Jump to content

Gunsmiths vs Assemblers

Recommended Posts

Maybe it's just me but in too many gun shops today that claim to have a gunsmith, what they actually have is someone who assembles the latest and greatest tactical accoutrements to put on the tactical weapons the store pushes. Their knowledge is limited, skills slight at best, and take forever at easy stuff, but can tell you what camo is best, which armor plate you should be wearing, and how good they are with a knife.


Ask them to fix a Browning Sweet Sixteen and you're greeted with a look best described as a six-year-old boy who is lost and scared. They're clueless.

I'd love to see a list of knowledgeable gunsmiths around Tennessee who can do the job though maybe it's easier to find a pot of gold a drunk leprechaun lost on the way to buy gas.



  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment

This is why I am very clear. I am an armorer (US Army armorer's school graduate) and NOT a gunsmith. I can replace drop in parts (mostly but know my limits), install most accesories, and troubleshoot/diagnose failures. I can assemble an AR from a pile of parts pretty dam quick and into spec and make it run realy well. But, I cannot machine things, hand fit, manufacture parts, engrave, ect.

I agree most shops that state they have a gunsmith really have an armorer or many times less.

  • Like 4
Link to comment

I usually do my own with in my limits. I've worked on all the 1911's and 2011's that I own now and in the past. I've done all of my own Trigger jobs, Thumb Saftey's, Sears and Disconnecter' on most of them. If I run into something that I can't fix with a file, honing stones, and the tools that I have for working on that platform then I'll find someone who can. I got started by completely tearing down my 1911's to see how they functioned, I've also bought some good books on them. I also did most of the work on my M1A's from bolt fitting to barrel replacements. The best advice I can offer is do your research and invest in the proper tools and books on the subject. I bought a cuple of well used 1911's to pratice on when I first got interested in being able to do my own mods and basic maintenance on them.

Edited by DJTC45
  • Like 1
Link to comment
15 hours ago, DO-TN said:

This is why I am very clear. I am an armorer (US Army armorer's school graduate) and NOT a gunsmith. I can replace drop in parts (mostly but know my limits), install most accesories, and troubleshoot/diagnose failures. I can assemble an AR from a pile of parts pretty dam quick and into spec and make it run realy well. But, I cannot machine things, hand fit, manufacture parts, engrave, ect.

I agree most shops that state they have a gunsmith really have an armorer or many times less.

I agree with all of your skills, and can add that I HAVE done small machining, wood repairs and fitting, annealing and hardening of certain small parts, BUT, I have done those little projects for my own stuff, I wouldn't risk somebody elses old, hard to find part on MY fat fingers.

Link to comment

True gunsmiths are a dying art form. A real gunsmith can take any gun, regardless of make, model or age, and do any repair necessary up to and including making new parts as needed. They can work wood or metal and build a beautiful and accurate firearm from scratch. Now a days these masters are few and far between. As mentioned, most of the "gunsmiths" out there today are simply parts changers. 

I consider myself to be a pretty fair hobbyist. I do most of my own work and have built a couple of nice custom guns. What I know, I'm very good at because I took the time to read, study and practice. I also take my sweet time and pay very close attention to details. But I don't know near enough to consider myself any kind of gunsmith. 

My pride and joy is this S&W Model 28-2 converted into a .45 Colt Snubbie. This project took about 2 years to complete and was a valuable lesson in how to fix my own mistakes. 🙄


  • Like 5
Link to comment

This is not regionally specific - the same was true in Southern California and Southeastern Arizona, where I lived previously. Especially as true gunsmiths become fewer and further between, those performing armorer work elevate themselves to the gunsmith title, lacking anyone to compare themselves to, I suppose.

I am a gunsmith by trade... I founded AO Sword Firearms in San Diego, where my crew still turns out "Custom Tools with Triggers" for our customers. I've done my time behind enemy lines, though, and moved to Chattanooga with my family this year. I thought I might encounter a multitude of comrades here in the Old South, and learn a thing or two alongside the grognards. Imagine my surprise upon finding even fewer craftsmen here than in anti-gun California!

I've been introduced to several people in local gun shops that the other folks call their gunsmiths. Generally when talking shop, it becomes apparent they are armorers (and not even certified armorers, usually), and I gracefully praise their expertise. To his credit, one local gunsmith was quick to qualify that he's a journeyman who does light repairs and parts replacement - and not surprisingly, upon probing I found him to be the most knowledgeable of the bunch.

I have great respect for a good quality armorer - I employ two, and I would be lost without them. Nobody wants to pay gunsmith time for a job that just takes a trained armorer's hand on a $600 sight pusher, or a seasoned eye on an action bar and barrel nut wrench. I respect them all the more when they know the difference between a problem diagnoser, parts changer, and parts maker.

I come from a tradition of manual mill and lathe to make parts that need replacement. $10,000+ in specialty tools just for building 1911's. Another $20,000 for all the dang vices, action wrenches, special tools, jigs, and other precious nonsense for working on bolt guns. More and more again for the full spectrum of different sized spares and the multitude of generations of lifters, followers, bushings, rings, nuts, lugs, and oh-dear-Lord the screws. In contrast, today's gunsmith seems to expect to buy a complete kit in a plastic blister box to do everything needed for the job du jour.

I've already filled the weekends since I've been here with jobs for my neighbors and their kin, and I love it. I am shopping for a metal lathe, now, because there's such a need. My gunsmithing shop remains at my gun store with my apprentice in San Diego, so I'll have to establish a new one.

It's like paradise out here to a shooter who has had to fight for every inch of the 2nd Amendment for the last decades. I hope y'all know how good you have it... and that you do the work to keep it.

Sorry, I digress! But, I love Tennessee so much, it's distracting.

Edited by DocHawk
  • Like 2
Link to comment
  • 1 month later...

True gun- and metalsmithing is a dying art.  There are a variety of skills to master: machining, finishing metal and wood, making small parts and springs, heat treating, and of course mechanical diagnosis.  Not to mention a good knowledge of the legal requirements and licensing.  Today there are easier ways to make better money.  

Cylinder and Slide was planning on closing their doors because they apparently couldn’t find anyone willing or able to take over the business.  

  • Like 1
Link to comment
  • 10 months later...

Interesting thread.

A few years ago my shooting partner and I decided to buy a mill and lathe.  I am not a machinist but my partner is (works as a machinist by trade).  We did this so we could do our own "work".  

I have learned a lot from him and we can do a lot of things.

But as mentioned above, "gunsmiths" are few and far between.  I send a lot of people to another guy that has probably forgotten more about old revolvers and shotguns than we will ever know. 

Link to comment

There's no substitute for knowledge and experience. Someone who has a skill (and is good at it), and works at it for years is going to be vastly superior to the occasional tinkerer. The job becomes second nature, and to someone watching it seems like your not even thinking about what you have to do to complete the job at hand. I'm a retired toolmaker of 45+ years and have made various obsolete gun parts for friends but there where many other things I would not attempt to do. Ruin a friends gun, maybe not a friend anymore.

Have done a lot more on my own guns, if I screw it up who's to blame!

I make knives now, starting to get the hang of it after 15 years!!

  • Like 1
Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


Before engaging in any transaction of goods or services on TGO, all parties involved must know and follow the local, state and Federal laws regarding those transactions.

TGO makes no claims, guarantees or assurances regarding any such transactions.


Tennessee Gun Owners (TNGunOwners.com) is the premier Community and Discussion Forum for gun owners, firearm enthusiasts, sportsmen and Second Amendment proponents in the state of Tennessee and surrounding region.

TNGunOwners.com (TGO) is a presentation of Enthusiast Productions. The TGO state flag logo and the TGO tri-hole "icon" logo are trademarks of Tennessee Gun Owners. The TGO logos and all content presented on this site may not be reproduced in any form without express written permission. The opinions expressed on TGO are those of their authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the site's owners or staff.

TNGunOwners.com (TGO) is not a lobbying organization and has no affiliation with any lobbying organizations.  Beware of scammers using the Tennessee Gun Owners name, purporting to be Pro-2A lobbying organizations!

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to the following.
Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Guidelines
We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.