The trade of building and repairing firearms dates to the colonial days, when blacksmiths would craft rifles from parts they forged by hand. But unlike colonial blacksmiths, modern gunsmiths have access to sophisticated equipment and machines. There are a variety of tools available today, from common workbench items like a screwdriver to more advanced tools like a drill press.
Gunsmiths often use common tools like pliers, wrenches, files, hammers, punches or vices. A level will be used to properly mount and fit a scope onto a rifle, while a file might be used to repair burred or damaged parts. These instruments are relatively inexpensive and can be bought at a hardware store. Many gunsmiths will also improvise, or create their own tools, such as using a dental mirror to inspect the chamber of a gun.
Building and Modification Tools
A milling machine, a lathe, a power saw, a reamer and a drill press are some of the tools that a gunsmith will use to cut and shape metal. This process may also require welding tools, a blowtorch or heat gun. After the firearm is formed, a gunsmith will use a bluing or parkerizing tank to protect the steel from rust and other forms of corrosion. These tools can be considerably expensive, though prices will vary.
Specialised tools refer to instruments that are specifically manufactured for use on firearms. These include barrel vices, which are sized for certain makes and models, and wrenches or screwdriver sets that are made for certain brands. These items usually have to be specially ordered from a gunsmith supply store or catalogue such as Brownells or MidwayUSA.
Up until the late 1700s, gunsmiths used only a few tools, such as an anvil, forge, chisel and axe. Each gun was individually crafted. The barrel was made from a flat iron bar that was forged into a tube and bored with a reamer, while the trigger and other small internal parts were forged and hand-filed. In 1798, Eli Whitney developed tools and machines that could create muskets with interchangeable parts, making it easy to mass manufacture and repair guns.
The most important consideration with any gunsmith tool is safety. In order to avoid mishap or injury, users should take all appropriate safety precautions and always follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper use. Additionally, users should check local and state regulations in order to strictly abide by all laws for gun repair, storage, transfer and commerce.
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