There is a lot of misinformation out there about the average gunsmith salary. One thing is for sure a gunsmithing is not a huge paying profession. And it’s not likely to make you rich. And you probably weren’t expecting that. But we do all need to make a living, look after our family etc. So before you decide to become a gunsmith you need to have realistic expectations about how much you can make as a gunsmith. And whether you can life the lifestyle you expect on a gunsmith salary.
As with all careers the amount of money you make will vary a lot depending on the job and your experience. Typically, the more experience you have the higher your salary. And the same goes for gunsmith salaries. The more experienced your are, the more specialized you are and the better reputation you have the more money you command in the market place.
Fair enough, but how much will you make if you’re just starting out and on average gunsmith salary?
The average Gunsmith Salary
There are a number of sources we can use to find some data around to determine how much a gunsmith makes. After graduating from a gunsmithing school, according to www.salary.com the average gunsmith salary is $36,267. And analyzing data from www.payscale.com shows gunsmith salary ranges from $24,672 to $60,544. On an hourly basis you’re talking from just under $10 per hour to over $25 per hour.
As you can see there is a fairly large difference in the gunsmith salaries being reported. So how reliable is this data?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not keep specific gunsmith data so it is difficult to estimate the average gunsmith salary from their data. In their data, gunsmiths are included under the heading of general maintenance and repair workers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the lowest 10% of these workers earned a maximum of $20,800 a year and the top 10% earned at least $56,090 per year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the average wage for general maintenance and repair workers was $36,630 per year. This works out to a gunsmith earning $17.61 per hour on average, which aligns with the charts from Payscale.
These statistics on gunsmith salaries are great, and the charts look impressive. But as we mentioned the gunsmithing profession is relatively small so these numbers could be very misleading. So it’s always good practice to try and validate with an actual person who works in the industry.
Gunsmith Salary: A Real Life Example
In an interview at jobshadow gunsmith Benjamin Worthen from www.netgunsmith.com (site no longer active) gave his honest view on how much a gunsmith really makes:
It really depends on the area of the country and the type of work a specific gunsmith does as to what they’ll make. Very few gunsmiths become ultra-rich doing what they love, it is truly about a combination of work/lifestyle and gives an opportunity to those who are mechanically inclined and artistic or at least focused to work on something they love: guns when I first started I made what I thought was an amazing amount of money as a high school student making between 20 and 30 grand a year working part-time afterschool. After settling in working as a general gunsmith from many years I realized that a more accurate amount was today’s equivalent of about $50,000 or $60,000, assuming I had a consistent customer base.
Industry standards are between 35 grand and 75 grand to work as a gunsmith in a specialty shop or at a major manufacturer. Of late I’ve done incredibly well for myself making a decent income from blogging and writing as a gun expert, and landing a job working for a defense contractor designing firearms to the tune of about $150,000 a year. I also make between five and 10 custom guns a year typically netting me an additional 15 to 30 grand. I would say that this is not particularly common in the industry but that’s someone who works in an area like myself (affluent Southern California) would make more than someone in say, the middle of Texas or Montana on a per project basis.
I would imagine the average salary for gunsmith is between about $30,000 and $60,000 the year on consistent basis. Recently industry has seen major upswings in new clientele and the need for qualified repair professionals. This will quite possibly lead to increased salaries in the sector. Those with major specialties or those with great name recognition or excellent resumes can expect to make at least twice that depending on location and the amount of time they spend on gunsmithing. Landing one contract for local law enforcement group or having a patent to test your name will put you in the elite status and could even make you high six figures per year.
How to increase a gunsmith salary?
As with any job, the amount that you can make depends on your skills and your experience.
A recent graduate of a gunsmithing school needs to expect to make the lower end of the pay scales already mentioned. There are a few ways to increase you salary as a gunsmith. And they all come down to the same key points: gain more experience, improve your reputation for great work and continue to specialize.
The U.S. Department of Labor recognizes three levels of gunsmiths. Each level requires more experience and skill. As you progress and reach a higher level, you will typically begin to earn more money. You may also decide to become a specialist in one aspect of gunsmithing.
You can become a finisher, a stock maker, an engraver, a checker or ultimately a builder or designer. A finisher is a person who specializes in putting finishing on metal parts to increase corrosion resistance and for decoration. Stock makers specialize in building and designing stocks. They are also involved with decorating the gun stock. Usually a person who specializes as a stock maker will also usually be a checker. A checker is someone who engraves patterns on the stock where they are meant to be gripped. Engravers will engrave the metal parts of the gun making them more decorative. A builder or designer will design and build guns from scratch and are normally the best paid as they have the highest level of specializations and the most experience.
You can study these specializations and much more at any good gunsmithing school.
Benefits when employed as a gunsmith
One other thing that you need to take into account when trying to estimate how much you can make after graduating from one of the gunsmithing schools is the benefits. Most employers will offer some types of benefits to their employees. And you obviously need to take these into account when comparing wages. A good benefit package from a bigger employer can add up quite substantially and could be a lot more attractive when you add everything up than a gunsmith job at a small local shop which might a bit higher per hour but offers no benefits.
If you end up joining the military then your pay will depend on your years of service and your rank. A first year enlisted man makes approximately $17,000 – $18,000 plus benefits such as housing and meals. As your years in the military and your rank increase, your pay will increase as well.
Maximize your Gunsmith Salary by starting for own business
As we explain in How to Become a Gunsmith: 7 Steps to Success the best way to maximize your income as a gunsmith is to run your own business.
It can be difficult to estimate how much you’ll make from running your own gunsmithing business. And especially in the start-up phase income might be a lot lower than if you had a steady job with a decent salary. But ultimately your income potential will be a lot higher in your own business.
There are a number of factors that go into estimating how much you can make from owning a gun repair shop. You have to take into account location, competition and how much demand there is for a gunsmith in the area. Some gunsmiths treat their job as a hobby and do not rely on it as the sole means of support. Others report that after graduating from a gunsmithing school they opened their own shop and are now making over $100,000. Others again suggest that it is best to go slow and only use your gun repair shop to supplement your income. As you become better known and gain more experience, you can move towards making gunsmithing your sole source of income.