The title of this post pretty much says it all unless you add this to it:
"...or you want to spend a lot of time, effort, maybe even some money, and a hit to personal pride to get it right again."
No, I have not taken apart one of my guns without knowing how to reassemble it, not lately anyhow. Someone else left a comment in one of my posts about a rifle he bought and commented he wishes he knew how to put the trigger mechanism back together. Now, I am not saying he did anything wrong; he may not have been the one to take it apart, maybe he bought it that way or whatever. His comment though made me remember a time or three that I took a gun apart and had no clue of how to put it back together again and it pretty much sat there, way too long, looking a lot like Humpty-Dumpty after he had fallen off of the wall.
While there are probably people or resources out there to easily help with getting a gun put back together again, there are also a few obstacles to overcome before it gets to the reassembly point. Let's face it - when you are confident, or stupid, enough to disassemble a gun without first having handy the disassembly and reassembly instructions and you then find yourself unable to reassemble it - you have goofed big time. Now you have to decide what to do next. in current times we can often be thankful, in such situations, for the Internet. The net is often a ready source of free information and a quick or sometimes long and tedious search can help you find the solution you are seeking. The thing about the Internet though is that it also lends itself to capitalism - which in and of itself is a good thing. That is except maybe when you find out that some of the info you thought would be free is only available at a premium price. Such can be the case with firearms manuals or field strip, detail strip, and reassembly instructions.
In the case you have not found it readily available for free, you have some options. You can pay the price or you can continue looking or you can give up for now and wait until what you are looking for miraculously falls in your lap. If you decide that you want the gun to get back together but you do not want to pay the extra cost to buy the instructions, or simply cannot even find them for sale, then you have the option of asking someone for help. The thing about asking for help, in a case like this, usually means you have to swallow your pride and admit - "Whoops, I messed up and have no clue how to do it". For some that is not hard to do. For others - well you know there have been at least a couple or few times in your life when you must have been embarrassed to admit to someone that you screwed up. It is not the end of the world though it is not the easiest thing to do either. If you want to get it back together though, maybe you had best ask for help.
The trick with asking someone else for help is that you have to try to decide, without knowing how to fix it yourself, if the guy now giving you the instructions actually knows what he is talking about or not. If you do it over the Internet, there is always the chance you have some 10 year old kid telling you what to do and he has never seen the inside of a BB gun let alone the firearms you need o reassemble. Heck, why am I picking on 10 year olds, it could be a 20, 30, 40, 50 60, 70 or whatever year old who does not have a clue yet is freely sharing his lack of knowledge with you while at the same time trying to convince you he is a gun repair guru. Then again, even if you go to a gun store or a gunsmith to seek help (where it likely would cost a lot more than would an instruction manual on reassembly), you have no guarantee they know what they are talking about either.
So, we are back to my original advice. Do not take it apart, do not even have a gunsmith take it apart, unless you (or the gunsmith) have detailed instructions on how to disassemble and then reassemble your gun. Of course, some of you (and I rarely fit into this category but have been guilty of it a few times) cannot wait to get instructions before you take a new or otherwise unfamiliar gun apart for cleaning, tweaking or repair and you just do it. For you guys, I have a recommendation, make a video of each step you take to disassemble the firearm. If you don't make a video, at least keep good notes (written or mental) of each step you took to get it apart. Why do that? Many modern, mass produced firearms, if not most of them, can be reassembled in reverse order of how you disassemble them. That is, at least if you disassemble them in proper order.
While you may think you don't need to pay attention to this advice, either because you consider yourself a firearms expert, a knowledgeable gunsmith, an adept armorer, a know it all, a Jack of all trades, or just the type of guy who will never have to take apart a firearm that you own because you will have someone else do it - the truth is: If you own guns long enough you will someday find the need to take one apart and will simply be much better off if you know how to do it right and then properly get it back together again. If the hunting opportunity of a lifetime comes up, if a day at the range with one of your kids is at hand, if a friend wants to check out you awesome new gun, if the SHTF and you need to defend your family or self, you sure don't need your gun laying there in pieces looking like Humpty-Dumpty and you looking and feeling embarrassed. Even though it is good advice and I am the one giving it, I am pretty sure that I will again, someday when I am over anxious, wind up with egg on my face and broken eggshells on my workbench. For the meantime though, I plan to take my own advice.
All the best,