How to Become a Gunsmith In 4 Steps – Career Guide

People who have a knack for building, repairing, and cleaning firearms can have a lucrative career as a Gunsmith.


A Gunsmith is someone who has knowledge of how firearms work and can disassemble, modify, design, repair, and reassemble guns in a safe and timely manner.

From custom firearms to historic rifles, gunsmiths will get their hands dirty keeping weapons in pristine condition.

Job Description

Since working as a Gunsmith is an intricate occupation, it is required that you be safe and focus on one task at a time working in this field.

Throughout your day as a Gunsmith, you should expect to complete a variety of tasks, like:

  • Calibrating firearms
  • Assembling firearms
  • Repairs
  • Following safety protocols
  • Troubleshooting issues
  • Engraving
  • Complying with federal and state laws
  • Diagnose and correct accuracy issues

Learning the ropes of gunsmithing can take a while, so expect to learn all of these duties over time.


Over a year, the average Gunsmith in the United States will make a salary of around $40,414.

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Weekly, this comes out to $777, which is about $19.43 an hour.

Those who have more experience in this career can make over $27 an hour, which adds up to $56,160 per year.

You will likely find more Gunsmithing opportunities in larger cities that do not have the most strict gun laws.

Those who are interested in becoming a Gunsmith with little to no experience could make as little as $17 an hour starting.

Salary Information by State

State Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
New Hampshire50$50,440$24.25$64,930$37,300
New Jersey80$51,030$24.53$78,780$35,630
New York220$53,440$25.69$67,250$33,710
North Carolina360$39,730$19.10$48,450$32,160
Rhode Island110$45,280$21.77$57,860$36,370
South Carolina220$69,160$33.25$107,750$38,810
West Virginia180$42,570$20.47$58,790$28,020

Annual Average Salary: Top 10 States

The top earning state in the field is South Carolina, where the average salary is $69,160.

These are the top 10 earning states in the field:

  • South Carolina - $69,160
  • Indiana - $67,860
  • Utah - $62,610
  • Oregon - $61,710
  • Washington - $60,660
  • Louisiana - $60,510
  • Minnesota - $55,550
  • Iowa - $54,660
  • New York - $53,440
  • Kentucky - $52,990
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Metal-Refining Furnace Operators and Tenders, OCC Code 51-4051, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become: Step-by-Step

1. Graduate High School

The best start to any career is to have a high school diploma.

This is true for working as a Gunsmith as well.

You’ll want to complete four years of education while you are still a teenager.

However, if you do not have a high school diploma and are over the age of 18, you can complete a GED to have documentation that you have finished high school requirements.

A GED can take anywhere from six months to a year to complete and will be finished once you pass the GED exam.

At this time, you may also want to start learning more about guns and how they work, how to clean and assemble them, as well as other information that pertains to gunsmithing if you have not done so already.

2. Get Educated

Now that you have graduated high school and have basic knowledge of guns, there are two ways you can learn to become a Gunsmith.

To work with metals, and wood, and have an understanding of how to read blueprints, you’ll need to have some form of education.

Take classes at your local community college or through a trade school to earn an associate’s degree, which will take about two years to complete.

Within your time at school, you will want to complete courses that will help you toward your dream career, including:

  • Basic Woodworking
  • Firearm Safety
  • Bench Metal
  • Machine Operation and Handling

Another way to work as a Gunsmith is to become an apprentice to a senior Gunsmith.

Within this time, you’ll be shadowing an established Gunsmith to learn the ropes.

This could take anywhere from six months to a year, and will likely require that you take some courses to deepen your understanding.

3. Gain Experience

Handling firearms is key to a successful career as a Gunsmith.

Finding ways to safely and responsibly handle guns will allow you to better understand the mechanism of the firearm.

You can do this through attending gun safety classes, where you will learn how to hold a gun, shoot, clean, and repair guns.

Also, working with those who have experience with guns can help you toward your goal as well.

Consider contacting a local Gunsmith while you are still in school to apprentice or intern at a Gunsmith shop, where you can gain hands-on experience.

Ask for help with assembling guns, woodworking, metalwork, and repairing firearms to get the full range of education.

Your experience in this area should take about two years to complete so that you have full knowledge of how to handle and complete tasks with guns for customers.

4. Become Licensed

Completing these steps will lead you toward your next goal, having licensure as a Gunsmith.

Some states don’t require that you have a license, but most will ask that you have at least a concealed carry permit to work in this field.

The United States Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives unit requires many Gunsmiths to have a Federal Firearms License to build or sell firearms.

A Federal Firearms License is quite simple to obtain, you will need to fill out an application, complete a background check, submit a fee, and then you will have an interview and review of your case before you are allowed to sell or build firearms.

This should take about sixty days to complete.


It will take some education in order to work as a Gunsmith.

Your first step is to finish high school, whether you graduate or earn a GED.

High school can take about four years when you are a teenager, but if you are over eighteen and do not have a high school diploma, you can earn a GED in about six months to one year.

This will lead you down a solid path on your journey to becoming a Gunsmith, then you will want to enroll in a grade school or community college for the next part of your education.

A trade school program can take about six months to two years to complete and an education through a community college will last about two years.

Those who attend community college will earn an Associate’s degree, while trade schools typically offer certificates.

Both paths provide an adequate education to become a Gunsmith as long as they are accredited.

Your time in school should give you an idea of what a Gunsmith will do on a day-to-day basis.

This means you should take classes that will help you read blueprints, and understand gun safety, as well as welding and metalwork.

In community college, you’ll likely take general education classes along with your specialized courses.

Higher education may not be for everyone, and luckily there is another option when choosing the path of Gunsmithing.

You could become an apprentice for a senior Gunsmith who can teach you the ropes.

Depending on your previous knowledge of the field, apprenticing or interning with a Gunsmith can be a one-year to two-year commitment.

All of the above options should give you hands-on experience as well as knowledge on handling firearms, disassembling and reassembling guns, and how to repair them.

Whether you go to a formal college or complete your education with a mentor, learning to be a Gunsmith is at least a two-year journey.

Licensing & Certification

Now that you have acquired ample knowledge of the art of Gunsmithing, you are now ready to pursue more credentials.

Some states do not require any type of certification or licensure to work as a Gunsmith, but most will require at least a concealed carry permit.

A concealed carry permit is a license that allows you to carry a weapon in public.

In order to get this license, you will need to be at least 21 years old, be a citizen of the United States, and be a resident of the state you will be receiving the permit.

You must also not have any felonies and possess a valid driver’s license.

Other restrictions may apply in your state, so search your local concealed carry requirements before obtaining a permit.

If you meet all of the criteria, you will need to complete a concealed carry course, and then fill out the application.

This is a process that can take between six and seven months.

A concealed carry permit can cost anywhere from $70-$200, depending on your state and where you take classes.

After obtaining a concealed carry permit, you’ll be ready for the next step in your Gunsmith licensure.

This is the Federal Firearms Licensure, which is needed in several states.

In order to build and sell firearms, you will need to hold this license.

Request the application through the ATF, who will then conduct a background check.

This could take several weeks, but once your background check is finished, you will have a one-on-one interview with an Industry Operations Investigator.

The IOI will create a report and recommend you as capable of holding this license.

The process of becoming licensed can take about sixty days to complete.

If everything goes well, you will be able to sell and repair firearms as a Gunsmith.

Keep in mind that a license can cost between $300 and $3,000 in your area.

Job Outlook

The work of a Gunsmith can never truly be done if there are always firearms being made in the United States.

Modification and repairs will be a requirement for those who take up firearms as a hobby, for sport, or in their career.

So, you should expect a steady stream of employment opportunities within the next ten years in this field.

There will be Gunsmiths who retire over the next decade, making way for new Gunsmiths to step on the scene.

While you will likely find opportunities for learning and growing in this field, the expectation is that the outlook will be about the same from now through the future.

Should You Become a Gunsmith?

Overall Satisfaction

Most Gunsmiths enjoy their career and find it to be highly rewarding.

Depending on your passion for firearms, you could even consider this to be a hobby that pays well.

Having experience with guns and woodworking is a great way to get the most out of this field.

Within this occupation, you’ll be able to use your creativity skills, mechanic skills, and even customer service skills to help others.

Skilled Gunsmiths also have great job security as this is a highly trained and knowledgeable field.

Average Salary

The average yearly salary for a Gunsmith in the United States is $40,414.

Those who are just beginning their career will typically make closer to $35,360 each year.

If you plan to stay in this career and build up your experience and knowledge, you should expect to make over $56,160 per year.

Variations in pay scale can be due to knowledge, experience, and the community in which you work.

Those who work in highly populated areas with hunting, gaming, and firearm sports as a popular pastime will likely make more money each year.

Job Growth Outlook

Do not worry that you won’t be able to find a great career as a Gunsmith any time soon.

This is because there will be a steady stream of opportunities within certain communities for the next decade and beyond.

While the job outlook will not see much growth, there will be possibilities for new Gunsmiths to find employment when the older generation retires or quits the workforce.

Find opportunities in areas that are great for hunting and popular firearm enthusiasts.

Education Duration

There are several ways that you can learn to become a Gunsmith.

First, you’ll need to have at least a high school diploma, which will take about four years to complete.

Those who are over the age of 18 and do not have a high school diploma can earn a GED in about six months to a year.

Then, you can work as an apprentice for a year or find a gunsmithing program at a local community college, online, or through adult education.

These typically take a year or two, depending on if you receive an associate’s degree or not.

Personal Skills Needed

Working as a Gunsmith can be a rewarding career if you are the right person for the job.

First and foremost, you should know about gun safety to complete this job correctly.

Along with that, you’ll want to have the following skills:

  • Attention to detail
  • Woodworking knowledge
  • Understanding of blueprints
  • Machine operation knowledge
  • Metalworking
  • Math skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Communication
  • Organization

Even if you don’t come into this career with all of these skills, they are possible to learn over time within the occupation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you have to go to school to become a Gunsmith?

The length of time that you attend school to become a Gunsmith is up to you.

If you choose to complete an associate degree, then you will have to spend about two years studying.

Plus, you’ll need to complete an apprenticeship, which could take anywhere from six months to a year.

Those who don’t choose to complete an associate degree can begin their apprenticeship right away, but it could take more than two years to fully work as a Gunsmith.

What skills do you need to have to be a Gunsmith?

First and foremost, you will need to possess firearm safety knowledge.

This is a big deal in the world of gunsmithing, as you will need to understand the seriousness of gun safety to do your job correctly.

It is also important to pay attention to detail, understand the mechanics of firearms, and know how to do woodworking as well as how to disassemble and reassemble guns.

Are Gunsmiths in high demand?

The need for Gunsmiths has increased over the last several years, and will likely stay that way for the foreseeable future.

This is due to the increased need for protection in some areas, as well as the increase in hunting and sports.

If there are people who want to own firearms, then there will be a need for Gunsmiths for the next decade and beyond.

What kind of education do you need to be a Gunsmith?

To have a career as a Gunsmith, you first need to graduate high school.

Then, you either need to begin training as a Gunsmith or complete an associate’s degree.

Training can come in the form of taking classes or beginning an apprenticeship that will allow you to shadow a senior Gunsmith.

Either way, you will need to have some training and education to work in this field.

How much money does a Gunsmith make a year?

Your career as a Gunsmith may start you out making about $35,360 per year.

After some experience in the field, the average Gunsmith will have a yearly salary of about $40,000.

At the top of this career, expect to make over $56,000 with training, experience, and time.

Other factors that can affect the salary of a Gunsmith are location, population, and certification.

Chelsea Wilson

About Chelsea Wilson

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LLM degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

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