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Seriously considering

Wannabewoodsman

Master Class
I'm seriously considering going to school to be a gunsmith (Sonora Desert Institute is my #1 consideration). I'm 32 and a welder by trade but I love guns, tinkering, repairing and improving upon things.
For you old timers, considering the current political climate regarding guns and firearms, what advice do you have? Is it worth it?
 

KillerFord1977

Hellcat
Founding Member
I'm seriously considering going to school to be a gunsmith (Sonora Desert Institute is my #1 consideration). I'm 32 and a welder by trade but I love guns, tinkering, repairing and improving upon things.
For you old timers, considering the current political climate regarding guns and firearms, what advice do you have? Is it worth it?
If you can make a good living and support your family, go for it.

nothing worse than a career where you go to work every day and hate what you do.
if thats your passion, have at it. Live a happy and prosperous life.

i’d love to know the gunsmith trade, as I tinker with my own firearms
 

Old_Me

Professional
I'm seriously considering going to school to be a gunsmith (Sonora Desert Institute is my #1 consideration). I'm 32 and a welder by trade but I love guns, tinkering, repairing and improving upon things.
For you old timers, considering the current political climate regarding guns and firearms, what advice do you have? Is it worth it?
i think you can also get yourself an FFL dealer license, however YOUR state rules that.

i personally only change out the slide take down lever on my Glocks, that's about the only thing i switch out.

as for "certified" gun repairs and for compensation, you may have to work as an apprentice somewhere, so ask around first.

THEN, after x amount of time, go on your own.

i had given thought to the ASI myself, and at least "learn" a few things, but not go full bore on the trade.

machinery, like a lathe i think may be required at some point and time.

cost(s) may be a factor in your final decision.

good luck.
 

TSiWRX

Professional
I'm not a gunsmith, nor do I have any direct word-of-mouth from any gunsmiths I know, regarding this issue, since I've never asked about it.

That said, I have read a few threads on the likes of the SOTAR private FB group regarding the various online certification programs, and from both students as well as recognized gunsmiths, the sentiments- and experiences-of almost always are negative.

Past students in-particular cite that too much of the coursework was simply YouTube videos, and that even the Associates Degree, for those who seek it, doesn't translate into favorable hiring in the industry (literally, one post said, verbatim, that "none of the manufacturers cared"). Text books were reported as being often only partially correct or outright incorrect and out-dated. Many recommend that even if the perspective student is thinking about using their G.I. Bill benefits, to save it and use it for something better - and to definitely not pay out-of-pocket or take out a loan for it.

Recommendations from the known smiths are to enroll, physically, in an actual Gunsmithing School (like Trinidad State Junior College), and then to find a Master Gunsmith to Apprentice under. In the meanwhile, if you don't have the knowhow already, attending a local tech school for machining, blueprint reading, manual mill/lathe and CNC would help you get a leg up, once you do enroll in such a program and start your apprenticeship.

Specialized courses -such as SOTAR's- also exist for in-depth dives into specific platforms. Having attended a one-day seminar from a local smith (https://www.recoilweb.com/dave-laubert-defensive-creations-80917.html and https://americanhandgunner.com/discover/exclusives/best-gunsmiths-in-the-u-s/; and he made the top - I'm extremely lucky to have someone of such renown here, locally) about the AR, the know-how I gathered in even such a rather informal context (the class was designed for end-users/hobbyists) was huge, and I can only imagine what a dedicated class like those offered by SOTAR or SOLGW, like the late William Larson's work, would offer in terms of knowledge transfer.

Best of luck on your quest! :)
 

Pitdogg2

Custom
Become a machinist, learn vertical mills, lathes ect. It will vastly help your gunsmithing career. My gunsmith was a long time machinist/welder before he got into the GS trade. He has emphatically stated to my son who's also a welder and about your age to get his machining understanding very knowledgeable and then go into the gunsmith trade.
 

iklwa

Master Class
I'm seriously considering going to school to be a gunsmith (Sonora Desert Institute is my #1 consideration). I'm 32 and a welder by trade but I love guns, tinkering, repairing and improving upon things.
For you old timers, considering the current political climate regarding guns and firearms, what advice do you have? Is it worth it?
I originally wanted to be a watch smith. I was dissuaded by everyone, including my personal watch smith.
Now I find out it is a lucrative trade.
I should have followed my original ambition. As it was, I wound up taking all sorts of machinery apart and repairing it for forty years.
Do what makes you satisfied.
I have found true happiness comes from the satisfaction of doing an excellent job and continual learning.
 

Wannabewoodsman

Master Class
I'm not a gunsmith, nor do I have any direct word-of-mouth from any gunsmiths I know, regarding this issue, since I've never asked about it.

That said, I have read a few threads on the likes of the SOTAR private FB group regarding the various online certification programs, and from both students as well as recognized gunsmiths, the sentiments- and experiences-of almost always are negative.

Past students in-particular cite that too much of the coursework was simply YouTube videos, and that even the Associates Degree, for those who seek it, doesn't translate into favorable hiring in the industry (literally, one post said, verbatim, that "none of the manufacturers cared"). Text books were reported as being often only partially correct or outright incorrect and out-dated. Many recommend that even if the perspective student is thinking about using their G.I. Bill benefits, to save it and use it for something better - and to definitely not pay out-of-pocket or take out a loan for it.

Recommendations from the known smiths are to enroll, physically, in an actual Gunsmithing School (like Trinidad State Junior College), and then to find a Master Gunsmith to Apprentice under. In the meanwhile, if you don't have the knowhow already, attending a local tech school for machining, blueprint reading, manual mill/lathe and CNC would help you get a leg up, once you do enroll in such a program and start your apprenticeship.

Specialized courses -such as SOTAR's- also exist for in-depth dives into specific platforms. Having attended a one-day seminar from a local smith (https://www.recoilweb.com/dave-laubert-defensive-creations-80917.html and https://americanhandgunner.com/discover/exclusives/best-gunsmiths-in-the-u-s/; and he made the top - I'm extremely lucky to have someone of such renown here, locally) about the AR, the know-how I gathered in even such a rather informal context (the class was designed for end-users/hobbyists) was huge, and I can only imagine what a dedicated class like those offered by SOTAR or SOLGW, like the late William Larson's work, would offer in terms of knowledge transfer.

Best of luck on your quest! :)
Forgive my ignorance but how would I even go about finding a course like SOTARS? I'm completely new to building guns and the most I am competently capable of is field stripping and basic tactical usage.
 

TSiWRX

Professional
If you have a good smith in your area, @Wannabewoodsman , start by talking/networking with him/her. My example above, Mr. Dave Laubert, is a decidedly down-to-earth gentleman who is quiet but extremely easy to talk to: there's no doubt in my mind that if any of our locals were interested in gunsmithing as a profession, he wouldn't mind grabbing a bite to eat and to "talk shop" with a perspective future peer.

If you are interested in ARs in-particular and are close to Maryland, SOTAR is where it's at: https://www.schooloftheamericanrifle.com. Meanwhile, SOLGW's classes are in the vein of the late Mr. Larson's, and is a traveling show: https://sonsoflibertygw.com/product-category/classes. These would be great places go knock out two birds with one stone: get a more in-depth look into the AR platform (and thus become a better operator behind the gun, too: once you know how it works, you will be better prepared for when it doesn't, be it just with buddies on the range or in a training class or competition, or in dire conflict) -you'll literally tear apart your gun down to individual springs and bolts or build one up from just parts- as well as give you a chance to network with other like-minded folks (some of whom may well be on the route of becoming gunsmiths, themselves) or the instructional cadre, who would undoubtedly have industry contacts.

Similar "build classes" exist for "enthusiast" pistols such as the 1911.

The way I see it, you go as a fellow hobbyist who is genuinely interested in that platform...and hopefully end up taking home both that knowledge, as well as let it be your first stepping stone to a new future.

Unfortunately, as I confessed to above, I am not on this path, myself, so I am rather limited in my understanding of just what to do. :oops: That said, when I Googled the aforementioned "Trinidad State Junior College" gunsmithing program, I arrived at: https://gunsmithing.nra.org/find-a-school/ . I think that given how Chad Albrecht hinted at his respect for Trinidad State's program, the others like it are very likely to offer similar levels of instruction.

IMveryHO, "trade schools" are only worth it if their programs are well-respected by those who are hiring in that industry. I'm a nerdy lab-rat basic-scientist researcher by day, and while I hail from a traditional academic background, one of my current lab-mates was hired by us nearly fresh-out of an area trade-school that specialized in training students to fill technician spots in our industry. This young lady came to us with *exactly* the technical skillset we desired, and has turned out to be an asset to our lab from day one on the job. As a result, we've referred others like her to our colleagues in both our university as well as other institutions.

If that SDI certificate or even degree doesn't actually mean anything to those hiring, then to me, it wouldn't be worth the money.
 

llamaboy

Operator
I attended the Colorado School of Trades for about a year, when I had the opportunity, in my day job, to transfer up here (Helena). The CST was a hands-on course in wood and metal. I learned quite a few things in addition to gunsmithing. First, if you want to have a one-man shop, you'll need a HUGE investment in machinery. Second, if you are on your own, you're working piece-work. The faster you can complete a job, the faster you will earn your income. However, you must also be accurate, or your reputation will suffer immensely.

Next, is the option of working for someone. I won't go into all the negative social and personnel issues associated with being an employee. You will probably be working for wages. The good side is that you learn how to fix someone's f-ups, and learn which ones are the most common. You will also learn which tools and machines you will need, and which are the good ones. But most importantly, you will learn where to find the resources needed to support your work.

An alternative you might want to consider would be to work as a machinist in one of the supporting industries, instead of working as a gunsmith. 15 years, or so, I was in the market for a new trap gun. So I stopped in the Kolar plant to get fitted. While there, I noticed a guy working on some metal piece that I could not mentally fit into any gun I knew. So, I asked what he was working on, and the VP said it was probably for a car engine. The point is, you may want to work on guns, but you will need to be a good machinist first.

I hope this was informative, and good luck in your endeavors.
 
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