Gunsmiths design, build, maintain and repair firearms using hand tools and automated machinery. They can receive their training as apprentices to more experienced craftsmen, or by going through a gunsmithing school. In either case, a journeyman gunsmith is considered a full member of the profession who is entitled to a full salary.
According to the Pennsylvania Gunsmith School, about 7 million firearms are made or imported into the U.S. each year. Journeyman gunsmiths service these guns. They may work as employees of large firearms manufacturing plants, gunsmiths in sporting goods stores, armorers for the military or owner-operators of their own gun stores. Some of the firearms that these craftsmen handle include handguns, shotguns and sporting firearms. Gunsmiths need a license issued by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In addition, they must comply with strict laws regarding firearms, such as listing firearms in their “bound book” as an acquisition if they receive it for more than one business day.
The program at the Pennsylvania Gunsmith School shows some of the skills needed by journeyman gunsmiths. They must know the names, functions, designs and operations of firearms and their parts. They must be able to weld, solder, braze, polish, fit and blue components. Among the tools in their area of expertise are lathes, milling machines, drill presses and grinders. They need knowledge of simple ballistics and hand loading. Those who manage stores or run their own businesses must understand basic business practices, gunsmith operations and employment practices.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have separate wage statistics for journeyman gunsmiths, but it does include the position under the mechanics and repairers classification. As of May 2010, mean salaries for workers in this category ran $17.61 per hour, or $36,630 per year. The lowest 10 percent earned a mean $10 per hour, or $20,800 per year, and the highest 10 percent received a mean $26.96 per hour or $56,090 per year. The state with most such workers was California, where pay ran a mean $19.59 per hour, or $40,750 per year. The top paying state was Alaska, with means at $21.90 per hour, or $45,560 per year.
The U.S. Department of Labor shows examples of journeyman gunsmith salaries under federal contracts. In the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia areas as of June 2011, the lowest level of Gunsmith I pay was $17.62 per hour. Multiplying this by the standard number of hours in a year, 2,080, produces yearly pay of $36,650 per year. At the Gunsmith II level, gunsmiths got $20.49 per hour, or $42,619 per year; at the Gunsmith III level, they receive $22.91 per hour, or $47,653 per year. In Los Angeles and Orange counties in California, pay was higher at $20.03 per hour or $41,662 per year for Gunsmith I, $23.16 per hour or $48,173 per year for Gunsmith II, and $26.19 per hour or $54,475 per year for Gunsmith III.