Gunsmiths play an important role in keeping people safe, as they are responsible for seeing that their firearms operate smoothly. These individuals may work at this trade full time or simply be hobbyists who enjoy tinkering with all types of weapons. Either way, certain training is required before one can be licensed to do so.
What they Do
A gunsmith is responsible for repairing and maintaining firearms. They can also modify, customize or even build weapons to certain specifications. Their work can include accurization, which involves improving the accuracy of a firearm by making certain modifications to it. As such, it can be helpful for gunsmiths to be adept at shooting different types of weapons. They sometimes apply metal finishes, or create unique engravings or other details whenever they are making custom guns and firearms.
Vocational Training Programs
The first step in becoming a gunsmith is to take a vocational training course. The National Rifle Association operates a number of gunsmithing schools across the country. A typical course can range from only a few days to two weeks, depending on the types of weapons one is interested in. Classes are sometimes held at community colleges, and a few online courses are available as well. Some of the subjects that will be covered include firearm design, ballistics, accurizing, and bolt action.
When taking in-person classes, this training will involve hands-on experience with different types of firearms. Course facilitators usually supply the weapons to be worked on; however, students may need to supply their own tools for use in the course. When taking online courses, individuals will normally be given certain exercises to perform, and must therefore have their own weapons to use for the training as well. The American Gunsmithing Institution provides a number of video instructional courses on specific weapons.
Obtaining a License
After receiving the right training, the next step is to obtain a Federal Firearms License (FFL) from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. In order to receive a license individuals must:
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Submit to fingerprinting and photographing
- Undergo an electronic background check
- Provide the names of verifiable references who can be contacted about the application
Once all the information on the application has been verified for accuracy, a field agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms will then conduct an in-person interview in order to determine if an individual can be deemed trustworthy. After completing the interview, the agent will make a written report of the meeting, and recommend approving or denying the petition.
After becoming licensed, many gunsmiths elect to work at this craft part time, setting up shop in a garage or outbuilding at their private residence. Many of these hobbyists simply rely on word-of-mouth advertising in order to help bring new clients in. They might also network with others by frequenting outdoor stores, shooting ranges or joining hunting clubs. Once they have built a reputation for performing quality work, they may have a large enough following that they can then open their own shop and begin gunsmithing as a full-time occupation.
Even after obtaining a license, gunsmiths continue to learn and perfect their craft through hands-on experience with various types of weapons. As such, there are no continuing educational requirements necessary in order to keep one’s license current. Even so, gunsmiths must maintain careful records of each transaction, and these records are subject to inspection from ATF agents at any time. Those who violate the terms of their license could subsequently have it revoked as a result.