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Posted: 12/17/2005 12:48:33 PM EDT
I originally posted this in the general forum: Where do professional gunsmiths and armorers come from? but that might not have been the best spot so I'm reposting here, in the armory...

To sum things up:


Originally Posted By cobracommand:
Obviously there is a great divide between basic competency and expert craftsmanship which comes from years or decades of experience but how should an enthusiast pursue working with firearms as a trade?

Originally Posted By smokycity:
I'd say trade school, followed by apprenticeship. Take the book/lab type learning and then apply it with someone who has been doing it for a while. Like anything else, you will pick up stuff not taught in a classroom that pays more attention to detail.



This seems the most logical path for someone like myself, since I have no shop experience past Jr. High and no actual metalwork skills.

According to this article(1997), there are two accredited private schools in the US:

Colorado School of Trades and Pennsylvania Gunsmith School.
The article also says there are nine public colleges and technical schools that offer programs.
So far, I've found detailed info on Yavapai College, which offers an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Gunsmithing (2yr). The thing that caught my eye on that one was that they offer two levels of engraving as well CNC/CAD and I'm interested in the artistan aspect of smithing as well as fabrication/repair. I am still looking for information on other schools/programs.

According to the article, average (1997) F/T earnings for gunsmiths is in the 18K-40K range, which means FAR less than where I'm at now and is somewhat discouraging but then again I've gotten used to the SoCal costs of living, so my perception of a livable income is pretty skewed. However, It's not a path I'd be persuing for the money but I don't want to spend my days mounting scopes between runs to the local food bank either.



What say you

And have you ever heard of any of the schools mentioned above?
Link Posted: 12/17/2005 4:11:55 PM EDT
Yes, I attended Yavapai College Gunsmithing program. An excellent school. I learned many things about general gunsmithing. I am a retired USMC armorer and know quite a bit about a few weapon systems. Yavapai both broadened my professional horizons and gave me an in depth course of instruction. I would strongly recommend Yavapai. Talk to Alan Lohr and tell him Charles the Jarhead referred you. Semper Fi. Charles the Gunsmith.
Link Posted: 12/17/2005 5:07:21 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 12/17/2005 5:16:40 PM EDT by dfariswheel]
Taking them in order,
Apprenticeship.
Depends on finding a willing teacher.
Second, finding one who's A. a GOOD gunsmith, and B. is a good teacher.
I've seen more than a few cases of hack "gunsmiths" teaching other people hack gunsmithing techniques.
With an apprentice setup, you're in the position of not knowing if your teacher himself is worth a damn and if what he's showing you is valid.

I've had people tell me that they had apprenticed under a "just great" gunsmith and they really knew their stuff.
Many of them I wouldn't trust to tighten a screw on a Daisy BB gun.
In many cases, it wasn't their fault. They just picked a shade tree gunsmith to learn from, and never knew the difference.

Military.
The military teach you to be a REPAIRMAN on military weapons. A good bit of this is to more on parts switching to get the gun in spec, than doing actual repairs.
You have to be careful about what you sign up for. Most military gunsmiths are really nothing more than good armorers.
Most employers are looking for MORE than just an armorer. They want a real gunsmith, although some companies that make AR-15, M1A, and 1911 pistols do hire straight armorers.
Most employers want people who also know commercial firearms.

Home study/correspondence.
You can learn this way, but most employer's will blow you off if you apply for a job with a certificate from a home study course.
The big problems with home study are in two areas:
First, since the instructor isn't standing there looking over your shoulder at your work, you never really know if your doing it the best, fastest way.

Next, without the hands-on instructor, you never know if your doing the RIGHT way.
The project may go OK, and it may work, but it's very possible you actually did it all wrong. Without the instructor, you never really know.

Last, there's one big service a hands-on teacher can provide: He can tell you that you just flat ain't any good at it.
This is something not talked about much, but in most professional schools, like law, engineering, or (thank God) medicine, the instructors can spot an unqualified person who just doesn't have the talent or skills to do it, and will in one way or another let him know.

I saw this in watchmaking school and in the gunsmithing business There were people who wanted to be watchmakers or gunsmiths who just plain didn't have the talent, the eye, the manual skills or whatever.
These people either figured it out on their own, or in extreme cases the instructors had to have a "Dutch Uncle" talk with them.
The better gunsmithing schools will do this. Correspondence schools can't, since they don't actually see your work.

Trade school:
If you want to be a PROFESSIONAL gunsmith go to a good school.
Colorado School of Trades, Trinidad College, Yavapai, and Lassen in California all are top professional schools that turn out REAL, professionals.

They turn out people who can go to work for industry, gun makers, as civilian employees of the military, and for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Most of these schools have placement services, and they get visited by employers looking for good people.

So, if you want to learn how to do repairs to military weapons, join the military. If you're no good at it, they'll FIND a job for you somewhere else in the service.

Want to learn about working on guns that may or may not be right, apprenticeship, IF you can find one.

Want to be a hobbyist and play around with guns. Correspondence.

Want to be a fully-qualified hard-core professional, go to a good school.

Link Posted: 12/17/2005 6:17:39 PM EDT
I don't know if you could make a decent living as a Gunsmith.. most 'smiths I've met over the years had several things in common A. most had military backrounds B. Most went to a school and learned more about the trade. C. Most had a military retirement or retirement of some sort coming in, so the 'smithing business was another form of income, and NOT the only form income they had to depend on. I suppose you could do well working in the Industry itself, or for a police dept, but to hang out your own gunsmithing shingle and try to make a living on that alone, I'm not sure is doable
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