How to Become a Gunsmith in Virginia

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Gunsmiths typically focus on certain areas, such as antique firearms.
Gunsmiths typically focus on certain areas, such as antique firearms. (Image: PhotoObjects.net/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Gunsmiths repair and modify firearms. There is no standard route to becoming a gunsmith in Virginia or any other state, but you'll need to build a solid background in the use and mechanics of firearms and obtain a license from the state before you can begin your career.

Focus your high school education on mechanics. Although there are no standard educational requirements for gunsmiths, most have at least a high school diploma. Take woodworking and metalwork classes and build a solid foundation in algebra. Take automotive courses, if available, to help build your knowledge of working parts. In shop class, familiarize yourself with grinders, millers and planers.

Continue your education at a local trade school. Take classes in drafting, metallurgy, ballistics, technical report writing and machine tool processes. Consider enrolling in a dedicated gunsmithing program. The closest programs to Virginia are the Pennsylvania Gunsmith School (PagunSmith.edu) and Montgomery Community College (Montgomery.edu) in Troy, North Carolina, a National Rifle Association-affiliated school that offers a gunsmithing degree.

Join a local gun club. Once you've repaired or modified a weapon as a gunsmith, you'll have to test it. Learn how to use firearms of all sorts, from pistols to shotguns, from antique weapons to state-of-the-art. As of 2011, there were more than 70 gun clubs in Virginia, from the Annandale Small Arms Range (no website; 7203 Columbia Pike, Annandale; 703-658-7089) to the Virginia Beach Rifle and Pistol Club (VBRPC.org).

Apprentice with an experienced gunsmith. Hands-on experience is the most important part of becoming a gunsmith. Observe a veteran gunsmith as he assembles, disassembles, cleans, engraves, fabricates and customizes firearms. Learn everything you can about the action of a firearm, as well as ancillary elements such as optical sights, grips, choking devices and recoil pads. About a dozen dedicated smiths work in Virginia as of 2011.

Seek employment at sporting good stores or gun manufacturers in your area. As of 2011, there are nearly 250 gun-related companies in Virginia, ranging from shooters' supply stores to gun clubs to outfitters. Conversely, you can operate in a self-employed capacity by applying for firearms dealer registration with the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of State Police. To apply, download the free form online and submit it to the Firearms Transaction Center in Richmond. You'll need a tax identification number and a business license number to apply.

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