Tools of the Gunsmith Trade

While the term “gunsmith” may bring to mind visions of the Wild West, the truth is gunsmithing is a viable, modern profession. A trained and licensed gunsmith can design, repair, build and restore both modern and antique firearms. To do this, the gunsmith needs many types of specialized tools and equipment.

One tool used by most gunsmiths is a small, specialized hammer. The hammer is used to gently tap on a gun when it is being disassembled and also when it is reassembled. Using the hammer, the gunsmith can separate the various components of the weapon without damaging any of them. Gunsmithing hammers often come with interchangeable faces. The different facing materials, such as brass and plastic, allow the gunsmith to customize the amount of force needed for an individual task.

gunsmithing-toolsAlong with the hammer, a gunsmith will also need a set of punches. These are long, nailed-shaped steel tools that are sold in sets, usually with a selection of different sizes. The varying punch sizes allow the gunsmith to match them accurately to the different-sized pins found in individual guns.

Like punches, gun stock carving chisels also come in sets with a variety of sizes. They also have different shaped heads. Some of the heads are for gouging and chiseling while others operate more like tiny saw blades. These are used to carve a pattern into the stock of a gun. Called checkering, this pattern can be decorative, but it also affords a more secure grip on the weapon when it is in use.

Bench clamps or vises are also indispensable tools of the trade. Clamps allow the gunsmith to hold a gun or gun part securely while freeing both hands to use other tools. Clamps can be as generic as ordinary woodworking vises, designed to attach to a workbench with one clamp while holding the gun with another, or as specialized as a gun vise, which will have a rubber-lined cradle designed to securely hold the stock of a gun. Specialized clamps also have compartments to store cleaning supplies and special slots for rods, solvents or small parts.

Another tool a gunsmith will need is a boring tool or lathe. This is a device that is usually mounted on a work bench and, not only holds a gun barrel absolutely still, but also bores out the interior of the barrel. Because every shot from a gun is affected by imperfections in the barrel, a gunsmith’s lathe has to be accurate in its cuts to a very high degree. The size and shape of the gun barrel have to be near perfect for the weapon to work correctly.

Whether a gunsmith works restoring antiques, maintaining working equipment or as a hobbyist, many specialized tools will be required to do the job right.

Image courtesy of boboroshi via Flickr.

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