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Old November 14, 2011, 10:35 AM   #1
Mikey the Barbarian
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Learning Gunsmithing

Hello, everyone. I am in the early stages of preparing myself to learn basic gunsmithing, and have (more than) a few questions. So far, it seems that the deeper I delve into the art/science/pursuit/profession, the more there is to delve into, and the deeper it gets. So, I'm confused... not that I mind being confused, confusion has always been a good starting point for the learning process for me.

Mostly, I don't want to make any (or at least too many) stupid mistakes, and need to develop good knowledge and skills early on, so I'm casting my plaintive request for advice upon the forum.

I've been scouring Brownell's, Cabella's, various manufacturers' web sites and catalogs for tools and supplies information, and lurking here and on other forums for actual information, but I think it's time to take the plunge. So, if any of you have advice for a novice gunsmith, I (and I'm certain others) would love to hear from you. I apologize if this subject has been covered in existing threads, but I couldn't find it if it has been.

Any help is appreciated.
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Old November 14, 2011, 06:47 PM   #2
Scout Rifle Man
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I suggest you go to a good school or fiend a very good gunsmith to apprentice with. Trying to do it just from book or online will only get you into trouble.
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Old November 14, 2011, 08:42 PM   #3
SIGSHR
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First thing is to realize what you you can and CANNOT do with basic tools, a basic work area, etc. Disassembly, reassembly, changing parts, springs, etc. mounting a scope are all within the capabilities of the advanced hobbyist who can follow directions carefully, is patient, is willing to invest in manuals and tools. Installing a barrel, crowning it, setting headspace, re-bluing, any kind of major machine work requires a really professional investment.
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Old November 15, 2011, 12:31 PM   #4
cappaletti
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there are several really good gunsmithing schools (Colorado School of Trades, Trinidad Junior College, Yavapai Community College, Montgomery County Community College, Piedmont Community College, Pennsylvania Gunsmith School, etc.)...hands on is MUCH better than on-line/correspondence..on-line will teach u basic theory and that's about it..machining skills are required in this trade. Basic tools (a must) would be a COMPLETE set of gunsmith (hollow ground) screwdrivers, a really good set of punches and a nylon/brass head hammer. Those would be the absolute basics...good luck!
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Old November 15, 2011, 12:52 PM   #5
Chaz88
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Quote:
Colorado School of Trades, Trinidad Junior College
Looked into going to some of their summer courses. Looked like a good program. I might still go someday, when time and money allow.

Just a note: Every practicing gunsmith I have talked to says that they wasted their time and money with the correspondence courses then went to school or an apprenticeship. They say the hands on instruction is critical.
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Old November 15, 2011, 02:41 PM   #6
James K
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This subject has been covered and discussed time and time again on this and other sites. Please do a search to find those threads and read them. I think most of your questions have been answered, often a number of times.

One thing that stands out in all that discussion. It is not enough to own a couple of files, a screwdriver set and an FFL!

Jim
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Old November 15, 2011, 04:07 PM   #7
tobnpr
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Just as a means to an end (knowledge), I'm fairly tight with the owner of my LGS, he has a smith on payroll and I was thinking of offering to help in my spare time for no $$$...kind of an "internship" if you will. There are just no local schools with courses available.

I've done the usual beginner "stuff" (re-stocking, bedding/pillar installs, cut/recrown barrels, trigger swaps, etc.) that can be done by hand without machinery. I'd love to learn how to run a lathe and mill...

I find the work enjoyable (most of the time...) and consider it a hobby. Gets my mind off business for a while.

Good luck.
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Old November 15, 2011, 05:13 PM   #8
Don P
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Hammer, screw drivers, 2 pliers, assortment of punches and most importantly a DREMIL with all the bits.
Also remember that you will need a boat load of money so the when you screw up customers guns you will be able to replace them instead of getting shot.
Kitchen table gunsmiths are fine as long as you are working exclusively on your own crap. You screw it up you own it you pay to replace your own crap after screwing it up.
This reminds me of the shade tree mechanic taking his/her vehicle to the repair shop after screwing things up in the old driveway and wondering why the repair bill is so much. Ya gatta pay the man to fix your un-mechanical skills.
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Old November 15, 2011, 07:41 PM   #9
SIGSHR
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I haven't seen any of the correspondence courses or videos, I DO recommend the Kuhnhausen manuals. I think gunsmithing-or "johnsmithing" as may be-is a lot like cooking, baking,-or woodworking. You start small and simple, read the directions until you have practically memorized them, set up your work area and get started. A Great Rule is have plenty of small parts and spares on hand BEFORE you start-springs, e.g.
You might see what's on YouTube. I am a fan of the traditional English 3 Speed with the Sturmey-Archer hub, I found an an excellent video showing its disassembly and reassembly.
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Old November 16, 2011, 06:06 PM   #10
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Hmmm. If you needed heart surgery, would you want it performed by a guy who watched a video?

Jim
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Old November 26, 2011, 08:21 PM   #11
Asgardnz
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Many years ago I spent thousands going to a couple of gunsmithing schools. Their courses were not very good, but did give me a perspective on what I needed to be a gunsmith.
Most importantly- learn how to use machine tools and welding equipment seperately before learning any gunsmithing. There are all sorts of skills from general machining/welding you may not get at a gunsmithing school.
Acquire a lot of books including old ones on gunsmithing and stripping and assembling guns.
Get the catalogues from gunsmithing suppliers. There you will find the special tools and jigs needed for specialised work as well as ideas for working on actions.
Buy junk guns at shows to work on first. The more you pull apart the more design issues/faults you can recognize. You will see where parts have worn and caused failures or where the gun has been butchered. The most valuable experience I had at gunsmithing school was in stripping down completely 40 handguns. I now own about 180 handguns, so when someone complains about a problem with their handgun I've usually had experience with my own.
I also bought Chinn's book on automatic mechanisms- now available on disc as well as the series The worlds fighting shotguns, submachineguns.....as I like to play with automatic weapons. I also collect military firearm manuals.
Be prepared to use ideas and parts from other sources. I used to strip photocopiers and computer printers for round metal stock and spring material. I designed a simplified Mac10 select fire mechanism based on ideas I got from photocopier mechanisms. Disposable cigarette lighters are a good source of small springs for extractors. I used to strip old American typewriters for spare screws.....
I never got good machining skills, so I tend to build simple guns, most often using milled and folded parts with a few turned pins. my favorite rifle is an Australian Automatic Arms .223 semi auto I have- repairable in my home workshop as its made of sheet metal. On Youtube somewhere is a video of an Uzi semi auto pistol I machined up a drop in open bolt full auto conversion for. And they said it couldn't be done! It's firing blanks for a film job. All parts made on a small mill/drill machine.
I do not have a talent for machining and refinishing/polishing guns bores me silly, so I will never be an all round gunsmith. My skills and passion is for mechanisms and an eye for parts that are bent, worn, badly designed or otherwise out of true. I once bought a revolver from a pistol club very cheap as its cylinder kept jamming. A local respected gunsmith could not fix it. Once I got it, I first dissassembled the cylinder, as that's the easy part. As I laid the parts out I noticed the cylinder pin roll thump, thump accross the table. It was bent- a quick straighten, reassemble and I had a perfectly functioning revolver for $75 that was worth $300.
Don't fear specialising in a particular area of gunsmithing if you are good at it. In the early 80's I worked at Pachmayrs in LA. My job consisted of fitting beavertail grip safeties, barrels, bushings and slides on 1911s. I did nothing else...actually I lie, I did fall in love with 1911s!
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Old November 27, 2011, 10:19 AM   #12
Mikey the Barbarian
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Asgardnz, thanks for the response. I have done work in machine shops, but really only have basic familiarity with the various tools and machines. Repairing cameras in ages past (the old mechanical kind, this was before the digital era) has given me some insight into the workings of mechanisms, the fitting together of subsystems within the overall machine, and so forth. I'm 61 years old, so it's not like I'm gonna set the world on fire with my 'leet gunsmithing skillz. I just want to, as you say, learn what I might be good at (and that ain't woodwork, believe me) and concentrate on that aspect of things.

I've done much of what you've suggested, including beginning a collection of the guns I'm familiar with and interested in, and most of them didn't work at all. Slowly breaking them down, it becomes fairly clear what the malfunctions are, and a good many "unrepairable" firearms are working just fine now. Others are used as a source for parts, or are broken apart for study. It's been fascinating so far, interesting, educational, nerve-wracking and mostly entertaining.

I will never be a real gunsmith, but I can learn a few things. Above all, I want to be able to take care of the guns I own, and those of friends and family.
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