There is a lingering belief these days among gun enthusiasts, collectors, and those who work in the gunsmithing and gun manufacturing industries that gunsmithing is experiencing a downward trend; some have gone so far to say that gunsmithing is a “dying” art. There is the difficult financial climate to blame, but the reason apparently lies more with the gunsmithing industry itself than with any other factor. There are optimists who say that gunsmithing is due for a comeback, but gloomy predictions abound that gunsmithing will never recover from its slump. So the question still remains: Is gunsmithing really dying out?
Before we deliver our verdict on this issue, let’s look at some of the issues that point to a seeming decline in the industry. As more and more older and experienced gunsmiths retire or pass away, there are few who are willing to take their place; fewer still are able to equal and even surpass the skills and the expertise of these “old timers.” Older gunsmiths are unable to find those who they can pass their knowledge on, people who are willing to undergo the long years of rigorous and painstaking training and apprenticeship that all gunsmiths need to take. Family gunsmithing enterprises are also becoming less and less common, since most businesses usually fold up in the case of increased competition or a general lack of customers, and those newer generations who hail from gunsmithing families usually decide to take up other careers which are far removed from the one that they grew up on. These and other causes force many experienced gunsmiths to quit their jobs and close their businesses.
Like many traditional crafts and trades, traditional gunsmithing is now being replaced by modern gunsmithing methods that may or may not adopt or improve upon time-tested and proven techniques, which sometimes result in unsatisfactory and inferior work. There is also the fact that today’s gun makers employ better manufacturing and precision work techniques that result in more durable and sturdier firearms. Modern guns are worlds removed from older and classical firearms because the latter are typically machined and crafted together by hand and they use different stock materials; today’s guns are now finely-tuned, high-performance products that usually deliver on their manufacturers’ specifications right out of the box without the need for added improvements. Older guns have been improved upon and modified so that they can perform better and fulfill their owners’ expectations of them. Antique and classical gun collectors will still hire the services of gunsmiths to repair, restore, and periodically maintain their prized possessions, while modern gun aficionados will only go to them for customization and installation of attachments or to purchase new gun supplies. There are other gun owners who are confident enough to do the repair work and modifications themselves, something that does not sit down well with expert gunsmiths. Most gunsmiths will contend that gunsmithing work must be left to the professionals because they have been trained to handle and work with firearms and all of the specializations that come with them. Still other gun owners would rather choose to buy a new firearm rather than have an older or broken gun serviced or repaired, noting that it is somewhat cheaper to buy a brand-new gun than pay for service work that may or may not bring back a gun to its former working shape.
Aside from the general lack of interest in gunsmithing, there are other factors that have been cited as causes for the downward trend in the industry. Increasing state and federal restrictions on gun ownership have resulted in more and more people shying away from firearms; fewer gun owners, in turn, would lead to lessened demand in gunsmithing work. The recent spate of shootings that have happened in different parts of the country have dampened consumer demand for firearms and have renewed the ongoing debate about gun rights and the right to self-defense. Legislation is now being planned or has been enacted across many states that plan to curb on firearms and restrict them to those who understand their use, or ban them altogether. Some states have also made it increasingly difficult for those interested to take up gunsmithing courses or open up new gunsmithing businesses because of more demanding requirements in getting a Federal Firearms Permit (FFP) or Federal Firearms License (FFL). And as most gun owners and gunsmiths should know, it is virtually impossible for one to work in the gun industry without him first having a FFP or FFL, because not having one is against the law.
However, not all is lost for gunsmithing; indeed, we can say that it is due for a revival. This is because there are few gunsmiths to go around with now and those who do remain and persist in their job can ask for a premium on their services. If you work in an area where there are too few gunsmiths to speak of and you deliver quality work, chances are that customers will flock to your business not only in your general vicinity but in other outlying and far-off areas. Other promising careers are also available for gunsmiths in fields such as law enforcement, sporting goods retail, wildlife conservation, the armed forces, and gun manufacturing. You can also find employment in other seemingly unrelated professions that need your expertise in machining, repair, and metalwork such as car repair, engineering, and welding. There is also the fact that gun owners will always employ gunsmiths to ensure that their firearms, whether they are classical or modern, are in good working order and that they are still safe to use. With these in mind, there is the need for renewed interest in guns and in gunsmithing so that younger generations can be convinced to try their hand on them.
Gunsmithing might be in the doldrums right now, but it would always be here to stay no matter what the pessimists say. As long as there are people who possess and carry firearms in a responsible manner, there are gunsmiths who they can hire and work with to repair, customize, and improve on their guns.