There are thousands of gunsmithing tools on the market. How do you choose which ones to buy first? That can be a daunting task, so here’s a quick list of 15 tools that will definitely come in handy if you’re working primarily on handguns. Not all of them are handgun-specific, so that’s a bonus for when you’re working on other kinds of guns. But here’s a warning—and if you already have a collection of purpose-specific tools you’ll know this—gunsmithing tool collections tend to grow over time, seemingly all by themselves, as your bank account is emptied. It’s a true mystery.
It’s a multi-tool specifically for pistols. With 19 different tools in one, this handy gadget can take care of a lot of the basic pistolsmithing you’ll encounter without taking up a lot of space and its great to keep in your range bag or on-the-go tool kit.
We’ve all seen guns with screws that have been put through the wringer. More often than not, it’s the result of using the wrong screwdriver. Do yourself a favor and get a quality set of purpose-built gunsmithing screwdrivers. Your gun will thank you.
Not everyone has the finesse needed to depress the 1911 recoil spring cover and remove the barrel bushing by hand without sending the recoil spring flying across the room to never be found again. A bushing wrench gives you that extra bit of leverage for easy removal, especially on tight-fitting guns.
Can you remove the floorplate without one of these? Sure, but this tool is designed to an exact fit with an ergonomic handle that will remove it with much more ease (and less cursing) than with whatever other tool you decide to “make do” with. And when you use the right tools that are the right size, you decrease the chances of marring your gun and gun parts.
Sometimes home gunsmithing tasks do require a hammer. Whatever you do, don’t grab that claw hammer from the garage and use it on your gun! No matter how good you think you are, eventually you’ll slip and miss. When you do, you’ll be glad that the hammer is softer than the steel and polymer your gun is made of.
Just like the brass hammer, make sure your punches are brass, too. When you miss with the hammer, you don’t want the punch to come unseated and cause an unsightly gash on the side of your gun. They will also help protect the pins you are punching from excessive wear and damage.
Sure, you can replace sights with a brass hammer and punch, but this tool makes it so much easier. You can make finer adjustments to get your handgun’s irons spot on, and it makes pushing out dovetailed sights and pushing in a new set extremely easy and its much better for the finish on your slide.
Everyone could use an extra set of hands from time to time. A good vise will pay for itself many times over before you’ll even need to think about replacing it. Combined with a good armorer’s block and you’ll feel like you have an extra person in your shop helping you out. It can be used for a variety of gunsmithing chores—everything from maintenance and cleaning to swapping out optics or parts on long guns too.
This goes hand-in-hand with your bench vise, providing you an extra set of contoured hands when you need it most. And, perhaps most importantly, a good bench block with make sure your handgun is locked down tight without damaging its finish. Sensing a theme here?
Don’t try to be a hero. You might get side-eyed by the tough guys at the range, but there’s no shame in using a mag loader, especially if you’re loading up a couple dozen mags for a trip to the range. Having a gnarled and chewed up thumb is not the mark of a good shooter. And here’s something you may have discovered—brand new magazines are stiff as hell. If you want to load them to capacity without throwing it across the room, get a mag loader.
Generally, you think of needing a bore light with a long gun. They’re helpful for revolvers and single-shots, too, since you can’t just pull the barrel out and hold it up to the light like you can with a semiautomatic pistol. Even with semi-autos, it can sometimes be helpful to get a good look at the bore without breaking down the gun. Regardless of what you shoot, this should always have a permanent place in your range bag.
Smoothing out and/or lightening the weight of an adjustable trigger can make a world of difference in your handgun’s performance. You can, however, take it too far. Use a trigger pull gauge to ensure that you’re not making your trigger so light that it becomes unsafe and that you get it right where you want it. It will also let you find the trigger pull weight on a new gun or trigger so you know exactly where you’re starting. You can also find cheaper, non-digital models that are a little bit less precise, but still totally adequate.
It’s just a soldering iron, right? Well, yes and no. An actual stippling kit comes with a variety of different shaped tips to help you get a professional-looking job at a fraction of the price. You’ll be making custom grip patterns on your polymer-framed handguns and handgun grip panels in no time!
You never know when the tolerance of something is going to end up just a hair’s width off. A set of small needle files will let you get into those small spaces and get just the right amount of clearance you need. They can also help smooth out and small spots of bad machining you might come across on a handgun.
Ever wanted to put a longer (or shorter) barrel on your revolver? Or perhaps you’ve got a revolver with a bulged barrel that you want to replace. Whatever the case, don’t just clamp it into a vice and go to town with a wrench. These wrenches have specially contoured jaws that fit your frame and barrel like a glove.
As you build your collection of gunsmithing tools, you’re bound to think of more that you just have to have. Like firearm ownership, gun tools can be equally addicting.