Are you tired of waiting weeks or months for gunsmiths to finish your projects? Have you ever looked at what a gunsmith does and thought “I bet I can do that” Well if you have our new series called Garage Gunsmithing 101 is going to be right up your alley. This series of articles won’t make you a member of the American Pistolsmiths Guild or put you on the cover of American Hangunner or some other periodical. What it will do is go along way to showing you that there are things you can try to do yourself, save money and learn more about your firearms than you ever thought possible in the process.
WHY Would I Want To Work On My Own Guns ?
This is a question I get often when I bring up this conversation to my own friends who are gunners. There is a cult of mystery behind the wizardry of gunsmithing that is harder to penetrate than the curtain of The Almighty Wizard of Oz. Now I will be the first to agree that there are certain skills a gunsmith possess that I will never have. They also have access and training to tools such as mills, lathes and CNC machines that I can’t begin to figure out. Gunsmiths have their place and a good one is worth their weight in gold, BUT, There are a lot of things they do that the average person at home can do if they possess a decent amount of skill, patience, hand tools and a laptop. This whole series will not be about bashing gunsmiths or their prices, it will be about empowering you as a gun owner.
Being extremely familiar with your weapons and how to break them down and perform a decent amount of trouble shooting will increase your confidence as a shooter and as a gun owner exponentially. I decided to start this series as a gateway to my own awakening as an advanced gun owner, I also was growing tired of pestering my friends who are gunsmiths and machine gun builders to do simple jobs on my weapons. Jobs that I have both the skills and tools to do. Speaking of tools and resources some of you might be thinking about what tools you might need if you want to explore Garage Gunsmithing. So we made you a short recommended tool list, complete with links to the sources.
- Weaver 88 Piece Deluxe Gunsmithing Kit ($69.99 from Midway USA)
- Chapman Deluxe Gun Screwdriver Set (Cheaper Alternative to Weaver Set $37.99)
- Masen Brass Hammer & Punch Set ($31.99)
- Small Needle File Set ($2.99 from Harbor Freight)
- Digital Micrometer (Range from 14.99 and up)
- Brownells Roll Pin Punch Set ($19.99)
- Work Bench With Vise and Soft Jaw Insert
- Notepad and Pen/Pencil
- Digital Camera
- Soft Faced Hammer With Removable Tips ($14.98 Estimate)
- Tool Box
- Blue Book of Gun Values
The above list is by no means a one size fits all 100% infallible list, it is a suggested starting point. In the list there are several things you can do without or use your existing household tools in place of. I personally got tired of remembering which tools I needed when I began to work on my projects, so I made a completely separate tool box and tools. I figure if I kept my gunsmithing tools separate they would be less likely to get bent, broken or lost since I tend to be extremely hard on my tools while working on larger projects such as my house and shooting range. To me specialization requires they all be separated from “normal” tools.
Getting started with any new hobby or endeavor can be a terrible pain in the ass to put it bluntly. Remember this is a hobby and something that is meant to be enjoyable, knowing when to take a break and not force things will be essential to this continuing to be an enjoyable pastime. So you decided you want to try your hand at this, but where to start ? I recommend guns that you have zero emotional attachment too and very little cash invested in. The best place for these types of relics is garage sales, estate sales and occasionally mom and pop style gun shops will have “barrel guns”. My favorite gun shop here in Alaska routinely has an old whisky barrel with more than one well loved and used rifle or shotgun in it for ridiculously low prices. Most of the time they have cracks in the stock or significant wear on them and are marked on the tag with their condition. Be sure to use your Blue Book and check the values of your projects though, no need to get fleeced from the start.
These types of guns are perfect for the Garage Gunsmith, as are lesser desired or known variants of the mighty 1911 .45 ACP pistol. Don’t shy away from guns that have gouges and scratches all over them or missing parts. In 2016 the power of the Internet allows use to find the most obscure parts for guns that haven’t been made in decades, and if we can’t find them chances are there are gunsmiths out there that can fabricate whatever part is needed. Don’t be afraid to go to gun shows and ask questions of people, a lot of these reclamation and restoration projects come about from word of mouth.
Selecting your first project is a lot like getting your first car, it’s going to be a work in progress and will bring you both joy and serious anger. You have to remember you are at the beginning of learning and everything comes with a price when you are learning. It may not cost you money, but will cost you in busted knuckles, swearing and frustration. It will get easier, that I promise. So for your first project I would select one of two classes of weapon. The first class is something that you know nothing about and would be willing to discard with no love loss in the event you hate this whole process. The second class is a weapon that you know something about and is still made or supported commercially today. Top choices would be the Ruger 10-22, Any pump action shotgun, or any military style pistol. The market for old military service pistols is drying up but you can still find great deals on military trade in CZ75’s, Beretta 92’s, Browning Hi Powers and 1911’s. All of these have great grass roots support networks and web forums to help you along the way.
You Are Not Alone
Always remember you are not alone in this, Garage Gunsmithing is becoming increasingly popular with the looming elections this fall and the availability of 80% AR15 receivers, a lot more people than ever before are trying their hand at working on their own guns. Anyone who is going to take this plunge should also do a search for gunmithinging and builders sites such as www.weaponsguild.com and www.ktgunsmith.com
I also am going further down this path of Garage Gunsmithing, and I will tell you I have in the past more than once thrown parts across the garage in anger and had to be bailed out by actual gunsmiths. There is no shame in admitting you are over your head and asking for help. As you can see from the above picture I have down some horse trading and acquired a Mil Spec Springfield 1911 that I intend to customize as much as I can in my garage. Periodic updates of my 1911 project will be coming up in the near future so you can either enjoy my success with me or laugh at my failings.
If you have any questions or suggestions drop us a line in the comments section below, we always welcome interaction with our readers, even if you want to scream at us. If there happens to be anyone that knows about Garage Gunsmithing, or ARE a gunsmith and willing to lend a hand send us an email, there will be a part of this project that I will have to farm out to skilled labor with actual working machinery. Until the next installment, stay safe and happy shooting.