With only around 4,500 registered gunsmiths currently operating in the United States, it can be hard to find someone to service your firearm. That makes Gunsmithing an excellent career opportunity. But this is also why so many people are learning to do their own gunsmithing as a hobby, which often leads them into Gunsmithing as a profession.
They want to ensure they know how to both disassemble and reassemble their firearms and are able to detail clean a weapon themselves. Finding the right training and instructional resources is important. If you wanted to do your own work, would you know where to start and what gunsmithing tools you might need?
This article will help you understand what tools you need to get involved in gunsmithing for yourself as a hobby or even as a profession. By the end, you should understand the most common tools that you need to buy to repair, build and detail clean firearms yourself. So read on and improve your firearm knowledge.
What Are “Gunsmithing Tools” ?
The tools needed by a gunsmith are a mix of common hand tools and workshop equipment as well as specialized tools that are for tasks on specific firearms. For example, taking apart some guns is a job that you can do without any special tools, but most firearm are assembled with screws and pins, requiring metal pin punches or specially ground screwdrivers for disassembly and reassembly.
For example, a Glock is pretty simple to disassemble requiring just one size pin punch to totally disassemble the entire firearm for detail cleaning.
Types of Gunsmithing Tools
The following is a list of tools for gunsmithing that should help you get started with the hobby or profession. It is in alphabetical order, for your convenience.
Allen Key Set
While it is fun to think that these tools exist only for those who shop at Ikea, in truth they are very useful when dealing with items such as firearms. Many firearms make use of Allen key screws to either secure or tighten parts. Especially scope mounts and rings.
You should be aware, though, that there are two different standards for Allen key sizes. Metric Allen Keys and Imperial (US) Allen Keys use different sizes or standards. So, it is best to have a set of each. As a reminder, Metric keys measure in millimeters (mm), whereas Imperial keys measure in inches.
Brass “Drift” Punches
A quarter inch diameter and a half inch diameter round brass punch or piece of bar stock is an extremely useful tool for “drifting” sights, or removing stuck parts without damaging the firearm’s finish.
Caliper or Micrometer
It is very common for a gunsmith to need very accurate measurements when adjusting, repairing or modifying their firearms. For this reason, a normal dial caliper is one of the standard items in a gunsmith’s toolbox.
Getting a normal set of calipers is cheap at only around thirty to forty dollars from most stores. A good set will give you accurate readings to one-thousandth of an inch.
If you need a great deal of accuracy you may want to invest in a micrometer, a high quality one will provide you with accurate readings of as little .0001, one ten thousandth of an inch. A micrometer with this level of accuracy is seldom needed in general gun repair and one that will accurately read .001, one thousandths of an inch is more than adequate. But generally although slower to use, they provide more consistent and accurate readings.
Having very accurate readings such as from a micrometer can be very useful. For example, to measure a barrel’s thickness or the diameter of a bullet you wish to fire.
When fitting a wood stock to a rifle, or removing wood for glass bedding a chisel is one of the woodworking tools you will need.
Many instructional sites are available that can help you with woodworking. They can assist you in producing a beautiful and functional stock.
Q-Tips, or to be more accurate, cotton swaps, are one of those general tools that all gunsmiths need and everyone has. Instead of using them to clean out your ears, you can use them for many different gunsmithing purposes. Use them to clean the small areas in the weapon, or to apply grease or oil to the mechanism of the gun.
You are going to need a whole load of these, so invest in a big bag, or raid the medicine cabinet. You can always get more if you need to.
This is a standard item you will find in many gunsmiths’ repertoire. They can be extremely useful for pulling a gummed up spring out of a hole in a receiver or bolt, or for scraping away grim and grit from small hard to reach areas.
You can buy hook pick and brush sets, often called “dental picks”, from many gunsmith supply companies, or tool supply stores such as Harbor Freight. So you do not need to try and buy them from your local dentist, who may have some serious confusion of about why you are trying to buy tools and equipment from them.
There are many different types of files that you can use for different purposes during the gunsmithing process. Some files are made for wood and some are for metal. You would use some of the larger and rougher metal files for rough shaping and finishing metals parts and draw filing barrels. Common shapes are flat, round, half-round. With different coarseness’s for roughing or finishing.
Micro or “needle” files are for when performing more precise work. These small files are used to deburr barrel threads, fit smaller parts or reshape a tight area. With all files you can start off with inexpensive ones for most simple work and as you learn and are ready, then invest in high quality ones that hold a sharp edge for a long time.
When driving out pins or drifting a sight with a brass punch you will want to use a Ballpeen Hammer. It is best if you use light weight ballpeen hammers such as a four-ounce hammer. The objective is to tap out the part rather than beating the part and causing the metal to disform. Ideally a Gunsmith will have a two ounce, a four ounce and an eight-ounce ballpeen hammer in their tool set.
These are those scissor looking clamps you often see in medical shows that doctors use to stop bleeding. You may remember seeing them attached to an umbilical cord in your favorite television drama. The way they work is that their handles can clip together and hold the forceps in place.
This ability to hold onto something makes it very useful tool for a gunsmith. If you want to hook or unhook the leg or tail of a torsion spring, or otherwise manipulate small parts, a hemostat will give you a greater degree of control.
These are commonly available from many different suppliers online and at tool stores.
You want and need to be able to depend on your firearms to perform reliably, and are hopefully going to be owning and shooting them a great deal over the years, so you will want to ensure that they are well maintained. If you do not properly lubricate them between uses, they may start to rust or could be prone to jamming.
As a warning, you should NOT be using WD-40 as your primary lubricant. This product is a water and oil displacing solvent which strips out the oils and greases you should be leaving on your weapon’s parts. It is also known for running and leaking out all over the weapon and soaking into and staining the wood.
Instead, you should invest in purpose made gun oils. Many of these exist as dual-purpose cleaners and lubricants that use a solvent to clean the weapon and then leave the oil behind. This can both save you time as well as give you a safe and well-lubricated weapon. Where needed, apply the proper grease, especially on load bearing surfaces such as slide rails.
There are going to be times when you need to apply a little percussive maintenance to a firearm. Often this means drifting a sight, popping off a side plate or dislodging a stuck part. At other times it involves you tapping two parts of the weapon together.
When you do this, you should not use a regular hammer. If you do, you are likely to dent or cause damage to the finish of the weapon. Instead, you should use a softer material in the makeup of the hammer. A hard plastic or nylon head hammer is commonly used. And a Brass hammer is used where you need a bit more weight. Brass being softer that steel will not dent or mar the finish of most firearms.
Pin Punch Set
When building or repairing a firearm you will need to either insert pins into the weapon or remove them. There are three types of punches used by most Gunsmiths; steel pin punches, brass punches and roll-pin punches. A set of extra long machinist pin punches is also useful. When using a pin punch to drive out a tight pin from a receiver or other part, use a starter punch first which is a tapered pin punch to get the pin started and then use the correct size pin punch to remove it the rest of the way from the hole. Using a starter punch keep you from bending a regular punch.
Be careful not to damage the gun when you are driving out the pin, using the starter punch, follow up by the correct punch size that properly fits the hole. Get a full set so that you have the correct size when you need it.
Having a full set of properly fitting screwdrivers is imperative for being able to take apart or put together most firearms without damage. Common screwdrivers that you get at the local hardware store have a wedge shaped tip which will tend to ride up and out of the machine screw slot under pressure, thus damaging or “Buggering Up” the slot and if the tip slips, it could scratch or gouge the finish of the firearm. Gunsmithing Screwdrivers are Parallel ground or hollow-ground to properly fit the screw slots. All of the pressure of the screwdriver blade is being applied at the bottom of the screw slot. Preventing slippage and distortion.
Gunsmithing Screwdrivers are available as individual dedicated screwdrivers or as a “Multi-tip” handle with numerous different size bits.
Having a good set of tweezers saves you hours of difficult fiddling and lets you clean the firearm off a lot faster. They enable you to pick up small pieces of metal in awkward-to-reach places
There are some specialty tools that you will need to; repair, modify or build when working on some specific models of firearms. You can buy these from gunsmiths supply companies or in many cases make them yourself. A professional Gunsmithing School teaches you how.
Barrel Bushing Wrench
1911 style pistols have special bushings that hold the barrel in position in the slide. The bushings can often be very tight and hard to move or remove with only your hands. For that reason, you can buy a specific wrench for turning the bushings which is required when disassembling the pistol.
The Glock tool is simply a plastic or metal pin punch with a handle item that lets you to quickly remove the pins in the frame without having to use a hammer. The handle lets you just push out the pins.
There are Multi-tools for many firearms including the Glock that enable you to change the Glock’s sights and remove springs.
AR-15 Armorer’s Wrench
Like the above Glock multi tool, the AR-15 Armorer’s Wrench is a single tool that includes many different functions. These wrenches have slots on them that act as torque wrenches, castle nut wrenches, barrel nut wrenches, and several other tools.
There are many makes and models of the AR-15 wrench, some with more or less functionality. You should talk with an AR-15 dealer or expert about which wrenches are most useful.
Bonus: Power Tools
Most maintenance and basic repair can be done with just the above hand tools. But as an advanced hobbyist or professional you will want to employ some power tools to take on many repairs, projects, and to do customzing.
The most useful power tool for Gunsmithing is a Foredem Tool with flex shaft, foot speed controller and hand held jacobs chuck that will hold a variety of drills, cutters, grinding bits, wire brushes, polishing tools and drum sanders. They are not expensive less than $400 in total cost and worth every penny.
Other common tools in a professional Gunsmithing shop are: a belt sander, a bench grinder, and a bench size drill press. More advanced Gunsmiths will want a bench lathe and when doing barreling and custom pistol or rifle building a larger lathe and a milling machine.
Where To Learn More?
You should now know a bit more which gunsmithing tools you need to be able to get started as a hobbyist or Professional Gunsmith moving forward. You might still have questions, though, and want to know more about Gunsmithing as a profession or hobby.
Study at home video courses instructed by Master Gunsmiths are available to teach you step-by-step how to do Gunsmithing project and get started as a professional gunsmith. To get a complete information package and an introductory video lesson at no cost, all you need to do is sign up. Just request the information you need to jump-start your career as a Certified Professional Gunsmith, working part-time, full-time or as a retirement.