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Gunsmithing Tools For the Layman

DrawbarFlatsDrawbarFlats Posts: 788 Senior Member
I'm no gun expert but it would be interesting to read about the tools you folks use for general gunsmithing as well as tips of the trade. 
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Replies

  • Big Al1Big Al1 Senior Member Posts: 8,137 Senior Member
    Start with a good set of screwdrivers, some good cleaning supplies, torque wrench for scope mounting.
    Brownell's is a good source of gunsmithing books for the beginner to pro.
    Midway had some good videos.
  • JayJay Senior Member Posts: 3,960 Senior Member
    I'm definitely no gunsmith. But like many here, I love tinkering with guns and have been an armorer at work for quite a few years. I've learned a few things here and there.

    One super simple thing I can share is, hockey pucks.. Those things can come in really handy. I ordered a pack of 6 of them on Amazon for $13. You can drill different size holes in them, "machine" slots or shapes in them and they just work nicely for punching pins in and out and stuff like that. Cheap and easy to modify and a good way to tap on guns without damaging the finish.

    Over the years, I've collected some tools and definitely will collect more. Like many amateur gun tinkerers, I used to use some regular tools out of my toolbox for working on guns. There really is no place for tools like that when working on guns. A good set of screwdrivers and/or bits made for working on guns goes a long ways toward avoiding damaging screws and parts. Honestly, most of my stuff is Wheeler from Midway. Not the greatest in the world and definitely not professional stuff, but it works well for my amateur playing around. A few other tools that are really good to make part of the kit are brass, plastic and rubber faced hammers, brass and steel punches, an inch pound torque wrench for tightening scope bases, rings and other screws on guns, scope leveling tools, and a set of dental picks.

    I also have a few specialized tools, such as a couple of AR armorers wrenches, a vice block for AR uppers and a magazine well block for lowers. If changing barrels regularly is in the plans, I honestly recommend a 1/2' drive barrel nut socket rather than using an armorers wrench. But personally, I don't do it often enough and have been able to get by just fine with armorers wrenches. I did spend a good chunk more on one of them simply because the barrel nut part of the tool is FAR better than any of the cheap ones, so I'd at least go that route after having bought a cheap one first when I should have just got a nice one to start with. For barrel swapping, a good "field" and "no-go" gauge can be pretty handy for assurance that headspace is good. I have those at work, so I haven't had to buy any yet for myself. A 1/4"x2" clevis pin from the hardware store works perfectly as a pivot pin installation tool. Cheap piece for anyone who assembles AR lowers to have in the kit. A set of roll pin punches, starters and finish punches, comes in very handy, but is not mandatory. Just makes the job much easier.

    I have more than that, but that's a start.
  • zorbazorba Senior Member Posts: 24,303 Senior Member
    I'm no 'smith, but a good set of gun "punches", aka drifts is a good start. A chapman set is also very handy.
    -Zorba, "The Veiled Male"

    "If you get it and didn't work for it, someone else worked for it and didn't get it..."
  • Gene LGene L Senior Member Posts: 12,140 Senior Member
    Good advice from all.  A GOOD set of gunsmith screwdrivers is something you'll never regret.  A bit pricey, but money well spent.  And a set of hex wrenches. I had a torque driver set but I only mount scopes every couple of years or so and even then, I don't torque them down, so you might consider your needs and elect to spend your money on something used more frequently.  I have a set of punches/drift pins and use them quite often.  Along with the punches from Lyman came a hammer, one side brass the other nylon and I use it a lot as well.  Those are general to all gunsmithing (I'm not a gunsmith) and there are specific needs for specific guns that I'm not thinking of.
    Concealed carry is for protection, open carry is for attention.
  • Diver43Diver43 Senior Member Posts: 11,493 Senior Member
    Six-Gun said:
    Just remember: every tool is a hammer, except for chisels; they’re screwdrivers.
    You read the same manuals as my wife.  Shoes are the best hammers, stagger the drawers as you pull them out, they are a step stool. If you don't have a chisel, a butter knife makes a great screw driver.
    Gun tools?  All I know has already been said.
    Logistics cannot win a war, but its absence or inadequacy can cause defeat. FM100-5
  • DrawbarFlatsDrawbarFlats Posts: 788 Senior Member
    Gene L said:
    Good advice from all.  A GOOD set of gunsmith screwdrivers is something you'll never regret.  A bit pricey, but money well spent.  And a set of hex wrenches. I had a torque driver set but I only mount scopes every couple of years or so and even then, I don't torque them down, so you might consider your needs and elect to spend your money on something used more frequently.  I have a set of punches/drift pins and use them quite often.  Along with the punches from Lyman came a hammer, one side brass the other nylon and I use it a lot as well.  Those are general to all gunsmithing (I'm not a gunsmith) and there are specific needs for specific guns that I'm not thinking of.
    Thanks for the info, Gene. I have a 58 pc. Brownell's screwdriver set. Liked it WAY better than the Wheeler set I looked at. Had to pass on the Wheeler -  didn't seem to be very good quality and some of the bits had burrs and very rough looking bits not to mention it was Chinese made. Also have the Henry Grace Firearms Set as it has screwdrivers fitted for the tiny buckhorn sight adjustment screws and comes equipped with a brass drift punch and some other small punches. Definitely want to get the torque set and a good quality gun mount/rest to secure firearms while doing work. All in all I'm building up my tools and having fun doing some scope mounting and trigger replacements. Lot's to learn for sure.    
  • DrawbarFlatsDrawbarFlats Posts: 788 Senior Member
    Diver43 said:
    Six-Gun said:
    Just remember: every tool is a hammer, except for chisels; they’re screwdrivers.
     If you don't have a chisel, a butter knife makes a great screw driver.

    LOL!!! I've lost count of the times I've seen the butter knives being brought out by the In-Laws for the kids Christmas morning toy assembly. 
  • DrawbarFlatsDrawbarFlats Posts: 788 Senior Member
    Jay said:
    I'm definitely no gunsmith. But like many here, I love tinkering with guns and have been an armorer at work for quite a few years. I've learned a few things here and there.

    One super simple thing I can share is, hockey pucks.. Those things can come in really handy. I ordered a pack of 6 of them on Amazon for $13. You can drill different size holes in them, "machine" slots or shapes in them and they just work nicely for punching pins in and out and stuff like that. Cheap and easy to modify and a good way to tap on guns without damaging the finish.

    Over the years, I've collected some tools and definitely will collect more. Like many amateur gun tinkerers, I used to use some regular tools out of my toolbox for working on guns. There really is no place for tools like that when working on guns. A good set of screwdrivers and/or bits made for working on guns goes a long ways toward avoiding damaging screws and parts. Honestly, most of my stuff is Wheeler from Midway. Not the greatest in the world and definitely not professional stuff, but it works well for my amateur playing around. A few other tools that are really good to make part of the kit are brass, plastic and rubber faced hammers, brass and steel punches, an inch pound torque wrench for tightening scope bases, rings and other screws on guns, scope leveling tools, and a set of dental picks.

    I also have a few specialized tools, such as a couple of AR armorers wrenches, a vice block for AR uppers and a magazine well block for lowers. If changing barrels regularly is in the plans, I honestly recommend a 1/2' drive barrel nut socket rather than using an armorers wrench. But personally, I don't do it often enough and have been able to get by just fine with armorers wrenches. I did spend a good chunk more on one of them simply because the barrel nut part of the tool is FAR better than any of the cheap ones, so I'd at least go that route after having bought a cheap one first when I should have just got a nice one to start with. For barrel swapping, a good "field" and "no-go" gauge can be pretty handy for assurance that headspace is good. I have those at work, so I haven't had to buy any yet for myself. A 1/4"x2" clevis pin from the hardware store works perfectly as a pivot pin installation tool. Cheap piece for anyone who assembles AR lowers to have in the kit. A set of roll pin punches, starters and finish punches, comes in very handy, but is not mandatory. Just makes the job much easier.

    I have more than that, but that's a start.
    Wow, Jay! Some really good info there. Thanks. 
  • JustsomedudeJustsomedude Posts: 751 Senior Member
    My most used piece of equipment. 
  • GunNutGunNut Posts: 7,318 Senior Member
    .... and sometimes you need the BFH... 😁
    Old West Saying: God created men, but Col. Sam Colt made them equal.

    General George Patton:  “Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack.”

  • Diver43Diver43 Senior Member Posts: 11,493 Senior Member
    GunNut said:
    .... and sometimes you need the BFH... 😁
    Some people call that a boot

    For real,  Jay covered everything very well.  His skills are way above mine so I will sit back and pay attention 
    Logistics cannot win a war, but its absence or inadequacy can cause defeat. FM100-5
  • JayJay Senior Member Posts: 3,960 Senior Member
    edited October 2020 #14
    Oh, there's definitely plenty of folks here who are far more advanced and knowledgeable than I. I just mentioned a few of the things that have made things easier for me. The kit is always changing, being added to and upgraded. 

    One thing about torque wrenches, they aren't just for mounting scopes. Being able to accurately and consistently torque action screws is arguably just as important as properly mounting a scope. Taking a barreled action out of a stock to change the trigger or any other task that needs doing, then torqueing it back to the same specs on reassembly is a good thing. I also have a larger foot pound wrench for torqueing barrel nuts.

    Like I mentioned, many of my tools like screw drivers and bits and other hand tools are Wheeler. They will eventually get upgraded. I kinda have two groups of gun tools. Some for the man cave and some for the portable kit that goes to the range with me. As I upgrade tools, the old stuff goes in the traveling kit and the nicer stuff stays in the man cave.

    Some things I'd like to add to my kit as I move along; quality screwdriver set, a set of pin gauges, better measuring tools (calipers and micrometers), and at some point down the road as I start looking at retiring, a mill and a lathe... 
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,411 Senior Member
    My most used piece of equipment. 
    That's one nice looking lathe! All of my lathe work nowadays is done on a CNC lathe, but I kind of miss our ancient manual lathe. It was so old and worn it wouldn't hold much tolerance, so we gave it to the first person that would come pick it up. It wasn't worth refurbishing. And although you can use a CNC as a "manual", it just doesn't feel the same. 

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • JustsomedudeJustsomedude Posts: 751 Senior Member
    Without reading through all the previous comments, ill add a few that I feel are absolutely necessary to the list.
    A good solid mounted vice with both soft and hard jaws.
    A good punch set.
    Hollow ground screwdriver set.
    Magnetic bubble levels (make sure both are accurate with one another.
    Hammers with good control and appropriate faces.
    Armorers block.
    Wood blocks also come in handy waaaay more often than they should. 
    Compressed air.
    Acid brushes.
    I could go on all day but I have a shop filled with more than I need.
  • bullsi1911bullsi1911 Moderator Posts: 11,463 Senior Member
    GunNut said:
    .... and sometimes you need the BFH... 😁
    When building an AK you use a hammer.  The tool you want is a BIGGER hammer.

    When building an AR, you use money.  The tool you want more is MORE money!
    To make something simple is a thousand times more difficult than to make something complex.
    -Mikhail Kalashnikov
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 25,154 Senior Member
    Aside from the mundane hand tools already mentioned, my bench vice and Wheeler torque wrench (or Fix-It Sticks) are high use items. Both invaluable. 
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • MichakavMichakav Senior Member Posts: 2,856 Senior Member
    This thread is costing me money! Have most of it but held off on the Wheeler TR. Not sure why, but i just fixed it.
  • VarmintmistVarmintmist Senior Member Posts: 7,565 Senior Member
    edited October 2020 #20
    A decent set of gunsmith screwdrivers ( I have a Brownells magna tip set), a set of punches, set of roll pin punches, ball **** hammer, needle files, AR armors wrench's, AR vice blocks upper and lower, AR takedown pin installation tool, torque wrenches, sand paper wet and dry, steel wool, tung oil, pick tools
    It's boring, and your lack of creativity knows no bounds.
  • DrawbarFlatsDrawbarFlats Posts: 788 Senior Member
    Thanks for the feedback, Gentlemen. Also, any recommendations for a decent quality gun mount for the work bench? Looked at a few different brands here in town but both seemed a bit chintzy. 
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 25,154 Senior Member
    What is a gun mount?
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • LinefinderLinefinder Moderator Posts: 7,411 Senior Member
    Zee said:
    What is a gun mount?
    Gun vise, I would assume. I have a really good one. but I'll have to go check it to see who made it. It was semi-custom, so no telling if they're still in business.

    Mike
    "Walking away seems to be a lost art form."
    N454casull
  • ilove22silove22s Senior Member Posts: 1,452 Senior Member
    start with a hammer.  Dont make a difference on what type.

    but once you start using the hammer you should get a good idea really fast that you need something else.  If not, then the hammer is just right for you.


    The ears never lie.

    - Don Burt
  • knitepoetknitepoet Senior Member Posts: 21,823 Senior Member
    edited October 2020 #25
    This might sound like a smart-*** answer, but in all honestly, it's what I use most. A credit card with a LOW balance and a high credit limit.
    I don't have the needed skills and buying all the needed tools are just a BUNCH of things I'll have to find a place for that I can't use.

    I can and will do minor stuff. Up to building AR lowers or swapping a barrel on one, bedding a stock, etc. otherwise, I pay someone who knows what they're doing to do it.


    Edited to add one of my FAVORITE Dirt Harry Quotes, "A man's gotta know his limitations"
    Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates, Rule #37: There is no “overkill”. There is only “open fire” and “I need to reload”.


  • bullsi1911bullsi1911 Moderator Posts: 11,463 Senior Member
    One thing to notice- out of novices, experienced tinkerers, and actual professional gunsmiths not one person said to get a Dremel.

    take that to heart.  Do not use a Dremel for Gunsmithing.  
    To make something simple is a thousand times more difficult than to make something complex.
    -Mikhail Kalashnikov
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 25,154 Senior Member
    Oh, I’ve used one. Just not often. Mostly for polishing a ramp or sharp edge and routing out a stock a little. 
    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • JaphyJaphy Posts: 123 Member
    Reading this forum usually gives me serious gun envy (GunNut) Then I see Dude’s setup and I have serious shop envy. If it’s not one thing it’s another. 
  • BigslugBigslug Senior Member Posts: 8,561 Senior Member
    Good screwdrivers.

    Punches:  Short, stiff starter ones that are less likely to bend and break; longer ones to finish the job; brass ones for non-marring, and chunks of Delrin rod for bashing on tight dovetail sights.

    ROLL PIN punches and starter punches.  Long and short versions for same reasons as above.

    Two Glock armorer's tools - one with a hole drilled in the handle so it can permanently live on on a QD ring with the rest of your keys.

    Counter to Bullsi, a Dremel is a useful thing, but it's one of those limited application/extreme caution, choose your bits and application carefully kind of things.

    FILES:  You'll need different sizes, shapes, coarsenesses, and smooth-on-one-side versions.

    Much beyond that, you're into specialty tools for working on specific guns, heavy lathes and mills for making things, and heat-treat kilns. 
    WWJMBD?

    "Nothing is safe from stupid." - Zee
  • ZeeZee Senior Member Posts: 25,154 Senior Member
    edited October 2020 #30
    Zee said:
    What is a gun mount?
    Gun vise, I would assume. I have a really good one. but I'll have to go check it to see who made it. It was semi-custom, so no telling if they're still in business.

    Mike
    In that case, I’d recommend he get the biggest bench mounted vice he can afford that fits the practical use of clamping barrel blocks, receiver blocks, holding rifles for cleaning and other general vice work. As mentioned earlier, soft and hard jaw clamps are a must in my book. 
    I use my vice ALL THE TIME and wish I had a bigger one. 😢

    "To Hell with efficiency, it's performance we want!" - Elmer Keith
  • JustsomedudeJustsomedude Posts: 751 Senior Member
    I dont think people realize just how important a good, solid mounted vice is. Theres guns that id never get the sights off of without having it secured solid in a pair of soft jaws. And there's sights that are actually too tight for my sight pusher and require sharp blows from a hammer and shop made aluminum punch.
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