The United States Department of Labor through the Bureau of Labor Statistics is the definitive source for determining compensation levels for various careers. The BLS categorizes gunsmiths as “49-9099 – Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Workers, All Other.” When you click on the link, scroll down to last entry on page 162.
You can then take this category designation and learn more about this profession at the BLS career outlook page.
Here is where it gets a little tricky. Notice that the BLS page does not specifically mention gunsmithing. So we have to make some educated guesses as to what category gunsmithing belongs on this page. I personally feel that gunsmiths probably best fit in the industrial machinery mechanics and maintenance worker job description. When you click on that category, you see that similar occupations consist of machinists, die makers, millwrights and welders and solderers.
These occupations range from an average salary of $35,000 to $48,000. I believe it is fair to say that an average gunsmith can make this kind of money and that craftsmen who acquire a reputation for doing fantastic work can earn considerably more. In my reading and research of the gunsmithing profession, I believe that the average salary is a misnomer and that there are a relative few gunsmiths who make closer to six figures and the overwhelming majority is not able to earn enough to be full-time gunsmiths.
Therefore, I suspect that the majority of individuals aspiring to become gunsmiths end up failing miserably. I am speculating here, so please take this with a grain of salt. But, my gut intuition is that too many “wannabe gunsmiths” think they can learn to be a gunsmith simply by watching videos and attending online courses and end up washing out with little to show for it.
Assuming for a minute that “Machinists, Tool and Die Makers” are the most likely category upon which to base gunsmithing, we see that a gunsmith can expect to earn about $20 an hour with a combination of 4-5 years of schooling and on-the-job training.
Interestingly enough, eHow.com reports the following:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have separate wage statistics for journeyman gunsmiths, but it does include the position under the mechanics and repairers classification. As of May 2010, mean salaries for workers in this category ran $17.61 per hour, or $36,630 per year. The lowest 10 percent earned a mean $10 per hour, or $20,800 per year, and the highest 10 percent received a mean $26.96 per hour or $56,090 per year. The state with most such workers was California, where pay ran a mean $19.59 per hour, or $40,750 per year. The top paying state was Alaska, with means at $21.90 per hour, or $45,560 per year.
I believe this is inaccurate information based on outdated classification. The eHow author is referring to this page over at the BLS. Notice that while it does contain the occupation of “gunsmith” that that page was last updated in 2001. However, the page I referenced above was current as of January 2013. At the end of the day, the differences in reported salaries are relatively minor. I simply wanted to illustrate that even “trusted sources” of information can be mistaken.
For more information about the gunsmithing profession, please visit the Gunsmithing Section of Ditch College.