Complete Guide to Online Gunsmithing Schools

By Jennifer King Logan | Updated October 20, 2020
Quick Facts
Accreditation: Institutional
Degree Levels: Certificate
Average Salary: $78,056

Firearms sales have skyrocketed in the U.S. in recent years. The surging interest in gun collection has created a need for trained gunsmiths who can clean, repair, design, and customize all kinds of firearms. Becoming a licensed gunsmith requires specialized, hands-on training with experienced teachers, which can be accomplished through online certification. Once licensed, gunsmiths can work in firearms and sporting goods stores or operate their own businesses. Gunsmiths can expect to earn about $17 per hour. Below is a list of schools that offer online gunsmithing degrees. Continue reading for more information on accreditation, gunsmithing certificates, online courses, and career options.

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Comprehensive List of Online Schools for Gunsmithing Certification (2)

School Annual Tuition Recommend Rate
Penn Foster Career School Not Provided 48% (151 reviews)
121 Programs, 1 in Gunsmithing (view all)
121 Programs, 1 in Gunsmithing
  • Gunsmith
Sonoran Desert Institute $9,440 56% (9 reviews)
3 Programs, 3 in Gunsmithing (view all)
3 Programs, 3 in Gunsmithing
  • Associate of Science in Firearms Technology
  • Advanced Gunsmithing Certificate
  • Ballistics and Reloading Certificate

Online Gunsmithing Degree Overview & Career Information

In gunsmithing training courses, students learn to use hand and machine tools to make and shape gun parts, and they learn how to read blueprints for building a gun. These programs are generally one to two years long and offered by colleges or technical schools. Most consist of 10 to 25 courses on the basics of the gunsmithing trade. Prospective gunsmithing students must be legally allowed to possess firearms. Some programs may require a high school diploma or GED or require that students clear a background check prior to enrollment.

Introductory courses cover firearm safety, welding techniques, and the basics of gun repair work. Advanced courses will cover particular skills, such as composite stock-making and gun metal finishing, using chemical and mechanical processes. Finally, students will learn about the local, state, and federal regulations that professional gunsmiths must adhere to. These certificate programs can be great preparation for becoming a firearms repair specialist; they can also be used to open a custom gun business.

Online Certificates in Gunsmithing

Gunsmiths use various hand tools and machines to repair and modify firearms. Many gunsmiths prepare for practice by enrolling in a certificate or associate degree programs. Certificate programs take a shorter time to complete and equip students with theoretical and technical knowledge in gunsmithing. These programs are offered by colleges and trade schools. Upon program completion, graduates can be employed as gunsmiths and undertake various tasks in general gunsmithing. Students with little gun experience can use the certificate to begin a formal apprenticeship with a master gunsmith. With experience, those who wish to venture into self-employment can establish their own shops, dealing with firearms repair and related services.

A gunsmithing certificate will teach students about the art and craft of building and repairing firearms. There are a few levels of gunsmith certifications available, ranging from entry level to gunsmith masters. The level you choose will determine the amount of time the certification program requires for completion. The online certificate in gunsmithing provides a general introduction to working with wood and metal in the context of firearms repair and gunsmithing. Students gain a number of general shopt skills, as well as repair knowledge specific to firearms technology. Depending on the certificate, students may be able to focus their coursework more toward gun repair or toward custom gunsmithing.

Introductory courses discuss the tools used in gunsmithing, general repair, and gun metal refinishing. Other courses will include basics such as trigger jobs, barrel balancing, barrel shortening, scope mounting, sighting, metal fusion, pistol feeding and jams, loading, and design. Higher-level certifications will also cover topics such as chambering, rifle smithing, advanced repair work, handgun technology, barrel fitting, checkering, and revolver smithing. Online programs require that students participate in local labs or apprenticeships, where they will learn how to use shop tools to shape metals and wood.

What Courses Are Included in Online Gunsmith Training Programs?

Online gunsmithing training programs provide a platform for students to learn about all aspects of firearms technology, gun repair, and the custom gun trade. The gunsmithing certificate curriculum consists of various theoretical concepts and principles, as well as practical knowledge. Students will learn how to use hand tools and machine tools in firearms assembly. Gunsmithing education is primarily experiential in nature, which means that students should expect an ample amount of hands-on work with firearms and the tools needed for their care. In addition, students may need to purchase some of their own tools to use in class.

Gunsmithing has a long history in the world and in the United States, so many programs begin their course of study with a class that explores the history of the profession, including how guns were made by hand and how the Industrial Revolution changed the gunsmithing process. Gunsmithing students usually have knowledge of the different types of guns available to consumers before they begin studying, but a class that introduces students to different types of guns will probably be required as well.

Much of the gunsmithing program curriculum will be practical and introductory in nature. For example, students will likely take a course in gun manufacturing and learn how to create and follow plans to fit the different parts of a gun together. Such a course will probably include practical training. Similarly, a class that teaches students how to fix guns will probably also include a practical training component. Some gunsmithing courses will offer students a chance to take a business course that deals with the production and sale of guns. Students will learn financial and legal particulars of gun sales. Some of the other topics covered may include rifle design and function, shotgun design and function, metal finishing, measurement and instrumentation, pistol and revolver design, and accessory installation. Students learn about the various firearm components, installation techniques, and how to use gunsmithing tools and equipment.

In terms of the character and work ethic traits required for gunsmithing, meticulousness, an eye for detail, pinpointed accuracy, and the ability to perform tedious tasks are among the most important. It's also helpful for gunsmiths to have good eyesight and to have basic machining skills, even outside the realm of gun machining. A basic knowledge of chemistry, crafts-related mathematics, ballistics, and small business management can also aid the professional gunsmith.

Is Hands-On Training Required?

Gunsmithing is a degree program in which experiential training and manual dexterity are crucial. Online programs can approach this hands-on training in a few ways. Some self-paced programs require students to develop their skills in their own shop, with the aid of the provided materials and instructor feedback. Other programs require students to come to campus and use campus-based machine tools and labs. Some programs require an apprenticeship with a master gunsmith, as well as on-campus labs. A combination of work as an apprentice and formal education is best for those looking for work with the government or military, or for those looking to open their own business. Students should contact their prospective online programs directly to verify the amount of hands-on training required.

While there are some gunsmithing schools online that take place entirely online, it's important to remember that gunsmithing requires a significant amount of hands-on training and safety considerations. If you plan to enroll in an online program, it's important to find a local gunsmith who can provide you with hands-on training to go along with what you are learning from your formal online training. After you've completed your program, there are numerous places to continue your education. The American Gunsmithing Institute offers DIY online training videos.

Accreditation and Licensing Requirements

A good gunsmithing education allows students to develop the technical competencies and skills required for entry-level positions and professional advancement in the field. As you search for a training program that best meets your needs, be sure to review the accreditation status of the school. Accredited gunsmithing programs are those that have undergone a peer review process and have been found to meet specific standards of educational quality. The Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) maintains an online directory of accredited schools. Confirming that a school is accredited is one way of ensuring that you'll receive a quality education to thoroughly prepare you for a career in gunsmithing.

Gunsmiths in the United States are regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). The ATF is responsible for overseeing all gunsmith businesses, with the exception of those who deal with firearms created before 1898 or muzzle-loading firearms. The ATF issues a Federal Firearms License (FFL) to any gunsmith who conducts business with the public.

The process for acquiring a federal firearms license requires a lengthy application form (which covers information such as military service, immigration status, business details, and criminal history), a fee, a background check, your photograph, and your fingerprints. In order to get an FFL, the shop where you plan to do business must be thoroughly inspected by an ATF agent, and you must provide records of transactions to the ATF. In addition, there may be local, state, and Internal Revenue Service requirements to meet with regard to a firearms business. The ATF will contact local and state authorities when you apply for a FFL.

In addition to the rules of the ATF, states have specific conditions for gunsmiths. Regulations vary from state to state concerning many aspects of gunsmithing, such as participation in gun shows, transportation of firearms, and record keeping. You might need to go through your state police department, state department of licensing, state department of justice, or local law enforcement agency to learn more.

Related Careers and Specializations

While all gunsmithing programs cover the basic skills for firearms repair, each program can differ in its specialized focus. It's useful to have a sense of how you plan to apply your gunsmithing skills before you investigate online programs. For example, if you would like to own your own gun shop, it may be useful to find a program that includes classes in business and custom gun design, along with the core firearms repair classes. On the other hand, if you're interested in becoming employed in a gun manufacturing plant, you may want to seek out a program with industrial ties to a particular brand of gun maker.

Online gunsmithing programs may emphasize the artisan nature of gunsmithing, or they may focus more on the firearms industry. Some private gunsmiths will hire apprentices they can train for specific needs. Often, individuals with extensive gunsmith training are preferred, but an associate degree in some kind of mechanical trade may be acceptable.

Once you've graduated from a gunsmithing degree program, your tool and machine experience may also help qualify you for related careers, such as a sporting goods dealer, machinist, welder, explosive ordinance disposal specialist or ammunition specialist in the Army National Guard, metal refinisher, or woodworker. Opportunities may be available with organizations such as firearm companies, law enforcement agencies, military branches, private gunsmith shops, and sporting goods stores.

Frequently Asked Questions About Gunsmithing Degrees

What courses will I take in an online gunsmith training program?

An online gunsmithing program includes a diverse array of courses. Many of these courses focus on the practical workings of guns, giving students the ability to assemble, disassemble, and fix guns. In the process, students will gain hands-on experience with the techniques, tools, and materials used to make and repair shotguns, rifles, pistols, revolvers, and more. Online gunsmithing programs also prepare students to run a gunsmithing business. Courses will cover the basics of operating a small business, as well as ethical and legal considerations related to this profession.

How can I fulfill the requirement for hands-on training if I'm pursuing a gunsmithing program online?

Primarily for safety reasons, online gunsmithing programs require students to partner with local gunsmiths for some of the hands-on, experiential portions of the online programs. While students may be able to complete much of the coursework independently, there are certain functions, materials, and tools that simply must be learned under the tutelage and supervision of a professional gunsmith.

How much can I expect to earn as a gunsmith?

According to current data from, gunsmiths earn $16.40 an hour, on average.


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