Friday, September 23, 2016

Do It Yourself Gunsmithing

"Owning a handgun doesn't make you armed any more than owning a guitar makes you a musician."
Jeff Cooper
I am a DIYer. I have built my house, shed and chicken coop. I have fixed my lawn mower, my generator, my tiller and numerous cars. I like to save money and fix my guns too. But the Jeff Cooper quote above applies to gunsmith work too. Be careful because guns are dangerous exploding fire sticks!
There’s another quote that applies here, it’s from a Clint Eastwood movie “Magnum Force”:
“A man’s got to know his limitations.”
Harry Callihan
So the questions is, do you feel lucky? Well do ya punk? Sorry, that’s a reference to the movie before Magum. But it is true, you have to know your gunsmith limitations.
Are you attempting to change out a part that has torque values and several springs? Maybe that would be beyond your “limitations” as a gunsmith.
Many modern firearms are simple to work on. Just because it seems simple does not mean fool proof. Make sure you know what you are doing when you work on your firearms, and if you are not sure, get an experts help.
At-home gunsmith projects are great. Working on your own gun creates a deeper familiarity and connection with your firearm. But if you make a mistake, the task can easily turn from a quick fix to an expensive project.
Ask any professional gunsmith, and he or she will tell you countless stories of customers sheepishly walking in with a disassembled gun-in-a-bag. These do-it-yourself projects gone bad end up costing a pretty penny. When the parts are all mixed together, it can end up taking a couple hours for a gunsmith to figure out what springs belong where, resulting in a higher bill.
We all make mistakes. But some are easy to avoid.
Read the Manual
Do your homework. Start by reading your gun's owner's manual. If you don't have one for the gun, many manufacturers have owner's manuals available for free on their website.
There are also many great reference manuals available to aid in the disassembly and assembly process. There are many other good books and manuals for nearly every make and model of firearm. Some are easier to read and understand than others, but many have pictures to help get the job done right, including hints and tips for difficult steps.
Stick to Simple Assignments
Don't jump into a big project first. Start with a simple job, like fixing minor surface rust on a blued finish. This little task can make a huge difference in a gun's appearance and function, and rust can often be cleaned up using steel wool and a healthy dose of gun oil, followed by a bit of cold bluing.
Other projects like refreshing the paint on your sight, mounting a scope or a detailed gun cleaning are great DIY projects. Instructions for detailed gun cleaning, including the disassembly of the component systems of your firearm, are often listed in your owner's manual or reference books. Once you are familiar with this type of work, ease yourself into more complex tasks.
Get Some White Space
A clean work space is important when you are dealing with the small parts of a gun. Having to locate a small spring or pin in a dark, cluttered work space can be a real pain. So, the first thing you have to do is clean and brighten your work bench by painting it white, laying down a clean painter's drop cloth or taping down some white poster board. Also, only keep the tools and parts that you need for the immediate job in the area, and put everything else aside. You can use double-sided tape to secure small screws, pins and other parts to your workspace so they don't disappear, and a rotating reading light puts light where it's needed. I sometimes use a magnetic tray that is used for vehicle mechanic work.
Be Overly Organized
Since, a missing part almost always means a trip to a professional gunsmith, you can never have enough containers to keep your parts from being lost. When disassembling, use one of those clear tackle boxes for parts. By having a compartmentalized box, you can put your parts away in the order they came out, saving you the headaches of figuring out which part belongs where. If you get stuck along the way, you can easily re-trace your steps.
When dealing with captive springs, you can also work inside a two gallon Ziploc bag. This way, if you lose control of a spring, it stays inside the bag, instead flying across the room.
You've heard it a hundred times and now you'll hear it again: Use the right tool for the right job. Using the wrong size screwdriver can very easily damage screws and the finish on your gun if you slip. You should also have a couple of brass punches for visible areas, and a good hardened-steel punch set for really tight-fitting pins.
There are many good, affordable gunsmith screwdriver kits available on the market. Wheeler and Brownell’s tool sets are what the pros use, and they are a wise investment for the long run.
If you are replacing parts, always compare your new parts to what came out of the gun. Subtle changes in the manufacturing process can mean minor part variances. Check any springs or parts you replace to ensure they are similar in length and diameter.
Remember that if a new part does not fit properly, you should just reinstall the original. A poorly fitted or wrong part can make your gun malfunction and make it dangerous. Most aftermarket parts come with directions, but if you get stuck, call the manufacturer and ask its Technical Service Department how to proceed.

When working on your gun, don't force it when taking something apart or putting it together. Take your time and make sure your parts are lined up properly. If you are frustrated, take a break. Many times, parts will easily come apart or fit back together when you are rested and relaxed.
Often overlooked, a gunsmith's torque driver is a valuable addition to your workbench. With scopes running into the thousands of dollars, no one can afford to kink or dent an expensive scope. Hitting your inch-pounds specifications is critical to properly mounting a scope. A torque driver will also prevent you from stripping your mounting screws, which would need to be drilled out and replaced if damaged.

As Dirty Harry said, know your limitations. Thorough cleaning, fixing loose parts, replacement of worn pins and adding accessories are all fine do-it-yourself firearm projects, but some things are best left to the professionals. Especially working with things like triggers, safeties, or hot-salt bluing. If you are interested in doing more advanced work, be sure to buy some advanced books or take a class. The NRA offers several classes with some of the best gunsmith schools in the country.
Doing something yourself can save money, time, and give you a connection to your gun. Always remember safety is the watch-word. Learn as much as you can and never stop learning.
Semper Paratus
Check 6