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Secrets to Success: How to Start a Gunsmith Shop

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Learn how to start a gunsmith shop with these beginning pointers.

For many who love to work with guns and other firearms, owning and operating a gunsmithing business can be an enticing prospect.

Working as a gunsmith can be profitable, too. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t have a specific category for gunsmiths, they report that metal and plastic machine workers in 2012 made a median average of $15.84 an hour with just a high school diploma.

RELATED: The 5 Most Influential Gunsmiths in History

If you think that gunsmithing is the right career for you, there are some things to consider on the way to starting your own shop.

Educate Yourself

Breaking into the gunsmithing market requires a combination of training, time, skill and talent. While the National Shooting Sports Foundation reports that the firearms and ammunition industry grew by more than 25,000 jobs from 2012 to 2013, the gunsmithing field is much smaller and requires skill an training to enter.

It can take many years to develop the expertise to be a truly successful, and may require you to apprentice with a gunsmith for no pay to get the in-shop experience required.

A gunsmith must have a working knowledge of basic metalwork, firearm assembly and an understanding of the history of firearms and their manufacture.

RELATED: 10 Fantastic Vintage Gun Ads From the Good Old Days

For many, previous experience in a machine-shop can be the start of the education necessary to become a gunsmith. However, many schools offer gunsmithing programs that can shave off years of training.

For example, Penn Foster offers online courses towards a Gunsmith Career Diploma, and can prepare you for a career in gunsmithing in as little as three months. Programs such as this allow aspiring gunsmiths to learn the basics of their trade quickly and efficiently.

Finally, joining international and national organizations such as the National Gunsmith Association will put you in touch with working gunsmiths and can be the final step toward running your own business. Groups like the NGA support the creation of gunsmith apprentice programs and even offer training materials to get you started on your career path.

The Business of Gunsmithing

Once you have developed the skills and knowledge necessary to work as a gunsmith, you may be ready to open your own shop.

Like any small business, the first few years are the hardest. The Washington Post reports that only around 50 percent of business ventures survive the first four-year mark.

Start by working at home or in a shared shop to minimize your costs when you begin, and consider working an additional part-time job when you are just starting out in your chosen career in gunsmithing. This will give you a chance to familiarize yourself with the local demand for your trade and build your reputation.

Building your reputation requires advertising, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Get business cards printed that let people know your trade, and give them away to anyone who expresses interest. While they may not require your skills, they may have a friend who does and people generally love to “know a guy” who can help a friend.

Create brochures that explain your services and leave them with local gun stores, clubs, ranges and even pawn shops. The operators of these businesses can be your best referrals, so don’t be afraid to reach out and build a professional relationship with them.

Starting a gunsmithing business is hard work, but with dedication and time you can own and operate the shop of your dreams.

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Secrets to Success: How to Start a Gunsmith Shop