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Thread: where to start in home gunsmithing

  1. #1

    Default where to start in home gunsmithing

    I have a question for the pros and regular folks who have done home smith work for a good while: Where do you recommend a rifle crank start to get the most bang for his buck and starting out with little to none gunsmith experience but a good dose of common sense and hand tools?

    Most folks on this forum are really sharp and have a lot of firearms and reloading experience. I expect some are like myself and ready to get more involved in the gunsmith side to enhance the accuracy and usability of our own firearms.

    I now have tools I could not do without that I did do without for years: Some examples are good screwdrivers, torque wrench in inch pounds, Tipton gun vise, scope alignment tool and level kit... What kind of tools can the gunsmith not do without???

    Where does a guy start? Glass bedding? Muzzle crown work?

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ozarks View Post
    I have a question for the pros and regular folks who have done home smith work for a good while: Where do you recommend a rifle crank start to get the most bang for his buck and starting out with little to none gunsmith experience but a good dose of common sense and hand tools?

    Most folks on this forum are really sharp and have a lot of firearms and reloading experience. I expect some are like myself and ready to get more involved in the gunsmith side to enhance the accuracy and usability of our own firearms.

    I now have tools I could not do without that I did do without for years: Some examples are good screwdrivers, torque wrench in inch pounds, Tipton gun vise, scope alignment tool and level kit... What kind of tools can the gunsmith not do without???

    Where does a guy start? Glass bedding? Muzzle crown work?
    Glass bedding is a good start. I wouldn't take on crown work without a lathe and experience. I also did a bunch of recoil pads when I started out. Refinishing stocks is great. I built and inletted a few stocks from blanks along the way.

    Looking back, I have to say that the most fun I have ever had "gunsmithing" was building a Lyman muzzleloader from a kit. It took only common hand tools, and going slow I didn't have 40 hours in it. And the final rifle shoots like a house afire. Interested in muzzleloaders or not, building one of those is going to call into play a whole lot of the small skills you'll need to develop for working on other guns. Build one and give it away, or build it and shoot it, but I bet it won't be your last.

    Just be careful if you build a muzzleloader. It leads to all sorts of bad habits. Since I did that I've been building shooting bags, powder horns, powder measures, loading blocks and a whole bunch more. It's also really interfered with my cartridge gun shooting. I probably whap off 100 shots with a muzzleloader now for every 1 I shoot through a centerfire.

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    I shy away from bedding because it is gooey and sticky. Gunbugs does my bedding for me. ( Very good work at reasonable prices) I can disassembly and reassembly any gun, anytime, but don't like making pudding to drop my gun in. I have a rather extensive set of good screw drivers, I hate marred screw heads. And a nice set of Starrrett pin punches. That will cover a lot of it.

    I would suggest you start with rather simple guns. Bolt action rifles are, the Ruger 22 semi-auto pistol is not. The Marlin model 1894, 1895, 336 are very simple and can be taken apart easily and you can polish the wear points with lapping compound (400, 600, 800 grit) to smooth things up.

    Also a test of skill and good training is the S&W revolver. Remove the side palte and all the guts. The trickiest part here, after getting the plate off, is the rebound spring (trigger return spring). You can replace springs in most any gun and this generally improves function and trigger pull. I swap out the springs in Marlin rifles, Ruger and S&W revolvers, when slicking up the inards.
    There are spring kits for just about every gun. A lot of smithing is just replacing parts, broken, worn or new and improved parts.

    I'm surprised at the number of folks who don't even remove a rifle from the stock. They are quite simple inside once you get the hang of it.

    You will accumulate the specialty tools, such as the rebound spring tool, some bolt action bolts are tough to dismantle without certain tools. But I think the very first step is to get a Brownells catalog and study if every night for a few years. You'll learn so much you'll feel like a gunsmith.

    I am not a gunsmith. I tinker, it's a hobby. I have disassembled many, probably every handgun model and almost every rifle model ever made and successfully reassembled all. All my guns have very smooth actions and good trigger pulls. I have two guns in pieces on my bench right now. I came in to get some supper and found this thread. Where did I put that return spring?
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    A really fun project that I did over the summer was to take a Remington 514 that I bought off the forum here for $100 and turned it into a “boys rifle” by cutting, refinishing, and bedding the stock (yes I know it didn’t need to be bedded……. But it was great practice and looks good) then I cut the barrel down to 16 ½”, recrowned it by hand with files and sanding blocks (yes it can be done, and no it is not quick or easy) a rounded brass rod and lapping compound. I cut a new dove tail by hand with a file and block kit from Brownells and re-fit the original front sight. I also cut several coils off of the striker spring and polished up the sear and trigger. It was a fun project with minimal expense and it turned out very well in my opinion. And hey…… if you totally muck it up, your only out a $100
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    Default getting started

    You can start with stockmaking without spending alot in getting tooled up although you will need a drill press . If you are so inclined I would look for a "stockmaker" special , the basic inletting for the action will already be done but will leave the barrel channel and exterior shaping (cheek piece , etc. ) up to you . Exploring different stock styles and developing your own can be really satisfying . You'd need scrapers , rasps and a few chisels to get started and I believe Brownells still sells a basic stockmakers kit . Checkering is great if you enjoy precise work and is good therapy in January , again , a basic set of checkering tools can probably be had for $100 or so . You are going to be severely limited in metal work , nothing but big $$ in geting tooled up , a lathe with adequate headstock , milling machine and all the smaller gadgets like barrel vices and cones and all the jigs (lug lapping , bolt bending ) will put you in the hole fast and you'll never get out . You can get into chamber reaming by hand and with a pre chambered barrel and a barrel vice you can waltz into turning out your own barreled action . There are alot of interesting twists to get into without spending alot , just having head space gauges and understand go , no go and field will be interesting and help you and your buddies not get screwed buying the nice old guns . Learning to bed an action with all the little tricks is fun and valuable . On the cheapest end learning about filling the grain on a stock and hand rubbed oil finishes , fitting a recoil pad correctly (no jigs) is all rewarding . I spent 2,200 hrs studying riflesmithing at a JC , served an apprenticeship with gun builders from Ferlach and did some work for Browning and taught at a JC for a year but now live too far out to generate enough work and have sold all my equipment except for my MMC but still value knowing what I know , at least I can pick a good gunsmith for chamber work . Get a Brownells catalogue and order all the gunsmithing text books , you'll figure out something to do at home without spending alot on tools . Good luck !

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    Quote Originally Posted by Murphy View Post
    I have a rather extensive set of good screw drivers, I hate marred screw heads. And a nice set of Starrrett pin punches. That will cover a lot of it.
    Do you have one complete set, or just a bunch or smaller ones?

    Quote Originally Posted by Murphy View Post
    Also a test of skill and good training is the S&W revolver. Remove the side palte and all the guts. The trickiest part here, after getting the plate off, is the rebound spring (trigger return spring). You can replace springs in most any gun and this generally improves function and trigger pull. I swap out the springs in Marlin rifles, Ruger and S&W revolvers, when slicking up the inards........
    You will accumulate the specialty tools, such as the rebound spring tool...
    I did my smith a while back just to clean it. Should I redo it and replace some springs for increased performance?

    THERES A TOOL FOR THAT!!!!! UGH!!!

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    bought a few Mil-Surp M 98's, aside from the conventional required hand tools and vise I needed an action wrench. Pulling the barrels an observing for lug setback is a plus....for me. Living in bush Ak. is no excuse for being ignorant although am just "tinkering" it saves me quite abit of money in regards to those who have the talent and equipment to do the work for me. Gunbugs is quite good at what he does, one good example of where my money does go in times past.

    The internet provides me with an exceptional knowledge base to begin with and my wife encourages me to help others with there "peculiar" problems.

    Simple Green is a very excellent cleaner prior to any metal work of any kind.

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    Stock work is always a good place to start, as are cheap rifles. If you have a cheap rifle even if you completely ruin it your are only out a little dollars and have learned a lot. The same is true for stock work, most common rifles can be given a new stock for around $100 if you really mess up the original and cheap 22's can have an entire stock made from scrape wood. All my stock work has be with pocket knifes, a 5/8" diameter surform tool, a double cut metal file and sand paper; so no real tool cost.

    I got a Romanian 22LR training rifle about 6 years ago and had a lot of fun with it. I gave it a good cleaning, including removing a lot of grease from the trigger workings, which is important when it gets cold. I could not find scope mounts so I took it into work and used the milling machine to modify the top of the receiver and some A-bolt mounts. I then used Birchwood-casey cold blue to touch up the blueing. The stock never felt good in my hands so I reshaped it a lot, free floated the barrel and glass bedded it. The stock was finished with Tung Oil. I also did some stoneing of the trigger to get rid of the creep in the second stage. I think all total I have about $180 in this gun including the scope and it looks like a high dollar rifle.

    Some advice on glass bedding. So far I have only used Acra-Glass, but I think I would not use it in the future, to bed. I think it is great for fixing cracks in the stock but is to runny to bed easy. It is continues to run till it sets so you have to litterally seal the bottom of stock and make a pond and then lower the receiver into it. This causes the glass to run everywhere. Some of the other beddings are surposed to have a more puddy like consistancy that would work way better.

    Lots of people say bad things about Cold Blueing but I have had good luck. I know it is not as durable or nice as a hot blue but for $8 for a bootle that will do atleast 2 guns who cears. The importent thing is to do a good job of prep and cleaning. The metal must to absolutly positively clean. Wear rubber gloves as the oil from your clean figures will cause problems. Use a good degresser and apply it multiple times.

    My current project is a commercial Mauser, which I am bedding and reshaping and finishing the stock.

    In short get a cheap gun and start to play.
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    I started out with learning to dissassemble and clean my guns.
    A good set of Gunsmithing screwdrivers from Brownells and 80$ or so in NRA dissasembly books with diagrams of exploded (LOL!) guns, and tips to help with reassembly.
    Both can save you many a nightmare.

    You wouldnt belive how many of my buddies guns I help'd fix, simply by cleaning them
    Besides Cleaning a gun is part of the shooting routine for anybody who cares about what they own.

    Have fun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by strangerinastrangeland View Post
    I started out with learning to dissassemble and clean my guns.
    A good set of Gunsmithing screwdrivers from Brownells and 80$ or so in NRA dissasembly books with diagrams of exploded (LOL!) guns, and tips to help with reassembly.
    Both can save you many a nightmare.

    You wouldnt belive how many of my buddies guns I help'd fix, simply by cleaning them
    Besides Cleaning a gun is part of the shooting routine for anybody who cares about what they own.

    Have fun.
    Well said and good advice. Many big town gunsmiths cahrge $60 an hour to clean your guns for you.
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



  11. #11
    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    Start with your library. A good set of gunsmithing books is the starting point. Check out the used book stores as you sometimes come across gunsmithing books, sometimes some of the good out of print ones.

    Where to start depends on what interests you. I personally prefer metal work to wood work, so most of my work has been making chips vs. sawdust.

    Sporterizing a military rifle that isn't a collectors item, nor a rusted out hulk is about as good a starting point as anything. This could be as simply as replacing the stock, or as elaborate as shortening and crowning the barrel, replacing the military iron sights, drilling and tapping the action for a scope base, fitting a new bolt handle, replacing the safety, replacing the trigger, re-contouring the stock, fitting a recoil pad and checkering the stock.

    And lest I forget rebluing that military rifle.

    Just make sure the rifle you start with is in good mechanical order and the barrel isn't wasted.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ozarks View Post
    I have a question for the pros and regular folks who have done home smith work for a good while: Where do you recommend a rifle crank start to get the most bang for his buck and starting out with little to none gunsmith experience but a good dose of common sense and hand tools?

    Most folks on this forum are really sharp and have a lot of firearms and reloading experience. I expect some are like myself and ready to get more involved in the gunsmith side to enhance the accuracy and usability of our own firearms.

    I now have tools I could not do without that I did do without for years: Some examples are good screwdrivers, torque wrench in inch pounds, Tipton gun vise, scope alignment tool and level kit... What kind of tools can the gunsmith not do without???

    Where does a guy start? Glass bedding? Muzzle crown work?
    What is a "rifle crank"?
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    I assume it's the same as a "Rifle nut", or "Rifle enthusiast".
    Vance in AK.

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  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nitroman View Post
    What is a "rifle crank"?
    Vance in AK got it right! Where did I come up with "rifle crank"???!!!, After I re-read that I started laughing, at myself!

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ozarks View Post
    I have a question for the pros and regular folks who have done home smith work for a good while: Where do you recommend a rifle crank start to get the most bang for his buck and starting out with little to none gunsmith experience but a good dose of common sense and hand tools?

    Most folks on this forum are really sharp and have a lot of firearms and reloading experience. I expect some are like myself and ready to get more involved in the gunsmith side to enhance the accuracy and usability of our own firearms.

    I now have tools I could not do without that I did do without for years: Some examples are good screwdrivers, torque wrench in inch pounds, Tipton gun vise, scope alignment tool and level kit... What kind of tools can the gunsmith not do without???

    Where does a guy start? Glass bedding? Muzzle crown work?
    Take your favorite rifle out to the shop, disassemble EVERY part/pin/screw/etc.
    Clean and polish every piece and place you can reach into, now put it back together and see how much nicer it feels and works, you will be hooked
    If you are the forgetful type make a list as you go and when done reverse the order placing parts back in.

  16. #16

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    Several books on the type of gunsmithing that you think you would like to know more about. And one or two on general gunsmithing ("Gunsmithing: Rifles" by Patrick Sweeney is a good one.).
    There is also a lot to be said for building a muzzleloading rifle, or two. Just don't start with the infamous barrel, stock and a bag of parts for your first one (that can have at least 3 times the work).
    Good luck and have some fun.
    Chris112

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    Quote Originally Posted by hunt_ak View Post
    Do you have one complete set, or just a bunch or smaller ones?


    I did my smith a while back just to clean it. Should I redo it and replace some springs for increased performance?

    THERES A TOOL FOR THAT!!!!! UGH!!!
    I have one big set of twenty screw drivers from Brownell's and several smaller sets for more specialized tasks. I have a Grace set and a Forsters set plus a set for extra thin screw slots (Dakotas) and others for the S&W revolvers and all sorts of different screw drivers. I do a lot of screwing.

    I replace the rebound spring spring on all my smiths and either stone the main spring thinner and stone off the strain screw or replace it with a lighter spring.
    Last edited by Murphy; 01-26-2009 at 19:31.
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    Moderator hunt_ak's Avatar
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    Thanks Murph.

    Got inspired by this thread to tackle my Savage 110 bolt. Was a bit confusing getting her back into the rifle, but I got it and she's whistle clean now! Next step is to take the rifle off the stock and dive in. You guys are right, its a lot of fun doing this. I hope to become intimate with all of my guns...

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    How hard is it do take the rifle out of the stock and then put it back together? I'd love to do this with my Rem. 700 (eventually all my guns) but am somewhat apprehensive about not being able to put it back together, as I normally just stick to an active imagination and field stripping when cleaning the guns. Sure would be nice to be able to take it apart 100%, clean/polish and put it back together!




    Thanks,

    Jon
    Nurse by night, Alaska adventurer by day!

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    Quote Originally Posted by akhunter3 View Post
    How hard is it do take the rifle out of the stock and then put it back together? I'd love to do this with my Rem. 700 (eventually all my guns) but am somewhat apprehensive about not being able to put it back together, as I normally just stick to an active imagination and field stripping when cleaning the guns. Sure would be nice to be able to take it apart 100%, clean/polish and put it back together!




    Thanks,

    Jon
    Should be able to just remove the two screws that come up from the bottom metal & then either lift it straight out of the stock, or give it a good tap with the palm of your hand...
    After of course making sure the gun is unloaded.
    After of course making sure the gun is unloaded.
    After of course making sure the gun is unloaded.
    Vance in AK.

    Matthew 6:33
    "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

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