While gunsmithing is a niche profession, there are a number of different specializations within the industry. Gunsmithing graduates may start off as generalists and depending on their interests and experience, they may branch out to a specialized area of gunsmithing.
Some of the specialized areas in the industry include1:
Custom Builder/Designer: These gunsmiths build guns based on a customer’s specifications from a combination of raw materials and shelf parts. Their customer base often includes professional target shooters who are looking for highly accurate custom rifles. Not only do these gunsmiths have to be highly skilled in other areas of gunsmithing, but they need to have expertise in machinery in order to manufacture various components of the firearm.
(Re)Finisher: These are specialists who apply chemical and heat processes to ensure the metal parts of the gun do not become rusted or corroded. Finishers/refinishers require an understanding of the various chemical processes and how they will react to the metals used in gun components.
Stockmaker: This area of gunsmithing involves the application of wood to the metal part of the receiver and barrel of the firearm. As a result, stockmakers tend to be woodwork specialists who are skilled in using handtools to carve the shape of the gun stock and finish the part’s surface.
Gun Engraver: These specialists use hand or machine tools to place insert designs on the metal surfaces of the gun – most often – the receiver. Because engravings are usually artistic, gun engravers tend to be those who have an interest in art and drawings, combined with skills in metalwork.
Pistolsmith: These gunsmiths specialize in the design and construction of pistols and handguns. They also require a range of wood and metal work know-how as well as mechanical characteristics of a small firearm. They may also be called on for the customization and improvement of small firearms due to their highly specialized skills in this area.
(Niche) Manufacturer: Unlike mass firearm manufacturers, some gunsmiths may produce a small number of specialized gun parts to gunsmiths and gunmakers. These specialists are not only skilled in metalwork and mechanics, but they also require good business acumen to run their business.
1. Wikipedia (2014). Gunsmith.