types of gunsmiths. I really like the art work of the traditional style gun smiths work. Turnbull's work on lever actions rifles is wonderful. I would like to see the focus return to quality.

Best wishes
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
15,744 Posts
Leonard Brownell had an argument with Bill Ruger about cheapening the Number One. Leonard was offended by roll pins being used in the action. Ruger explained how much extra each tolerance cost in time, tooling, rejects and failures after sales. Custom riflesmiths using Number One actions always replace the roll pins after reaming the holes for solid pins. Quality and precision cost money. Not many gun customers are willing to spend it.

Throw together some plastic and sheet metal, squirt a few parts out of the turret lathe. Cast a few from old beer cans and press out some mystery metal, buy a bucket of screws and print stationary. We're a gun company.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
55 Posts
Perhaps you should consider the machinist trade, an apprenticeship or maybe a community college. I served a 4 yr. apprenticeship at a gov't arsenal (think large caliber cannon). Then maybe take a correspondence type course to learn the gunsmith trade while working as a welder or machinist.

A man with a trade will never go hungry...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,670 Posts
I grew up in a medium sized Texas town (around 35K) and there were always 5-6 gunsmiths around the area (bit larger if you include the County). The best gunsmiths were machinists by trade. I am not sure if any attended any of the gunsmith schools. My Dad's best friend was a machinist at one of the large Petrochemical companies in town where he was the plant Doctor. His friend only did custom work and was unaffordable by most people so his client base was small and very limited.

There were a few other brilliant machinists and a couple even had the money to have fairly modern machine shops. Most of the others were just "glorified parts changers"! There is a place for them, but they cannot build a part or do many tof the more complicated things needed. They can however, install a recoil pad...clean a rifle...even troubleshoot issues for many rifles/shotguns/pistols because of their knowledge.

Not a single one of them had any business sense though! A couple kept their costs down by hiring High School "shop" kids to do much of the grunt work....great until a gun got messed up and they had to make good.

Unless you are in a huge Metro area and can keep your doors open cleaning guns and working on "Black Rifles"...or are independently wealthy and own a machine shop and are very talented in taking care of high end shotguns...you are much better off being a welder.

There are a couple of guys I trust to do minor jobs here now, but most of the big jobs always go to a "known" gunsmith either many hours away or across the country.

Good luck and all the best.
 

·
The Shadow (Moderator)
Joined
·
8,753 Posts
Throw together some plastic and sheet metal, squirt a few parts out of the turret lathe. Cast a few from old beer cans and press out some mystery metal, buy a bucket of screws and print stationary. We're a gun company.
Salvage does not approve of your thorough and accurate description of their manufacturing process. 😉😉😆
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
15,744 Posts
I went at learning a little backwards. I'd never stood in front of a lathe or mill and had never heard of a surface grinder until I got to gunsmith school. After machining as a gunsmith for 15 years, I went to work in two aerospace shops and an engineering company and learned 'machining' and TIG welding and got paid doing it. That knowledge directly improved my gunmaking capabilities and greatly expanded the gunshop's ability to do complicated jobs. The problem is that the machines and the tooling cost big money and it's hard to recoop those basic cost by doing gun work. The machines are a problem when you want to move, too!!
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
278 Posts
As I've mentioned previously, shortly after graduating high school I was lucky enough to become a "party of four" who were chose to become toolmaker apprentices. Now, this was definitely NOT from the paltry experience learned in metal work that I learned in high school metals class, but only because I showed up every day for work and was willing to listen to those who knew things.
I have found though, that there is still a customer base out there who appreciates what it's like to have precision work done with "custom" made firearms and accessories. That population is not particularly a large part in numbers, but many of those folks appreciate a "one-of-a kind" hand made and fitted project, and the funny part of that is, you don't need to seek those folks, as they will seek the maker themselves.
Heck, as far back as 1991, when I had my first visit to Reno, NV to attend the "American Custom Gunmakers Guild" show, many of those folks and at least one lady (Sharon Dressel) were specializing in barrel making, metal work, stock making, color-case hardening and even custom stock checkering. So, if someone these days is so inclined, there's still some room for a "specialist" who does fantastic, precision metal work like Stephan Heilmann, to name one of a few.
So, if I could offer any "ink" involved with encouragement, I'd suggest you pick out a process that you are really enthused about and then learn and work on it until you think you're GOOD, and then learn and work some more.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
17 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
As I've mentioned previously, shortly after graduating high school I was lucky enough to become a "party of four" who were chose to become toolmaker apprentices. Now, this was definitely NOT from the paltry experience learned in metal work that I learned in high school metals class, but only because I showed up every day for work and was willing to listen to those who knew things.
I have found though, that there is still a customer base out there who appreciates what it's like to have precision work done with "custom" made firearms and accessories. That population is not particularly a large part in numbers, but many of those folks appreciate a "one-of-a kind" hand made and fitted project, and the funny part of that is, you don't need to seek those folks, as they will seek the maker themselves.
Heck, as far back as 1991, when I had my first visit to Reno, NV to attend the "American Custom Gunmakers Guild" show, many of those folks and at least one lady (Sharon Dressel) were specializing in barrel making, metal work, stock making, color-case hardening and even custom stock checkering. So, if someone these days is so inclined, there's still some room for a "specialist" who does fantastic, precision metal work like Stephan Heilmann, to name one of a few.
So, if I could offer any "ink" involved with encouragement, I'd suggest you pick out a process that you are really enthused about and then learn and work on it until you think you're GOOD, and then learn and work some more.
The school in question does, reportedly, teach things such as checkering, some custom work but also ballistics amongst other things, all of which I have zero knowledge in. The nearest school that actually teaches gunsmithing is around 2 hours away and it isn't practical for me to pack up and move. I genuinely have no issues with learning (I'm hungry for it actually and love learning) but I'm looking for the best solution in a not-so-ideal-situation.

Now I know there's someone reading this going, "Dude! We've got the f-ing internet, just look it up!" And to some extent that's true... But you also don't know what you don't know.

I'm still wrestling with the idea of it (the school) because I'm so eager to learn (and get some pretty cool sounding kits as part of the curriculum) but there are also a lot of negatives I've heard and I don't know if $10K is worth it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
280 Posts
I have hired a lot of engineers and knew how much they made. The late gunsmith and gun store owner Randy Ketchum was making $30k/year. Given all his inventions, I would think he could have got many multiples of that income if he applied for an engineering job.

I bought a mill and a lathe for amateur gunsmithing. Those machines paid for themselves in 2 evenings of working a jet engine test fixture. I billed General Dynamics at my engineering hourly rate.

Randy would have done a much better job on that test fixture, and he probably would have charged me $35.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
15,744 Posts
There are many facets to gunsmithing and no standards as to what qualifies anyone.
CST was divided into sections that became more advanced as time went on. Pseudo was (is?) like Basic Training with a lot of basic hand tool operation, layout, fitting, finishing and learning the basics. (most beginner students didn't know there were four drill size indexes or how to read a micrometer). I saw several machinist/mechanics just fly through pseudo by completing basic projects two a day and more.
Stock making was next and is now pretty much a thing of the past. Pre-fit plastics and epoxy has taken most stock work away from gunsmiths unless it's repairing cracks and installing pads.
Machine shop and welding (gas only in the old days) were completed while a student was also finishing his stock projects.
D&F (Design and Function) was the heart of the program and the sooner a student could get into that section the faster he was working on guns and understanding how they worked. Business, records, handloading and ballistics and other classroom subjects were scheduled sometimes during the 16 month program.

In fifty years of working as a gunsmith/gunmaker I've never made a profit but the tool inventory and capabilities expanded in the good times and my kids got fed all the time. It's a very tough business, especially if you don't like repetition and would rather not even touch the plastic and stamped metal guns that seem to break the most often.
Shipping and local regulations make mail order work a thing of the past, also. At one time, 90% of my business came and went by UPS.

The advantage of going to school is having TOOLS to work with. At the metalsmithing NRA seminar at Susanville college there was a student that literally 'learned' to run a lathe by watching videos and military training films he found in his local library. (pre-internet) He saw his first one in person on Monday and had installed a barrel by Friday from a blank. He learned to TIG weld and draw file and fit sights, too. His day job was trauma surgeon in a big hospital back east.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Pudfark

·
Registered
Joined
·
88 Posts
This is why I like muzzleloader rifles. The only tool I need is a drill press. Everything else is hand tools.
 
1 - 20 of 23 Posts
Top