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Thread: Careers in the Firearms and Reloading Industries

  1. #1
    Boolit Mold CandyCoatedBoolits's Avatar
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    Careers in the Firearms and Reloading Industries

    Hello all,

    I want to hear from those of you who were or still are fortunate to work in the firearms/reloading industries.

    I am 19 years old and studying electrical engineering. I have an engineering co-op in the auto industry. However, this doesn't interest me all that much. I figure it can't hurt to aim for my ideal career while having electrical engineering as a strong back-up plan. The Lord will put me where he wants either way.

    I know every company has the generic manufacturing, quality, etc. positions. But that isn't what I'm looking for. I want to work intimately with these things that I enjoy so much. I want to know if I can turn my hobby into a career.
    So, for those of you who familiar with the industry, how did you get your foot in the door? What questions did you ask? What connections did you make? What education or background did you have? What opportunities are out there?

    I don't know what opportunities there may be or if they even exist. So, please, feel free to tell me if this is far-fetched.

    My current tactic has been emailing different companies with a brief essay about me and what I am looking for. This did not seem to garner many responses.

    I would love for anecdotes and advice.
    Thank You
    -CCB

  2. #2
    Boolit Grand Master

    Wayne Smith's Avatar
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    I hope Outpost sees this. Or you could PM him. He is retired now so some of his knowledge may be dated but he spent most of his professional life in the industry.
    Wayne the Shrink

    There is no 'right' that requires me to work for you or you to work for me!

  3. #3
    Boolit Master

    Winger Ed.'s Avatar
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    Check out gunsmithing schools.

    That might be what you're looking for more so than just working the counter at a gun store,
    or some station in the manufacturing end of the industry.

    Gunsmithing will be more challenging,
    and there will be WAY more different things to do every day than just running one or two different machines in a factory.

    Of the old fashioned gunsmiths I've known, they never quit learning, or doing different things in the trade.
    Everyone can learn from their mistakes.
    However; it's less painful, and cheaper to learn from the mistakes of others.

    Old age and treachery will always overcome youth, and skill.

    OK folks. Enough of this idle chit chat. This ain't no retirement home.
    EVERYONE!!
    Back to your oars. The Captain wants to waterski.

  4. #4
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Working in the firearms industry is an exercise in frustration. While it had its satisfying aspects, in 20 years I grew tired of corporate bean counters and mismanagement and had little saved for my efforts. I was glad to change careers into engineering project management where I could use my education, experience and knowledge for something useful where I could feel that my efforts made a difference, and more importantly, to save enough to enjoy a modest retirement.

    My prior experience in QA, logistics, material management, industrial health and safety, research, development, testing, evaluation and project management made for an easy transition to a satisfying 24-year career in public works. I experienced a variety of assignments from accident investigation, risk management, wastewater, stormwater, solid waste management, waste-to-energy production. After 9/11 the focus shifted into emergency planning, hazard mitigation, emergency protective measures, emergency response, and disaster recovery operations. I worked local, state and incidents of national significance ranging from floods and hurricanes through hazmat releases, building colllapses, explosions, highway crashes, house fires and terrorism.

    My advice is to get a technical degree in the physical sciences, mathematics or engineering with additional coursework in computer science, accounting, project management, logistics, GIS, etc and to become familiar with the government aquisition, contracting and procurement process.

    Lose the fantasy of working at your hobby for a living.

    Concentrate on getting a real job to provide a good living for your family, a satisfying work environment, with decent benefits and ability to save for a secure retirement.

    After I left the shooting industry I didn't pop- a cap for ten years. Now that shooting is again a hobby I am finally enjoying it again.
    Last edited by Outpost75; 01-19-2020 at 02:55 PM.
    The ENEMY is listening.
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  5. #5
    Boolit Mold CandyCoatedBoolits's Avatar
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    Thank you for the reply Winger,

    I am glad you brought up gunsmithing. I have looked at the curriculum for SDI and it seems to lack in ammunition related studies. In their "Program Outcomes" section it says, " [Be able to] Explain the principles of ballistics as they relate to ammunition production, and explain various procedures for making ammunition." I am just using this an example, I don't know how other programs differ.

    So in order to move this discussion away from gunsmithing, let's say my ideal job would be to work on the creation of a reloading manual. Gunsmithing school is still something I am interested in, but I don't know if that is going to get me to this.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by CandyCoatedBoolits View Post
    Thank you for the reply Winger,

    I am glad you brought up gunsmithing. I have looked at the curriculum for SDI and it seems to lack in ammunition related studies. In their "Program Outcomes" section it says, " [Be able to] Explain the principles of ballistics as they relate to ammunition production, and explain various procedures for making ammunition." I am just using this an example, I don't know how other programs differ.

    So in order to move this discussion away from gunsmithing, let's say my ideal job would be to work on the creation of a reloading manual. Gunsmithing school is still something I am interested in, but I don't know if that is going to get me to this.
    if you want to make good money, stick with an engineering degree. very few gunsmiths make much more than enough to get by on.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by CandyCoatedBoolits View Post
    let's say my ideal job would be to work on the creation of a reloading manual. .
    I wish ya all the luck in the world, but that might be a tough nut to crack.

    Just a wild guess- I'd think that doing the research/testing and putting the books together is more of an in-house sort of thing
    done by more tenured employees/machinists/engineers than something readily accessible on a entry level.

    Keep at it. Finding a job you're miserable doing is easy.

    Find a job you like & enjoy, and you'll never 'work' a day in your life.
    Last edited by Winger Ed.; 01-19-2020 at 03:07 PM.
    Everyone can learn from their mistakes.
    However; it's less painful, and cheaper to learn from the mistakes of others.

    Old age and treachery will always overcome youth, and skill.

    OK folks. Enough of this idle chit chat. This ain't no retirement home.
    EVERYONE!!
    Back to your oars. The Captain wants to waterski.

  8. #8
    Boolit Master Shawlerbrook's Avatar
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    Great advice from Outpost. Unfortunately, the future in the civilian firearms industry does not look bright.

  9. #9
    Boolit Master

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    What about the military for job considerations or even defense contractors; the larger ones? Don't know much about engineering as I was one of those bean counters everyone on here loves

  10. #10
    Boolit Master

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    I worked in the industry to a small degree many years ago. In my opinion, Outpost’s advice is absolutely spot on; I agree 100%.

    My advice would be to pour yourself into your education and get that engineering degree, then start your career and get some solid experience in your field. After 10 years if you’re still passionate about working in “the industry”, you’ll have a resume that will open a lot of doors for you, and a more developed perspective to compare a potential move against where you’re at already.

  11. #11
    Boolit Bub
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    Hey, just figured I would chime in as I am also 19 and looking for internships and such. I am a political science major focusing on American Politics and Public Law so we are going different directions, but just remember, it will all work out! Best of luck to you friend! Hopefully some day when I purchase a new firearm it will have your stamp of approval!
    Cole
    Don't let America end up like California...
    "You've got to ask yourself a question: 'do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"

    God bless America
    God bless those who fought for liberty

  12. #12
    Boolit Master


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    It seems from my perspective, that the most people in demand in the gun industry are gunsmiths that specilize in a specific area. Examples are 1911 pistolsmiths, smiths who work on .22 lr benchrest rifles, custom hunting rifles and such. These people get work from all over the USA and have a backlog. Local gunsmiths have to be a jack of all trades and a master of none.
    With an EE degree you may land a job with a company that supplies military armament or a career at a site that produces gun powder.
    I like others don't see a market in the domestic firearm industries.

  13. #13
    Boolit Grand Master Outpost75's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrWolf View Post
    What about the military for job considerations or even defense contractors; the larger ones? Don't know much about engineering as I was one of those bean counters everyone on here loves
    Military procurement is mostly politics and snake oil. Everything that then-President Eisenhower warned us about the Military-Industrial Complex is true. Accountability and consequences for actions are rare inside the beltway.

    Soon after I retired one of my VA Tech cadet company classmates who went on to command an infantry battalion was telling me how hard it had gotten since Obama's administration because most of the true war fighters were purged and most O6 and above who were left were mostly "blow dried, fake tanned, liars." He went on to say how hard it is to compete against liars. The liars always have the advantage over you. Soldiers' lives only matter when they can be used as political leverage to fund some Senator’s pet project, otherwise they are an abstraction that only a select few in the acquisition world can even fathom. The courageous ones resist the useless bureaucracy to get things done for our soldiers, who never receive an ounce of recognition but still push against the crushing weight of a system that is designed to prevent materiel from being fielded, but to "milk the cow" for the maximum amount of taxpayer money that can be gleaned through inefficiency and cost over-runs.

    Much of the grunt work is done by short-term contract employees who must job hop and move frequently with little job security. It is not much better on the military side unless you are happy being the "PM Glue Gun." All subject to the political merry-go-round and run by a corrupt and hopeless civilian bureaucracy.
    The ENEMY is listening.
    HE wants to know what YOU know.
    Keep it to yourself.

  14. #14
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cole440 View Post
    Hey, just figured I would chime in as I am also 19 and looking for internships and such. I am a political science major focusing on American Politics and Public Law so we are going different directions, but just remember, it will all work out! Best of luck to you friend! Hopefully some day when I purchase a new firearm it will have your stamp of approval!
    Cole
    About that degree..?
    Burn it or bury it and start over at Mises University in Auburn, Alabama learning Austrian Economics. After America goes bankrupt we will need a few sound monetary advocates to rebuild the banking and financial sectors.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” ~ H.L. Mencken

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    If I wanted to be involved in developing a reloading manual for a corporation, I would get a degree in Chemical Engineering, and have a long background in reloading to draw on. I would understand that the last Lyman Cast manual was developed by gunwriters, that most other manuals/handbooks are from family corporations and or large corporations that have little turnover. I expect that there may be 4 or 5 job openings every decade in the industry.
    Outpost may have said it best, in that the best way to stop enjoying your hobby is to make it your life work. I believe you would be better off with an occupation that gives you the financial freedom to hunt Africa, shoot to your hearts content and spend time with loved ones.
    [The Montana Gianni] Front sight and squeeze

  16. #16
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by wv109323 View Post
    It seems from my perspective, that the most people in demand in the gun industry are gunsmiths that specilize in a specific area. Examples are 1911 pistolsmiths, smiths who work on .22 lr benchrest rifles, custom hunting rifles and such. These people get work from all over the USA and have a backlog. Local gunsmiths have to be a jack of all trades and a master of none.
    With an EE degree you may land a job with a company that supplies military armament or a career at a site that produces gun powder.
    I like others don't see a market in the domestic firearm industries.
    I'd agree with that. The folks that I know of who have done well in gunsmithing have: 1. been at it for a long time (experience and reputation), and 2. found their niche. Finding your specialty and developing a strong reputation takes a lot of hard work, long hours, business skills, self promotion. It's a little along the lines of being a famous athlete or a successful artist; many aspire but few succeed.

  17. #17
    Boolit Grand Master



    M-Tecs's Avatar
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    Outpost is spot on. Turning an enjoyable hobby into a career normal kills the enjoyment factor.
    2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. - "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

  18. #18
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    I spent 5 years working as a catalog writer and new products rep for a major shooting supply company. Yes, it was fun as I got to meet a lot of famous people, only on the phone.

    There's work out there, just think outside the shooting aspect box. When I graduated from college my goal was to head for Grand Island and Hornady. That door never opened, not even a crack and I found myself working in an area of the industry I had not thought of.

    Ken
    Antique Reloading Tool Collector, Historian and Writer
    Newsletter editor: Antique Reloading Tool Collectors Association
    Archive manager, Antique Reloading Tool Collectors Association
    email: pressman@antiquereloadingtools.com
    www.antiquereloadingtools.com

  19. #19
    Boolit Grand Master popper's Avatar
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    Forget it! Get your degree and then look for what you want. BSEE, 45 yrs doing design I really enjoyed. Few of the lucky ones. You will probably chase around for work, expect it - Dad told me engineers keep the resume in the back pocket. So true. CS is kinda like MBA now (or a psych degree), too many to go around. Unless you can con a job at DARPA (boring).
    Whatever!

  20. #20
    Boolit Master
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    I’m with MTGianni, you want to work with powder then you want more focus on chemistry.

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Abbreviations used in Reloading

BP Bronze Point IMR Improved Military Rifle PTD Pointed
BR Bench Rest M Magnum RN Round Nose
BT Boat Tail PL Power-Lokt SP Soft Point
C Compressed Charge PR Primer SPCL Soft Point "Core-Lokt"
HP Hollow Point PSPCL Pointed Soft Point "Core Lokt" C.O.L. Cartridge Overall Length
PSP Pointed Soft Point Spz Spitzer Point SBT Spitzer Boat Tail
LRN Lead Round Nose LWC Lead Wad Cutter LSWC Lead Semi Wad Cutter
GC Gas Check