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I started learning to smith a few years ago. The only reason I started was I couldn't afford the prices that it cost to get good work done. I have since progressed into a relatively good gunsmith. I buy tools as I need them, or can afford it. I just work on local stuff, and I don't advertise. Over the past few years I have gotten enough work to work about 30 hours a week without any advertisement or anything. People will find you if you are good enough. Word gets around, it doesn't matter if it good or bad, it gets around, trust me. I am reluctant to go full time, because if I had to smith for a living, it wouldn't be fun anymore (to me).
I feel that if you could find a nitch that very few people do, you could be very productive. I myself specialize in S&W revolvers, Beretta's, and any bolt rifle. I have just started "learning" the 1911. When I first started, I screwed up more stuff than I fixed, but that is what it took for me to learn.
I am in the same boat as you. I would love to do this full time. I know I could make a go of it. But like I stated above, if I HAVE to do it to make the house payment, I don't think I would enjoy it anymore.

As far as learning the trade? Books helped me alot. Basic smithing (triggers, repairs, etc..) is not hard to learn if you have a good mechanical mind. Custom work (checkering, barrel fitting, etc..) takes a "feel". That just comes from doing it. I don't think that it can be taught.

Bottem line is, you just have to try it and see if you are any good at it. Probably starting on your own guns. I find it hard to make people pay for my mistakes???
 
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