Five years of gunsmithing at Iowa Valley Grinnell

As the Gunsmithing Technology program at Iowa Valley Grinnell reaches its fifth graduating class, it is a good time to reflect on this one-of-a-kind program in Iowa. The program was modeled on some of the most long-term successful schools in the country – a lot of them at other community colleges. The program is designed to build the skills of a craftsperson, whether he or she intends to work for a large company, return to the military or law enforcement as armorers, reclaim and refurbish antique firearms or maintain shooting team and hunter firearms.

The Gunsmithing program has an intensive application process that includes letters of recommendation and a background check, probably one of the strictest in the country. An important part of the curriculum is learning the laws governing firearms by which everyone must abide, especially professional gunsmiths.

Another part of the curriculum is focused on small business development coursework to provide a sense of the intricacies of opening and operating a shop. The program offers a small firearms repair function as a way to provide the IVG students with a broader experience than the curriculum alone can provide. The repair function is run by the students with the supervision of faculty and helps them learn the ins and outs of a small business. It also provides hands-on experience with repairing firearms that the students might not otherwise see in the classroom.

The advisory committee for this program represents professionals from across the country, local law enforcement, Iowa manufacturing, the National Guard and respected gunsmiths. Over the years, the program space has expanded and refined with better equipment and more varied experience being offered to students. The program and the lab space is currently slated for improvement in upcoming years with a new entrance and the addition of a polishing room.

A number of the Iowa Valley Grinnell graduates have hung out a shingle in rural Iowa to ply their craft, creating small businesses for several small towns. A few of our graduates are now coming back to the campus as presenters to share their experiences with current students.

This summer, Iowa Valley will be holding the First Annual Gunsmithing Tech Reunion, so graduates can re-connect and share their experiences. Check out the Facebook page for Iowa Valley Grinnell to keep up on all the news.


MaryAnne Zanella Nickle is the Dean

at Iowa Valley Grinnell, a satellite campus of Marshalltown Community College.