View Full Version : Basic tools for an amateur

Jeff Thomas
August 9, 1999, 11:37 PM
I've gathered quite a few things that seem to help in my limited work on firearms:
1. B Square gunsmith's screwdriver kit
2. Dental mirror for examining bores
3. Touchup marker for flat black finishes
4. Various cleaning supplies and tools (but, that's not the real focus of my question)

It sounds like a brass hammer and wooden dowel might be helpful for further sighting in excursions. What are some other basic and reasonably priced tools you've found helpful? I know if you've been working with firearms for quite a while this probably sounds like an idiotic question, but I'm still going through the process of needing things and then figuring out where to find them, often one by one.

Thanks, and regards from AZ.

4V50 Gary
August 10, 1999, 01:55 AM
Punches. Starett or Mayhew are excellant. Grace is good too. Get yourself a set. Then when you start getting into serious work, you'll get a set of roll pin punches, cup punches, brass punches.

Hammers. Besides a brass one, I've also got a rawhide and plastic mallot. Perhaps the most useful hammer is my 2 oz. Stanley ball peen. Yes, 2 oz. Use it for driving out or installing a lot of pins.

Files. Barretts, Pillars, Mill, needles. Get files with safe edges too and if they're not safe, grind them.

Arkansas Stones. Soft for trigger jobs and hard for finishing touches. If you want to get picky, use a ruby for finish. Ceramic stones are good too and I've a few.

Bench Block. Metal with hole in center. Useful for disassembly, reassembly and buy metal because in a pinch it may be used as an anvil. Short on cash? Use a solid block of oak and drill a 1/2 hole in it. Works fine for most of what you'll be doing.

Dial Calipers. Vernier works well when your eyes are young. I can't see mine and bought a dial. Digitals are expensive and can be tempermental if you're uneven with the pressure. Dials are the easiest to use by far and are very cost effective. Calipers are useful to ensure that parts are within factory specifications.

...and the list goes on.

Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt

Jim V
August 10, 1999, 08:01 AM
What 4V50 Gary said and:

A solid work bench.

Small bench vise (with jaw padding).

A good work light.

Magnafying glass (for small part inspection)

Safety glasses (handy when removing springs)

Various, well made, pliers - needle nose, ect. Don't buy the cheap $1.50 stuff.

Dremel tool, only if you know when to use one.
Vertical mill, lathe, bluing tanks, small heat treat furnace, forge. LOL :D

Manuals for your firearms.

Ne Conjuge Nobiscum
"If there be treachery, let there be jehad!"

August 10, 1999, 08:22 AM
An address book with the names and numbers of professional gunsmiths in your area!

Jeff Thomas
August 10, 1999, 09:53 AM
Gary, Jim, thanks for the ideas. And, Sport45 ... I resemble that remark. ;)

4V50 Gary
August 10, 1999, 12:48 PM
My first attempt to respond to this posting was foiled when AOA hiccoughed and I was shut out. Unfortunately, that posting was much lengthier and more detailed.

I'd like to add a few things:

Magnet. To sweep the floor for parts which disappear.

Flashlight. Lower your eyes to floor level and do a sweep with the flashlight. You'll spot metallic objects quicker than if you were standing.

Brass Jaws. For your vise to keep from marring any metal work you clamp down.

Soldering Iron. Useful if you ever get into installing front sights.

Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt

August 10, 1999, 01:12 PM
I resemble that remark too. I also like to tinker with my guns. Have this problem of thinking that I don't own anything that I can't make better. Most of the gunsmiths I have known were happy to help. Having their numbers available was invaluable. I didn't mean to insult. (I also keep numbers handy for real mechanics, plumbers, and carpenters) Good luck with your projects.

August 10, 1999, 08:49 PM
First of all a few good books, then a set of screwdrivers from Brownell's. They will send you a catalog with your order if you ask.
Then you are really into trouble!
Have Fun, Hank

George Stringer
August 10, 1999, 11:16 PM
Jeff, it really depends on what you intend to do. Gary gave you a good list. Anytime you start a new project you could post here about any special tools required or give the tech support folks at Brownells a call. (515) 623-5401. George

August 11, 1999, 11:22 AM
The first "tool" should be the Brownell's catalog. Even if you have to pay $8 for it, get it. Of course, you could always go to www.brownells.com (http://www.brownells.com) and order something and then get it free!

One book comes to mind:

Riflesmithing by Jack Mitchell. It starts out by recommending some starting tools.



James K
August 11, 1999, 02:09 PM
Brass vise jaws are needed, but a set of leather jaws will be useful when you can't take a chance of marring something.

The magnet is a good idea, but also buy one of those little extendible tools with the magnet on the end. Saves lots of getting off and getting down when you can see the part but your arms aren't long enough.

Also a well lighted area, free of junk under/in/on which little pieces can hide. Have lighting under the bench as well. If possible, your workbench should not be your reloading bench; too many boxes, dies, etc. to hide parts.


Jeff Thomas
August 11, 1999, 09:09 PM
Thanks again, very much - this is exactly what I needed. I did get a Brownell's catalog sometime back, and it is definitely a real education in and of itself. And, Sport45 - no sweat ... I wasn't taking offense - I was just kidding with you.

Regards from AZ.

James K
August 11, 1999, 10:55 PM
Actually, and kidding aside, you should know the gunsmiths in your area. Most will be helpful to an amateur/beginner knowing that they will get business eventually. They are your best source for parts and also for jobs you can't do yourself, like barrel changing.

(I have said that replacing a barrel can be done at home, but so can an appendectomy.)

A major problem today in this area is the shortage of real gunsmiths. Some are at best tinkerers, at worst destroyers. A combination of low pay, legal problems that won't allow home operations, and the rise of nationally known specialty smiths has reduced the number of smiths drastically.

If you know a good one, treasure him and reward him for his work.


P.S. If you plan on working on other people's guns for pay, check the legal aspects before starting up.


Long Path
August 12, 1999, 03:37 AM
Great post! I don't know why it took me so long to read it! I'm printing this out to take with me the next time I hit the junk shop, hardware store, or gunshow!

Re: Dremel. NO DOUBT! The things I've seen chopped off of a pistol one hour out of the box...(!)

I didn't see hemostats, for the itty bitty springs and screws...

What about Dental Probes? Very hard and very strong for their diameter...

4V50 Gary
August 12, 1999, 11:09 AM
The hard steel of dental tools is a very relevant concern which Long Path pointed out. Scratch, scratch, scratch goes the finish. I have only one which I use very sparingly. For the most part, I'll grind pieces of brass down to shape and use those as scrapers, probes, etc.

Concerning Dremel tools, I have one, but rarely use that too. Dremels are useful for stockwork when you have to remove extra bedding or dried clay. I haven't used mine for polishing as I prefer a good buffer. If you must have a power tool, a belt sander is great. You can resurface a receiver or fabricate a small part with a good belt sander.

Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt

[This message has been edited by 4V50 Gary (edited August 12, 1999).]

Jeff Thomas
August 15, 1999, 01:16 PM
Jim, if I worked on other people's firearms for pay, I should be subject to the maximum penalty! ;) No worries, mate. Just learning, step by step with my own property. Take care.