Monday, February 12, 2024

Must-Have Gun Tools?

While looking through some gun forums in the wee hours of the day on which I write this, I came across a thread that detailed what the opening poster believed were 'must-have' gun tools. I was truly surprised, to say the least, at what he thought were the must-have  essentials for what he called "your 'smithing bench". After reading about what he thought were the ten necessary tools for working on firearms, I decided to give an in depth reply.
Before I continue allow me to list his ten must-have tools:
1. Gun Vise
2. Screwdriver Set
3. Torque Wrench
4. Boresighter
5. Scope-Leveling Device
6. Hook & Pick Set
7. Cleaning Rod(s)
8. Jags And Bore Brushes
9. Ultrasonic Cleaner
10. Gun/Brand specific tools
Here is what I wrote regarding my thoughts about his choices of his choices for ten must-have tools for working on firearms and my thoughts on the tools I consider pretty much as essentials (or as unnecessary luxuries) or as simply nice to have for working on the guns that I own or on guns I may acquire at a future date. Mind you, I make no claim to be a gunsmith or that my work area is a 'smithing bench. So here is the reply that I wrote:
"With all due respect to your expertise on this subject, I see my essential firearms tools differently than do you yours.

I think a sonic cleaner is a luxury and completely unneeded in a kit of gun tools. I have never, I repeat never, used a sonic cleaner in my shooting lifetime and that has been over 60 years long so far. I own a gun or two or three that is/are over 100 years old and I am certain their parts have never been in a sonic cleaner and never will be as long as I own them. So please, explain to me why it was a must-have for me in all those years; yet, I never have used one and my firearms work just fine.

It also seems to me a boresight is a luxury. I sight in my rifles the old fashioned way, bang-bang-bang adjust as necessary - then bang-bang-bang until I get it right. I start close in and work out to further distances. I like some good old shooting to get it done, it's fun. Of course I could always boresight a rifle by aiming down the bore then adjusting the reticle of a mounted scope to be on target all without a laser boresight. I guess a boresight is nice to own and convenient to use maybe even much more efficient but it most certainly is not a must-have necessity.

Of course other scope mounting/adjusting devices are also not necessities. They are certainly nice to have but truth be told, I did just fine mounting scopes for many a year after my 50s once my vision became less than optimal. I purchased a torque wrench only within the last two years, same for a scope mounting kit with the level and other tools. Nice to have and makes the job of mounting a scope easier and more precise but not must-have tools. Th same goes for a gun vise. I got my first one two or three years ago. Wow does it make a very nice difference but for many years I used my knees or someone else to hold the gun while I worked on it. I did with what I had.

Placing jags & bore brushes separate from cleaning rods almost makes it seem as if you could not find another appropriate item to take a number in your pick of ten 'must-have' tools. Let's face it - brushes & jags are part of a must-have firearms cleaning kit, as is a cleaning rod and as are cleaning brushes (brass & steel - not bore brushes but hand held brushes that resemble toothbrushes). You purposefully excluded patches and swabs - go figure they are tools like any others that fit into a cleaning kit and add pipe cleaners to that list (if you have ever cleaned a Yugoslavian SKS you may understand why I include them but they also come in quite handy on many other types of firearms). A complete cleaning kit is thus considered by me to be all one tool with accessories or a tool group as far as I am concerned but if you want to make them separate then why not have jags as one item and bore brushes as another and cleaning patches as another and add swabs & pipe cleaners to the list and solvent and had held cleaning brushes as another and you could just keep going.

Somethings you seem to have excluded or maybe have forgotten are: pin punches (these are gun tools of relative necessity in my mind), a hammer with combination brass head and nylon head, a pair of needle nose pliers is another, a hemostat is another, a bore light is another, a telescoping rod with a magnetic end is another excellent tool to have around but maybe not an essential one until that tiny screw or spring falls under something to heavy to move but yet can be reached under by the magnetic tipped rod to retrieve the lost item. I'd also say a Glock tool but any correctly sized pin punch will do. I'd likely add a 1911 wrench (not necessary maybe but sure makes disassembly and assembly easier). I also find a small multi-function knife to be a very useful and a must have item in my firearms tool kit. Depending on what type of firearms you have sight tools (both rear and front) could be must have items. For instance, it is pretty much a necessity for the rear sights on Glocks and a Glock front sight tool is also a good choice for a Glock owner.
Of course there are also sight tools for rifles like AR-15s and AK-47s.

Lest I forget and while these are probably not considered tools, I think some of the most essential things to have when it comes to working on guns are manuals, exploded parts diagrams annotated to describe each part, and firearms books detailing assembly and disassembly of guns. The books can be expensive but you can often find greatly discounted used editions on sites like eBay. Manuals can also be expensive but if you have a currently manufactured firearms, many manufacturers offer manuals you can download from their websites. Even if you do not have a computer or smart phone, you can go to almost any public library and download them or print them there for a nominal fee at most. I currently have well over fifty such books and manuals. Some of my manuals are from the original manufacturer as those that came with the gun, others are after market so to speak such as those salmon colored ones for which I cannot recall the publisher. I have many for guns I do not even own, they may come in handy some day when I buy my next gun or the the next one after that or if I am looking for a particular manual I do not have, I may be able to trade one I already own for the one I need.

As for not using the kitchen table - well pardon me if I did not make a lot of money in my early career and lived in tiny studio apartments for a few years and the only work area that I had available was my kitchen table or the floor. Believe me it was better using the kitchen table while sitting in a chair than trying to sit on the floor and work on a gun. It always amazes me how well meaning gun folks offering advice often seem to expect everyone is as well off as are they and that they assume every gun owner has or must have things like a separate work area with a work bench. Many folks do not have those luxuries, heck they may not even have the basic tools both you and I mentioned. Thus they do with what they have but I'd at least hope they acquire the basic tools for any gun they own. When I used my kitchen table, I made sure to cover my table with a plastic/vinyl tarp when cleaning guns on it and I still cleaned the table very well once I was finished. There are several brands of supposedly nontoxic gun cleaning solvents available making use of the kitchen table less of a hazard nowadays. You do the best you can with the best you have, that is what makes the world go round."
I may have left something out as to my essentials but please note that if I did not mention something like a screwdriver set that the original poster of the thread did mention, it was simply because I agree that is an essential so don't assume that if I did not mention something it means I do not think it essential. For instance, I did not mention Allen wrenches, which I think are a must have but did not bother to mention them only because a good size variety of Allen heads come in many gun screwdriver sets. Yet, I suppose a set or two (the first in imperial sizes, the second in metric sizes) are pretty much a thing to own. I did make sure to add things the other guy did not list, like pin punches and needle nosed pliers, that I think are mandatory. I covered most of the necessary tools in that manner, or so I think, without having looked through my tools as or before I wrote the above. If you think I missed something, please let me know. It is always nice to learn more about maintaining my firearms.
All the best,
Glenn B