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I have a son that wants to be a gunsmith so bad he can taste it. Does someone have a gunsmithing school that is worth it or does he go to work for another gunsmith until he can get out on his own? All I have been able to find are short term programs.
 

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Colorado School of trades has been the best gunsmithing schools in the country.

1575 Hoyt St.,
Lakewood, CO. 80215
303 233 4697

TRINIDAD State Junior College
In Trinidad Colorado also has a great reputation.

Yavapai College
Prescott AZ

Has been up and coming

Al
 

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Piedmont In NC is a great school that is wete i went! I also looked at Colorado school of trades and a school in PA
 

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What is your general location and what does your son have as his ultimate desire for gun work.

General gunsmithing?
Stock making?
Engraving?
There are enough specialty niches to drive one to distraction. Some are created by need and some by a specific talent that fills a need and take off.

General gun smithing, is the base, keeping guns working, tuning them up is a lot of fun .

Stock making is almost a branch all to itself, making wood fit perfectly, is art that many can go broke earning a reputation that will make them money.

Engraving is a lot like stock making. But once the skill and temperament doesn't have to stick with guns alone.

Working with a smith if that is available is a good start.

Al
 

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My guy is a fairly recent graduate of the Yavapai College program and he's the best I've ever dealt with. Don't know how much of it was the school and how much is his great passion for what he does and his tremendous attitude toward people and life in general.

Lassen College was highly regarded when I lived in Northern California. The Susanville area can be a chilly place in the winter, but offers superb deer and chukar hunting and there's a lot of great trout fishing nearby.
 

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There is one in northern Mn, that is supposed to be reputable. Can't think of the town right now but somewhere up between MPLS. and Duluth.
 

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Pine Tech, in Pine City, MN. It is a good school, I know several graduates of it. I learned the old fashioned way; I was handed an old 1100 for a duck gun. I wanted to get three shots off at the ducks. I figured it out, and guys at the trap club I worked for heard I knew how to work on guns, and it snowballed from there. I ended up becoming an Armorer in the Army.

Another path for your son, Praetoryn, is to join the US Army (the only branch that will guarantee an MOS[but get it in writing!]) and become a Unit Supply Specialist/Armorer or Small Arms Repair. (the Division level and above Armorers) or Special Forces Weapons Sgt. (He would need to enlist for SF, serve one enlistment, then apply for Weapons Sgt.
 

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is to join the US Army (the only branch that will guarantee an MOS[but get it in writing!])
Every branch of service can guarantee an MOS. Period. And yes, get it in writing, but also know the disqualifiers. Quick example- Poolee Smith has a GT of 115 on the ASVAB prior to enlisting. Once in recruit training he re-takes the ASVAB and has a 99. Contract voided- welcome to "needs of the Service" MOS assignment. My nephew had a guaranteed seat at Pre-Ranger in an effort to get to Ranger school and the 75th Regt. Got sick\ recycled in boot camp. Guarantee terminated.

The Army, by far, has the largest number of small arms so the probability of getting one of those weapons repair slots is higher.

The real trick would be to get into the Marine Corps as a 2111, and then get selected for 2112. 2111 is basic weapons repair, and (Basic Weapons Repairman means "parts changer") while 2112 is the true precision weapons guy who can thread barrels to sniper rifles, build match grade 1911's, etc. Bad part is that process is probably 2 enlistments which is way more time to invest than one of the trade schools is.

I would have recommended the same process for an Army enlistment, but big Army buys sniper rifles commercially, and AMU has gone to mostly civilian gunsmiths so I don't think the opportunity is there.
 

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Not sure where you are at, but I believe Flathead Community College in NW Montana has a gunsmithing program
 

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Maybe the induction process has changed since I was in. I researched the Navy and Air Force before joining the Army. I wanted to be a submariner, but the enlistment was 6 active, and no guarantee of a slot. (This was in 1985) The Air Force guaranteed a 'career field', which meant I might have been an Armorer, or I might have been loading 30mm into GAU-8's on Warthogs. I did not enquire into the Marines' methods, as I had no desire to be one of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children. Crayons taste horrible, and I didn't want to spend years replying "OHH-RAH, SIR!" ;)

I did get the exact MOS I requested, 76Y10 Unit Supply Specialist/Armorer, and the CONUS post I requested, Ft. Ord, CA. And yes, I got it in writing.
 

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Maybe the induction process has changed since I was in. I researched the Navy and Air Force before joining the Army. I wanted to be a submariner, but the enlistment was 6 active, and no guarantee of a slot. (This was in 1985) The Air Force guaranteed a 'career field', which meant I might have been an Armorer, or I might have been loading 30mm into GAU-8's on Warthogs. I did not enquire into the Marines' methods, as I had no desire to be one of Uncle Sam's Misguided Children. Crayons taste horrible, and I didn't want to spend years replying "OHH-RAH, SIR!" ;)

I did get the exact MOS I requested, 76Y10 Unit Supply Specialist/Armorer, and the CONUS post I requested, Ft. Ord, CA. And yes, I got it in writing.
It's tough to make a living at gun smithing. I know two in this area that have
gone out of business because they could make more money in plumbing
and furnace repair.
 

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When I graduated from Colorado School of Trades years ago I had 3 job offers that were all for minimum wage. All 3 were from very well known big shops. If you lack the funds to open your own shop I would suggest anything else that pays a living wage. I went on to be a Toolmaker so I could get married and feed my kids.
 

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I went to Trinidad in the early 80s. It is very hard to make a living doing general gunsmithing you need to specialize in something. Competitive shotguns are a good one to work in but don't plan to get rich and plan to go hungry for the first 5 - 10 years until you get a name built up. I traveled on the road to shoots for 30 years to build up a name. If you knew me and Pat when we were younger and still partners we both were a lot skinner than now.
If you go to school then go to work for some one you will only get min wage for the first year or two because you are only going to know the basics when you get out who ever you go to work for you are going to be learning on the job and won't even do enough to cover you wages for at least a year.
If you can apprentice with some one it will be good but don't plan on getting a pay check for the first year as they will be trying you and some my even charge you to apprentice. Its not like you are going to go to school and come right out and be a gunsmith, you are not going to know shit when you get out about gunsmithing you are going to know how to run a machine , do some wood work, and metal preparation,
There is a big call for a traveling gunsmith at trap and skeet shoots it seems we are dying off or getting off the road and there is no one taking our place. I had the time of my life traveling meeting people seeing places and shooting when I traveled, if you want to do the traveling it is very hard to have a family life when you are one the road. So it is best to be single or have a wife that wants to go with you.
If you kids wants to talk about being a gunsmith have him call me, hope he does it we need some coming up

Phillip Crenwelge Phillips Gunsmithing 210 313 5988
 

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The money in gunsmithing is getting into a VERY specialized field, and being THE go-to guy (THE guy who builds precision rifles, THE guy who builds 1911s, THE guy that does custom choke work), in other words, be in the top handful of gunsmiths in the country in your niche. As has been pointed out, don't expect to be the go-to guy for a decade or two, until then you'll make more money working @ McDonalds.

The days of the general small town gunsmith are long gone, their bread and butter jobs (low time investment, low material cost, decent profitability) now come standard on every gun (sling swivels, drill and tap for a scope, thread a muzzle for a brake, install adjustable sights, install screw chokes, ect), and there is a wealth of knowledge online that will allow someone with decent mechanical aptitude do do 75%+ of what a gunsmith would do 50 years ago on their own, the only exception being processes that require special equipment.

Add to that that a VAST majority of firearms sold today come with either an extended warranty, or in most cases a lifetime warranty, so if your gun breaks, it's boxed up and sent back to the factory, where, in the case of mass production companies, usually it will simply entail a near minimum wage employee dropping a couple new parts in and putting it back in the box.

And of course, if you want to go it alone, none of that even begins to touch on the legal and financial implications and requirements.

He'd probably be better of getting trained as a machinist THEN try his hand at gunsmithing, that way he at least has something to fall back on.
 

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A local retiree is a self taught engraver/stockmaker. He also taught himself to sculpt full size likenesses.

Pat

f engraving tools for $3.00. According to Rundell, "the hardest part was learning how to sharpen the tools."
VIENNA TOWNSHIP, Michigan -- Joe Rundell, a world-class gun engraver who lives here, has been a little busy the past three years.

He has been engraving metal and creating bas-relief artworks of several Greek gods and goddesses for an Italian over-under 12-gauge shotgun. Rundell also carved a highly detailed Turkish walnut stock for the shotgun.

Rundell, a retired General Motors machine repairman, estimates that he has 3,000 hours of labor in the elaborate gun works, which includes gold, silver and copper inlays as well as detailed scrollwork.

All the work was well worth it.Just last month, the Sabatti shotgun won "best of show" in the 2009 gun engraving show, sponsored by the Firearms Engravers' Guild of America in Reno, Nev.

The same shotgun also won two first-place awards at the same show, including best inlay-overlay award and the Connecticut shotgun award.

Rundell has received other first-place honors from the same guild at previous shows in 2002, 2003 and 2004, but this was his first "best of show" award.

Dan Compeau, the chief operating officer for Williams Gun Sight & Outfitters in Davison Township, has seen the shotgun.

"It is amazing to see what Joe can do," he said. "It is amazing that he has the skill to come up with an image and then transfer it to both wood and metal. There is no doubt that he is one of the top gun engravers in the world, but hardly anyone here in the Flint area knows about him."



Peter Schottenfels | The Flint Journal

Master gun engraver Joe Rundell of Vienna Township holds an Italian Sabatti rifle upon which he engraved scenes from Greco-Roman mythology into its Turkish Walnut handle. Rundell began engraving in 1961.


Rundell, who was named one of the top six gun engravers in the world by Shooting Sportsmen's magazine in 2002, has been engraving firearms and knives for years.

Rundell, 68, started building percussion and flintlock firearms in 1961, when he became interested in re-enactment activities. He estimates that he hand-built at least 25 rifles in the 1960s and early 1970s before he gave it up to concentrate on engraving work, which he said he enjoyed more than building guns.

"I started doing scrimshaw and engraving work in 1973 on custom knives made by Mike Leach of Swartz Creek," he said. "Later, I started doing the same kind of work on firearms."

Several examples of his knife work have appeared in coffee-table books by Jim Weyer, a writer about custom knives.

Rundell was self-taught in the art of engraving for years, but he has since taken three week-long masters classes from some of the top engravers in the world -- Ron Smith, Winston Churchill (not related to the late British prime minister) and Ken Hunt.

"I learned a lot from all three of them and have made back the money I spent on the classes many times over," he said. "I learned a lot from them, especially from Ken Hunt."

In the past 35 years, Rundell said, he has done full engraving jobs on at least 40 firearms, along with minor work on dozens or even hundreds more. He does engraving work for custom gun jobs for Williams Gun Sight.

One of his best-known major engraving jobs was done on a custom .416-500 caliber African safari rifle made by the famed Krieghoff company of Germany.

The rifle was donated to Safari Club International and sold at a fundraising banquet for $67,500 in 2002. It was purchased by a Texas rancher who has since donated it to the American Cancer Society.

Rundell said he enjoys engraving firearms because he has a passion for history, firearms and art, and he can combine all three with his engraving work.

Rundell said such firearms are intended as art objects, not as hunting or target-shooting firearms.

"One gentleman held up the Sabatti and said it felt so good that he wanted to shoot it, but then he noted that it has a steel butt plate and would probably hurt (with the recoil)," he said. "I told him that if he shot it, he deserved to be hurt."

Rundell said he intends to sell the Sabatti shotgun, which is listed for $300,000. The shotgun, in its original, finished state, was worth $12,000, but Rundell purchased a stripped-down version because he planned to do the stock work himself.

FLINT, MICH. — When Joe Rundell decided to become a sculptor at age 71, he didn’t get a lot of encouragement. A great-grandfather, he had already been retired for 20 years after three decades as a machine repairman at a General Motors engine plant. Also, he didn’t know how to make sculptures.
But Mr. Rundell was intrigued by an idea being floated locally, to place bronze statues of automotive pioneers around Flint as reminders of the city’s central role in the development of the auto industry. Flint, after all, gave birth to General Motors and played a pivotal role in the development of the United Automobile Workers. It had been home to huge manufacturing plants including the vast Buick City complex, which employed some 30,000 workers at its peak, but closed for good in 1999.
And while Flint has struggled in recent decades as most of those factories shut down and more than 70,000 G.M. jobs disappeared, the city still loves the cars it helped put on the road. Ten years ago, a Rockwell Automation retiree, Al Hatch, started Back to the Bricks, a gathering of antique auto clubs on Saginaw Street, the brick-paved main drag downtown. The event proved surprisingly popular, attracting several thousand vintage cars and many more spectators each year even though it is concurrent with the more famous Woodward Dream Cruise in suburban Detroit, an hour to the south.
Hoping to instill more appreciation for Flint’s automotive heritage, Mr. Hatch came up with an idea: to place statues of the city’s important auto pioneers along Saginaw Street. He casually mentioned the idea to Mr. Rundell, who was intrigued. “When I told Joe we were thinking of doing these statues, he said, ‘Gosh, I think I could do that,’ ” Mr. Hatch recalled.

While Mr. Rundell had no experience making statues, he was confident of his artistic talent — with good reason. Decades earlier, he had begun a sideline of engraving designs on expensive shotguns and rifles, acquiring an international reputation along the way. Wealthy gun collectors were paying him $30,000 to $60,000 to engrave elaborate hunting scenes on prized firearms. Glossy magazines and books featured his work in color layouts.

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He had also tried his hand at sculpting busts, including those of the Greek goddess Athena and of Quanah Parker, one of the last Comanche chiefs. How hard could it be to move on to large-scale statues?
Mr. Hatch had seen the engravings, and when Mr. Rundell showed him the busts, he began to think he had found the artist to fulfill his vision.
Mr. Rundell set out to learn about sculpting, hoping to get advice from the local art community, starting with what kind of clay to use. But, he says, he was greeted with derision. How come he was making these sculptures when other local artists already had experience? “I was basically told to go to school to learn, and ‘Don’t bother us,’ ” he recalled.
Mr. Rundell, who is now 74, was not deterred. He was determined to make those statues, and he won over Mr. Hatch by making the first one without charge.

But his lack of experience showed. When it came to materials, he made the wrong call — using water-based clay, which dries and cracks, rather than an oil-based variety. “With my first sculpture, I made all the mistakes I could possibly make,” he said. He eventually received solid advice from Mike Petrucci, who owns the Fine Arts Sculpture Centre in Clarkston, Mich., where the sculptures are cast in bronze.

Cooking: Daily inspiration, delicious recipes and other updates from Sam Sifton and NYT Cooking.
Despite the rocky start, the statues have been well received. John B. Henry, director of the Flint Institute of Arts, called Mr. Rundell’s work “a great job — it stands up well against work I’ve seen by some professional sculptors.”
And Mr. Hatch is pleased. “I’m no expert, but the detail is good,” he said. “Joe works very hard to get the facial appearances right.”
With hard times mostly behind it, central Flint is alive these days, thanks partly to colleges including the University of Michigan-Flint, which now has a residence hall downtown. Restaurants are busy. The Durant, an imposing 1920 hotel that had been shuttered 30 years, has been impressively restored with upscale loft apartments. Atwood Stadium, where Thanksgiving high school football games drew 20,000 fans in the 1940s and ’50s — and where Mark Ingram, who won the 2009 Heisman Trophy, played in high school — has been attractively refurbished.
And now there’s a cluster of Mr. Rundell’s sculptures as well: David Buick, namesake of the Buick automobile; Louis Chevrolet, the daredevil Buick racer who gave his name to what became G.M.’s most popular vehicle line; and William C. Durant, the brilliant entrepreneur who made Buick and Chevrolet famous while also creating G.M.
Durant, a promotional genius, has been largely forgotten on a national level, but he remains a historical hero here. Co-founder of the giant Durant-Dort Carriage Company here in the 19th century, he took charge of the faltering Buick Motor Company in 1904 and by 1908 had promoted it into the top ranks of automakers. He then created G.M. with Buick as its foundation.
In 1910, bankers maneuvered control of G.M. away from him. So Durant founded Chevrolet, with little help from Louis Chevrolet himself, and built that company into a powerhouse that he used — remarkably — to regain control of G.M.

Mr. Rundell’s statues of Durant, Buick and Chevrolet, close together downtown, were erected in 2012-13. Mark Reuss, currently G.M.’s head of worldwide product development, spoke at the Durant unveiling.
Next, for display at Bishop International Airport here, Mr. Rundell produced a statue of Walter P. Chrysler, whom Durant made president of Buick nearly a decade before Chrysler went on to create his own auto company.
Nearby, a recent statue of Charles W. Nash honors the onetime laborer whom Durant promoted to leader of the Durant-Dort Carriage Company before helping install Nash as president of Buick. Nash went on to become G.M. president before creating Nash Motors — which ultimately, as Nash-Kelvinator, merged with Hudson to form American Motors.
Next in line for Mr. Rundell’s sculpting will be Albert Champion, the founder of AC Spark Plug, and then possibly Charles F. Kettering, the onetime top G.M. engineer whose name lives on in Flint at Kettering University (formerly known as the General Motors Institute), or Charles Stewart Mott, who made axles for Buick and became the city’s leading philanthropist.
Labor leaders are likely to make the list as well. The Flint sit-down strike of 1936-37 led to G.M.’s recognition of the U.A.W. as its workers’ bargaining agent.
Mr. Rundell provided his first statue, of David Buick, without charge, but he now charges $15,000 for a clay mold. With bronze work, a base and installation, the price of a statue totals nearly $50,000.
No public money has gone into the project, according to Mr. Hatch, who said the funds came from donations as well as sales of memorabilia and memorial bricks.

Not all of Mr. Rundell’s statues are auto-related. His newest, unveiled on Aug. 21, is also his first of a living person: Bobby Crim, the 82-year-old former speaker of the Michigan House who started a 10-mile running event 38 years ago that draws 15,000 participants to downtown Flint each summer. In the statue, Mr. Crim has both arms raised as if crossing the nearby finish line.
And for his own amusement, Mr. Rundell is completing a sculpture of the “Mona Lisa.” He has, of course, only the painting as a guide — along with his imagination. While this is not the first time the “Mona Lisa” has been sculpted, Mr. Rundell’s version is nude except for the head scarf.
“I like to keep ahead of things,” he said. “I might send it to Playboy.”
This year, Mr. Rundell and his wife, Zadra, found a new project; they bought a mid-19th-century house that was once the home of Josiah W. Begole, Michigan’s governor in 1883-84. Over the years, the house — one of Flint’s oldest — had been stripped of copper and otherwise damaged, so it has become a major restoration project for the Rundells.
But with its thick, squared-off pillars, the rambling Greek Revival structure is imposing, and the Rundells bought it at a bargain price of $139,000. It also has room for Mr. Rundell’s enthusiasms — engraved shotguns and vintage Kentucky rifles, tools, a library and a sculpture workshop. There is also plenty of room for his original clay statues, rescued from the foundry after they were cast in bronze. It’s a house with presence, a proper residence for Flint’s sculptor of automotive pioneers.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I went to Trinidad in the early 80s. It is very hard to make a living doing general gunsmithing you need to specialize in something. Competitive shotguns are a good one to work in but don't plan to get rich and plan to go hungry for the first 5 - 10 years until you get a name built up. I traveled on the road to shoots for 30 years to build up a name. If you knew me and Pat when we were younger and still partners we both were a lot skinner than now.
If you go to school then go to work for some one you will only get min wage for the first year or two because you are only going to know the basics when you get out who ever you go to work for you are going to be learning on the job and won't even do enough to cover you wages for at least a year.
If you can apprentice with some one it will be good but don't plan on getting a pay check for the first year as they will be trying you and some my even charge you to apprentice. Its not like you are going to go to school and come right out and be a gunsmith, you are not going to know shit when you get out about gunsmithing you are going to know how to run a machine , do some wood work, and metal preparation,
There is a big call for a traveling gunsmith at trap and skeet shoots it seems we are dying off or getting off the road and there is no one taking our place. I had the time of my life traveling meeting people seeing places and shooting when I traveled, if you want to do the traveling it is very hard to have a family life when you are one the road. So it is best to be single or have a wife that wants to go with you.
If you kids wants to talk about being a gunsmith have him call me, hope he does it we need some coming up

Phillip Crenwelge Phillips Gunsmithing 210 313 5988

Wow, Thank you very much!

Richard Bailey
 

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It's tough to make a living at gun smithing. I know two in this area that have
gone out of business because they could make more money in plumbing
and furnace repair.
I worked for a large Outdoor store, but 90% of what I did was scope mounts there, then for a smaller local shop, I got all the military-type arms due to my stint as an Armorer, plus plenty of basic clean and lube jobs. I just work at home now, for myself, family, and select friends. Hand tools only, don't have a shop or room for one. Never made a mint doing it, but I had fun, made a few bucks, and got to shoot a lot. I did contemplate setting up a shop to build AR's, but a bit late in the game, so now I just build myself a few.

If you knew me and Pat when we were younger and still partners we both were a lot skinner than now.
I do remember Pat was, back about 1980. 😊
 

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I attended Pine Technical College for gunsmithing, machining, CNC programming and reverse engineering. Very affordable tuition, being I was a MN resident. Took 20+ credits a semester and delivered pizza 30hrs a week. Left with only $11,000 in student debt. I looked into Colorado School of Trades but out of state tuition kept me in MN. My instructors at the time were Matt Bolf and Dave Defenbaugh. They were both very knowledgeable and experienced. The education I received prepared me for the work force. I took an internship at a machine shop before I finally got a job gunsmithing for Gander Mountain for 4 years. I loved it and would still be doing it, if I could have supported a family with my wages. I eventually left for a better paying job and still have dreams of building a retirement shop in my later years. Make sure that your dreams of being a gunsmith are in line with your life goals. The hourly pay is not the greatest unless you start your own shop which takes a fair amount of capital. Good luck, I don’t regret my education one bit and still use it everyday.
 

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The fellow I send my stuff to for jeweling is a retired tool maker, he does all sorts of parts as well as custom bolt handles, he is always busy and appears to make a pretty good income. I've had him do a number of shotgun bolts and carriers as well as small pistol barrels.

Pat
 
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