Common Gunsmithing Questions FAQ



Do you have questions about becoming a gunsmith? I want to share with you many of the common questions that we at AGI get, and the appropriate answers. Hi, I’m Gene Kelly and I’m president of the American Gunsmithing Institute and I am a gunsmith. So let’s go through these questions and we’ll provide you the best answers we have.


Do I need an FFL, a Federal Firearms License to be a gunsmith? Well, I would recommend that you have a Federal Firearms License if you’re going to be taking in work, keeping it overnight or charging for the gunsmithing work you do, then you definitely should have an FFL. Now, it’s not that hard to get a Federal Firearms License. And AGI provides you with a complete information package on how to get your FFL step by step when you enroll in our professional gunsmithing courses. More information available ATF’s website,


How complicated of a process is getting an FFL and do I need to have a Federal Firearms License to take AGI’s courses?

Well, getting an FFL really isn’t that big of a deal as long as you follow the steps that we lay out for you, and you don’t have anything in your background that would prohibit you from possessing a firearm such as a felony conviction or a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction. So as long as your record is clean, you can get a Federal Firearms License, even working from your home. What you need to have is a local business license then you apply for your Federal Firearms License. And they’re not expensive and they only take about 90 days to get.

So, we really recommend that once someone enrolls in AGI’s professional gunsmithing course, that they utilize the information package that we provide you within any level of our course to apply for your Federal Firearms License step by step following the procedures that we’ve outlined for you. And you’ll end up with your license in as little as 90 days. So, by applying for your license early on, that means you’ll be able to take in some work, do a little bit of gunsmithing along the way as you’re learning. Also, you’ll be able to buy in parts, firearms, and ammunition at dealer prices. And there’s many other benefits of having a Federal Firearms License. And again, as a professional gunsmithing student, you’ll have all the information you need right there in the packet.


What category of Federal Firearms License do most gunsmiths apply for?

Well, it depends on the reason you’re getting your Federal Firearms License. If you just want to do gunsmithing and you’re not going to be manufacturing firearms, then a regular Type 1 license will work just fine. In fact, I would say that’s what most people end up with. Now a Type 1 license is just a regular dealer’s license. There is no special category just for gunsmiths. So, the two most common licenses that gunsmiths get are a Type 1, which again is a regular dealer’s license or a Type 07. And that is a manufacturer’s license. So why would you want one or the other? Well, you’d want the manufacturer’s license if you’re going to be actually creating firearms receivers or building firearms totally from scratch. So get an 07 and that would allow you to do that.

Now, when you get a 07 license, you are responsible for a little bit more reporting than you are with an 01. With an 07, you have to report on the guns that you manufacture every year, even if you don’t manufacture any at all. You still have to report your zero production. And that’s part of the national record keeping. If you have a 01 license, all of your entry and exit of the firearms is simply by logging them in to your logbook. And then when the customer picks them up or when you ship them over to another dealer, whatever the case may be, then you log those guns out of the books. An 07 license is very similar, but it does give you the advantage of being able to manufacture. Now what’s manufacturing? Well, generally it’s when you’re creating a receiver from scratch. However, they’ve also determined manufacturing to be when you assemble a firearm for the purpose of selling it to a retail customer.

So if you buy in a lot of AR-15 lower receivers, and a bunch of parts kits, and assemble them together, and then put them on your gun rack and then sell them, ATF is going to say, “Hey, you are manufacturing.” Why is that? Because, there’s an excise tax due on manufacturing. If you bought in a stripped receiver, no excise tax was paid on that. If you buy in a batch of parts, no excise tax was paid on that. But you put those together now and then sell it to a retail customer, you’re going to have an excise tax of 11% to pay on that firearm. So one of the ways to handle this is to get the receivers in, sell them to the customer. The customer takes possession of the receiver after filling out a 4473, takes it home.

And then possibly they buy some parts and he takes those home. And then he brings it all in and says, “Hey, I’d like you to put this together for me.” Well, that’s gunsmithing, that’s not manufacturing at that point. You didn’t manufacture a complete firearm and then sell it to a customer. You sold them a stripped receiver, you sold them some parts, he took full possession of them. Then brought them back in and asked you to put them together that’s gunsmithing and customizing. If you were to build the guns as I said, by getting the receivers, getting the parts, putting them together, putting them on the rack, selling them to an end user that would be manufacturing, and you’re going to pay the excise tax. If you have any questions on this, always feel free to contact ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. And you can find them


Can I get a Federal Firearms License working from my home? And if I do, do I give up my rights? In most cases, you can get a Federal Firearms License working from home, especially gunsmithing, because you’re not going to have lots of traffic coming by and it’s not a full-on gun store. So as long as you can get a legal business license working out of your home, you can get a Federal Firearms License working out of your home. And I would say that the majority of gunsmiths are working from home, very successfully. So it’s something to look into. If you can’t get a license from your home, then check into getting a commercial address, which doesn’t have to be big and expensive. You only need about a 10 by 20 space to be doing gunsmithing. And if you find more room than that, great. But you don’t need to spend a fortune on your space.

The other thing you can do is work with a local gun shop. A lot of times they’ll have some extra space and you can set up a gunsmithing business separate from their business, but under the same roof and you’d each have your own individual licenses. So there’s a number of different ways you can go. But yes, you can get a Federal Firearms License from home. And no, you don’t give up all your rights. When you fill out the paperwork exactly as we show you. And we provide every professional gunsmithing student, a full application package with instructions on how to go about it. And you do not give up your rights because you’re going to list the hours of your operation. Unless you’re doing something illegal, which we’re telling you, don’t ever do, you list your hours of operation on the application.

Those are the only hours of operation of which they can come in and inspect you. So list your hours, those are the hours they can come in and inspect you. And after hours, that is your own privacy. You also can keep your firearms collection separate from your gunsmithing or federal firearms inventory. You want to keep them separate, is very clear on how to do that and you don’t give up any rights.


What tools do I need to start gunsmithing? And don’t I need a lot of expensive equipment to be a gunsmith, like a full machine shop with a big mill and a lathe? The answer is no, you don’t. You really can start gunsmithing with just some basic tools and one specific power tool. So let’s talk about the hand tools first.

If you have some pin punches, screwdrivers, hammers, pliers, you have most of what you need right there, along with a good bench vice, a bench block. And then the one power tool you’ll need and use more than anything else is a Foredom tool. And the Foredom tool is a controlled power tool where you have a hand shaft that’s interchangeable and you can have different bits such as a drill bit, a grinding bit, a cutoff bit polishing bits, polishing wheels, all of that. And is controlled with a foot rheostat so you can control the speed. It’s the critical tool that you’ll be using every single day in your gun shop. As far as if you’re doing advanced work beyond just general repair that’s when for barreling, you’re going to need a larger lathe, for doing slide work you can use a mill.

But for general gunsmithing starting off those hand tools that I listed will do the job. And in fact, even if you’re doing a lot of it, medium to advance work, a small bench lathe will handle most of the work. So, no you don’t need a full machine shop. In fact, you can probably get started with all the tools you need for under a thousand dollars.


As someone who does not have a great deal of experience with gun repair, at what point during my gunsmithing studies would I start attempting hands-on applications of the course material? When you study the American Gunsmithing Institute’s, professional gunsmithing course, you’re going to be understanding how firearm systems work. And you’ll be able to start applying this almost immediately. So when you’re studying the design, function, repair of handguns, you can work on handguns.

And the first handgun that we spend so much time on is the 1911 45 automatic. And this John Browning design is the cornerstone of everything we teach because, we use cutaway firearms to teach you design, function, repair. And when you understand how that particular model of gun works, you can start to work on other guns that are similar to it. You also can start to work on guns that are further ahead in the course because, we have the index the entire gunsmithing course. So if you’re working on handgun section and someone brings in a 22 rifle for you to work on, you can move to that section where we cover that specific model of gun or that general family of gun, and work on that and do the appropriate repair enough.

Another thing you’ll be able to do is maintenance. You’ll be able to do a lot of cleaning and oiling of firearms, and therefore be able to get some income coming in quickly while you’re doing your studies. So you need to get a Federal Firearms License, but early on in your gunsmithing career, in your gunsmithing studies, you’ll be doing actual gunsmithing.


Is there a way that I can make some easy money while I’m just getting started gunsmithing? Yes. A wonderful way for you to provide a real service to the community, to your customers, and to help you get your hands-on a lot more guns to on and to make some money is to offer professional gun cleaning services.

There’s a lot of firearms out there, literally several hundred million firearms. And many of them need cleaning and general maintenance. And you can easily provide that particular service. As an AGI gunsmithing student, you’re going to have access to literally several hundred disassembly and reassembly video courses. And you have support. If you ever get yourself in a little bit of a bind, we can help you out. But you’re going to get all the experience of disassembly and resembling a lot of fire arms. But there’s a shortcut one that’ll help you be more professional than anybody else. And I reveal it all You’ll want to go check that out,

It’s a step-by-step process to allow you to more professionally clean firearms, faster, and with a higher level of customer satisfaction and it’ll help you make a lot more money as well.


What type of business entity should I set up for my gunsmithing business? Well, I’m not a CPA, I’m not an attorney however, I’ve run a business for almost 50 years. And in my experience that the purpose of setting up an LLC or a corporation is primarily to provide yourself some legal separation between your personal assets and your business assets. And I think this is a really good idea. So generally speaking, you can run your gunsmithing business as a sole proprietorship, or you can set up a limited liability corporation, or an S corporation or a C corporation.

And I don’t want to get into too much detail on that because it really depends on your specific situation. But I will say that a primary goal of a corporation should be to separate your personal assets, like your home, your vehicles, and so on from your company or corporate assets, such as the gunsmithing tools, the gunsmithing operation, everything you’re doing within that entity. That way, if there was ever a problem and there shouldn’t be, if you’re following what we teach you, designed, function, repair gunsmithing and always following the safety protocols. But if there was a problem, and for any reason, you were sued, even if you went beyond your insurance, this corporate entity would help to protect all of your personal assets. Again, every person’s case is a bit different. So check with your CPA and your business attorney to find out what’s right for you.


What separates a real gunsmith from a part-swapper? At the American Gunsmithing Institute, we teach our students design, function and repair. So when they’re looking at making a repair to a firearm, they will diagnose what’s actually wrong with the gun, and then figure out the proper approach to resolving that issue. It may be replacing a part, but it may be welding up apart, refitting apart or fitting parts that were not properly fitted to begin with. Common with many extractors from the factory and many ejectors from the factory. So by understanding design, function and repair of all types of systems, whether it be on handguns, centerfire rifles, shotguns, rimfires. Any of the subtypes of systems, whether it be pump, automatic, et cetera. And then within that like, for example, automatic shotguns, you’re going to have long recoil, short recoiled, gas operated, inertia, et cetera.

So when you understand those systems and how the system is intended to work, you’ll be able to look at it, determine what is not working properly and then make the appropriate repair. So a part swapper is just someone that doesn’t really understand that, or maybe thinks they do, but they’re not sure. So they order in a part put it in, that didn’t solve the problem. Or maybe it’s this, order in another part, put it in. That didn’t solve the problem. Oh, it’s actually worse now, what do I do? Et cetera. They are just throwing parts at it, they’re not solving the problem because oftentimes just putting in a replacement part, doesn’t solve the underlying issue.

You’ll learn a lot more about that and so much more as you study design, function, repair as taught by Master Gunsmith, Bob Dunlap through the American Gunsmithing Institute, professional gunsmithing program.


What are the benefits of owning a gunsmithing business? Well, I’d like to tell you that I think owning any business is one of the secrets of success in America, or one of the paths of getting to success. There are many benefits of owning a small business or a business that you control. So if you want to work at gunsmithing part-time, full-time or as a retirement income, your choice. You still have these benefits available to you.

And some of those things are the ability to buy items at wholesale, therefore saving money on things you’d already be purchasing, the ability to deduct from your expenses as expenses from your taxes, things such as the internet, your truck, or car, gun range membership, tools, many of these different things that you would like to go spend money on anyway, suddenly become potential deductions, write-offs. Now I’m not a CPA and I’m not telling you what to do. I’m just telling you in general, there are a lot of benefits and it’s surprising how many of the things we already are spending money on can become legitimate business expenses.

And I suggest you look into that because it’s still one of the best-kept secrets in America.


Do I need gunsmithing insurance and where do I get it? Well as with any business enterprise or in your personal life to protect you. Yes, I do recommend you get gunsmithing insurance. Now, if you follow AGI’s systematic approach of understanding design, function and then repair, and also follow the safety measures we teach you, you’re not going to run into a problem, but if you ever were to, or to be accused of something. And I’m not aware of any AGI gunsmith that’s ever been sued. So it’s really pretty rare, but you should protect yourself by having some gunsmithing insurance.

And it’s not that expensive. It’s pretty reasonable actually. And we have several different sources that we refer our students to.


How do I find customers and grow my gunsmithing business? Well as an AGI professional gunsmithing student, if you take the master level course, we include a complete business success package. And in that package is information on how to do your marketing, how to operate your business for maximum profit and many other insider tricks and tips of the trade. But being an AGI professional gunsmithing student at any level and understanding design, function, repair, and doing good quality work and making sure you follow our safety protocols will ensure that your reputation grows and grows.

And soon, quite frankly, you’re going to have all the work you can handle.


What about the threat of gun control, won’t that eliminate the need for gunsmiths? Well, thankfully in the United States, we have a second amendment that protects our firearms ownership. However, even if there were more regulations placed upon individuals, making it harder for them to be able to buy firearms, that would mean they have all the greater need for a gunsmith. In fact, in Europe where it’s very difficult to own firearms and many people are limited to just being able to own a small number like four. Well, they pay a lot of money to gunsmiths to keep their guns operational. So gunsmiths make a very good living and they make a great living, even if there’s more restrictions and fewer firearms available to the public.


But keep in mind, there’s over 380 million firearms in private hands in the United States. There’s a lot of work for gunsmiths.


What is the average gunsmith charge? The average gunsmith charges on a piece work basis. That’s actually the best way for you to go because, the faster you get at solving a problem, doing a particular type of customer work, or repair or a cleaning, the more you get paid, but as far as what to charge per hour, that depends on your area of the country. Obviously, there’s parts of the country that are very expensive to live in, and some areas that are a little less expensive. So as a general rule of thumb, I recommend a starting point be about half of what your local automotive shop charges.


Because you see, they have a lot of overhead and a lot of expensive equipment, and you should have a lot less overhead. And if they’re charging in my area for example, $150 an hour, well your starting point could be $75 an hour in that same economy environment. And you’d be very reasonable. And if you do custom work and you get a good reputation, what you charge can go up from there. And a really good well-organized trained gunsmith can make as much as six figures a year.


I live in a rural area, how can I find enough gunsmithing work? One thing that’s great about gunsmithing is you don’t have to only do work for people that walk in your front door.

You literally can have guns shipped to you from all over the country to do the work. And if you specialize, that’s exactly what’ll probably happen. And you’ll make even more money, the more focus your specialization is. So if you do restoration work, people can ship the guns in from all over for you to do that. If you do customizing work, whether it be refinishing, custom rifle building, custom handgun building, whatever the case might be. If you build in a national reputation and have the work brought to you, they just simply can ship it to you directly to your Federal Firearms License address, as long as they can legally own the gun. And you can legally do the work and ship it directly back to your customer. So, the entire country is your potential market.


If I’m doing good gunsmithing and I need parts, where would I find them? As an American Gunsmithing Institute student we’re going to provide you sources that we have for gun parts from various different locations around the country, specific to the models of firearms you’re working on. Plus when you’re a member of the GCA, the Gunsmithing Club of America, you can ask both the instructors and other members on the website, “Hey, where do I get this? Or where do I get that?” And again, we’re going to provide you a list of sources.


How long has the American Gunsmithing Institute been teaching gunsmithing and doesn’t the information get outdated?

The American Gunsmithing Institute has been teaching gunsmithing since 1993. At that time, I recognized that there was a huge gap in the educational system, where you could only learn gunsmithing by going to a campus-based school or some cheesy kind of booklet gunsmithing programs. And at that time I realized I really couldn’t recommend either because most people can’t just give up their job, move across the country and spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on their education. There had to be a better way. And that’s why we created the American Gunsmithing Institute. Another factor though, was that Master Gunsmith, Bob Dunlap, who used to teach at a gunsmithing school was retiring and he developed the design, function, repair system.

And we wanted to preserve that system for our students and future generations. So in 1993, we launched the American Gunsmithing Institute, and Bob’s teaching of systems and helping you to understand systems is evergreen. It’s going to be the same tomorrow, the next day and so on. And it’s going to be as relevant as the day, he taught it. For example, a 1911 45 automatic pistol. A bedrock firearm that we teach you is the single-action lock breach automatic system. We use that firearm. That gun has been around in almost unchanged form, other than cosmetically for over a hundred years. And Lord willing, it’ll be around a hundred years from now. That gun uses systems and many other firearms use the systems that it uses. They just look a little different. So once you learn each of the systems, utilize our building-block approach.

When we teach you a single action lock breach automatic locking system using a link system, then when we teach you the cam lock system, such as used on a Browning high power or on a Glock pistol, you don’t have to learn everything that’s the same all over again. We just teach you the differences. And that helps understand all these different firearm systems. And you’ll be able to identify those systems, even as they’re brought out in new firearms. Because you see there aren’t that many new systems. Most new firearms that come out are using variations on previously existing systems. Many of them were designed originally by John Browning himself. So the material does not become dated. And the best thing is through our video programs, you are able to learn directly through classic video from Master Gunsmith, Bob Dunlap himself.

So you get the same experience that I got when I went through gunsmithing school, under the grandmaster of Bob Dunlap. But you don’t have all the wasted time and you can review it as often as you need to. So that’s the reason why what we teach at the American Gunsmithing Institute is not going to ever be outdated.


Do I need to be able to weld and machine to be a gunsmith? Well, if you want to optimize your capabilities and be able to work on a wide variety of fire arms, and customizing, and solving problems and so on, yes, you really should learn welding and machining. The good news is the American Gunsmithing Institute has entire courses A to Z on how to weld and how to machine. We start off with what exactly is lathe and how do I look for the right type of lathe? And then all the different things in machining utilizing a lathe from external threading, internal threading, boring, reaming, knurling and many other aspects.

On a mill, we teach you the same from setup all the way through various operations. So you’re going to learn A to Z machining through courses from the American Gunsmithing Institute. In those courses, we even take you further and demonstrate many various aspects of building tooling, and also how you would set up a shop, how you read blueprints, et cetera. On the welding side, we teach you everything you need to know about welding. And even if you’ve done welding, you’re going to learn a lot from this. I was actually a teacher’s assistant in welding class way back in the day. And what I found difficult was to show anybody how to weld, because I couldn’t hold their hands and give them the tactile feel. And they really couldn’t look over my shoulder and see exactly what I was doing. So what we did was we created a special filtering system so that we could take our cameras in and show you close up every aspect of welding.

And literally almost in the molten puddle. We bring you in that close and what you’ll see as the instructors explaining and demonstrating, you’ll see the control of the molten puddle, how you control it, how you add the filler rod and every aspect of welding. So we cover gas welding, stick welding, MIG welding and TIG welding. We cover gas cutting and plasma cutting. And all aspects of welding out of position, setting up your shop, reading welding blueprints and so much more. So all the information is available to you in these courses. So you literally, you can learn to be a machinist and you can learn to be a welder and they’ll take your gunsmithing skills to the next level.


How long does it take to become an AGI certified gunsmith? Well, the answer to that is really up to you.

The program was designed for you to be able to study at your own pace because everybody’s life is different. Some people could spend a lot of time studying and could go through the program quickly. Other people need to take years to go through the program because that’s just the limited amount of time that they have available. But if you were really to focus on the course and watch an hour of video a day, you’d be through the entire master level course in well under a year. If you were going through the level one course, and you wanted to get started quickly and you focused on it, you could be through that entire course in less than three months. And if you apply for your Federal Firearms License, as we suggest right away, when you enroll, you’ll be able to be gunsmithing by then. So it’s really up to you, again the program was designed to fit your lifestyle but we don’t leave anything out. And all the information is available to you. And because it’s on video, you can review it whenever you need to.

When I’m just getting started, how do I find guns to work on? Well, let me suggest several different ways you can find firearms to work on as you’re studying your gunsmithing course. First off, I’m sure that you probably have a number of firearms yourself. Those most common firearms will be covered in the course, and you’re going to really enjoy your guns more by being able to get inside them and understand exact exactly what’s going on in there. In addition to that, you’re going to have friends and family, they’re going to want you to clean and maintain their firearms. That’s a great way to get started. I do recommend you get your Federal Firearms License early on, that way there’s no question you can log them in and out of the book and you’re all good. Another thing you can do is once you have your Federal Firearms License, you can go to pawn shops, you can buy broken guns.

You can get work from them where you’re doing maintenance work and safety checks on the guns that they have in inventory. They’re going to like that and pay you for that. You can work for other guns shops and they’ll give you a steady supply. And our system that’s available to our students It’s an ultrasonic cleaning system with a whole marketing package. And once you get doing that, you’re going to have a lot of people coming to you, they have their firearms maintained. And then from that, you’ll be able to do repairs when you find things wrong and also customizing. So there’s a lot of sources where can get firearms from, and there’s not going to be a shortage. And the beautiful thing about video is when you’re studying the course, you don’t actually need the gun in front of you because, we use cutaway guns and you can actually see what’s happening inside.

Obviously it’s a plus to have the actual firearm model there with you when you’re studying, but you don’t need it. And because we cover so many different designs and systems you’ll understand the firearms when you’re looking at them. Those are just a few of the different ways and ideas of how you can get guns to work on.

Does the American Gunsmithing Institute offer any hands-on training? The American Gunsmithing Institute was designed to allow you to fully understand design, function, repair, and then many aspects of customizing, machining, welding, et cetera, all from the comfort of your home you can study. And it’s so important that you teach your mind first, what to do and why to do it. And then you can teach your hands. Your mind can direct your hands if you understand what you’re trying to accomplish. And very quickly you’ll be successful in that.

But we do offer higher levels of hands-on training and those are one week intensive classes focused in a particular area, such as Smith & Wesson and double-action revolvers, or feeding and extraction solving problems or custom rifle building and so on. So these are one week intensive courses that you can attend, but there are some prerequisites because we don’t want you showing up to a class without any understanding of what’s going on. That’s too big, a learning curve. So when you’ve gone through a particular section of the course, you’ll qualify for that prerequisite for a hands-on training. And they’re really a lot of fun. They’re held in a small classroom setting where you’ll get to know the other students and you’ll get that extra little bit of training. But we have many, many, many successful gunsmiths that are so busy they never have the time to go to those hands-on classes, because frankly, they don’t need them.

The training we provide is more than adequate and don’t forget, we provide ongoing training via video online, monthly webinars that we do and other resources. So you can have your cake and eat it too. You can just stay home, and study, and learn and work or you can attend the small classes as long as you meet the proper prerequisites.


I’d like to enroll in the entire professional gun smithing course, but I’m not sure I can afford it all at once. What are my options? Well, you have several different options of how you can invest in the professional level course. One of the ways is through our Multi-Pay option. So what you need to do there is contact a student advisor at 1 (800) 797-0867, and talk to that student advisor and they’ll let you know all the different options you have. But one is, Multi-Pay another option when you look at the total investment, which really isn’t that large, when you compare it with starting any other business or getting any other education. It’s really very reasonable amount.

But when you make that investment, some people tap their 401(k)s because they get that money out of their 401(k) pay for their investment in the entire course. And now when they open their gunsmithing business, they’re going to be able to make that money back in a whole lot more. Other people go and get a family member or a friend to make them a loan and they’ll pay them back as they do the gunsmithing work. Another great way to do it is to line up a bunch of gunsmithing work that’ll rapidly pay for it. And then you can borrow it on some short-term credit, such as a credit card, or getting a loan from bank. Some people get a home equity loan, which are very convenient in many cases. So there’s a number of different options you have. But I think the important thing is to have a conversation with your student advisor at the American Gunsmithing Institute and decide what works best for you.


I’m afraid to work on customers’ guns. What if I get in trouble and I’m stuck? Well, I’ve got good news for you. You don’t have to worry about being stuck because not only do you have the videos to support you step by step on working that customer’s firearms. You also have live support where you can contact AGI’s instructors and they’ll help you walk through a problem. And worst-case scenario, you get yourself in a real bind, you can send that firearm to one of our gunsmiths. They’ll repair it, they’ll charge you for it, but they’ll tell you what you did wrong and how to go about it correctly next time. So what we’ve tried to do is eliminate the fear. And frankly, you just need to get started, because once you get started, you’re going to find out that the education you have through the American Gunsmithing Institute and that whole deep understanding of firearms design function and repair, what that gives you, you are going to build confidence quickly.

And even though we offer this repair service to all of our students, very few need to take us upon it. So if you get over your head, that’s one option. But for other advanced gunsmithing situations, let’s say you’re not ready to barrel rifles yet. Well, we have a network of gunsmiths and you could find one of the other associate gunsmiths, send them that work. You handle the transaction. The customer doesn’t even need to know, and he gets what he wants. You get the customer, and you provide some work for another gunsmith and you learn. So there’s many different options out there. And in fact, some gunsmiths decide that they don’t want to do certain types of work and they’re very upfront with their customers and say, “Oh, that barreling work, we send that out to this particular gunsmith. That re-bluing work, we send that out to another type of gunsmith.” And they provide all the other services that they want to provide.

The cool thing about out this business guys is you get to choose what you want to do and what you want to work on. And in our business success course, I go in the depth of how you set the rules. So learn design, function, repair, and you’ll be a safe, solid gunsmith. And then don’t worry, as you work, you will learn.


What are the different types of courses that AGI has available? Well, AGI has created a number of different courses to answer the needs different people have. So for example, we have armorer’s level courses for people to maintain and understand their own firearms. And even to be able to potentially do some basic repairs. Remember an armorer is someone that’s only qualified to do maintenance and swap out parts. A gunsmith can do all of that, but they also do repairs and repair parts, make parts and much more.

That’s an armorer and we have over 60 different armorer’s courses that encompass families of guns. And some people say to us, “Well, I have a 1911, but mine is stainless.” It doesn’t matter. The 1911 as you’ll see with the cutaways and all of the design function aspect that we teach in an armorer course even will help you understand how that gun works. And it doesn’t matter what your finish is on the gun, it covers that entire family of guns, even by different manufacturers. Same goes for AR-15’s Smith & Wesson revolvers and so on. When you understand how a family of firearms work, you literally are able to understand not just your gun, but the thousands of guns that use similar types of systems. And that’s just an armorer’s course. And again, over 60 of those are available, you can find those, Now the next level of course, that we have is what we call our certified courses.

And what we mean, the certified courses is not the professional level gunsmithing course, but it’s specialty courses. And some of the specialty certifications that we have available are Glock smithing course, which is building custom Glocks. We have building the custom 1911 pistol smithing course. We have AR-5, M4 rifle smith course. And each of those covers everything from basic reassembly to advanced techniques to customized. And it has its own testing and certification with it. We also have a law enforcement armorer’s course with the same testing and certification on common firearms that are used in law enforcement. We have a certified firearms appraiser course. Now, firearms appraising is a great add on to any gunsmithing business because people will bring you in their firearms. You’ll appraise them for them using our systematic process. That’ll make you look like a pro from day one.

And they’ll now know what their firearms are worth for insurance purposes, for estate purposes, for taxation or in unfortunate cases where divorce or some other reason of separation of assets. So you’re going to have all these different options for additional certifications. Most of which come with our highest level course. So the next level course up is our professional gunsmithing course level one. Now this is the core, the core design, function and repair course where Master Gunsmith, Bob Dunlap and other instructors teach you design functional repair in approximately 168 hours of instruction. All on both broad introduction to gunsmithing, handguns, complete D&R of handguns, complete design function repair of shotguns, centerfire rifles, and rimfires. So when you understand all of that, you’ll be able to do all kinds of general pair of gunsmithing. And have many of the skills you need for customizing and obviously for maintenance.

But beyond that, our next level is what we call level two, within that we’ve added in the machine shop course. So you can learn all about machining and also some other customizing courses. The next level is what we call our master gunsmithing course. And this is obviously our most popular course because it not only has everything below it, all the design function, repair level one, all the machine shop, all those customizing courses, but it also has the welding course, the business success package, which includes all different aspects of how to set up your business, how to make it more profitable and so on. It includes certifications on a number of other firearms, such as the in 1911, the AR-5, the Glock for custom building those. And building custom hunting rifles, building custom long range shooting rifles. And as I said, the machine shop course is in there as well and so on.

So that master level course is an awesome course and has most of the information in it, but we take it one level and that is the enhanced master course. The enhanced master gunsmithing course has everything included in the master level course. Plus we’ve done what we call expansion modules. So each of those expansion modules covers a number of additional firearms in even greater depth and adds to the breadth of the knowledge you have. So it includes an entire expansion module on handguns where we cover an additional 60 handguns. It covers expansion module on shotguns, where we cover all these additional shotguns. It has the pivot barrel course where we go into advanced, expensive side by side and over under shotguns and all the extra special details you need to understand with those systems. And it also covers an expanded rimfire, and there’s so many different types of rimfire rifles systems.

It’s one of the broadest use of systems is within the rimfire families. So there’s all of that and the entire armorer’s course library and other additional courses that we’ve added just to the enhanced master course. So if you want it all, you want the whole nine yards, enroll in the enhanced master course. If you can only get started, start with a professional level one course that has that core design function repair. And if you can’t get involved with any of that, well then we do have armorer’s courses for your individual firearms because we’re trying to preserve America’s freedoms and America’s firearms by keeping them functioning. And those courses will help you immensely. So AGI, the American Gunsmithing Institute has a course level that’s appropriate for you. And more than that, we have the Gunsmithing Club of America, which is an ongoing opportunity, an ongoing membership, where you can share with other like-minded individuals, and get monthly video instruction and training and access to an amazing archive.

So we welcome you to become an AGI professional gunsmithing student, we welcome you to get what video courses you need to maintain your own firearms. And we welcome you into the community of the Gunsmithing Club of America.


Do I need to be an apprentice working for another gunsmith before I take a gunsmithing course? I always say that, no, you don’t have to work for another gunsmith as an apprentice before you take the gunsmithing course. In fact, I think you’d be well served to go through the American Gunsmithing Institute’s training first. If you then want to work with another gunsmith, a couple of things, one you’ll know whether or not he even knows what he’s talking about because there are many gunsmiths that have not been trained in design, function, repair. Frankly, after school, I worked with some of them and I was surprised they could do a pretty good job on some woodworking and a little bit on metalworking, but they really didn’t know how to repair firearms, unless it was really straightforward.

So get the knowledge, design, function repair. Plus there’s a couple of problems when you’re working under someone. Sometimes they’re just not a good teacher. They don’t know how to teach, they may be very good at what they do. They just aren’t patient and don’t know how to teach. But if you come in with a knowledge of design, function, repair, and all the different aspects of training that we provide you customization, machining, welding, and so on. A good mentor then will help polish that and help you do even better. And so it’s not a bad thing to have a mentor to work under, but many people do not have the patience and the ability to actually instruct someone from the ground up. So again, design, function, repair training from the American Gunsmithing Institute A to Z, learn your skillset before you walk in the door and you’ll get more benefit out of working with or for another gunsmith.


Why do you think the American Gunsmithing Institute’s teaching method is better than other gunsmithing schools? The reason I think AGI’s method is a better approach is from my own personal experience. You see, I went through gunsmithing school, spent two and a half years at gunsmithing school, and I learned from the disputed best and that was master gunsmith, Bob Dunlap. Well, the problem with that is most people can’t just stop their life and go two and a half years at a gunsmithing school where you don’t make any income. And you’re spending money, both on living expenses and the cost of school and everything else. So at that time, in my life, I could do that. I was very young, but I see that most people can’t do that so, that bothered me. And as I was working in life, operating a manufacturing company, doing gun parts and doing other things, doing gunsmithing working on the bench, people come up to me and asked me, “Hey my son wants to get into gunsmithing or I want to get into gunsmithing. How do I go about that, what’s the best way?”

And I’d tell them about the school experience. And most of them would say to me, “Well, that’s great, but I can’t really do that. They can’t really do that.” And they wondered about some of the “Distance education programs.” So, at the time, AGI didn’t exist then, and most of the things were literally, I saw them, they were booklets. They were like old booklets that gave you some basics. And frankly, if you’ve subscribed to a number of good gun magazines, you probably would get almost as much knowledge as what you got from those. So it was pretty sad extremes. You had campus-based school on one hand or these little distance education booklet, things on the other. And frankly, many of the other online classes haven’t moved much past the booklet stage they just moved it online. So I found out Master Gunsmith, Bob Dunlap was going to be retiring. And he had developed the design, function, and repair system that he taught us.

And you see, we had that memorize how each of these systems worked. And when you understood the system, you could pick up any gun, determine what the systems were, even if you’d never seen the gun before. You could look at it, determine the systems that it used, determine from that what wasn’t working properly, make the appropriate repair. That’s real gunsmithing, everything else is just thrown parts at it, just being a part swapper, and the only school in the country that was really teaching that was the school that master gunsmith Bob Dunlap was teaching. So, when he was going to retire, I realized all this information was going to be lost. And I asked him about it. And he said, “Yeah, I don’t have it written downs, it just going to end with me.”

So I couldn’t let that happen. So I decided to do was put it all on video step by step, the entire teaching method. And Bob really at first was like, “I don’t know if I want to do this. I’m going to retire.” And I convinced him, this has to be done to preserve this. So we spent a couple of years filming the entire design function, repair process, and it’s resulted in the most amazing course that has enabled so many people to become successful gunsmiths. Enough, so that I’ve got so much confidence in it that I guarantee the course for an entire year with people, nobody else will do that sort of thing with the schooling, but we do. So we want people to truly be gunsmiths. And to do that, you have to understand all the intricacies of how the various systems within a firearm work. Well from thereby putting it on video, we also solved a couple of other problems.

We were able to deliver directly to the student in their home, therefore they didn’t have to leave their job, leave their family situation and go to college somewhere for a couple of years, giving up their or income and laying out a lot of expenses. So it became very affordable when compared to a campus-based program. And frankly, that’s the only thing you should ever compare the American Gunsmithing Institute to. Some other online courses, don’t teach deep design, function, repair. They don’t teach all the other things we teach welding machining, custom build rifle, building custom pistol building, and so on and so on. So I believe that the American Gunsmithing Institute is the only Institute, the only gunsmithing school that delivers the campus-based experience as far as knowledge level with additional benefits that you don’t even get at the campus.

So when I graduated from gunsmithing school, I was on my own. I was a good gunsmith, I had worked for a master gunsmith, Bob Dunlap after I graduated. But when I went off to other shops, it was just whatever information I still had in my head. And you forget a lot of what you learn in a classroom. So when we created the American Gunsmithing Institute in the video format, we set it up in such a way you can review anything you need to review whenever you need to review it. And that’s been a godsend for a lot of people because they get stuck in an area. They can quickly pop in a DVD or online video and determine exactly the information they need to know. They don’t have to keep it all in their head. So the entire course is indexed. Also, we recruited many of the top gunsmiths in the country to teach other aspects of our advanced gunsmithing courses like the master and the enhanced master course with gunsmiths like Gene Shuey and Darrell Holland, Mark Foster, Fred Zeglin, and a number of others.

These are people that are masters at their craft and have so much that they’ve contributed to the industry. You’re going to be able to learn directly from them via video. And on top of all of that, we have an ongoing relationship with our students through the Gunsmithing Club of America. And this is a membership where you get continued access to the instructors, to other members, to other gunsmiths, a lot of additional videos, a lot of different support information. So all of those things combined make the experience of the American Gunsmithing Institute in my view, far superior to a campus-based program. And a campus-based program you have to do within their schedule, with American Gunsmithing Institute you can move at your own pace. What’s right for you.

So you’re not trapped. If you get busy family life for a little while, you can put the gunsmithing education on short-term pause, and then get back to it as soon as you can, but you’re not penalized by life. And we all know life happens. So you can take, as long as you need to with a gunsmithing course. But the other thing is you can go as fast as you want. I didn’t want to hold anybody back. And a frustration I had at gunsmithing school was you are always moving to the slowest student. If somebody didn’t get something, they slowed the entire class down. I don’t like that. You get to learn at whatever pace you desire at whatever level and speed that you can comprehend with the benefit of a review whenever you need it.

So those are just a few of the reasons why I personally believe from my experience at a gunsmithing school, my experience gunsmithing and my experience through the educational process that we teach for over 20 some odd years, almost 30, that this is the best method available. So if you have any questions, contact a student advisor and they’ll be sure to help you out.

It is not a requirement in the state of California to obtain a Gunsmithing Certificate to practice gunsmithing. However, possessing a Gunsmithing Certificate will demonstrate a proven level of competence. A Federal Firearms License and State licenses are required to operate a gunsmithing business.
The American Gunsmithing Institute’s approval to operate as a private postsecondary institution in the state of California is based on provisions of the California Private Postsecondary Education Act (CPPEA) of 2009 (California Education Code, Title 3, Division 10, Part 59, Chapter 8), which was effective January 1, 2010. The Bureau can be reached at 2535 Capitol Oaks Drive, Suite 400, Sacramento, CA 95833,, toll-free telephone number (888) 370-7589 or by fax (916) 263-1897.
Professional Gunsmithing Courses not available to Oklahoma residents at this time.