A gunsmith is a tradesperson who specializes in the design, construction, maintenance, and repair of guns. Unlike armorers, who are primarily responsible for maintaining weapons and performing minor repairs, gunsmiths have a range of skills including the ability to fabricate custom parts and the ability to modify weapons to suit the needs of their users. Training in the practice of gunsmithing can be acquired at some trade and technical schools, or through apprenticeship with an experienced gunsmith who is willing to take on trainees.
Because firearms are carefully regulated in many regions of the world, the field of gunsmithing is also subject to an array of regulations. Gunsmiths must observe a number of precautions to make sure that their work falls within the law, such as verifying the identity of gun buyers and enforcing holding periods. Many are highly trained in gun safety and observe meticulous safety procedures in their workshops and with clients, and some offer gun safety classes to members of the community.
Munitions companies and firearms manufacturers employ gunsmiths to design new products, modify existing ones, and supervise the production line and quality control procedures. Any number of seemingly trivial errors during the manufacturing process can make a weapon unreliable or dangerous, making quality inspections critical before weapons are released for sale. Gunsmiths can also work for the military, and in private shops which handle a range of jobs for different clients.
Guns are quite diverse, and it is not uncommon for a gunsmith to specialize in a particular type of weapon, or to work with specific types of clients. For example, some gunsmiths may prefer to focus on restoring antique weapons, working with law enforcement officers, or dealing exclusively with pistols. A high degree of specialization also ensures a high level of quality, and a gunsmith may work with several other regional gunsmiths to offer referrals to clients so that they find the most suitable artisan to work on their weapons or design new weapons.
A gunsmith's shop is filled with a variety of tools used in the trade. Gunsmiths must be talented artisans in addition to engineers, and gunsmith services can range from fabricating custom stocks for weapons to cleaning and restoring vintage guns. Some gunsmiths may also teach classes in gunsmith schools or invite gunsmithing students into their shops to get real world experience and to see the kinds of projects a professional spends time working on.