You know, as I've been going through this forum, I've kind of noticed a consistency here, guys waiting for a long time on waiting lists for 4 or 5 years for a fire arm, and they know all the parts they want, the caliber they want, etc. They're just waiting for somebody with capable hands of assmebling it and tuning it for them.
I just figured I have a personnal interest in learning the ability, It's fascinating to me, are there any reputable places to take courses and learn to do some of this stuff yourself, or become qualified, it seems like alot of the problems the guys here are having they could fix themselves with a little know how.
I also figured I'd beat the curve, and try to figure out where to go before I reach the age and maturity level to be able to learn this stuff.
P.S. The reason I'm posting this in the 1911 forum is because I'm talking about 1911's specifically, that plus I'm pretty sure there's a smith or two who comes around this forum quite frequently.
EDIT: By the way, just so this doesn't look weird, I'm not related to the guys that do Tripp Research, either, so, No I'm not...spying...Not related to Linda either, though my mom has been called Linda by accident before... By the pastor of all people.
There are some gunsmithing schools available, I don't have details as I've never really considered those an option for me personally. There are some gunsmiths that offer classes too. Cylinder & slide offers a week long 1911 course that covers almost everything IIRC.
I know Ned Christianson is teaching a 1911 course in Michigan this summer, although I think this is a 1 day class that covers more troubleshooting function problems. I would be all over this like stink on shit if I were in the area. I'm sure there are other classes, but in most areas they aren't as easy to find as looking them up at the local community college.
So yes, there are places you can go to learn how to do the work yourself. There are also several good books available, ie Kunhausen (sp?), Patrick Sweeney.
I've been tweaking my own 1911's for about 7 years now, based on books, knowledgeable friends, great industry people and a part time gunsmith father. I've found several issues with doing it myself. First is time. I'm married, work 40-60 hours a week and sneaking away for an hour or two at the bench isn't easy most of the time. Luckily there aren't any kids yet or I really would have trouble.
The second problem is money. You've got to start somewhere and you're bound to screw up. That means wasted parts or money to have a real 'smith fix it. This hasn't stopped me and I have convinced a couple people that if you go slow and pay attention to what you're doing it is possible to do somethings yourself. The other place money plays a part is in tooling. For the simple things this isn't such a problem, but sear and hammer jigs can cost $50-$300.
The last issue relates to the above two, practice. People pay the big bucks for a custom pistol because a good 1911 smith to me is also part artist AND has already made and learned from the mistakes that we beginners are going to make. They know how to do it right the first time.
With all that said, definitely learn all you can about the operation of the weapon you're going to use and by all means if you want to become a WECSOG graduate, go for it. Its a lot of fun to be able to take a bone stock 1911 and change it to fit your own wants and needs.
I've rambled enough, so good luck!
Thanks for the input, I just really have a fascination in learning this stuff, I mean that's one problem I have with the majority of Military Personnel, etc, I'll basically interrogate them every time I see them, I ease off when they seem stressed or don't want to hear it, but if they'll answer, I'll ask.
I figure, I'd just really enjoy working on Pistols and Fire arms, just something about it. I guess I get it from my dad in a way, he enjoys wood working, etc, it's very finely grained and textured wood, you learn to cut and use certain methods for certain pieces, you form and set a spec, you get the right braces and clamps, the right wood glue, the right finish, the right grain of sand paper.
And the beauty of it is, at the end of the day, you put that chair, or book shelf in your house and use it, but he has the same problem you mentioned, Time, simply put. I'm just, while I've got the free time, I'll be out of high school in less than 50 days, I have one summer before college, etc, I'd like to learn as much as I could about this stuff, because you guys know how it is, if it's not a hobby before you get married or finish college, odds are you won't pick it up.
I've just maintained a simple fascination with this stuff, always have, always have enjoyed building things and polishing things, I mean I enjoyed carving soap stone and working with a rat tail file, and fine grain sand paper and making a free form shaped spring, that took me three weeks to do putting 6 hours in it a day, it's just something you learn to love.
Anyway, You guys understand, or some of you do, when you build something, understand how it works, and do it yourself, and you can duplicate it, and it looks professional, you get a sense of pride out of it. That's all it amounts to, to set it plainly.
EDIT: I know I'm beating a dead horse, but my mom's the same way, she works in the yard constantly, she studies the plants she wants and figures out what she wants to do, and imagines where she wants what to go where and the style she's looking for, and she just invests time in landscaping consistently, and it's her outlet really it is.
So I guess one of my outlets, is coming on here and reading and gathering information, but anyway, I've ranted enough.
EDIT (for the third time, Yea I know):
Another thing is, I've always thought that the best thing you can do for people is give them a tool they'll use, you know, they'll appreciate they need, alot of the guys around here depend on firearms, it's very purposeful artwork, it has a very deep meaning and is a very rich part of our history, it's not so much the glass smooth cycling sometimes as it is something that a man saw the need for, and his nation asked him for and he made it. It's a piece of history, art, and a well built tool, all in one, that's really what kind of has kept my interest keen on firearm smithing, but anyway, enough's enough, and I'll wait until somebody posts more to give my thesis statement on what gunsmithing means to me. ;)
I can relate my own experiences, though I'm by no means a great 1911 smith. from 1986 to 1989, I used 3 different local pistolsmiths, all of whom had good reputations. One went to Colrado School of Trades (CST), one Yavapai College, and who knows about the third. That third guy had been featured in American Handgunner.
All three did less than stellar work on my guns. One guy made a functional gun into a non functional gun. That third guy (Sega Cutsom/AZGunsEtc.), completely botched a beavertail installation, and refused to give it back to me at less than full price.
I was already tinkering with my own 1911, a custom built by Chuck Rogers that I picked up used, and any of my friend's guns that would let me touch them. I examined everything about that Rogers gun, and learned a lot just by looking.
In 1993 I met a guy at work who had a gunsmithing shop. I lived just a couple miles from there, and he has let me use his shop ever since. I continued to work on my guns, as well as friends who were willing guinea pigs. I always had my friend there to ask quesiotns of, as well as reading everything I could find on the subject.
I look now at the guns put out by those same smiths, and it's almost laughable. Normally, I wouldn't be laughing at others, but all three were/are very arrogant. The guy that has his degree from CST has such a narrow window of what he knows how to do, andhe really does not even do trigger work well.
My point is that I used to really look at these guys with awe. They were also very guarded with their knowledge. You have a distinct advantage in that there is a huge repository of knowledge, as well as a lot of smiths out there willing to share info.
Chuck Rogers, who I feel is one of the best, if not the best around, is kind enough to answer my annoying questions all the time. He doesn't know me from anyone else. George Smith at EGW is another one of those really nice human beings that is always willing to share knowledge.
All I can say is keep up that attitude of doing it for the love of it. I still don't charge anyone, as I feel I'm still perfecting my skills. There is still a lot to learn, not to mention I have a full time job. One of the best ways to learn a specific craft is to have a mentor you can be a journeyman under. Developing that relationship is no easy task, as it's more trouble for an established smith to train a new guy than to just do it themselves.
Though schools can provide some valuable insight, they are limited. I would look to find a local 1911 smith, and see if he is willing to let you help out around the shop. Heck, I would do it for free. You'll learn a lot just by watching.
As far as backlogs, they will always be there. The really good guys are limited, and if anything, the pool of good 1911 smiths dwindles all the time. If a new guy steps into that really good category, it won't be long before he's backlogged too. It's unfortunately the natire of the game.
Good luck in your quest for knowledge. It's very addicting.