In many countries of the world, the
possession and ownership of firearms by civilians is highly restricted
or outright illegal. The practice of gunsmithing is therefore
typically restricted. The only firearms-related repairs are by
individuals trained and employed by the military or police. These
individuals are known as Armorers. Typically, their skill level is
usually far below that of the artisan Gunsmith. Where the Gunsmith
frequently has to design, manufacture and fit parts ranging from small
internal parts and assemblies, the Armorer usually only has to replace
standard interchangeable parts belonging to only one type, series, or
family of military-related firearms.
In the regions where ownership is
permitted but very limited and highly restricted to those individuals
able to afford the high costs of acquiring and owning a firearm
despite the expense, those firearms that are allowed tend to be fewer
in number, but with levels of craftsmanship and decoration that
approach that of an art object instead of simply a device to expel a
projectile. Gunsmithing in these regions (as in Germany and Britain)
is concerned with the hand crafting of completely custom-made
firearms, tailored to the requirements of the owner, and the expense
of this type firearm can exceed that of a typical residential
Germany has a tradition of hunting,
but this is generally a very expensive undertaking that limits its
participation to the "well-heeled and Noble". Firearms possession is
highly regulated by the Police, and most hunters have only one long
gun, and perhaps one pistol. This has led to the development of the
"Drilling," a multi-barrel gun that may incorporate a double-barreled
shotgun above with a high-powered single-shot barrel below. These
typically have highly sophisticated breech mechanisms, precise
fitting, and are hand-engraved by artists specializing in this work.
The stocks are usually fitted to the individual and are very expensive
wood with highly-figured grain.
United States of America
United States of America, the Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms is the
primary Federal Agency overseeing all
legitimate businesses that deal with
firearms. The ATF is in charge of the
licensing of all legitimate firearms
dealers and Gunsmiths in the US that
engage in business with the public.
The issuance of a Federal Firearms
License (FFL) involves a thorough
background investigation and an
inspection of the Gunsmith's premises
by an Agent of the ATF. The fee for a
FFL is currently $200.00 (for 3
years). The ATF requires all gunsmiths
to record all repairs, noting the
serial numbers, type of firearm,
caliber or gauge, and full particulars
of the owner, with an accepted form of
Identification ID to be presented and
recorded in the records. Gunsmiths are
required to maintain these records in
a permanent, non-alterable form. The
ATF inspects the premises of all
licensed gunsmiths, with unannounced
visits at periodic intervals. The ATF
is granted the power by the US
Government to initiate the prosecution
in US Federal Court of gunsmiths that
wilfully omit or violate these
provisions. Punishment can range from
losing their FFL (and therefore the
privilege to engage in any
firearms-related business), to fines
and in severe cases, such as
conspiring to supply the criminal
element with black market weaponry,
imprisonment in a Federal prison.
These laws may also vary by:
longarm? rifle? shotgun?)
full automatic? caliber?)
intended modification (minimum barrel length?
customer or recipient (legal owner? felon? background check?
quantity of firearms (how many per week? per month?)
The primary technical responsibility
of gunsmiths is to ensure that the weapons they work on function
They accomplish this firstly by
always properly observing gun safety handling procedures: both in
their own actions, and in the actions of their customers and the
people around them.
They accomplish this secondly by
inspecting firearms to ensure safe mechanical operation. Gunsmiths use
their in-depth knowledge of firearms to guide these inspections:
either repairing deficiencies; or notifying customers of unsafe
conditions and taking steps to prevent catastrophic failures.
Some of the ways that even properly
handled firearms can fail and endanger their users and those around
all cracked parts are cause for concern, but especially so in the
chamber-area, bolt, bolt-lugs, or buttstock.
Obstructions: being either dented or bent barrels, or foreign
material in barrels.
Improper Headspace: dimensions concerning the relative locations
of the chamber and the bolt are not within specified tolerances.
Improper Timing: (applies to fully automatic firearms and
Safety-Mechanism Malfunctions: potentially allowing a firearm with
the safety mechanism supposedly engaged to unexpectedly fire.
Sear Edges: potentially allowing a firearm to unexpectedly fire
when the safety mechanism is disengaged.
Firing-Pin Tips Deformed: leading to the possibility of
This list is not comprehensive.
Many failure modes are dependent on the particular model of firearm.
* (listed in approximate, but not
exact, order of increasing difficulty)
records of all customers, firearms, and transactions to satisfy
ATF requirements, though this doesn't apply to pre-1800 gunsmiths.
Disassemble, clean, inspect, lubricate & reassemble.
corrosion and touch-up finish.
burred or damaged parts with files & stones.
defective parts with factory-made replacements, hand-fitting as
and re-finish wooden stock parts.
or re-checker grip areas.
or clean up worn or damaged engravings & markings.
Re-crown damaged muzzles on a lathe.
dented shotgun barrels.
(solder) or repair rib on shotgun barrels, or repair double-barrel
& correct head-space dimensions.
for excessive bore erosion.
Troubleshoot and repair feeding, ejecting & firing problems.
Test-fire firearms with conventional loads to ensure proper
Fabricate wooden stocks to customer specifications and body
dimensions. Fit same to existing receiver and barrel.
Glass-bed actions to stocks to improve accuracy.
existing metal finish, and re-blue metal parts.
Fabricate replacement parts from metal stock.
trigger-pull weight through careful stoning of trigger mechanism
proof-loads through weapons to insure sufficient strength of parts
under over-load conditions.
worn barrels, which have fired so many rounds that they are no
longer of the specified caliber (which leads to loss of accuracy).
caliber or cartridge of existing rifle, by changing barrel, and
rifling and change caliber of existing barrel.
and build complete rifles by fitting stock barrels to stock
receivers; fabricating or purchasing additional parts as needed,
and fitting same to rifle. Fitting custom stock to same.
and build a complete rifle starting with several pieces of blank
steel and a slab of walnut; using nothing more than a lathe, saws,
files, chisels, & rasps.
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