“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
As far as careers go Gunsmithing is a highly specialized field. Typically it is those who appreciate firearms, use them, and take care of them that find a career in gunsmithing rewarding. There are several roads to success, all of them long. One option is to pursue a vocational certificate or degree through colleges offering programs in gunsmithing, another is to find a sponsored apprenticeship, or some combination of both. Regardless of how one starts out his or her education in gunsmithing it is during the apprenticeship where knowledge begins to transform into experience.
For an apprentice gunsmith It can be many years before he or she can make a living working on firearms. Due to the variances in laws from city to city, county to county, and state to state, as well as significant anti-gun legislation; many places have seen increased difficulty in obtaining a Federal Firearms Permit (FFP). Without an FFP, operating a small business for gunsmithing is impossible. Due to the decreasing availability and demand for firearms the market has shrunk.
The market shrinkage is also due to manufacturing efficiency and growth. As firearms producers offer better warranties and service, including customization and modification services, the role of the small business gunsmith is greatly reduced, relegated primarily to the restoration of older and antique guns. The shrinking demand for gunsmiths has created a specialty market. Custom parts and guns from a master gunsmith can be worth quite a large sum, especially in places such as England where custom firearms are collected as art. Sadly, the specialty market is small and difficult to break into, and most will never reach the level of expertise and artistry needed to make a living as a gunsmith.
Though there is a decline in privately owned gunsmith shops, career opportunities are available for aspiring gunsmiths. Many sporting goods stores, law enforcement agencies, the military and firearms manufacturers employ gunsmiths. Sporting good stores assist hunters and gun enthusiasts in maintaining the quality of their firearm and customers are often loyal in their patronage to said store. Law enforcement armories will need gunsmiths as well in order to ensure the safety and reliability of their firearms. As firearms manufacturing grows, the demand for experts who can meet the repair and modification demands placed on the manufacturer will increase.
Gunsmithing is going through a difficult period of time at the moment, trying to remain relevant in the face of big business encroachment and a general decline in demand for firearms. There are facets of gunsmithing that will remain in need or grow in demand as time moves on, such as the market for gun collectors. The importance of proper care and maintenance requires trained individuals, and as such there will always be a demand in law enforcement and the military. Though it may seem that gunsmithing is trending toward a hobbyists’ pursuit, the skills and knowledge of a gunsmith are crucial when it comes to law and order.
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