Gunsmiths build and repair firearms. The various skills of a professional gunsmith include welding, lathe, milling machine, and drill press operations, polishing and bluing techniques, gunstock design, and decorative carving and engraving. Their work may include repairing dented barrels, troubleshooting feeding, ejecting, and firing issues, and replacing defective parts. Gunsmiths also modify or otherwise customize firearms for special uses. They are employed by firearms manufacturers, the U.S. Military, law enforcement agencies, other gunsmiths, and sporting goods stores. Some gunsmiths are self-employed as small-operation manufacturers or custom firearms builders or run their own gun shops. They may specialize as a finisher, stock maker, engraver, or pistol maker. All businesses that deal with firearms are subject to and must be in compliance with federal, state, and local laws and ordinances.
Many trade schools and community colleges offer two-year or less diplomas or certificates in gunsmithing. Students learn basic metalwork, machine and hand-tool operations, firearm assembly and disassembly, simple ballistics, gunsmith welding, barrel fitting, and custom gunstock making. Graduates can benefit from working or apprenticing under an experienced, active gunsmith. An online-only program in gunsmithing can provide a general introduction to the field of gunsmithing, but not the hands-on experience with the machinery, materials, and tools of this trade. The U.S. Military also trains and employs small arms repairers.