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Thread: Gunsmithing School? Lassen College in Susanville, CA

  1. #1
    Boolit Master
    John 242's Avatar
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    Gunsmithing School? Lassen College in Susanville, CA

    In a year, Iím going to retire from the Army after 21 years in the service. Iíve really been thinking hard about what Iíve wanted to do with my life when I retire. Iím a Cavalry Scout and that doesnít exactly carry over into the real world well.

    I have my foot in the door for a job where I would be earning about $15 (might be $18) an hour as a civilian contractor. Thatís good money, but there are a few draw backs, at least in my mind. If I were to get injured or lose my job I have nothing to fall back on. I have no marketable skills. There is a real possibility of another draw down and reduction of civilian contract jobs.

    See, the thing is that Iíve always been drawn to guns, ever since I was a kid. I joined the Army because I liked guns. I initially planned to get out and work in a gun shop or be a gunsmith but ended up staying in the Army because I liked what I was doing.

    I am the go to guy around here when it comes to weapons, although I have no formal training. I enjoy trouble-shooting firearms and find it absolutely fascinating, although I am somewhat intimidated by the term 'gunsmith'. I'm not sure I have the aptitude for the finer aspects, but I like repairing guns.

    Does anyone know about Lassen Community College in Susanville, CA?

    Does it make any sense for me, a 40-year-old man, to attempt to go school full time with a wife and two kids and then try to start a career in gunsmithing?

    Are schools like Lassen worth the time and effort?

    Do I really want to move to California (only until schools over) with all the crazy gun laws and nonsense?

    Are there any other schools that teach gun repair or gunsmithing that are located in Texas or Kansas?

    Should I just take a few classes in machining and forget the formal gunsmithing schools?

    My wifeís mom has a house in Susanville thatís currently sitting empty. Itís up for sale but hasnít sold, yet. Itís possible that we could rent this place while I go to school. I would be getting about $1300 a month in BAH from my GI Bill , all tuition and fees would be covered, books should be mostly covered, and Iíd have my retirement check to help live on. Iíd have to get a job, at least part time, to put food on the table for my family. I graduated from high school in California, so I qualify as a resident student and could keep my Texas residency.

    The best advice Iíve had seen so far is that if you plan on being a gunsmith, donít quit your day job. Well, Iím cool with that. Itís possible that the contracting job may still be there in couple years and I could possibly get hired on after I were to graduate school, then do gunsmithing on the side.

    What input do you guys have? I havenít really talked it over with my wife yet, but I will soon.

    Biting off more than I can chew?
    I appreciate any advice. I may not be around much. Iím currently deployed overseas and the internet is hit and miss. Anyway, thanks a lot.
    Yeah, I'll think of something witty later...
    John T.

  2. #2
    Boolit Master
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    If I were in your place, I'd go! The fact you have a place to stay right there should seal the deal.

    My brother went to Susanville for several years, and learned alot. I benefited by having most of my rifles and pistols worked on as class projects (luckily for such a slacker in life he does excellent work).

    The two recognised schools in the country are Susanville and the Colorado School of Trades.

  3. #3
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    Check out Colorado School of Trades also.

  4. #4
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    Our instructor in Machine Tool Technology at the local Community College was a great machinist and amateur gunsmith and gun enthusiast. He would go to Susanville each summer for individual courses and had a very high opinion of the classes, the instructors and the place.

    You do realize, I hope, that a great gunsmith is a badly underpaid machinist/mechanic-cum-cabinetmaker. Also, it can take a while to build up a "practice" that translates into a livelihood. If you can swing that Contractor job, you might be able to slip over there for a needed class or two during the inevitable down-time periods and ask the instructors and fellow-students what the prospects are while you are taking it.

    Many of the "full-time gunsmiths" I know of run a gun or outdoor supplies store to keep the pot boiling and do the gunsmithing as part of the "full-service gun store" services.

  5. #5
    Boolit Master bradh's Avatar
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    John go to Susanville, you only go around once!!!

  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    John don't let the reputation of California and gun laws scare you away. It is a lot easier to buy guns in California than many other states. Everything must go through a FFL and only approved hand guns can be bought from dealers. The approved list is large and EVERY single action revolver is on the list. Susanville is far away from our big cities and a nice place to go. May get a little cool in the winter. Only warning is that gunsmiths don't make much money.

  7. #7
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    I looked into the Lassen school when I was a much younger man.

    Great couse lay out and you will learn from start to finish all the skilld you need At the time I looked into this you would have to make a rifle from scratch, stock and all, to graduate!

    I never went because I could not figure out how to pay for the school and feed myself at the same time.

    My suggestion to you is see if your educational benifits, from the military, cover this school. It is acredited so should be listed.

    As for gunsmiths making money? It's what you can do and how fast you can do it that tells that tale!

    Thanks for your service and good luck with it!

  8. #8
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    John, let me call to your attention a couple of things if I may.

    If you retired as an enlisted man you will get about enough money in your check to be carry you while you go get a job. If you retired as an officer it's a bit better.

    Uncle will, once you are retired, try very hard to get out of some of the promises he made while you were on active duty. In my case, the VN era GI Bill was canceled two years after I retired. I couldn't get in enough school and support my family in the available time.

    Don't get me wrong, my life is so good the Sheriff probably should arrest me for it, but Uncle is sneaky and needs to be watched.

    YMMV
    Thanx, Tim Kelley
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    Still have noclue!

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  9. #9
    Boolit Master Mk42gunner's Avatar
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    John,

    I took a two week course for law enforcement armorer's at Lassen County College in the early 90's. Good course, they offer a lot of one and two week courses, I don't know about longer term classes. I would take a class there again, if it wern't so far from me now.

    You asked about colleges in Texas or Kansas, I can't help there, but I can split the difference. There are a lot of NRA gunsmithing classes offered at a college in Tishamingo, OK. Two of the guys I worked with went there, and said it was a decent program, (of course this was late 80's early 90's).

    Find out for sure if the VA will pay for any courses at Lassen before you get your hopes up, fighting the VA to get your pay started IS NOT FUN, (personal experience). IF the courses are authorized you will get back pay, but waiting IS NOT FUN.

    One of the ladies that used to work in my insurance agents office said it best, "It is a full time job trying to get the VA to pay benefits." Her husband had been to college on the GI Bill.

    The BAH started after I had already used my 36 months of GI BIll bennies, so no advice there.

    Robert

    ps TIm Kelley brought up a good point, You only have ten years to use your Montgomery era GI Bill unless they have changed it.

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    There is a good gunsmith school here in Pittsburgh, Pa. The web address is http://www.pagunsmith.com/index.php . They accept Voc. Rehab from VA and also take Montgomery GI Bill, unfortunately they do no t accept Post 911 GI Bill. They are friendly people there if interested give them a call. I plan to attend on Voc. Rehab.


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    The fact that the house is there says a lot. I would go. I have some aquaintances that moved from MT to Susanville to log and they liked it there.
    [The Montana Gianni] Front sight and squeeze

  12. #12
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    One of our club members retired from the P.O. sevaeral years back.

    On the second day of his retirement he moved to Susanville and started clasess. He stayed in Susanville and evenutally took every class they offered and several of them he took over again. Don't see much of him anymore, he's still living up there and if I'm not mistaken he is giving some of the classes now. I would say he is quite pleased with the program offered there.

    I'll repeat the warning . . . Earning a living as a gunsmith is not easy. Seems most gun owners think their firearm should be repaired for next to nothing and not based on what skilled labor, experience and a shop full of very expensive equipment & tools is worth.

    Based on your stated desires I would suggest to go for it. You have the house there and the means and desire. I'm 62 and have several "if I had only" that's it's a bit late for now, I was always too busy earning a living. Do you want to wait until your in your 60's regretting what you could/should have done?

    Thanks for your service to America, it is appreciated more than can be properly expressed.

    Rick
    "The people never give up their freedom . . . Except under some delusion." Edmund Burke

    "Let us remember that if we suffer tamely a lawless attack on our liberty, we encourage it." Samuel Adams

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  13. #13
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    Change of plans, maybe...

    I spoke with my wife about going to school in Susanville and she basically told me that it probably wouldn’t work out for us.

    The house is up for sale and she doesn’t think her mother would take it off the market. Her husband (my wife’s stepfather) is terminally ill and she has been struggling to sell the house. My wife is afraid that if her mother keeps it on the market and it sells, we will have to find a place to stay and deal with moving while I’m in school. There are some smaller issues. The house is located on the opposite side of Eagle Lake (in regards to the school) so from the way she describes it, the commute may be somewhat painful. On top of that, there was a concern about school buses not running to the area where the house is. The idea isn’t completely dead, but for right now it’s moved to the ‘not likely’ category.

    Surprisingly, my wife was very receptive to the school in Oklahoma. I was kind of shocked actually. We had been trying to decide where to settle when I retire and our choices were Kansas or Texas. I guess Oklahoma will work for us while I’m in school (if it happens).

    So, back to the drawing board. I’ll start researching Murray State and see what I can find out.

    As far as the Post 9-11 GI Bill, from what I understand, the tuition is paid directly to the school and the BAH comes to me. From what I read (no experience) the BAH is sent to me (or deposited?) as long as I am enrolled in school. If there is a break, i.e. summer vacation, then I don’t get paid. I haven’t had to deal with the GI bill before and I appreciate the heads up to be cautious when dealing with VA benefits.

    I know a lot more about Lassen than I do about Murray. Does anyone know about this school? I looked at the curriculum and as part of their degree program, they include business math and a course titled gun store management, which could be a good thing. Unfortunately, they also include English Comp 1&2 a humanities and Government. Fortunately, I already took some of those classes, but I really want to learn to work on guns, not write essays. Lassen seems to be more gun oriented.
    I want to thank you all for the advice. Believe me, I am reading every reply and taking everything said to heart. If you have advice to share, I’d be happy to listen. I appreciate the fact that you all are trying to help me.

    Several of you guys have thanked me for my service… well, I’d like to say that I thank you for all for supporting me and my buddies. It’s been a honor to serve my country and I am very thankful for the opportunity to have done so.
    Last edited by John 242; 05-04-2011 at 04:20 PM.
    Yeah, I'll think of something witty later...
    John T.

  14. #14
    Boolit Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by cbrick View Post
    One of our club members retired from the P.O. sevaeral years back.

    On the second day of his retirement he moved to Susanville and started clasess. He stayed in Susanville and evenutally took every class they offered and several of them he took over again. Don't see much of him anymore, he's still living up there and if I'm not mistaken he is giving some of the classes now. I would say he is quite pleased with the program offered there.

    I'll repeat the warning . . . Earning a living as a gunsmith is not easy. Seems most gun owners think their firearm should be repaired for next to nothing and not based on what skilled labor, experience and a shop full of very expensive equipment & tools is worth.

    Based on your stated desires I would suggest to go for it. You have the house there and the means and desire. I'm 62 and have several "if I had only" that's it's a bit late for now, I was always too busy earning a living. Do you want to wait until your in your 60's regretting what you could/should have done?
    Thanks for your service to America, it is appreciated more than can be properly expressed.

    Rick
    That's exactly what I'm trying to avoid. I don't know if I will make it as a gunsmith, but if I don't take a shot at it, then I will always regret it.
    If things don’t pan out, what harms done. I will have no student loans, 2 years (edit- only 1 year- they only pay 36 months) left of GI Bill benefits and some useful (to me) skills.

    I’ll bear in mind that the pays not very good. I guess that means that I’ll just have to supplement my income with a ‘real’ job (lol).
    Last edited by John 242; 05-05-2011 at 04:07 AM.
    Yeah, I'll think of something witty later...
    John T.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by John 242 View Post
    The house is located on the opposite side of Eagle Lake (in regards to the school) so from the way she describes it, the commute may be somewhat painful.
    hhmmm . . . Now that could be a REAL problem. I'm a bit familiar with that area, Eagle Lake is up the mountain from Susanville, pretty high and pretty isolated. Check with your mother-in-law about average winter snow fall up there because from what I understand it's about 20 feet. Painful commute indeed!

    I spent 2 weeks winter camping up there at the lake almost 30 years ago, left the morning a winter storm was coming in, if I hadn't left when I did, geez, I could still be up there . . . Someplace.

    I'll say one thing about Eagle Lake, a more beautiful place is mighty tough to find.

    Rick
    Last edited by cbrick; 05-04-2011 at 05:11 PM.
    "The people never give up their freedom . . . Except under some delusion." Edmund Burke

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  16. #16
    Boolit Master
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    Here's Murray's gunsmithing program.
    http://www.msc.cc.ok.us/index.php?op...ing&Itemid=115
    What do you guys think?
    I like the idea of a course on gunshop management.
    I don't like all of the state required classes, like government, english comp, etc. To me these are a distraction and take away from the gunsmithing program.
    They have several machine metalworking classes in the curriculum, which I assume means lathes and mill machines.
    If necessary, after Murray, I ould still have a few semester hours left on my GI bill to take a couple follow on machine shop classes at a local community college or trade school.
    Yeah, I'll think of something witty later...
    John T.

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    Boolit Master WILCO's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John 242 View Post
    Iíll bear in mind that the pays not very good.
    http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Gunsmith/Salary

    Not too shabby for the first 4 years John.
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  18. #18
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    Im going to go against the grain here. I think going to school for something else to get your GI Bill (its good money) would be better, because then you also have a backup plan with a backup degree.
    In the mean time I would apprentice for a real gunsmith or two.
    The reason I say this is because I have never met a gunsmith who went to any kind of school for it, that was actually good at it. Please dont think I am knocking it, or people with the certification, but when I looked into it, the instructors didnt really know what they were talking about. Also, most of them are very vauge for the amount of time you spend there, you build one or two guns from the ground up, which is good, but they dont focus one the bigger picture. Also, alot of them dont cover newer stuff, which is where the money is anymore.
    Just my two cents. I wouldnt call myself a gunsmith, though I make a living building guns, I save that title for the true masters.
    Whatever route you take, Im sure you will do well. The most valuable schooling you could do is go get certified as a machinist. You can use your gi bill for this, and machinist get paid well. Right there is your backup plan! It is almost impossible to be a gunsmith and not be proficient at making the parts from scratch.
    Best of luck to you, if there is anything I can do to help, let me know.

  19. #19
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    Trinidad State Junior College

    Have you considered this school?
    It was started in the early 50s by P.O. Ackley and is a really excellent course. I believe it is a 3 year course with an AAS degree when completed. While I was there we had several retired military men taking the course.
    It offers many electives that are not necessarily connected to gunsmithing and everything (except dedicated gunsmithing courses) is transferable to a 4 year college. I graduated from TSJC in 1969 and transferred nearly everything to Bemidji State College so I could work on my education degree.
    Oh yeah, in case you don't know, Trinidad is on the CO/NM border along I-25 in southern CO. Lots of wide open country to the east and a couple of recreation areas nearby. Not much work available but in your case that should not be too big of an issue.

  20. #20
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    I have a strong feeling that once you move to Susanville you will be a Californian for life. Crazy gun laws or no. No place like it on earth. Millions and millions and millions and millions of acres of public land at your doorstep, thousands of miles of dirt roads that lead to the perfect middle of nowhere. It is Gods Country. The Lessons you will learn at Susanville will be priceless and set you up for doing what you really want. Do you really want to carry a sign, fill potholes, or swing a hammer when your true calling is having your own gun shop? Go where the heart is. As far as I am concerned, that school is in one of the most beautiful spots to boot. I have hung my hat in Alaska, and the Rockies. There is NOTHING like the Sierra Nevada Range there is a certain stark beauty to The Prince William Sound for instance, but you know what? When I was there I many times longed to be back in the Sierra! Especially that East Side. Go for it!

    Nothing in life worth having is easy. There will be many people with seemingly good common sense that will try to talk you out of your dreams. Some of these people will probably be your closest friends or family. If it was up to my Dad, I would have never stopped working for him. The best thing I ever did was break away, and do my own thing, and follow my own dreams. Sometimes this lead to heartache, sometimes it lead to finding something I did not know existed before. Life is a journey. The older you get, the faster life slips away. Some folks God blessem are constant naysayers and always look at the glass half empty. Some folks want you to fail. They take glee in the fact that you are suffering through life like them. I went to college after the military for 12 years!! I got several degrees, including a masters in geology. I have worked as a social worker, a teacher, and have worked for several states in the capacity of a geologist. I am a farmer and beekeeper now. It is something I always loved. When people start telling you to not do something, watch out! That is probably exactly THE thing to do! Just do it better. Maybe specialize. The problem I see with many professions including gunsmithing is they come off as pompous and do not listen to the customer. Perhaps you have a great love of Marlin rifles, or Winchester 94's. Get good doing them up and people will beat a path to your door. Offer a reasonable service fee. You don't want to be the lowest or the highest. Offer a reasonable turn around time. Publish your prices!! Advertise. Many times folks think gunsmithing will be too expensive and don't even seek it out. Post them up on the wall. It would be advantagous to initially work for a real pro. Just don't do it forever. Get the knowledge and move on. Look at what he does right, and wrong. The college is the first thing though. You want to be the best, you want to be a master, then you must sacrifice now and do your time working for peanuts so that you eventually will be one of the guys everyone knows and seeks out. Like one of my old profs asked me, "Don't you want to shine? Don't you want to give the world your best?" Not everyone does I know. Have that end goal in mind and do not waver from it.

    This will be a great time in your life. You will feel so free and so different, no more military BS. No more stupid big shots that are a holes that you have to put up with. Life outside the military was intoxicating to me right after I got out.
    Last edited by Suo Gan; 05-05-2011 at 12:31 PM.
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