What they do
Gunsmiths modify, service and restore rifles, revolvers and other firearms. In their work, gunsmiths use hand tools and machines such as grinders, planers and millers. They may restore antique guns, convert old rifles to up-to-date firearms, or adapt factory-made rifles to the special needs of customers. A gunsmith's work calls for many different skills. Gunsmiths must know how to handle and operate a gun. They must also understand the various assembly requirements, such as fitting the action (moving parts) and barrel into the stock (handle or butt end). They must be able to attach optical sights, pistol grips and recoil pads, and they may be asked to install new choking devices. Carrying out these adjustments calls for skill in stripping the old finish from the barrel and action. Knowledge of woodwork and different types of steel is useful for producing, fitting and polishing various parts.
Licensing and registration is required in some states and territories.
Gunsmiths work indoors in workshops equipped with grinders, drill presses, lathes, saws, drills and various metalworking tools. Test firing is noisy, but routine safety procedures have removed most of the risks. Retail gun stores employ gunsmiths who spend time talking to customers and repairing guns. Hazards include fumes, heat and powder smoke. To deal in or repair firearms, you need to hold a firearm and dealer's firearm licence.
Many gunsmiths work for gun manufacturers or sporting goods stores. Some are self-employed.
Tools and technologies
Tools include: Lathes; milling machines; polishing spindles; grinders; oxy-acetylene welders; gun clamps; punches; taps; dies reamers; odd size drills; saws; various metals, such as steel and brass.
Blue blacking 'hot bluing' involves immersing the steel parts of the gun to be blued in a solution of potassium nitrate, sodium hydroxide, and water heated to boiling point. Similarly, the stainless steel parts of the gun to be blued are immersed in a mixture of nitrates and chromates, and similarly heated. 'Rust bluing' involves coating the gun parts in an acid solution, letting the parts rust uniformly and then immersing the parts in boiling water to stabilize the rusting process. Then the rust is scrubbed off (karded), leaving a deep blue finish. Large scale industrial hot bluing is often performed using a bluing furnace.
How do I become one?
Education and training
To become a gunsmith you usually need to undertake an Engineering Tradesperson Mechanical (First Class Machinist), Engineering Tradesperson Mechanical (Fitter and Machinist) or Engineering Tradesperson Mechanical (Mechanical Fitter) apprenticeship. The apprenticeships usually take 42 to 48 months to complete and are available as school-based apprenticeships.
For more information regarding how best to enter this occupation, contact a reputable local gunsmith business.
Apprenticeships and traineeships
As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.
You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.
If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.
Required registration and licensing
To work as a gunsmith in Western Australia you will need to obtain a firearm repairer’s licence from the WA Police - Licensing Services.