Random Research Friday – Modern Day Gunsmiths
For this Random Research Friday, I wanted to investigate gunsmithing. For those who might not know, gunsmithing is the profession of restoring, designing, and repairing firearms. Just as a car mechanic has to knowledgeable about different automobiles, it takes a lot of knowledge to become a good gunsmith. Firearms are probably one of the longest running tools that civilization still currently produces. For centuries we have had firearms, and it takes gunsmiths to keep those firearms in operating condition.
My interest in gunsmithing came through my father. He was a gunsmith (professionally) for close to 30 years. He was a meticulous gunsmith and it amazed me to see a seemingly bucket of parts could be assembled into an operating firearm. He was know by every farmer and hunter in the area as he was the go-to-guy if you had a problem with your firearm. One reason for that was he was very good at what he did. As a software guy, I would compare him to the wise senior architect who was almost like Yoda in his knowledge of the firearm force. But a secondary reason was that there just were not that many gunsmiths around. Unlike a car mechanic, gunsmithing is niche enough to not get too many people interested in it as a career.
To top off of all the gunsmiths I met through my dad, none of them were younger or anywhere near my age (twenties). This lead me to wonder, is gunsmithing still a viable career for the new generation?
What I found was a very vibrant, YES! Not only was I able to find young gunsmiths using the internet to bring the profession into the digital world, but there is a vibrant online community focused on gunsmithing.
The first thing I wanted to research was if the gunsmithing trade school that my dad went to was still around. Not only is it still around but it looks to be thriving. The Pennsylvania Gunsmith School is located in Pittsburg. This is a long standing trade school where students learn the art of gunsmithing. Students work for 16 months at 8 hours a day for a total of 2500 hours of gunsmith training. My dad went there in the mid-1970’s to train to become a gunsmith. From this he created beautiful, custom wood stocks for rifles and shotguns and had the vast experience to come back to Indiana and become a business owner as a gunsmith. You can see one of my dad’s custom stocks and simulated case-hardening rifles below.
A search on YouTube will start showing you how gunsmiths (and gun enthusiasts) are using the internet to take gunsmithing to the next level. I guess I was lucky enough to have a gunsmith available where I could watch what went into working on a firearm. Most people would not have that opportunity. With the popularity of channels like the History Channel, Discovery, and Science Channel and of shows like “How It’s Made”, “Factory Made”, and “Modern Marvels”, people have a desire to know how something is put together and how things work.
Here are a few links to some YouTube videos of younger gunsmiths and enthusiasts who are posting videos about gunsmithing. Probably the biggest contributor of online videos regarding gunsmithing is from a company named MidwayUSA. If you are familiar with shooting sports, you have probably come across MidwayUSA before. They sell just about anything and everything related to the sport. Their YouTube channel is full of informational videos on gunsmithing.
Larry Potterfield (CEO of MidwayUSA) – How a Bolt Action Rifle Operates
Pittsburg Tribune – Pennsylvania Gunsmith School Visit
MacTeutates – M1 Garand Series
nutnfancy “Gunsmithing the 1911”
Of course like all research, there are tons of resources out there that are eventually making their way to the internet. Gunsmithing is still mostly an “offline” activity. There are tons of paper resources available. But with a new generation of gunsmiths coming into the mix, along with that generations requirement that information be available on the internet, I think we will see more and more gunsmithing resources appearing online.