Gun smithing is a serious hobby that manages to last, in most cases, an entire lifetime. Some amateur gunsmiths take the step further and make a profession out of it too. No matter which path you will eventually take, you’re probably already aware that in order to follow this pursuit properly, you will need lots and lots of various tools and gun parts. Each new addition to your collection enables you to take on more and more types of operations and gun modifications and so on. We’ve put together this ultimate list of the top 15 inexpensive gunsmithing tools you must have. Start your journey as a gunsmith with these and then work your way up; there is never such thing as too many tools and gadgets for gunsmithing!
A. Basic Gunsmithing Tools
This is a list of the basic tools each gunsmith needs in their journey to become more and more specialized. Some of them may be parts of starter kits for gunsmith or course materials, but it’s still best to buy a proper tool individually, in order to make sure you get a really high quality one.
1. Gunsmithing Vise
You can think of a gunsmithing vise as being more or less the gunsmith’s third arm. A vise holds the gun you’re working on in place firmly, so you can work on it well without being distracted by any slight movements or slips (which would be not only annoying, but also pretty dangerous). To be able to do your work easily, you need to look for a vise that has a swivel base, since that allows the gun to be repositioned from time to time. If you can’t reposition it, then you would have to move around the gun as you work on it (reposition yourself instead), and some angles could prove to be difficult.
Another thing you should look for in vises is to make sure you pick one with removable jaws (to further increase flexibility). From time to time, these jaws can become misaligned, and that’s precisely why you need them to be removable, so you can fix the issue easier. Since these jaws are very hard (steel, usually), you will also need to buy jaw protectors (made from wood or rubber) in order to prevent any damage to your gun.
2. Brass Hammer
This hammer will be one of the tools you use most once you have the gun all set in the vise. Refrain from using a traditional steel hammer (this is a mistake made by many beginners), since it is much harder and can damage the gun if you accidentally hit the gun directly instead of the pins you would normally be aiming for. It’s better to invest in a brass hammer because of its softer composition; even the most experienced gunsmiths can miss. We personally like this model from Lyman, it’s effective but cheap enough to qualify as one of the inexpensive gunsmithing tools you must have.
The tweezers you will use to remove small parts from you gun or screw them together and so on must be of surgical precision and quality, as well as to be able to magnify your sight. A good option is either a single tweezer with a magnifier attached, like this Szco piece, or, even better, a set of tweezer with a firm grip, especially designed for gunsmithing (like this 3-piece diamond grip set). Most gun tool suppliers have their own range of tweezers on offer, so you can rest assured that you should be able to find at least a pair within their offer.
4. Parallel Jaw Pliers
Jaw pliers are essential in all of the gunsmithing you will do from now on. They are used for maneuvering small pins and parts into hard to reach areas inside the gun you are working on. Don’t be tempted to go for a regular pair of pliers, since you may have stability issues as you squeeze their handles. The advantage of parallel pliers is that their jaws really remain parallel no matter how wide they open. You can opt for a cheaper model like this one offered by Szco, or you can spend a bit more on a set from a more reputable manufacturer like UJ Ramelson.
5. Metal Punch
You may have seen metal punches already in class (if you attended any gunsmithing courses), or in the offer of various gun tool suppliers. A metal punch is used to mark the place where you will drill a hole in the gun, so you can do all the work with precision afterwards. A good metal punch not only marks the place with an impression you can then easily see and follow, but it also prepares the gun’s metal for being drilled neatly. Choose a basic metal punch set from a big supplier, or opt for a multi-tool. You can always continue to expand your range of metal punches with a new set (choose a brass one, for the same reasons as the hammer).
6. Gunsmithing Stones
Gunsmithing tools are made of special soft but abrasive materials and used by gunsmiths to file away the rough or sharp edges of various other small parts. All such stones are ceramic or man-made in one way or another, and their value is given by how precise they can cut and polish at the same time. Some gunsmithing stones require water or another lubricant to do their job, while others can be used dry. We would opt for the latter category. Our favorite pack is this Spyderco 4-piece ceramic set in leather.
7. Surgical tubing (quasi-optional, but recommended)
While most tool suppliers won’t offer surgical tubing in their stores, seasoned gunsmiths always recommend its use. In the absence of this powerful but delicate threading, you may find it hard to hold a gun stock in place while you work on the gun. Sure, you can always use a metal or wood clamp, but since those aren’t flexible, you will have a hard time holding them together over curved surfaces of the gun and so on. You can find several options of surgical threading online.
B. Gun parts
In order to repair guns or modify them (or even build new guns altogether), you will of course need various parts for them in addition to the tools described above. This is a brief overview of the main types of gun parts, where to buy them from and how to use them.
There are plenty of places from which you can buy gun parts online, either from major general retailers (like Walmart) or specialized tool suppliers. Here are the main types of gun parts you may need:
8. Handgun parts
For working on handguns and replacing their parts, you will need most of the tools described above, as well as the following handgun parts:
- A Mag (or more than one, to keep around as part of your stock). Before buying it, you need to make sure that it matches the model of handgun you plan on working on. You can find mags at any major gun part retailer.
- A barrel, again making sure that it matches the model of gun you plan on working with.
- A trigger (again, you should check if the spare part you want to buy is suitable to the handgun you plan to work on). You can browse various handgun parts online from all major gun retailers to get a better idea.
- A set of spare screws, pins and bolts. These are the items most often damaged by use or misplaced during gun smithing, so you can be sure that there’s nothing wrong with having plenty of spares.
9. Rifle parts
With rifles, things are similar to handguns, but only up to a certain point. You will need the basic gunsmithing tools described in the first part of our guide, as well as these following rifle parts:
- A barrel (again, we must stress that you need to check the compatibility of a spare barrel you find in the rifle parts section of your search for gun parts online and the actual rifle you plan to repair or modify).
- A trigger (the same as above, when dealing with handguns, only making sure it matches your rifle model).
- A magazine (mag) appropriate for your rifle model.
- A gun stock (again, making sure that it’s suitable). Here is an example fit for a semi-automated rifle.
- A set of rifle bolts, after you check compatibility with your rifle, once again. For example, this is a set of bolts suitable for the popular AR15 model.
- A rifle buffer: this small part is essential to making your rifle work. Don’t forget to check compatibility here as well. This piece is compatible with several Marlin rifle models, for example.
10. Shotgun parts
Shotguns are more or less similar to rifles, which means you will need the basic gun smithing tools described in the first part of our guide, and the spare parts described above, when discussing rifles. In addition to these and depending on your shotgun model, you may also need the following shotgun parts:
- Gas system rings, (check compatibility with your shotgun model first). Here is an example of gas ring for Remingtons.
- A shotgun barrel: here is an example of barrel for Remington You would of course need to buy a barrel suited to your own shotgun model.
- A shotgun sling mount and the sling itself: major online suppliers (including retailers like Amazon usually hold quite a few such items).
- A plug storage room (making sure it’s the model you need for your shotgun). Here is an example fit for AR15s.
C. Extra Tools and Accessories Needed
In addition to the gunsmithing tools and gun parts presented above, a regular practice as a gunsmith may lead you need some extra tools (sooner than you may think).
11. A gun cleaning kit
Gun cleaning supplies can become pretty sophisticated once you move up and become a gun smithing expert. If you’re not quite there yet, then simply invest in a reasonably priced gun cleaning kit (for example, this one from Sage&Braker). It’s one of the most useful and inexpensive gunsmithing tools you must have.
12. A trigger pull scale
You will never go wrong when working on the trigger during gun assembly from now on if you use
this trigger pull scale. It can also come in handy if you’d like to adjust the trigger pull for safety or convenience reasons.
13. A check weight set
This type of weights set is used to verify the accuracy of your scales in order to be able to dose the gun powder use properly. If your gun smithing also turns to bullets from time to time, this is definitely an extra tool you will need to have. We like this set from Lymans.
14. A torque wrench for firearms accurizing
This type of wrench is inexpensive and will also prove to be a huge help in making any guns you’re working on more accurate.
15. A bullet puller
When bullets still remain in your gun but you need to work on it, what you need is a bullet puller to clear the way for other tools. These are usually inexpensive and may or may not be specialized (like this impact bullet puller, for example).