Online gunsmithing schools are a hot topic all across the internet. Just about every gunsmithing or machining forum has a few threads dedicated to online gunsmithing schools. And here at Gunsmithing Schools HQ we often get questions that relate to online gunsmith schools. Like: should I consider an online gunsmith school? Are they worth their money? Can you actually become a gunsmith through an online gunsmith school?
Our answers are invariably:
No, you shouldn’t.
No, they aren’t.
And, no, you can’t.
And unfortunately that is not what many people want to hear. We understand that there are real benefits associated with an online solution. An online gunsmithing school can be more easily combined with a day job that pays the bills while you learn. Tuition fees are typically much lower with an online gunsmithing school. And you don’t have to move to another state. Great stuff.
Problem is, all those benefits associated with an online gunsmithing school are of no use if you don’t actually learn to be a real gunsmith. And that is exactly the problem. No matter which online gunsmithing school you choose from the lesser known ones to the best advertised gunsmithing school of all (AGI), none of them will succeed in turning you into a real gunsmith.
But to do this topic justice, we dig deep in to the pros and cons of online gunsmithing schools and we’ll show you that if you’re serious about becoming a gunsmith choosing an online gunsmith school simply isn’t the right decision.
But we will also show you how you can use online gunsmithing schools to add value in your path towards becoming a future gunsmith.
The rise of Online Gunsmithing Schools
Along with the rise of the Internet came the introduction of online schools that provided all the conveniences of distance education in an even faster pace and broader range than what was possible before. Online schools provide almost every academic and technical course that is available, all accessible from the Internet at any time. And in many professions and degrees online schools deliver high quality programs.
Online gunsmithing schools are among the many online education schools that have been created over the years and these schools offer gunsmithing lessons to whoever is interested in them. If you head over to our page dedicated to online gunsmithing schools here and you’ll see that there are at least seven online gunsmithing schools in the US nowadays:
- Professional Career Development Institute
- Foley-Belsaw Institute
- Phoenix State University
- Modern Gun School
- Sonoran Desert Institute
- Penn Foster Career School
- American Gunsmithing Institute
Studying at Online Gunsmith Schools
When you enrol in one of the online gunsmithing schools, they will send you instructional materials such as manuals, how-to guides, and other study aids that you can use to help you with your lessons. Most of these schools have websites where you can readily access helpful video tutorials that you can follow for any hands-on work that you might do; some of these online gunsmithing schools will also send you DVDs that contain these video lessons.
And the better online gunsmithing schools will provide you with capable teachers that you can keep in touch with online or via traditional means such as through phone or mail. Some online gunsmith schools go as far as having their real-world counterparts offer weekly classes that you can join. With them, you can apply what you have studied at home and be evaluated by actual instructors.
Similar to traditional brick and mortar gunsmithing schools, an online course will focus on both technical and non-technical skills. You will be taught how to set up and run your own business or gun repair shop. You will also learn about all the necessary licenses and legalities that you need to keep in mind when running your business. Both schools will also teach you the technical skills needed so that you can become a qualified gunsmith.
The trend for online gunsmithing schools has been so strong that a number of traditional gunsmithing schools are now offering online options to study for a career as a gunsmith.
The perceived advantages of Online Gunsmith Schools
As we discussed in the introduction there are some really strong advantages to online gunsmithing schools.
Possibly the biggest advantage to studying online is that you do not have to move. People who are interested in becoming gunsmiths may not have a gunsmithing school close enough for them to attend. By studying online, you can pursue your interest in gunsmithing even though there are no gunsmithing schools in your area.
Another key advantage of online study is that you can make it fit your schedule. Many people who have an interest in becoming gunsmiths may have full time jobs or other commitments which makes it impossible for them to follow a set schedule at a gunsmithing school. They may not be able available when the classes are being held or not have enough time to finish the assignments on a set schedule. An online gunsmithing course allows people to work at their own pace when it suits them. They can work late at night, early in the morning or anytime in between. Also, most online courses do not have a set time when the course needs to be finished. Since you can take as much time as you need, you don’t need to get stressed about completing assignments or taking too long to finish a unit. If you don’t have much time in any given period, you don’t have to worry and can just do as much as you can. In a traditional gunsmithing school, you need to follow their schedule and get assignments finished by set deadlines.
One more advantage to studying to be a gunsmith online is the cost associated with this route. You don’t have to move and you can even keep a full time job while you are studying. This allows you to continue earning an income while you are studying at your own pace. Often, the tuition for online courses will be much lower because the gunsmithing school does not need to provide you with physical space during your course of study and typically has far fewer instructors.
All of these advantages seemingly make online gunsmithing schools a great choice for studying gunsmithing.
But they are not.
Let’s explore those problems in a bit more detail.
Why Online Gunsmithing Schools won’t make you a Gunsmith
The essential problem is that gunsmithing is a craft, and that it is a hands-on, physical trade with many aspects that can only be learnt by experience, by doing them over and over and over again. And that is where the main disadvantage lies with an online gunsmithing schools: the lack of hands-on practice and actual lab work.
An online gunsmithing course will require you to do hands-on work but you will usually be attempting this work on your own. If you have any questions or concerns, there won’t be anyone to ask and you may not get as much practice as someone who is attending a traditional gunsmithing school. Also, you may not get to practice certain techniques that require tools or machines that the school has but you do not.
There are some ways that you can help deal with this situation. One is to keep close contact with your online instructors. They will be able to talk you through any difficult parts of your assignments, and if you have a webcam they may even be able to watch as you perform the assignment to help you with any trouble areas. But all this is simply not enough to really learn your trade as a gunsmith.
Simply put, Penn-Foster can tell you how to fit a rifle stock in their gunsmith textbooks, and AGI can show you how to do it in one of their many videos, but you can’t actually do it without trying to do it. And trying many times. You could read, understand, and absorb everything in an online gunsmithing course but you’ll still be at risk of producing below average work until you’ve mastered the craft and your tools, hands-on. That take time, and careful tuition that an online school simply cannot give you.
One more disadvantage to learning to be a gunsmith online is that you may miss out on the networking and camaraderie that is present in a traditional gunsmithing school.
Another disadvantage is that no gunsmith out there is going to hire you if your only gunsmithing credentials are graduating from an online gunsmithing school. We discuss the networking aspect and the ability to find a gunsmithing job in more detail in our article How to Become a Gunsmith: Seven Steps to Success. And the data to support this exists and is actually reported by AGI on their website (as it is a requirement under California law).
The numbers AGI report are not very flattering.
According to their 2013 & 2014 School Performance Fact Sheet which you can find on their website the completion rate of their Professional Gunsmithing Level I Course was 10% in 2013 i.e. only 2 students graduated from the program out of the 21 who started. The success rate was marginally better in 2014 with 4 out of 26 students graduating which equals to a completion rate of 15% (no data reported or 2015 or 2016). But worse, none of these graduates from 2013 or 2014 were actually working as a gunsmith either full time or part-time.
And the Professional Gunsmithing Level I Course is actually the most successful AGI course in terms of success rates – if you want to know more please read our detailed American Gunsmithing Institute review.
AGI has the reputation as one of the best online gunsmithing schools, yet even their success rates are desperately low. In our view, that’s pretty much all you need to know about the career potential of online gunsmithing schools.
When to use Online Gunsmithing Schools
To be fair the better online gunsmithing schools like AGI or Penn-Foster generally deliver accurate information. And it is professionally formatted and well delivered. Anyone will learn something from these or other online gunsmithing schools. If you’re new to gunsmithing you can learn a lot.
But no online gunsmithing school is going to turn you into a gunsmith. In fact, an online gunsmithing school isn’t even going to land you an entry job in the industry.
And if you’re disappointed with that statement, just be honest with yourself. Accept that the skills you’re likely to acquire from a passive process of reading books or watching a video just isn’t going to teach you a trade like gunsmithing. And watching videos is just isn’t going to get you where you need to be as an aspiring gunsmith.
Instead, go to a real gunsmithing school.