I am currently in school to become a gunsmith. I have been through a semester and learned some really cool things from my instructors that may help you in a gunsmith search. I have a Marine background as a machine gunner so I am really good at being rough on guns, not so good with the fine-tuning of some of my nicer weapons. This program has placed some gun shop OG’s in front of the class for lessons learned and to pass on their specific skill set to the 12 students in my class. The thing that has struck me the most has been the horror stories some of these guys have seen and gripes about their competitor’s process, products, and treatment of clients. In this write up I want to pass along some “good to knows” that they have passed on to me to create a “sense of smell” if you will with the provider you have found. Anytime you bring your weapons to someone who may not be doing anything more than watching YouTube, you may get a product back that is less than acceptable for your defense.
I live in a southern town of about 100,000 and we have a Cabela’s, Palmetto State Armory, and an Academy. Other than those big stores everything else is small gun shops and pawn shops. On a Google Maps search for “gunsmith”, 12 google locations come up. Only one of those is a shop that advertises as a gunsmith and the only shop that I would go to doesn’t populate. Having gone to all of the shops that google recommended is exactly why I knew that getting a gunsmithing cert and dropping a guide on in my home town was a sound decision. These shops are retail and range focused. What I experienced when I went in these stores ranged from professional to, confusing, and sometimes laughable. What I found in my home town is that we had a bunch of what I have coined ‘YouTube Bubbas”. The shops when asked directly for a gunsmith usually sounded like “well we got this fella that comes in a couple of days a week to do what people need”. No certs, schools, or retired military armorers.
Now that we're past the experience, let's break down what happened in my case and why. The first thing is that I was searching for shops through Google. All that the algorithm did was find me pretty much any shop that had to do with guns. Additionally, gunsmithing is an old man’s vocation at this point other than about 30% of the younger enthusiasts and prior military/law enforcement. The older crowd in my area are the most reliable and seasoned gunsmiths and the ones that I have come to trust. These guys can fix about anything but they have two downsides. The most important being that they are not super tech-savvy and rely on old school word of mouth and a sign out front of the shop. If they have a google presence it is through a Facebook link and they are at times just a place for reviews to land. These guys like to joke that our AR platforms and Glocks are Legos and not worth much to them but a 5 min trigger job for 60 bucks.
50% of gunsmithing work is cleaning guns for folks and older guys coming in with the gun pappy gave them that’s now beat to hell and they want to look good with little care about function. I think that this is one of the reasons why it is hard for people who are gun confident to trust the guy behind the counter most of the time. He is looking for a commission and most folks just hand the gun over and say fix it. One of the most startling things that every one of my instructors has hit over and over again is to get the gun out of the client's hand as fast as damn possible because of the frequency of loaded guns being handed in. America has a lot of guns and a lot of people who don’t know how to operate much less maintain a firearm.
As you go to your local gun shops, my encouragement is to treat a new shop like talking to a person on a dating app. Be clear about what you hope to get out of the relationship and ask them where they sit on things that are important to you about what you bring in. Gunsmiths joke about the guy that comes in and wants to talk all day about everything they know so that they can virtue signal without ever buying much more than some ammo and never anything worth their time invested. Time is money for a shop and these guys have ruined the folks behind the counter for us. When courting the person, treat it like sex for the first time with that person from the dating app. You both know you want to bang and you’re both just hoping that it’s as good as you know it could be for everyone involved. Gunsmiths don’t maliciously want to give out a shit product, most of the time that just all they are capable of. Some shops have specific specialties, spend your time searching out reliable resources that won’t take on a job for the sake of the cash.
I hope that some of these things that I have experienced or heard about help you in your local search. If local doesn’t work for you remember you can always ship a gun through FFL to someone that’s got a good price and good reviews.