Career change?

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing' started by winmag, Nov 24, 2011.

  1. winmag

    winmag Well-Known Member

    Dec 23, 2009
    Looking hard at doing a complete career change.
    I'm currently an asst supt. in comercial construction, & recently laid off. I'm very good at what I do, eventhough I dont enjoy it anymore, but I'm SERIOUSLY ready to be done building, & persue a career in what I actually like to do.

    I read a thread a while back that Japple started, simmilar to this one, & it got me pondering. I've since corresponded with Japple, & I here he decided to pursue an alternitave oppertunity.

    Now I am a daddy of 3 plus I'm married & own a house, so dropping everything & going to Colorado isn't a viable option at this time, eventhough I here its the best around.
    I've looked into Penn Foster's gunsmith school, & American gunsmithing school, as well as a few others, but I'm curious if anyone has any feedback on these types of schools, & if so, do they hold any weight in the real world? I'm a tinkerer by nature, so I've been playing with my personal firearms as well as friends, & familys for as long as I can remember, fixing/tweaking this or that, but never thought of it as "gunsmithing" (thats for those guys with lathes....:D I wish!!). But wadda you guys think? Is it possible to make a living if I can find an apprenticeship of some kind, along with one of these schools?
    I hope none of you think I'm rediculous for posting this, but Eversince I quit being a hired cowboy, & left ranching for a job that actually paid the bills,(construction) ive always wondered how nice it would be to really like what I did for a living. You know, actually wake up happy, & ready to grab the day & kick its ass. I miss that. Just to top it off, Elk season got cut short this year, due to hauling my dad down off the mountain while he was having a massive aortic rupture, he lived thank God. My dad is my best friend, & Elk huntin buddy, & were already planning next years hunts! But I'm certain that if I stay running those kinds jobs, in that high pace, take no prisoners field like he did, ill end up with the same condition someday. so I figure this might actually be the time to swich.
    Lemme know what you guys think.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2011
  2. midnightmalloy

    midnightmalloy Well-Known Member

    Jun 25, 2010
    well I will say one thing on this...or a couple.

    Do what makes you happy. as long as its not at the expense of your family then do it. your family is happier when your happier.

    On the note of working in the industry which is your main passion:
    I worked for a huge firearm store here in washington for a couple of years. My buddy workes at a barrel maker/gunsmith business here also. It is/was impossible to get much time off to hunt during the season. It also took the sport I loved and made it less than fun after talking about it night and day. some say they would love it but they havent done it. I have.

    My sugestion is to research other industries that you enjoy and can make a suitable living at. maybe even one that gives you lots of time off in the fall? If you are a gunsmith guys will want nothing more than to pressure you to fix this or that in sept-dec because they have a big hunt coming up. that leaves you in the shop and not in the field. No matter what anyone here thinks, not many gunsmiths or any of the custom guys make big dollars. a rare few do but most dont. they make a very modest living and to uproot everything for such a little payout isnt for me. but I will say, revert back to what I first said, be happy.

    Gun guys are cheap asses, the stuff we buy has such a little mark up that nobody is getting rich. look at other products and services and you will understand where im coming from. I got out of the navy after a good 5 years with an excellent career path and advancment for my family (well just me and my 4yo little girl) so I understand more than you think. If you wanna talk pm me and I will give you a call.

    ps-i like the posts i see you make here. so thats a big reason im responding to this post!

  3. orion2000

    orion2000 Well-Known Member

    Mar 21, 2011

    A few thoughts to consider from someone who has "Been There. Done That"... Seven years ago I was in a high stress middle management job. I started doing the portable sawmill thing on weekends for stress relief. Five years ago, I got fed up with the grind. I had a steadily growing demand for the sawmill business. I finally said "Bag It" when I started having health issues related to the stress of the full tiime job. Quit the full time job, put together a business plan, got financing from the local bank, went head long into the sawmill / wood products business.

    Found out that there is a difference between "staying busy" in a business and "making money" in a business. Initially, I had plenty of business, turning dollars. But extracting "enough profit" to pay the bills was a different story. And then of course, the downturn in the economy, and the housing bust. Not good to be in a business tied to the housing market when the housing market hits a 30 year low.

    Long story short, I went back to my normal profession a year later, making less money than the job I voluntarily quit. And only lost two thirds of the family farm that I put up for collateral for the commercial loan. I chalk that up to a significant learning experience.

    Relative to your situation, (a) I am glad your Dad survived his ordeal. I wish him the best. (b) I am sorry to hear that you were laid off. The fact that you survived this long into the down turn speaks well of you and the company you work for. Random thoughts:

    1) Starting a new business is risky proposition. Do not believe all of the hype and hoopla you read in the glossy ads for the trade schools, manufacturers, etc. 9 out of 10 new businesses fail within 12 months. That's a fact. Unless you have some new whiz bang idea that people can't live without, you have a strong chance of being in the 90%.

    2) As mentioned above, you may be a great "tinker" and have mechanical aptitude off the scale. There is a difference between doing something part time as an "advocation" for enjoyment, and having to do something as a full time "vocation", day in, day out, whether you want to or not. Growing up, i loved to turn wrenches working on cars. Then I went to work for my brother in law for a year as a full time mechanic. After that I pay to have all my mechanical work done. I can do it. But I do not enjoy it. I would rather work my full time job and pay a mechanic to do it...

    IF you like tinkering with firearms, good chance that becoming a full time gunsmith may take some of the "fun and enjoyment" out of it.

    3) Before you jump into gunsmithing. Take a look around. Go visit some shops. Even the well established shops (Douglass, Borden, Lilja) are still relatively modest facilities. Huge capital investment. But in each case, took multiple decades to get where they are today.

    Is your financial situation such that you could support your family on slightly better than minmum wage salary for 5 or 10 years while you learn the trade and build a reputation / following ?

    I am not trying to be a total downer. I am generally the eternal optimist. However, I have been in business for myself three times in the past 30 years. It is a BLAST ! But is also the hardest job you will ever have. Just need to weigh what things are really important to you, AND your family...

    Sorry for the lengthy response.
  4. Coyboy

    Coyboy Well-Known Member

    Jan 30, 2005
    winmag, Your situation sounds a little like mine, 15 years in the comercial building trades, 5 years as a job foreman. Completly sick and burnt out, over the whole needed it done yesterday mantality so prevalent today.

    My Parents died with-in 12 months at a relativly young age for the lifestyle and good healthy condition they both shared. I decided a change was in order and started the process, 2 months after my Dads passing I was going to a tech school for Machine Tool. Just took a leave from work and finished one semester which included 320 hours shop/lab time instruction on manual machines, probably the best experience you can get in a short time period. I then took about 5 weeks worth of classes out at Trinidad during the summer between work. Like you I had a dozen years of gun tinkering behind me, and an excellent mechanical apptitude.

    Spent the summer aquiring an abandon lot in town, while going back to work for my old boss. The next summer I built my shop, completly done by myself and a couple building trade friends that I had worked deals out with.

    The first year I lost money as tooling is expensive, I was lucky in that the mid-west manf. was slowly fading away, and good quality machine tool auctions happened on a weekly basis in the twin cities. When your investing your savings in a buisness you need to be 100% confident you can make it work.

    From the very start to finish it took about 3 years to educate/connstruct/open/and finally turn a profit.

    For the next 2 years all profit was put back into the buisness. This year is the first year I will draw a salery from the buisness.

    I tell you this so you have a realistic idea of what it will take, I am fortunate that my wife works and carries the insurance. I dove in head first, balls to the walls so to speak. I had a definate plan and followed thru, having the dedication to never second guess myself. You need to treat the process like a building project; planned out from start to finish with specific timelined goal dates. Once the plan is in place look at it's feasability, If your confident you can make it work go for it. If you have your doubts you may have already failed. Be honest with yourself and you will do the right thing.

    Can you make a living at it? yes, but like was stated before you do lose some of the free time you used to have for hunting/ familly and such. That goes with owning any small buisness. Don't expect to earn what you did is a project manager, not enough hours in the day to do that.

    The other way many guys start is as a part time hobby job, building there buisness slowly until it supports itself and they can quit there full-time job.

    Good luck
  5. royinidaho

    royinidaho Writers Guild

    Jan 20, 2004
    Mr. winmag,

    Here goes...

    Shakespear wrote this:

    There is a tide in the affairs of men.
    Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
    Omitted, all the voyage of their life
    Is beating your butt on the same old cobble stones
    And bound in the shallows and mud of life

    On such a full sea are we now afloat,
    And we must take the current when it serves,
    Or lose our ventures.

    Green stuff are my words.

    Robert Frost wrote this in his "Death of the Hired Man"

    Nothing to look forward to with hope
    Nothing to look back on with pride.

    At the ripe old age of 58 the "system" which brought us up, go to school, get training, get a J.O.B, and the world will treat you well, pooped me out. After about 6 different careers and 4 or 5 J.O.Bs within each I was too old and too high priced to be employed. Hmmm, I says... Roy you're either unemployed or self employed. I choose self employed. That was 9/10/11. My first day of the good life was ominous. A bad sign, I thought.:rolleyes:

    I started my own business continuing what the belly up company was doing. Its still going and growing. My son is running it while I am away.

    Each of my careers were a preparation for the next thus transitions were smooth. Well, not that smooth, but survivable.:) In some cases, barely.

    All we want is freedom. Trading dollars for hours will never get one freedom. In the world today, freedom is bought with money. No college, university or other institution will teach one how to make money. They teach how to get a job! Oh, and neither will they teach one how to have a great relationship with one's spouse.

    Your most important responsibility is to your family. I learned that several careers back. I'd made a major decision to leave Idaho, move back to Pennsylvania, and buy a house there. Dragged wife and 5 children along. Big bad mistake. 18 months later we were living in Louisiana. The big fella upstairs bailed me out of that one. 7 Years later, I returned to Idaho. No J.O.B and a newly purchased house. That was in 1987. Good things kept happening, along with the not so good. The good things out weighted the bad.

    Keep in mind that "there ain't no free lunch".
    Education, inside of or out side of class rooms cost money and time.

    Its up to you to make the decision. Following that decision comes the work of making that decision right. Good hard work and dedication help.

    If you follow your current thinking, you'll be learning a trade. Selecting that trade is a big gamble and you would be betting the lives of you and your family. No one with a family, that I know of, ever died saying they wished they would/could have spent more time working.

    A couple of years ago, Screech (on LRH) did what you are considering. I wonder how he's doing. Haven't heard much from Riggins, lately.

    Learning a trade, back in the old days, was done through apprenticeships. Find a good local gun smith and offer to work free gratis. Clean the place, do grunt work, anything to be in the atmosphere of the business. Get exposure to the sales end of thing. Heck, why not get a spot at Sportsmans, Cabelas or some other out let. The money is in the retail. Way more grab a gun and shoot fellas out there than are the leading edge fellas on

    I had a gun shop/repair business for a while. If flat sucked. I got all kinds of junk to work on. None of which was what I enjoyed. You would have grinned at the blood sweat and tears I put into my first blue touch up on a very high priced O/U shot gun. I still feel the pain. Then after a great job, I way, way, way, under charged.

    I have taken many bad shooting rifles to good shooting rifles, good shooting rifles to better shooting rifles, and better shooting rifles to great shooting rifles. That's what I enjoy doing. There ain't no money in it.

    Another tid bit. It's better to be running towards something than away from something. Chasing the dream is much better than running form flames licking at your butt.

    Remember the things that went though your mind as you hauled you dad off the mountain. Remember remembering those things.

    Oh, and get mama and the kids input. I bet there is a ton of wisdom in them.

    Somewhere out there, under the pale moon light, is your answer. Go find it!

    Outside!!! Let'r Rip!!! Hang on!!!
  6. winmag

    winmag Well-Known Member

    Dec 23, 2009
    Thank you all for the replies, & pm's.
    The general vibe I'm gettin is keep tinkering, & tooling up so ill have something to do when I retire, & social security is gone:D.
    Thanks to all who gave your insight. I see I've got some heavy hitters chiming in here, & in form of the PM's I've recived. I'll take your advise, & keep it fun for now, & find another means of paying the bills.

    Thank you again guys.

    Oh, one more thing,:D
    Roy, for a guy who used superglue on loose primer pockets, your mind blowing logic, & wisdom keeps me grounded........No, Really, mamma grounded me from my garage, saying I spend too much time playing with my guns, & not enough time helping with diapers...:rolleyes:
    Seriously tho, thanks guys. I really do appreciate it.
  7. royinidaho

    royinidaho Writers Guild

    Jan 20, 2004
    Mama's have a bit of a grounding influence!!
    Since the last post I've been pondering a bit. The high end of the rifle thing is in the shooting, tuning, developing skills and innovative tinkering skills.

    Its those innovations of necessity that get pulled out of your pocket to get you through the day as a cowboy is where its really at. Shawn Shields from Blackfoot has thriving business making bull/bronc riding gloves. They are world wide known. Bobby Shield, his dad, was a rodeo cowboy and cowboy poet who stated B-B Leather. He was known far and wide for his saddles. His sons run the place now with the gloves, chaps and a few saddles plus other odds and ends.

    I make my own shooting accessories and have many failures for each one that turns out useful. From shooting mats for various purposes, bipods which are proving to be way more than top notch, shooting sticks, a front heavy LRH rifle carry system that is proving very spiffy for trudging those long heavy barreled suckers over long distances.

    All of these have been developed for the special needs of my style of ambush and spot and stalk LR hunting.

    Then there's this bullet pointing obsession. Did the year end tally recently learning I've got well over 600 bucks in parts, pieces and brass rod just to get this far.

    Also, take a gander at Started out years ago as one man's idea and is headed for 40,000 members. Who would have thought? It's come from the bottom of the pile, beginning at a time when everything for Len was a in bit of a bummer situation coming to looking like its providing living a dream.

    I think large drastic mid course corrections aren't the best of thing to do.

    I'd say you have you are well grounded in your thinking.

    I have children and their families in Kirkland and Maple Leaf? so I'll see ya one of these days.

    Good luck
  8. winmag

    winmag Well-Known Member

    Dec 23, 2009
    Thanks for your comments Roy.
    I rode bulls with a Tiffany glove, but my Bareback glove was a Shawn Shields glove & set up, laced & shimmed by him. My chaps were B/B customs. I'm very familiar with the high quality of Shawns gloves, but I didn't know his dad had B/B leather.
    I see your point about the need for something unique, & taking the time & risk to develop it into something amazing in order to make your mark, & bennifit your clientele. I can think of a few members/gunsmiths who have been very successfull in doing just that. I truly hope your IWK's take off. I'd like to see your hard work & inginuity pay off. Maybe you'll be the next Shawn Shields of ammo!
    Ill carve my own path, & maybe someday ill be in the right place at the right time with the right skills & knowledge to come up with an amazing invention/idea/product like you've done. Your a good mentor Roy, & Pretty even kieled for a nutt:D.
    I'm glad bigngreen, & I have you to bounce our ideas off of. You truly are one of a kind. Thank you for your advise.