A gunsmith’s job responsibilities include the repair, maintenance and construction of firearms. A gunsmith needs a wide range of skills including knowledge about mathematics and science, mechanical, wood-crafting and metalworking expertise. Precise measurements and accurate tolerance are the hallmarks of quality gun construction and gunsmiths must demonstrate proficiency in these areas. A gunsmith must be adept at safe operations of power and hand tools along with great knowledge about gun safety requirements. A prospective gunsmith is expected to have specialized training at a technical school or community college and must possess a Federal Firearms License (FFL).
The most common educational requirement is a high school diploma; alternatively, a prospective gunsmith can hold a diploma or associate degree. They must satisfy licensure requirements by possessing a Federal Firearms License and have six months to three years of experience. Their technical skills must include knowledge about and the ability to use chisels, files, edge finders, wrenches, checkering tools, hand tools, drill presses, and polishing tools; they must be skilled at grinder, mill and lathe operations. Additionally, they must pass a criminal background check and may not have any misdemeanor convictions, which will automatically disqualify them. They must be at least twenty-one years of age and may not exhibit any substance abuse or addiction; potential gunsmith may not have a mental health history (Sources: U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF); Gunsmith job listings (November 2012)).
Stage One: Passing Background Check
Before prospective students are allowed to join a gunsmith program, they have to pass a firearms background check. There is a ban on the possession of firearms by convicted felons; therefore, schools must make sure that enrolling students have the legal right to work with firearms. Students who have any restraining orders or convictions relating to violent misdemeanor will be disqualified from admission. A commission to a mental hospital in the past or adjudication as being mentally incompetent will prevent the student from enrolling.
Stage Two: Completion of Gunsmith Program
Students can enroll to obtain certificates, technical diplomas and associate degrees in gunsmithing at technical schools and colleges across the United States. A prospective gunsmith can opt to do a two-year associate degree course or a six-month long certification or diploma program. Coursework mainly focuses on mechanical and tooling skills needed in the repair and crafting of firearms. Students are taught how to distinguish between different types of firearms, in terms of their design and function; they learn how to perform needed repairs and gain knowledge about ways to diagnose firearms that have stopped functioning. Gunsmiths need to know how to craft the wood and metal parts of a gun, including levers, hinges and triggers, with respect to self-loaders as well as bolt-action guns. They learn reverse engineering, metallurgy and soldering among other unique techniques of crafting guns. Coursework of some programs in gunsmithing include subjects such as ballistics and chemistry.
Stage Three: Obtaining a Federal Firearms License
Possession of a Federal Firearms License is a must for gunsmiths as mandated by federal law; this is due to gunsmiths who often possess firearms belonging to clients for extended periods of time. Licensure requirements include provision of similar information as required for the facilitation of the background check; a prospective licensee must be at least twenty-one years old and required to adhere to strict legal and ethical requirements. The gunsmith must perform their duties at a remote workplace that are far removed from their residence, as part of the licensing requirement. Inspections aimed at ensuring that the gunsmith is in compliance with federal regulations are conducted by a field agent who interviews the prospective gunsmith before their approval for licensing.
Strict requirements are associated with the Federal Firearms License, including the guns are stored in a locked safe when the gunsmith is not working on it and that the gunsmith keep accurate records of all transactions involving the firearms in which they have worked on.