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7 Best Gunsmithing Schools: Hobbyist to Professional

If you’re a gun person that wants to take that tinkering and turn it into a money-making venture, or you just want to work on your guns, you’ve probably thought about gunsmithing schools or classes.

PSA 6.5 Disassembled BCG
PSA 6.5 Disassembled BCG

It turns out that there are quite a few gunsmithing classes and courses you can take online.

From the comfort of your own home, you can learn how to take hobby-level skills to something you can be truly proud of or even make money with eventually.

So, we’ve pulled together a list of classes that you can take to improve those gunsmithing skills.

In no particular order, here are some gunsmithing schools that don’t require a foot in a classroom.

Best Online Gunsmithing Schools & Courses

1. Sonoran Desert Institute

Founded in 2000, the Sonoran Desert Institute provides online learning opportunities to those interested in a wide range of gunsmithing and armorer topics.

Today, it is a nationally accredited online firearms school with several different courses.

They have two main programs of study. You can also take advantage of individual classes if you’re just looking to learn certain aspects of gunsmithing — like advanced armorer topics or how to accurize a rifle.

SDI is great for both hobby-level gunsmiths who want to do more in their home workshops and for professionals (or would-be pros that want to break into the industry).

Their instructors come highly recommended by many in the industry. And SDI grads seem to have an easier time finding a job than graduates of most other gunsmithing programs.

Cost is again dependent on what exactly you’re looking to learn. Take the classes you want if you’re not looking for a certification or degree.

Many of the tools you need for the program are included in the program’s cost. They ship out when you start each course. 

These tools are a good way to start building out your workshop.

2. American Gunsmithing Institute

One of the nation’s most well-regarded online gunsmithing schools, American Gunsmithing Institute offers courses geared to various needs.  

Whether you want a career as a gunsmith or just want to work on your guns safely and effectively, there’s an option for you.

American Gunsmithing Institute
American Gunsmithing Institute

They offer a professional certificate that you can earn in as little as 90 days.

However, you still get 108 hours of course instruction that covers the basic tasks and techniques of gunsmithing. You’ll also get extensive info on the design of firearms. That means you can take that knowledge to manufacturers for a job in the field.

Best of all, AGI’s online coursework is broken down into individual lessons, each taught by a recognized industry expert.

PSA BCGs Disassembled
PSA BCGs Disassembled

You can also pick and choose areas to specialize in. This makes the entire course fun and a better value for your money as you’ll be skipping the bits you don’t plan to specialize in.

Students can choose a complete gunsmith certification program or take individual courses.

The professional gunsmith certification will cost between $5,000 to $15,000 — if you’re looking for a full education, that is the way you get it!

But they also offer some specific Armorer’s level courses for $40 plus specialty courses and certified courses that range from $50 to $1,300.

3. Modern Gun School

Modern Gun School brings an extremely flexible course for those interested in gunsmithing, either as a hobby or a full-time career.

They have a perpetual open enrollment, so you can start at any time during the year and begin courses in either Basic or Advanced Gunsmithing.

Operating since 1946, they offer lessons covering several different aspects of gunsmithing, buying and selling firearms, and basic firearms information.

These courses come in the form of online classes that you take on your terms. And they’re even personalized by the staff and Master Gunsmith for individual students’ needs and areas of interest.

MGS is a standout among other similar programs. They focus primarily on hands-on training and class project — such as refinishing a stock or building a rifle lower, rather than simply reading up on a process or technique.

Modern Gun School
Modern Gun School

Their courses come in three different price tiers — $1,442 for full payment upfront, $1,542 with higher monthly payments, or $1,642 with lower monthly payments.

This makes tuition fairly affordable for the amount of instruction you get. So it offers a good option for hobbyists or beginners to gunsmithing and firearms in general.

4. Ashworth College

New to guns? Check out our online Beginner Handgun Course that teaches all the important stuff you need to know.

Ashworth College is located in my home state of Georgia, and its online program focuses on practical, real-world projects.

Ashworth College
Ashworth College

Projects are designed to emulate what an actual gunsmith works on daily.

They focus heavily on hands-on learning, and most of your coursework will revolve around demonstrating mastery of one skill or another through completing a finished piece.

These teach techniques for troubleshooting, disassembling, repairing, and reassembling a variety of firearms.

Glock G43X Disassembled
Glock G43X Disassembled

Ashworth courses don’t do a lot of machining or metalworking, but thdo offer a hefty value for what you get.

The entire program costs between $559 and $699 depending on how you want to pay, with some payment plans costing as little as $49 a month.

At the end of the program, you should have a good grasp of basic gunsmithing techniques and should be able to sit for any state or federal firearms or armorer’s test that doesn’t have its own required coursework.

5. Penn Foster Career School

Though they are located in Scranton, PA, Penn Foster Career School operates worldwide through online programs.

Penn Foster provides several degree programs in addition to their GED/high school programs.

They’ve been around for a few decades now, and in that time, they’ve become one of the leading schools for online gunsmithing courses. 

The Penn Foster mobile site allows you to study coursework on the go.

Penn Foster Career School
Penn Foster Career School

They have a dedicated staff for all firearms-related courses, and you can get an associate degree or simply a certificate.

Additionally, they also have one of the lowest educational requirements for entry, with applicants only needing to pass an 8th-grade education equivalency exam at a minimum.

The gunsmithing programs at Penn Foster cover gun safety and firearm assembly/disassembly, antique firearm restoration, customizing gun, mounting scope, handloading ammunition, basic metalworking, metal finishing, and machine tool operation, as well as the history of rifles and handguns.

Stippled Glock 17 Frame
They also teach how to customize guns!

Lastly, they have numerous flexible payment options, including interest-free monthly payments, in addition to being eligible for veteran education credits and benefits.

6. Colorado School of Trade

The Colorado School of Trade offers a few degrees in machining-related fields, including an Associate of Occupational Studies degree in gunsmithing.

It’s been around since 1947 and is accredited through the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. So, the instruction is sound and well-recognized.

Located just outside of Denver, the four primary classes you’ll take in the 14-month course are Basic Gunsmithing, Machine Shop, Stock Making, and Design & Function.

The first will get you comfortable with the basics of gunsmithing and firearms maintenance.

Then you’ll learn machine shop basics like how to use a lathe, a CNC, and other common tools like Dremels and grinders.

Dremel the Barrel Block
Dremels are fun.

From there, you’ll build and bed a precision fiberglass rifle stock in the Stock Making course before going on to a more in-depth look at the manufacture and design of firearms. This will give you all the technical knowledge you need to work on most common firearm designs.

All in all, it’s a solid course; it can be completed in just 18 months.

7. Penn Foster College

Not to be confused with Penn Foster Career School, Penn Foster College has been around for over a hundred years.

It’s probably one of the most well-known distance learning colleges in the country (and certainly one of the oldest).

They’re fully accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission and regionally accredited by the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education.

The diploma program will teach you all the basics of gunsmithing, including safety, machining, maintenance, and design.

It’s just a 3-month program and, like many of the others on this list, is completed online.

Tuition is less than $1,000 too. So, this is a great one for hobbyists that want to up their game a little bit or even seasoned pros who just want some kind of certificate to open up some new job prospects.

The main courses cover gun safety, assembly and disassembly of common firearm models, customizing and fitting rifle stocks, and even some antique gun restoration.

PSA AK74 Stock
Want to learn about stocks? They got you.

(Note: there’s nothing in here about “sporterizing” historic rifles, so there will be no “Bubba-ing” here.)

You’ll also learn how to develop custom ammo loads for precision rifles, how to mount optics properly, and a good bit of firearms development history to boot.

Conclusion

Professional gunsmith instruction doesn’t have to be something that’s out of your reach because you don’t have the time or money to commit to a traditional institution.

These online colleges and courses are great for professionals and hobbyists alike.

AR parts laid out

Whether you want a job with Glock, Remington, or just your local gun store, there’s a professional program out there for you.

And if you just want to up your game in your home workshop, doing repairs and upgrades to your own firearms yourself, you can acquire those skills yourself.

Which one of these are you most curious about? Let me hear from you in the comments! If you like to get your learn on, be sure to check out our other articles on Best Wilderness Training Courses, Best Compact Pistol Courses, Best Tactical Courses.

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49 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    TDM

    Modern Gun School (warning)
    If you are considering MSG for their cost effective tuition, just beware there is a reason. 99.9% of their instruction is in print. So it's just reading, the same instruction as if you were to just buy a ton of books and read them yourself. ALSO, there are too many errors in the tests that do NOT match the reading at all resulting in a ton of miscommunications. The WORST part is that 90% of the material appears to be severely outdated (by decades) and much of it is completely plagiarized from books no longer being printed, and were never cited...giving the indication that they created the material. They did not; and I'm pretty sure that would jeopardize their accreditation if they are caught . The techniques, advice, tools, calculation methods, are mostly outdated. I only used this school to get a quick diploma for an FFL and disregard most of their information while using other more contemporary sources...I will never consider using them as an actual source of information for any reason. The information the school provides was relevant up until 1990, but if you are looking to really do gunsmith work, then this place would be a horrible investment for you and you are definitely not getting much value for your $$$. I finished the Advanced course in about 6 months and that was mostly because I was so fed up with the uselessness of the information I stopped for about 2 months before I decided to finish up. The tuition is mostly for the cost of printing 2 large binders of all the unorganized lessons and reading materials that you are also able to save as a PDF from their website (which in 2022 is of course what people do), and a few tools that are severely cheap. Just remember, If you bought all the books they stole material from and bought all the tools they provide you, it would at least be more organized and would never come close to the tuition they charge you.

    Serious gunsmiths, please stay away.

    January 11, 2022 1:42 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Altsman Gunsmithing

    Pennsylvania Gunsmithing School

    November 14, 2021 12:28 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    DAVID L TOTH

    1. THIS IS GOOD. HOWEVER, WHICH SCHOOL(S) DO GUNSMITHS, ACTUALLY WORKING GUNSMITHS RECOMMEND?
    2. WHICH SCHOOLS ARE ELIGIBLE FOR FEDERAL FAFSA GRANTS? STATE AND FEDERAL GRANTS?
    THANK YOU
    DAVID TOTH

    October 2, 2021 11:14 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Matthew F Nicely

      SDI (Sonoran Desert Institute) is your best choice, I am getting ready to start my last semester with SDI the also work with FAFSA...great school

      October 23, 2021 5:40 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Kelly Fitzgerald

    SDI is nearly 19k a year.

    July 26, 2021 8:37 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Richard

    I was looking at AGI and I am worried about cost. I like what they offer and want to be an expert in everything but can not afford the cost.

    May 27, 2021 1:25 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Keithg

    I would love to find a local gunsmith expert that is willing to pass along their knowledge, skills and abilities to me via on the job training. But I would be willing to do online courses, for the time being. Attending a brick and mortar school is not really an option for me at this time.

    January 8, 2021 2:51 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    big country

    I'm a Navy vet. and am curious about using my post 9/11 or Montgomery GI bill benefits anyone have any experience with this at any of these schools

    December 1, 2020 5:16 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Joe

      I am currently enrolled in SDI and used my GI bill with no issues. I completed the cert course and am almost done with the degree program. Call the number they give you or email them they will walk you through the process it was really easy to get started.

      February 25, 2021 5:05 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        paddy leather

        Did the program help you get a job as a Gunsmith ? How much are Gunsmiths paid with no experience these days ?

        September 19, 2021 4:13 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Frank

      Have you called the VA? They have programs and can also tell you if a school or course will be covered by your GI Bill...

      February 28, 2021 3:52 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Wyatt Earp

      The oldest and best: Trinidad State Junior College

      May 12, 2021 11:29 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Sean Curtis

        +1 Wyatt,

        I went there many moons ago, for another profession.

        December 17, 2021 2:08 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Bubblehead42409

      I have completed the Modern Gun SChool and in my finals two classes for SDI. Between the two SDI is a much better program and more like real college, also you get a real Associates Degree

      July 20, 2021 4:04 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Springfield

    Hi, I was looking into AGI but I am concerned about cost. I’m not looking to become an expert in everything, simply mastering Glocks and AR-15s and bolt actions would be enough for me. Can anyone recommend any resources for a hobbyist looking at more narrow gunsmith knowledge?

    November 27, 2020 3:55 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      KBH

      AGI has specific video's for only Glocks, AR's and bolt actions. Minimal investment for quite a bit of knowledge. I think the armorer video's are $39.95 per type firearm.

      December 3, 2020 10:49 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Alan Dodson

    Ashworth no longer offers a gunsmithing program.

    July 28, 2020 7:39 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Bull o' the Woods

    There are four NRA "approved affiliated" gunsmithing schools. Not sure what "approved affiliated" means. Accredited? Paid money to the NRA? All are in-residence programs. I cannot imagine that distance learning would work well for such a hands-on skill. The schools are: Montgomery Community College in Troy, North Carolina; Trinidad State Junior College in Trinidad, Colorado; Murray State College in Tishomingo, Oklahoma; and Lassen Community College in Susanville, California. Trinidad is perhaps the oldest, having been founded by P. O. Ackley himself in 1947. Absent convincing proof from some reliable source, I would suck it up, attend one of these schools, and obtain either an associate degree in gunsmithing or a gunsmithing certificate. All are veteran-friendly and a good place to spend your GI benefits.

    April 25, 2020 11:10 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      DevL

      Among other things, their program must be at least 3 years long. That's probably the main reason there's so few. Even the Pennsylvania gunsmith school, where you attend a brick a mortar 8 hours a day 5 days a week, is only a 16 month course.

      May 30, 2020 6:14 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Phil

      Yavapai College in Prescott AZ is another brick and mortar gunsmithing school.

      August 12, 2020 9:12 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ryan fdg

      "NRA approved affiliated" is meaningless. The NRA isn't an accrediting organization. There's no real accreditation or certification when it comes to gunsmithing specifically. Some of the online schools on the list are regionally accredited by CHEA, which is a college accrediting organization that inspects academic quality. Same accreditation used for traditional universities and cc. The online program's curriculum aligns with brick and mortar programs. It really comes down to how you learn or your end objective. With a self-employed route, how your education is obtained is meaningless, so long as you can provide quality work. Corporate route, you probably need at least an AAS degree from a brick and mortar.

      August 18, 2020 7:00 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Terry

      Pine Technical and Community College in MN is brick and mortar.

      March 19, 2021 2:20 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    BCurtis

    Lance Cordill. Stuck cylinder. Took mine to a gun store in San Antonio to have them send it to Taurus to fix it. Instead they store just fixed it right there in 5 minutes. 3 years ago, no problem since then.

    February 18, 2020 8:40 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    GORDON KEITH DENMAN

    I have several of the videos from AGI and would love to take their advanced course work but can not afford it. The jail does not pay enough to cover that cost. For being online or home course work their videos are very detailed and have helped me with work on several of my own guns to the point I am ready to apply for my ffl and start to work on other peoples weapons.

    December 27, 2019 12:44 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    A. Gunsmith

    SDI sucks. If you’re serious about becoming a gunsmith either find an apprenticeship or go to a brick and mortar school that will give you a hands on experience. The 2 best schools at the moment are Colorado school of trades and Piedmont Technical College. There is no replacement for hands on learning with multiple instructors being able to guide you and help you. A lot of the time you will find that they are cheaper. Always keep in mind that a lot of these listicles are paid advertising.

    October 1, 2019 7:57 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      A. Soon-To-Be-Gunsmith

      Thank you for this. A friend of mine at my LGS recommended Colorado School of Trades when he found out I was looking into gunsmithing.

      October 24, 2019 12:21 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jack Doyle

      Founded in 1947 Colorado School of Trades is the best. My brother is a graduate from close on 40 years ago. If you are interested in learning all aspects of the trade you need look no further.

      February 3, 2020 9:29 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jeremy

      I think Ashworth is closed. Are there any online programs with regional accreditation? I think this would be most important?

      May 10, 2020 8:56 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      DevL

      Don't just say they suck, say why/how.. and please don't just "yOu CaNT leArN gUnSMiThInG OnLInE"

      May 30, 2020 6:19 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Brett

    I want to start AGI courses by ordering the Master class as it comes with tools needed. I'm on disability but not a veteran. Will Vocational Rehabilitation Services pay for me to do this? I was an electronic field service engineer for a long time. I have had 4 back surgeries & receive disability benefits but nowhere near enough to pay myself or it would've been done already. I see vets get assistance as they should but can non-veterans get assistance too?

    September 12, 2019 4:31 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Ernest Watts

    Not a gunsmith nor been to school for it. Seems AGI gives you the tools you need to learn. Sort of interested in them. Going to contact for info. Most what I know came from taking stuff apart to see how it worked. I'm wondering though, even with tools, how can someone help you run a lathe properly? Some people need hands on guidance. A dvd or recording isn't going to give you that. I'd hate to be on the phone everyday with questions they didn't consider answering. Thanks for the info

    August 15, 2019 5:10 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Ernest Watts

    Ashworth doesn't have Gunsmith at their website.

    August 15, 2019 4:32 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Lance Cordill

    Thanks for article. Chanced upon THIS because I have a stuck cylinder on a S&W .32 CTG revolver with live rounds in it. as far as I can tell, there is NO info on the web how to get the cylinder out with the live rounds in cylinder. I figure if I had some gunsmithing knowledge under my belt, I would know how to solve this problem. Thumb release doesn't work. The cylinder MUST be removed in order to remove the bullets. FYI, I won't use a hammer to bash to cylinder...duh!

    July 9, 2019 6:26 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ernest Watts

      The cylinder should be removed as normal. Most have a rod under the barrel. You push it toward rear of gun. Then cylinder should rotate out. Others have a catch that let the barrel and cylinder fold down like dbl and sgl barrel shotguns. The only thing that may prevent it from opening is the hammer. Some can be half cocked. Others you would have to hold hammer open. For safety place something between hammer and gun to keep hammer from firing round. Some revolvers have a catch to release cylinder. Loaded or unloaded shouldn't matter. After firing rounds, you open cylinder and remove spent rounds to put in new. If you look in youtube there should be videos to load/unload revolvers. If you can't figure it out take to police department and tell them you don't want it before you shoot yourself.

      August 15, 2019 4:46 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ernest Watts

      One final thing some old revolvers like colt peacemakers have a part that folds open so you can remove one round at a time. Revolver cylinders are made to be opened wether live or spent doesn't matter.

      August 15, 2019 4:49 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ernest Watts

      Try wd-40 on catch. Also most revolvers have a removable plate to access workings. Open this carefully, paying attention to direction of firearm, Also you should block hammer so it can't fire, and spray wd-40 on workings. This may help. I'm not a gunsmith. Just a tinkerer. Don't force or strike catch unless you want a broken catch.

      August 15, 2019 4:56 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ernest Watts

      Of take togunsmith

      August 15, 2019 4:59 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Ernest Watts

      There are also forums where you can get better info

      August 15, 2019 5:11 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      David Jackson

      I have a S&W 32 clone, the H&R 32. It has a swing arm the allows the cylinder to rotate out and down for reloading & cleaning. The arm has a standard slotted screw holding it in. The S&W has the same basic arrangement, but with a small |C-clip" holding the pivot arm in place.

      April 1, 2020 9:45 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    David C

    I tried Ashworth's online course. It was dry as dirt, I received literally no interaction with any sort of "teacher", and the entirety of the content I made it to was just reading long, bland walls of text. The author of whatever material they have you read often talks about concepts or parts without explaining them to people who might not be familiar with them.

    Absolute waste of $700 CAD and my time. I'm disgusted and disappointed.

    June 10, 2019 4:56 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Philip Crabtree

    Ashworth College is a conduit for Penn Foster meaning they are one and the same. It looks like you only have four gunsmithing schools on your list of five. You have also left out the NRA gunsmithing programs at four different colleges across the country (one in each time zone) in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Colorado, and California.

    April 26, 2019 8:18 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    rob b

    i have abut 10 years in a cnc shop running a cnc mill and other various machines would it be good to take one of these courses to learn about gunsmithing itself since i already have a leg up in the machining world

    April 19, 2019 2:00 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Joe

    Unfortunately for some of us, brick and mortar locations for gunsmithing are few and far between. Since I have not been able to locate one within driving distance...online courses seem to be the best option to start a foundation

    April 5, 2019 11:51 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Rob

    Pennsylvania gunsmith school in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania is a 16 month course where you earn a certification is a master gunsmith. There is no online comparison. You didn't even delve into the school it's better than any school you listed, hands down! Before you put up the five best you should probably research your subject!

    March 29, 2019 10:13 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Philip Cavalcante

      Isvthis one brick school or on line because they are talking about ONLINE SCHOOLS not one you go to in person

      April 6, 2019 8:04 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Howard

    I am sure you can do distance learning for gunsmithing, just not quite enough to do the job. I just think there are more effective ways, and hands on is the best IMHO.
    Highly recommend you go to a brick and mortar school. You will learn more of what you need and not learn bad habits. You need to know how each type of firearm works in order to fix what doesn't. You also need to learn heat treating metals, welding, machining techniques and how to do all these in an efficient manner. This is because time is money in any business. And you need to have 6 billable hours a day. You will waste some time trying to find replacement parts because you can't have everything. And you will have to learn there are some jobs you will be better at than others, and I don't recommend specializing in rural areas.

    I went to Lassen Community College in California. I would rank it as tied for #1 with Trinidad in Colorado. Yavapi is #2 to my knowledge. Lassen used to teach Design, Function and Repair courses by Robert Dunlap. Those are the same lessons taught on the American Gunsmithing Institute videos.
    5 years bench experience as a gunsmith. Worked on all sorts of guns, many that I didn't want to work on. My weakest point was customer relations.

    January 18, 2019 9:45 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Extra Hard Taco

    Recently Graduated Modern Gun School, I believe it gave me a good base to build on but a distance learning course can only teach so much. I recommend anyone serious about becoming a gunsmith to attend one of the brick and mortar schools where you can get hands on training.

    January 11, 2019 7:16 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Sua Sponte

    I graduated from SDI in March, can't say enough good things about the staff and instructors. Really gave me a good structured baseline.

    December 31, 2018 5:58 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Barnett Frankel

      Did you go for hobby or to get a job? If for a job, did you find one?

      January 5, 2019 5:38 pm
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