Gunsmiths are trained professionals who create, repair and modify firearms. From the design of a custom firearm through the manufacturing and building process, a gunsmith may play one or several roles. Gunsmiths also make functional and decorative modifications and customizations. The first responsibility of gunsmiths is to ensure the safety of any firearm they build, repair or modify. Because they must possess an assortment of skills and undertake a variety of tasks in their trade, gunsmiths use an array of tools. Some of these tools are available in kits sold by distinguished firearms parts and tool suppliers like Brownells.
The trade requires basic hand tools, like hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches and pliers. Other important hand tools include punches, files, stones and other tools commonly used in metalworking.
Accurate measurements are necessary for the successful building and modification of firearms, so tools like inside and outside micrometers, which measure circular metalwork, and inside and outside calipers, which measure length, are essential. Vice grips and clamps are necessary to hold firearms in place during gunsmithing work.
Machine tools are especially important in gunsmithing. Gunsmiths use lathes to cut, sand and drill, among other purposes. Milling machines, which are used in general machinery to manufacture metal parts, are also necessary for certain aspects of gunsmithing and may be used with attachments in the form of other tools. The benefit of pairing reamers, which are used to make holes in a precise size, with the use of a milling machine is the reliable ability to apply consistent pressure and ensure that no human error causes the tool to go off course during use.
Certain specialties may require other tools, as well. Gun engravers usually use either manual tools called hand gravers or more sophisticated engraving systems, like GRS Tools’ Gravermeister. Gunstocks may be made with the use of saws, chisels, gouges, rasps, and files. Checkerers use saw-toothed checkering tools to perform their work. Finishers practice a range of chemical processes and may need a variety of tools and chemicals. Popular finishing processes in firearms include hot bluing and case hardening, which require heat sources and chemicals like sodium hydroxide, ammonium nitrate and cyanide salts.
Safety equipment is as important as any other gunsmithing tool. Gunsmiths should make sure they wear proper safety attire when working with hot or mechanical tools. Heavy-duty gloves and sleeves will protect a gunsmith’s skin. Gunsmithing safety means protecting the face and head, too. Facemasks for welding, safety glasses or goggles and noise protection equipment like earplugs and earmuffs are necessary gunsmithing equipment.
Aspiring gunsmiths learn how to safely and properly use gunsmithing tools during their training. Whether they learn the gunsmithing trade through traditional college courses, online or distance-learning career certificate programs or apprenticeships under experienced professional gunsmiths, their education should include instruction on operating hand tools, measuring tools and machine tools.