The Art of Gun Engraving

Art of Gun Engraving,

Have you ever seen a beautifully engraved design on a gun?

Gunsmiths who engrave guns are also artists, often spending hours sketching designs on paper before engraving the gun. Here’s a look at some of the different engraving styles. Engraving can be done completely by hand or using high-tech, modern computerized engraving.

For many years, guns have been engraved to add elegance, personalization, and style. In the US, engraving seems to have arrived just before the start of the Civil War.

Engraving is not always decorative. There are specialty engravers that provide laser engraving to customers in many industries, including the firearms industry. These engravers produce FFL laser engraving for National Firearms Act guns, including important serial and ownership information according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives standards.

Examples of Different Styles of Engraving

  • Hand Engraving

This original method of engraving is still frequently used today. Hand engraving uses hand-powered tools to create amazing designs that are often considered works of art.

  • Roll Engraving

This interesting form of engraving involves engraving a reverse image on a steel plate. The plate is then rolled over the surface of the part of the gun being engraved.

  • Sculpted-Roll Engraving

Sophisticated multi-dimensional rolls give a hand-engraved look to the engraving. Sometimes the embellishing of truly exquisite firearms includes what is known as hand chasing of the engraving.

  • Laser Engraving

Laser engraving is used for the firearms industry to engrave serial numbers and ownership information. It is a legal requirement if you’re the owner of a Class 3 or Title II gun to have your ownership information permanently engraved on your firearm. The ATF has additional compliance rules and requirements.

  • Commemorative Engraving

If you want a particular inscription, 2D or 3D engravings are often used. Commemorative engravings on firearms are popular for anniversaries, special occasions, or retirements.

  • 3D Graphics

Although 3D graphics can be used on most areas of the gun, this type of engraving is especially striking on slides and mag wells. The extreme level of detail results in impressive images.

  • Acid Etched Engraving

All of the metal parts of the firearm are protected from the acid except for the lines to be engraved. Etching acid is then used on the pattern lines to be engraved, and the metal on that part dissolves slightly. Once the area is cleaned, the result is a beautiful engraving.

  • Scrollwork – This is the most popular type of engraving. It has four different classes reflecting how much of the gun is engraved:
    • Master Class – 100% of the gun is engraved.
    • Class A – 75% of the gun is engraved.
    • Class B – 50% of each part of the gun is engraved.
    • Class C – 25% of each part of the gun is engraved.

Gunsmithing Artisans and Artists

Many engravers come up with their own artistic designs and are often small, independent business owners. There are also contract laser engraving companies that serve industries such as aerospace, the military, transportation, medical, and electronics in addition to the firearms industry.

Interested in engraving and other modifications, repairs, embellishments, or maintenance for your firearm? Contact Jacksonville Gunsmith or visit us online at for more information.