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Gunsmith

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Summary of occupation

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.

ANZSCO description: Modifies, services and repairs rifles, revolvers and other firearms. Registration or licensing is required.
Alternative names: Armourer
Specialisations: Forensic Trace Evidence Specialist
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

If you are considering a career as a gunsmith you should:

  • enjoy technical work
  • have good hand-eye coordination
  • be able to work independently or as part of a team
  • demonstrate attention to detail and be good at practical tasks
  • have normal hearing and no skin allergies.
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Working conditions

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.

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Salary details

On average, gunsmiths, classified under precision metal trades workers, can earn between $1 000 and $1 249 per week ($52 000 and $64 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. 

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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.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a gunsmith you usually need to complete an apprenticeship. The fitting and turning, metal machinist (first class), or mechanical fitter apprenticeships usually take 42 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. 

​In Western Australia (WA), gunsmiths who repair firearms must undergo a National Police Check before obtaining a WA Firearms Licence for Repairers, which is issued by the Licensing Services division of the WA Police. Contact Licensing Services for more information.​

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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