View Full Version : How common is it for smiths to craft rare parts for firearms?

November 16, 2012, 12:55 PM
Okay...this may sound like a stupid question, but for all of you smiths out there, how often is it that you may not be able to find a part to repair/restore a firearm? Is it possible for you to replicate a part provided you have a good example of one for a firearm?

What is typically involved in this process? For example, let's say the bolt for a Mosin M91/30 is really hard to come by, how difficult would it be for a skilled smith to manufacture one him/herself?

I'm looking into machining and welding school and hopefully will eventually attend gunsmithing school and I know that there are some semi rare to rare firearms I'd eventually like to own that parts are a pain or close to impossible to find. If it's possible for me to make them myself, I'd imagine that would be a tremendous boon in the event something breaks.

November 16, 2012, 01:32 PM
It's possible to reproduce any part. After all, they were machined originally. The question is whether it's worth the money when it's costing you $100/hour.

The design (dimensions and allowable tolerances) and setup (possibly special tooling) is what takes the longest. The actual machining is usually a minimal part of the job.

November 16, 2012, 02:29 PM
Makes sense, ultimately I'm wondering how hard it would be to replicate the internal components, such as the bolt, BCG and what have you.

While the liklihood of me having to replace said parts is probably slim (I'll probably have to put thousands upon thousands of rounds through the rifle in order to wear it out) it would still be a good thing to know that I can at least create some replacement parts on my own, provided it's cost effective.

November 16, 2012, 02:58 PM
It really depends on the equipment you have available. With the best tools and such replicating a part is very easy. Doing it by hand the old fashion way can be much more complicated.

Here is Jay Leno talking about the replication of old car parts using a 3D laser scanner and a 3D printer. Printing parts in plastic after taking a scan of a part.

The image they make can be easily put into a CNC mill and milled out of a block of metal.

Its pretty cool technology. The laser scanner will become standard equipment for CNC machinist in this decade.

Laser scanner + CNC = replicate just about any metal part.

November 16, 2012, 03:40 PM
That's fricken incredible! Hopefully some well established smiths will eventually be using these as well. Would make those ancient firearms that are hard to repair (or impossible) functional again.

Technology, don't you love it? :D

James K
November 16, 2012, 05:17 PM
It also depends a lot on whether the part has to be functional and/or true to the original. To illustrate, a bolt could be made of steel, but use a piece of round brass for a handle. It would be functional, but not true to the original. OK to shoot, but not for a museum. Or the bolt could look perfect but be made of aluminum. It would be original looking, but not functional, though OK for a display.


November 17, 2012, 12:27 AM
Kimio, with the scanner and good milling devices one could replicate just about any part of any firearm new or old, or all the parts to build a complete firearm except the springs.

There is so much potential to this laser scanner stuff. Someone on the internet probably already has a laser scanner and is compiling a library of laser scans of individual gun parts. This way you don't need a laser scanner to get all of the information you need to mill all the parts of a 1911, you just pay them for the scans.

Its the future of machining, and the whole process is simple enough that you no longer need to be a master machinist to remake just about any part. I think it will spur on a cottage industry, as its something you could do in your garage.

November 17, 2012, 12:46 AM
It depends on the part. Pins, screws, springs, firing pins, etc are pretty easy to make and are economical for a skilled smith to make replacements.

Something like a bolt can be made, assuming the 'smith has the right tools. The cost, tho, would be pretty high at $60/hour+.

November 17, 2012, 07:41 AM
My passion is old guns. I have found fewer and fewer gunsmiths that are resourceful. Old timers can look at a part, take measurements, go to the lathe or mill and make the part. The new guys just stand there with their mouths hanging open. I'm not a smith but I have made many parts with a hacksaw, files, stones and calipers.

4V50 Gary
November 17, 2012, 08:28 AM
It's not just the fabrication but also the heat treatment (and the energy bill). Small parts can be heated with an acetelyne torch and then quenched in oil. A bolt will require an oven. You'd have to have a rich customers to help pay for it or send it out to a place that does.

Take some machine shop classes and GTAW (TIG) welding before you go to school.

November 17, 2012, 02:13 PM
That's the plan really, I want to take some classes on machining, welding and so on before I try an actual school in smithing.

I figured all this would be an expensive process, but I hope someday I'll be a skilled enough smith to be able to do this with or without machines

November 17, 2012, 06:38 PM
Generally, the answer to your question is: Avoid.

Here's why. As a gunsmith, you can either do five of a common project (let's say 1911 beavertails) to maybe *one* "project" like this.

What makes the most sense for the economic survival of your business?

Oh you'll get people requesting these projects for sure. How about a bolt for a Model 70? A $1000 part in a $700 rifle- think you'll get a yes from the customer? In my experience, as soon as you flatly tell them in multiples of hundreds what their fantasy project will cost, they stop being so nice.

How much is that CNC mill? What are the monthly payments? What is it costing you by the hour? What other projects can I run instead of this *one*?

Jim Watson
November 17, 2012, 06:46 PM
There is a lot of this sort of stuff from the other side on the gunboards.
Somebody wants a one-off and he wants it now and he wants it cheap and he cannot understand why nobody jumps up and offers to do it for him.

November 20, 2012, 05:43 PM
My experience is not getting a part replicated. The problem is finding a gunsmith who is competent to do it.

Hunter Customs
November 21, 2012, 02:19 PM
How common is it for smiths to craft rare parts for firearms?

I can't speak for all smiths but in my case I've only done it a few times.

I think the main reasons for that, is the fact that I set my shop up to build custom 1911 pistols so I don't take on a lot of other type of gunsmithing, however being in a rural area I still do some.

The cost to fabricate a part from scratch is another reason.
I have fabricated a few parts for some opsolete old rifles but most of the time the owners will decide to just make wall hangers out of them instead of paying machine time and labor.

As for heat treating that can be a concern but many old guns did not have much done in the way of heat treating.
If the old part is still with the gun you can run a hardness test on the part.

If you are lucky and the part is broke with all the pieces intact, fabricating a new part may not be that difficult, don't confuse that with not being time consuming because many times they are.

Most of the time if you have to fabricate a part the part is missing and trying to find a blue print of the parts to get measurements from is impossible.

I don't believe I would try to keep a shop open just fabricating parts for old guns.

Get yourself a copy of machinery handbook, it has a wealth of knowledge on metal working, heat treating and tempering of metals.

I wish you the best in your endeavors.

Best Regards
Bob Hunter

November 22, 2012, 09:54 AM
he wants it now and he wants it cheap

My son is a master mechanic and has a sign in his bay. I do three kinds of work. Fast, Good, And Cheap. You can have any two.

Yeah, the machines are expensive, but that's the future of machining. There's one gunsmith down the road that started 40 years ago as a traditional gunsmith. He once put a poly-choke on a shotgun for me. Nowadays, he's a high-end smith that's running a successful parts business. When he needs a part, he makes a couple of dozen, then when someone else needs a part, he's got it and can either pay his toll or go someplace else. He's built an extremely successful business and works on high end shotguns and makes parts for the parts trade.

It's all about finding a need and meeting that need.

4V50 Gary
November 22, 2012, 10:15 AM
Good point PawPaw on making a couple of dozen parts.

We had one gunsmithing student who made a spring and decided to make a spare. Then another student broke their spring. Luckily the first student gave him the spare.

November 26, 2012, 09:34 AM
If a firearm is that rare it may be better in a collection rather than being turned into a good shooter. Sure, make screws, springs, etc. for "shooters". (Maybe magazines?) But if it's really rare, restoring it to shooting condition might cost you a lot more (in collector value) than the price of the fabrication.

November 26, 2012, 09:40 PM
My gunsmith charges me $65 an hour when necessary.

November 26, 2012, 09:41 PM
My gunsmith quoted me $65 an hour when necessary for a firing pin that was bent. He then hit it with a hammer and straightened out for free.

All much more precise and professional than that sounded though.