Laser Engraving on Firearms & Tactical Weapons


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Lisa Tomlinsin is, according to Garden & Gun, one of the country’s best gun engravers. She notes, ​​“engraving is a way of showing [a person’s] love of a particular rifle or shotgun. Even people who aren’t interested in guns or knives are enthralled by these embellishments, and the fact that they exist on an item like a rifle just adds to the intrigue.”

Working by hand, it’s a labor of love, time intensive, expensive, and likely out of reach for a lot of firearm owners. But, it doesn’t have to be. Smaller tactical and firearm stores can offer the same service, providing similar value and personalization, to their customers with laser engraving.

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What is Gun Engraving?

Gun engraving is the process of creating deep markings on various parts of a gun with either mechanical or laser engraving. Both gun manufacturers and owners need the process but for very different reasons.

Gun manufacturers must meet strict regulatory standards when it comes to gun serialization and clip marks or other tracing mechanisms. Gun owners, in contrast, want to personalize and decorate their guns with everything from mottos to logos and original artwork.

In fact, engraving has become big business in both the manufacturing and retail markets. Further, the firearms industry has found laser engraving technology to be the best solution for the decoration and identification of guns.

A Brief History of Gun Engraving

However, gun engraving didn’t start with the need to trace, it started with the desire to personalize. In fact, gun engraving follows a long history of engraving other weapons. Gun engraving may even date all the way back to the 14th century when they first make their appearance. Then, in the 16th century, artistic efforts in marking firearms began to advance greatly. In fact, even before firearms were mass produced gunsmiths were decorating and engraving the locks, barrels, and other hardware.

Then, when Whitney and Colt began manufacturing guns, they engraved their guns with scenes such as stagecoach holdups and naval battles. By the 20th century, engraving requests declined until just after WWII when the art form flourished again, with Smith & Wesson and Colt bringing back personalized and custom-produced firearms.

Today, gun owners continue to want pieces with artistic flair so engravers are turning to laser engraving systems to apply the decoration with increasing skill and precision. And, nearly everyone is in on the craft. Users of laser systems for gun engraving include large firearms manufacturers as well as smaller firearms retailers and dealers, gun ranges, gun shows and some jewelers and private businesses.

How Are Firearms Engraved?

Technological advancements have improved the functionality and capabilities of laser marking and laser engraving systems for the firearms industry. In particular, we have been witnessing a growth of firearm customization that closely parallels the customization techniques used for fine jewelry.

While there are other firearm engraving methods in use, including hand engraving by hand, many are labor intensive, difficult, and therefore more costly. In fact, today’s firearms engravers have a variety of technologies to choose from, such as chemical etching, traditional CNC machining, stamping, pen stamping and others.

However, no method can match laser engraving for quality, versatility and “stunning effects” with none of the disadvantages of tool wear and breakage. There is no faster or more cost-effective process than laser engraving for firearms.

firearm with manufacturing infoTop Reasons for Gun Engraving

One of the most important reasons for gun engraving is that it’s required by the federal government and ATF for tracking purposes. In fact, they’re pretty clear and specific about the regulations for what information must be engraved on any firearm including: 

  • Caliber or gauge
  • Name of the manufacturer or importer
  • Model (if such designation has been made) 
  • City and state of the manufacturer or importer
  • Imported firearms must include the name of the country where it was manufactured

It is important when selecting a laser engraving system for marking firearms to make sure it meets the ATF Guidelines for depth and size requirements. Selecting the wrong configuration can be a costly mistake.

The manufacturing industry, including firearm manufacturers, are turning to laser marking barcodes and 2D matrix markings to provide tracking data on their manufactured parts. 2D part marking has become increasingly popular not only to reduce cost and improve quality, but also to meet many industry standards and government regulations.

However, beyond the regulatory requirements, there are a lot of great reasons to engrave a personal firearm. In fact, one of the best reasons is that there’s reason to believe an engraved gun, with identifiable work, is less likely to be stolen as it’s got less value on a black market. So, as a safety mechanism, engraving could be a good way to go.

This means personalizing the firearm with a name, a number, initials or more. And, there’s nothing that says those personalizations can’t also be decorative.

If we speculate about the rise in personalization post WWII one might suspect that the desire to decorate had quite a bit to do with the “relationship” an owner builds with their firearm, particularly if that firearm saved their lives. And, what if it protects your family? Helps put food on your table? One great reason to have your gun engraved is to honor the way that it serves the owner and how it is, in some ways, a part of them.

One of the most unique takes on trophy hunting is to place a picture of your customer’s prize buck or elk along with the time and date directly onto your gun’s receiver. Or consider a competitive shooting trophy, laser marked or laser engraved directly onto the weapon.

In short, there are quite a few very strong reasons to have a firearm engraved, the least of which is purely for decorative purposes, though some of the artwork being done these days is nothing short of amazing. 

Webinar Graphics (firearms & tactical)-01Why Tactical and Firearm Stores Should Offer Gun Engraving

Perhaps the simplest reason is that not only do customers want their firearms personalized and engraved, but they’ll pay for it.

On top of that, all customization starts with a conversation. While one could argue that all sales start with a conversation, customization can get even more personal. The bottom line is that it’s a relationship building opportunity. The customization, the design, it has a reason. The firearm may come with a story itself.  Sharing those kinds of stories builds relationships and those relationships can become referrals.

Services like custom gun engraving have a great return on investment for those reasons. They also honor the owner, firearm history, and craftsmanship. It’s a way to stretch creative muscles, increase value, and attract customers who seek the same. 

With the precision of a laser engraving and marking machine, you can improve your services and grow your business. At LaserStar, we get that it’s an investment, and a big one. That’s why we also invest in you with our proprietary (and easy to use) software and unparalleled customer support and training. 

And it’s not just firearms, we’ll be posting more soon on other tactical gear and the amazing custom work our laser engravers and proprietary design software can help you create. Keep an eye out!

In the meantime, you can visit our Firearms Engraving Applications library which provides a sampling of what you can create with your imagination and the proper laser engraving system.

To learn more about laser engraving on firearms and tactical weapons, contact LaserStar today


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