What does a Gunsmith do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A gunsmith is a tradesperson who specializes in the design, construction, maintenance, and repair of guns. Unlike armorers, who are primarily responsible for maintaining weapons and performing minor repairs, gunsmiths have a range of skills including the ability to fabricate custom parts and the ability to modify weapons to suit the needs of their users. Training in the practice of gunsmithing can be acquired at some trade and technical schools, or through apprenticeship with an experienced gunsmith who is willing to take on trainees.

A gunsmith often repairs and maintains firearms.
A gunsmith often repairs and maintains firearms.

Because firearms are carefully regulated in many regions of the world, the field of gunsmithing is also subject to an array of regulations. Gunsmiths must observe a number of precautions to make sure that their work falls within the law, such as verifying the identity of gun buyers and enforcing holding periods. Many are highly trained in gun safety and observe meticulous safety procedures in their workshops and with clients, and some offer gun safety classes to members of the community.

A gunsmith will observe proper gun safety and may teach others about how to handle a gun with care.
A gunsmith will observe proper gun safety and may teach others about how to handle a gun with care.

Munitions companies and firearms manufacturers employ gunsmiths to design new products, modify existing ones, and supervise the production line and quality control procedures. Any number of seemingly trivial errors during the manufacturing process can make a weapon unreliable or dangerous, making quality inspections critical before weapons are released for sale. Gunsmiths can also work for the military, and in private shops which handle a range of jobs for different clients.

Guns are quite diverse, and it is not uncommon for a gunsmith to specialize in a particular type of weapon, or to work with specific types of clients. For example, some gunsmiths may prefer to focus on restoring antique weapons, working with law enforcement officers, or dealing exclusively with pistols. A high degree of specialization also ensures a high level of quality, and a gunsmith may work with several other regional gunsmiths to offer referrals to clients so that they find the most suitable artisan to work on their weapons or design new weapons.

A gunsmith's shop is filled with a variety of tools used in the trade. Gunsmiths must be talented artisans in addition to engineers, and gunsmith services can range from fabricating custom stocks for weapons to cleaning and restoring vintage guns. Some gunsmiths may also teach classes in gunsmith schools or invite gunsmithing students into their shops to get real world experience and to see the kinds of projects a professional spends time working on.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Gunsmithing sounds so "Wild West" style, but guns really are a pretty big part of some people's lives. I like regular guns well enough, but my one true love of firearms has to be period pieces -- the kind of stuff a 1911 gunsmith would make, you know? Really old stuff that doesn't even load or fire the same way as guns do these days.

I think it's really fascinating to see how guns have changed over the decades, and also how differently they were treated. Back in the Wild West, a gun didn't immediately make you a threat -- it made you normal. In the modern day, pulling a gun can cause panic. I think we need to get back to the Wild West mentality where people respected each other because they knew most everybody carried and was good with their guns.

They also were pretty impressive, considering how much worse the accuracy and speed of guns back then was. I think the required skill level is part of why gunsmithing from the late 1800s and early 1900s fascinates me. I would love to take a class on it, but I have no idea where somebody would offer one.


There are plenty of gunsmiths around, but if you want to find someone who does weapon modifications it is best to find your gunsmith by word of mouth. I live in an area where guns are a pretty big part of life, and besides guns just being a hobby, we're pretty passionate about using them correctly and putting our own touch on our weapons.

One of the easiest ways to find a gunsmith that does modifications to guns is to join a local gun club. I can pretty much guarantee that at least a few of the members are going to be gunsmiths.


My uncle is a gunsmith, and besides taking care of guns and repairing them he always gives lessons out at his farm. He is always helping students practice their shooting at his range and is really big on giving safety talks to the students he teaches.

I think one of the best things about having a gunsmith as a shooting teacher is that the really know the guns inside and out. I'm sure I have learned a lot from my uncle that I wouldn't have normally learned at a regular shooting range. It has definitely been fun learning to take a gun apart and put it back together in record time.

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