Practically everything you need to tackle home gunsmithing projects.
By Richard A. Mann
Some folks cringe at the very mention of home gunsmithing, but tinkering with firearms covers a variety of tasks, from cleaning a gun to restocking one. I know some shooters who only load and fire their rifles, leaving all other tasks to a gunsmith. At the other end of the spectrum are enthusiasts who like the challenge of rebarreling a rifle or putting a new finish on a gunstock.
Regardless of the difficulty of the task, every serious or casual ’smith should have at least some specialty tools on hand. Here are the ones I use regularly and consider a must for gun bugs.
Fool with rifles long enough, and you’ll eventually have to take one apart or mount a scope or some other accessory. Of course, this requires a screwdriver, but not just any one will do. Most screwdrivers are ill suited for firearms work and, in fact, can readily damage screw heads, gunstocks and finishes.
A gunsmithing screwdriver set is what’s needed. One of the best is the Wheeler Engineering 89-Piece Professional-Plus Gunsmithing Screwdriver Set from MidwayUSA. The magnetic set includes a large assortment of flat, hex and torx tips for mounting scopes; a Leupold scope base windage-screw bit; a Millett rear sight adjustment bit; Mauser stock cross bolt bit; Remington 870, 1100 and 11-87 trigger plate pin punches and numerous other specialty items. This is one of the most complete sets available.
Bench, Barrel & Gun Vise
It only takes a single instance of working on a firearm to realize the value of a good gun vise. A tabletop vise will hold rifles in place for most chores, but doing stockwork and metal work calls for a much sturdier bench vise.
Hobby gunsmiths wanting to step into the area of barrel replacement will need a barrel vise. It’s the best way to remove a rifle barrel without damaging it or the action. This may seem to be an upper-level gunsmithing activity, but replacement barrels are now available for a variety of sporting rifles. After installing the barrel, you’ll also need a hand-turn reamer for the particular caliber you choose, as well as headspace gauges.
You may never need or want to ream a rifle chamber, but you might want to ream or reface the muzzle end of a barrel. Several varieties of muzzle reamers are available for touching up a muzzle crown. A dinged crown can destroy the accuracy of any hunting gun. Muzzle reamers and refacing tools are not expensive. Check out Brownells extensive selection.
A Source for Sources
There’s no shortage of books on gunsmithing and related do-it-yourself projects. One publication that no serious gun plumber should be without is “Building Your Gunsmithing Library: An Indexed Review of Gunsmithing Books.” Available from MidwayUSA, it lists the best sources for scores of different gunsmithing projects. All contemporary gunsmithing books are covered, and each one is rated. Midway’s sourcebook also includes a master index by topic. No, this is not a “how-to” book, but it will direct you to the one you need.
Stock Bedding Tools
Glass-bedding a stock might seem complicated, but trust me: If this hillbilly can do it, you can, too. In most cases, you’ll need only three items: a Dremel tool, a barrel-bedding tool and glass-bedding kit. All are available from Brownells and MidwayUSA. The Dremel tool comes in handy when removing a large amount of stock material from the action area. The barrel-bedding tool makes opening up the barrel channel a breeze.
Most glass-bedding kits come with the necessary amount of release agent to keep the action from becoming permanently attached to the stock, but having some extra agent around is not a bad idea. Some modeling clay or Play-Doh is also handy for filling parts of the action and stock where you don’t want any of the bedding material to ooze.
Hammers & Punches
Most firearms have a pin of some sort that must be driven out when cleaning or replacing a trigger. Also when adjusting fixed sights, you have to gently tap them one way or the other.
Essentially, you’ll need three hammers: a small ball-peen hammer for pin removal; a small brass hammer for sight adjustment (the soft brass will not deform or damage metal surfaces if you miss); and a rubber mallet to help you “pop” barreled actions from stocks after they’ve been glass-bedded. You’ll also need an assortment of punches to help you remove pins and adjust sights. Steel punches are for pins, and brass or polycarbonate / fiber punches are for sights.
Along with a good selection of cleaning supplies, an assortment of sandpaper, steel wool and WD-40, these tools will help you take care of most basic home gunsmithing tasks. Throw in some patience and a reference manual, and it won’t be long until you’re a first-rate do-it-yourself gunsmith.
Reprinted from the September 2007 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine. Subscribe today to have GunHunter delivered to your home.