By designing and repairing firearms, gunsmiths are an important part of the weapons industry. The job requires skills in various areas, such as woodworking and the use of hand tools, and those in the industry need an eye for detail and precision, and patience when working with small parts and detailed processes. Gunsmiths are found in various settings, from retail shops, where they work with customers looking to invest in a new firearms, to military bases, where they can repair weapons for soldiers. The profession has grown from the time of muskets and gunpowder to an increasingly sophisticated career field maintaining modern weaponry.
An Understanding of Firearms
Gunsmiths are required to have a comprehensive understanding of a variety of firearms. A gunsmith will have familiarity with loading mechanisms, gun assembly, attaching accessories like grips and optical sights, and safety options. Gunsmiths will also benefit from knowledge of the history of weaponry, as they may have to repair or adjust antique firearms.
Gunsmiths require a broad variety of skills to do their job, and most learn through trade school courses as well as job shadowing and apprenticing. Most gunsmiths receive a certificate or associate degree for their coursework, and will study subjects like woodworking, technical drawing and metalwork. A gunsmith will also need knowledge of algebra, ballistics, drafting and metallurgy, meaning they have an intense and varied course of study. To learn the hands-on aspects of the job, aspiring gunsmiths will spend time in a shop practicing skills like soldering and welding.
Gunsmiths can find work in many different settings and locations. Some work for gun and sporting goods stores, repairing firearms for customers and advising on weapon selection. Others are employed by the warranty departments of gun manufacturers, repairing broken guns or in other capacities as needed by firearms producing companies. Still others are employed by custom gun shops, detailing guns to specifics as dictated by clients.
Salaries for gunsmiths typically grow with experience, and can vary widely from someone new in the field to an experienced professional. According to figures from Payscale, the average gunsmith with one to four years of experience makes from $26,500 to $40,963 a year, while one who's been in the field for 20 or more years earns from $34,392 to $60,000.
Gunsmiths need to be aware of personal safety on the job. Firearms are dangerous, but other aspects of the job come with risks as well. Gunsmiths often utilize heavy machinery, like drill presses, saws and lathes, and need to be familiar with proper use to avoid injury. Test-firing guns can be very noisy work, mandating the use of ear protection to preserve hearing.