4 Tips for Full-Time Gunsmithing Work

4 Tips for Full-Time Gunsmithing Work

So, you think you are ready to do Gunsmithing as a full-time job? It is a huge decision, and it’s one you shouldn’t take it lightly. There are many things to consider before you go full-time. This month, let’s talk about full-time Gunsmithing, including the things I’ve learned over the years, as well as insight gained from other Gunsmiths.

Full-Time Client base

The first and probably the most important thing to consider for full-time work is the size of your client base. Can that client base keep food on your table and a roof over your head? Do you have a constant stream of firearms coming into your shop? I am one of the only Gunsmiths in my area. I’ve worked very hard, and my reputation as a quality Gunsmith has spread through the valley as well as to other states.

I have teamed up with most of the gun stores and gun shops in my area, as well as some of those that are out of town. With these relationships, my lead time on gun turnaround is at least two months and has been as much as four months.

Something I noticed in the early years of my full-time business is that gun work is cyclical. Depending on what time of year it is determines how much work is coming in your shop. You need to account for that and be able to survive during the lean times. When you build up your client list, your lead times will grow, and you won’t feel as many lean times because you will always have work in your shop.

Don’t let the longer lead times stress you too much. If you are good and you have good customers, they will be willing to wait. Also, having a good process for checking in the firearms, assessing what work needs to be done, getting parts ordered, and returning to the customer will be a life saver. In the beginning, I tended to work on the easy ones first, and let the harder pieces sit until I felt comfortable with how I was going to fix it. That process just messed up my flow and wasn’t fair to my customers.

Now I work on them as they come into my shop. First in, first out. I do allow for a few exceptions. I have customers who have been with me from the beginning, and when they need something done quickly, I usually add them in. One last piece of advice. Don’t let your shop become the local coffee shop hangout for the people in your area. You won’t be able to concentrate and you won’t get anything done.  This hasn’t happened to me, but it happens in other shops I have been in.


The type of gunsmithing you will be doing determines what equipment and tools you will need. If you are focusing on AR builds and customizing, then make sure you have all the tools you will need. I learned how to blue, refinish stocks, and repair work from my father. I needed the proper tools to take firearms apart, like screwdriver sets, sight pushers, and firearm specific tools. The buffing machine and the bluing tanks were the other items I needed.

Everything I purchased was secondhand. The only new set of tools I had was a pin and punch set my wife purchased for me when I first had the thought about starting my business. I collected most of the tools and machines while I was gunsmithing part time. I don’t recommend opening a shop, buying everything you think you need, and waiting for the customers to come.

The tools required for this career are expensive, and the last thing you need is a monthly bill that you must pay on tools you haven’t used. My shop has always been located on the property where I reside. Currently, my shop is in the basement of my house. I don’t have the looming monthly rent payment and I get to count the square footage off my taxes every year. As I grew, I added more machines and tools, and I paid cash for everything. I recommend getting all your tools and equipment paid for before you go full-time. That way you don’t have the weight of a monthly bill as you start your gunsmithing business.

Pricing and Profit

When I first opened my shop, I was scared half to death about what to charge. Since I am the only shop around that offers rebluing services, I had no idea what to charge. The only reference I had was what my father charged in the 80’s and that was $25 to reblue a gun. When I told the first customer that rebluing would cost $125 I just about puked. Over the years I have honed my skills and now, I charge $250 to reblue a gun. It takes a lot of time, money, skill, and effort to work on guns. Not every gun you get will need a new set of sights or a new firing pin.

Those sorts of things you can do quickly but be careful not to undercharge. You need to account for your time when working on guns. When I sat down and started looking at the numbers, I wasn’t making any money. I charged $40 an hour when I started gunsmithing. Now, I charge $100 an hour and am looking to raise that price. If you spend a half an hour looking for the right accessories for the AK in your shop and don’t charge for it, you are losing money.


To help you figure out pricing, Brownells has polled gunsmiths from all over and they have a pricing guide in their catalogs.  You can also research the web to find out what other shops are charging in your area. Facebook has a couple gunsmith groups that you can ask pricing questions. It’s a great group, they share not only pricing guidance but also a good place to find that hard to get part, or advice on a particular firearm.

Having the talent to work on firearms is not something anybody can do. You have a unique set of skills. However, you also need the skills as a businessperson to make your business successful. Setting goals for your business is critical. For example, set a goal of doing $1000 dollars a week. Then figure out how many  guns you need to work on to meet that goal. Is that reasonable? Work on those pieces until you get to your goal. That means you may have to work late in the evenings or on weekends. But this is your business, and it’s worth the hard work you put in.

Important Things

The last item I will touch on is the important things you need to think about. If you are married or have a significant other, you want to make sure they are behind your decision to go full time. They need to understand that there may be times when you need to lean on them, especially during the leaner times. They also need to know there may be times when they need to sacrifice the time they spend with you.

In the beginning of my full-time business, I worked nights and weekends. We never took a vacation because I had too much work to do. Next, you need to have health insurance. If you’re sick, you can’t work, so you need to be able to take care of yourself. When your shop takes off, and your back log of guns is full, you should learn how to take a break. Spend a day cleaning your shop or get out of the shop and visit other gun stores to promote your business. Handing out business cards or dropping off one of your company’s hats to that shop that is always sending you work, will go a long way.

Every Christmas, I purchase cookies and drop them off at the local shops. The folks behind the counters are the ones who see customers, and when someone asks about a gunsmith, your name will pop up first. I hope this was informative, and I wish you the best on opening your shop.


Semper Fi!


Written by: David Johnson, Leatherneck Gunsmithing

4 Tips for Full-Time Gunsmithing Work