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Tools for Gunsmithing?

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing' started by ejohnson, Mar 22, 2010.

  1. ejohnson


    Nov 14, 2007
    I have finally managed to get into a couple of the NRA gunsmith classes at Montgomery College. Many thanks need to go to my family for supporting this. Anyway, the budget is still a concern so I thought I would ask folks on a couple of different forums for opinions.

    In my experience, tools fall into one of three categories:
    One: Complete junk. With lots of cursing and a little luck, you might get through one job…
    Two: Meh. Will hold up for a couple of jobs, but may still involve cursing. Great for beating on, using torque multipliers, cutting into custom shapes, etc…
    Three: Good stuff. These get the job done every time.
    Four: Masterworks. These are a pleasure to work with, but at the cost of a second mortgage.

    So, with that in mind I am looking for the following stuff in the second or preferably third group and ideas on good places to buy them.

    Drill Bit set: I need a complete 115 piece “three way” set. I am clueless on this one; I usually just sharpen up sometime from the box… so it is obviously something I really need!

    Dial Caliper and micrometer: OK, I have never owned either one, so I am clueless on these as well. I suspect the ones at Harbor Freight are not up to the job, but a top of the line is not in the budget.

    Screw driver set: I am leaning toward a Chapman set (8900 Gunsmithing) to get me started. I know a bit type set will have some “reach” problems, but I figure I can back fill with Grace style drivers as I need them. What do you guys think?

    Punch Set, with Cup tips: The required tool list includes these from Brownells (080-000-645). They seem like a necessary tool for certain firearms, but they are pricy for a full set and I don’t know how often I would use them. Can anybody tell me which firearms need these? Are there any other (cheaper) place to buy them from?

    Files: What do folks think is a good cut to go with that is between a bastard and a stone? I can’t find anything other then bastard files locally to “finger” test. Is “smooth” to fine?

    Norten stones: Where to get…

    Lath and Mill bits: Where to get…

  2. eisman

    eisman ARGH! CLM

    Jul 28, 2002
    Moving Target
    Okay, I'll chime in.

    Drill bits: sooner or later you find you use maybe 10 sizes for 90% of the work. Buy them in packs of 10.

    Buy GOOD measuring tools! Always! Starrett or Mitoyo or something comparable. You're in a technical field where 0.001" can cause injury to you or your customer, you cannot afford to have tools that cannot measure reliably to this standard. The best tools in the world will still make **** if the measurement's wrong.

    Screwdrivers: Forget the Chapman. Buy the Brownells. You can always add more bits, and you can buy extras to grind to the sizes you need. Then go out and buy 3-4 dozen Craftsman (or similar) and grind the bits to the sizes you need. If you can't grind a screwdriver you're in the wrong business. Every good gunsmith I know (a fair number) makes his own turnscrews. You want to get ones with a square shaft so you can add torque if you need to. You need both solid and replacable bits. (Note: I find that I prefer all my handles to be the same size (a point I've made to Grace multiple times). Find a size that works for you and try to stay with it.)

    Make your own punches. Steel, brass, copper, nylon, etc.

    Files: You need to learn files. Other than screwdrivers files are your most used tools. You'll need 50-100.

    You really need to find an industrial supplier (MSC, Garrett, etc) and quit trying to get what you need at Lowes. Get your stones and cutting tools at the same place. You also want to find somebody locally who'll sharpen and customize your cutters.

  3. Whats a good list of tools for working on Glocks?
  4. Get the best stuff you can afford.

    For precesion tools a less expensive brand is Fowler or SGI
    I am afried in this area the best is the most expensive. I have aquired tools over twenty years and have top line and made in china cheapies.
    Guess what they work.
    Now I am going to dissagree with eisman you can get some tools from Lowes
    ,hammerers, pilers etc.
    I use MSC for my machine shop stuff. Also use Grizzly and Smithy as I have both machines.

    I use screwdrivers from Grace,Foster, and a set from Midway and Brownells that are interchangeable bits drivers.
    Also use on Kobolt four way from Lowes and one my wife bought me from I don't know where.
    I use pin punches and screwdrivers from Northan Hydro.

    And tools purchased from jewlery supply houses. I can send you some links if you want.
    Purchased and used tools from Microtools and yes Harbour Freight. In fact I just picked up a little air compessor there for airbrush use. I found a finish sprayer that will work for $14.00.

    And I have a drawer full of files and Know how to use them. Certifed toolmaker and graduated from Trinidad State Junior college with a AAS in gunsmithing.
    Oh if you an'it noticed I can't spell very well , either.
    Here is a thought purchase a begainnier set from Brownells and buy you a set of Stareet pin punches.
    For the special dimple punches a Craftsman pin punch and a moto-tool and a carbide bit . Presto.
    And learn to grind your own bits as eisman said.
    You can make punches froom tool steel and heat treating them your self.

    For a full shop with a small 3-in-1 mill and a 12-36 Grizzly lathe and welders and tools I don't know how much $ 45,000
    Remeber started from nothing and collected tools and jigs for twenty years.
    YOu have to start somewhere.
  5. Replied to questions in your quote.
  6. [​IMG]

    Seriously, there's no other tool you'll "need" to work on any Glock.
  7. Good I ordered one last time I was at the gunshop.
  8. harleyfx69


    Jan 25, 2007
    in a desert
    get the best screwdrivers you can afford in the sizes youll work on most,

    go to sears and get the basic craftsman punch set,

    youll break the smaller ones,

    if you break the larger ones your doing something wrong,

    get a nice brass hammer to go with it,

    get a roll of electrical tape to mask off the punches if your tapping something fine,

    dont get normal drill bits,

    i would imagine you need special tap and die set along with good drill bits for gunsmithing,

    i prefer digital calipers,

    and the harbor freight ones work fine,

    get a backup if your really worried, along with an extra battery,

    brownells is expensive, but they are worth it
  9. Brian Lee

    Brian Lee Drop those nuts

    Jul 28, 2008
    Up a tree.
    I prefer micrometers over calipers any day.

    Maybe this is not the way most gunsmith's work, but as a toolmaker, I like to have a surface plate, gauge blocks, dial indicators and all the normal machinist tools for measuring height off the plate, plus a milling machine, lath and surface grinder & a grinder vice for holding things squarely. I have often used ALL of that stuff doing gunsmithing for myself, and in my experience, working like a toolmaker would do things, makes it easy to do a better job than most gunsmiths do. Guns are manufactured in a machine shop environment, and IMO too much work done with files & by eye, just screws up a gun. The proper "machine shop style" approach & tools makes your workmanship look like a factory job instead of a lousy hand job.
  10. Before this gets onto a gunsmithing as a fine art vs gunsmithing as not fine art.
    To the OP buy the beat tools you can and don't practice on somebodies prize Purdy.
    To the toolmakers/machinist I here you and agree.
    To everybody else keep posting, this is a free Internet and you may learn something.
    Just a word about tools especially drill bits. Come on fellas it's a drill bit.
    Sure cheap bits don't last but it is not the tool but the user.
    In my defense of this, John Moses Browning was trained as a blacksmith and have you ever seen his 30mm auto cannon it looked like it was made by a blacksmith:)
    Ok flame away debate is good.
  11. luscioman


    Mar 3, 2005
    You may want a rear sight tool also. I have used the MGW and it works great. However many people just use a nylon or brass punch. If you use a nylon punch you can get maybe 2 or 3 sights per punch.
  12. boyscoutG36

    boyscoutG36 Armorer

    Apr 29, 2003
    Colorful Colorado
    I get most of my hand tools from Brownells or Sears. All of the specialty stuff I've ever needed Brownells had at a fair price. Harbor Freight is good for some things, blasters and spray equipment, some drill bits, some files, but for the most part I'm very selective about what I buy from them. Drill bits and taps are only as good as the cutting oil you use, buy good oil and chemicals. I like the Spyderco ceramic stones, they cut with water and clean up really well. Mine have held up much better than any other stones I've used. Nichols files are almost always great, for special cuts and angles I order from Brownells. Hope this helps.