How to Become a Gunsmith in the US


Gunsmithing is the art of making new guns or redesigning existing ones. Gunsmiths are the artisans behind these activities. They build a range of guns, from small, hand-held firearms to submachine guns and grenade launchers. If you are a firearm enthusiast who is not put off by the idea of working in a potentially dangerous environment, then this a career you could enjoy.

What Do Gunsmiths Do?

Their typical day to day duties include:

  • Using a variety of hand and power tools to build guns according to blueprint specifications
  • Applying finishes, such as engravings, to manufactured guns
  • Repairing defective guns and performing routine maintenance practices
  • Modifying guns according to customer’s specifications
  • Restoring antique guns, such as those used to hunt in the old days
  • Test firing the manufactured, repaired or restored guns

Work Environment

Gunsmiths work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday. They spend their time on production floors or workshops. The work environment is quite noisy with sounds of grinders, drills, presses and other gunsmithing tools. So they wear earmuffs and other pieces of protective gear.

The job can be dangerous, as it involves working loaded guns. It is essential that aspiring gunsmiths are proficient in handling and using guns before joining the practice.


Gunsmiths earn as follows:

Occupation level

Annual Wage

Entry-level gunsmiths

$20,000 - $25,000

Experienced gunsmiths

$25,000 - $36,000

Veteran gunsmiths

Up to $55,000

Entry Requirements

If you are in high school, taking classes in metalwork, woodworking and technical drawing will give you a solid foundation for this career.

The next step is to join a community college, trade school or technical institute and pursue an associate degree in firearms technology and gunsmithing. Examples of institutions offering this credential include:

  • Yavapai College, Arizona
  • Sonoran Desert Institute, Arizona
  • Lassen Community College, California

For more information on schools offering gunsmithing programs visit the National Rifle Association.

Some large gunsmithing shops also offer apprenticeship programs that provide an alternative way to break into the profession. As an apprentice, you will learn the art and science of making and repairing guns from skilled and experienced gunsmiths for a period of up to five years.

The last step to becoming a gunsmith is to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. If you want to build and sell guns, you will need a federal firearms license. A dealer’s license is required if you only want to repair guns. You may also need to meet other licensing requirements in your state.

Note that to get licensed you must pass a criminal background and drug test.

Important Qualities

To be a competent gunsmith you need:

  • Excellent practical and technical skills
  • A sound knowledge of occupational health and safety practices
  • The ability to use guns proficiently
  • Superior eye-hand coordination skills
  • Good artistic skills
  • Good customer service and business skills
  • A passion for guns
  • Physical stamina
  • Integrity and ability to adhere to a professional code of conduct

Career Development

After finding a job, you should focus on gaining vast work experience, as well as:

  • Obtaining a gunsmith certification from the American Gunsmithing Institute
  • Securing membership in the America Gunsmith Institute’s Gun Club of America.

Job Opportunities

As a beginning gunsmith you could be hired by:

  • Firearm manufacturing factories
  • Gunsmith shops
  • Law enforcement and military agencies
  • Stores that sell sporting goods.

With several years of work experience and advanced credentials, you could become a supervisor in a firearms factory. You could also move into self-employment and establish your own gunsmith shop.

Finally, gun violence is a major criminal and social issue in the US. Although there is need to enforce tougher laws for civilian gun ownership, this is yet to happen. As a result, more people are purchasing guns. In 2012 alone, the Business Insider reports 16,808,538 people applied to purchase a gun.

This is good news for gunsmiths since many of them are needed to build and repair these guns. So, you can make a decent living out of your enthusiasm for guns by becoming a gunsmith!