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Essential Gunsmithing Tools: Bare Minimum to Gun Specific

New to the world of guns?

Find out the most essential gunsmithing tools you’ll need to keep your firearms running in great shape or to make easy modifications.

Oldschool Tools
Oldschool Tools

We’ll go in order from the most basic kit (some of which you’ll probably already have) to some more specialized tools as you progress in your gunsmithing journey.

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Bare Essential Gunsmithing Tools

The great thing is that modern firearms are designed to be stripped/cleaned with minimal tools. Some don’t even require anything but your hands and the gun itself.

Brass Hammer & Plastic Mallet

Sometimes you want a little more force but not with something that could mar any of your finishes…

Start Roll Pin with Hammer
Start Roll Pin with Hammer

A brass hammer gives you the heft needed but doesn’t mar the normally much harder steel of a firearm. This hammer has interchangeable heads of brass, plastic, rubber, and even copper.

Brass Hammer
Brass Hammer

And I also keep a standard Rubber Mallet for some more forceful jobs.

Punches

Trigger Hammer Pin with Punch
Trigger Hammer Pin with Punch

Punches let you drive pins that hold together many types of guns. Again, we go with brass punches so they do not mar up the gun. We use and love the Starrett Brass Punch Set since they have longer punches than normal gunsmithing sets.

Wheeler Hammer & Punch Set
Wheeler Hammer & Punch Set

Or you can go with the combination hammer and punch sets from Wheeler which should be more than enough for introductory gunsmithing.

Hex / Allen Key Wrench Set

Tekton Long Hex Key Wrench Set
Tekton Long Hex Key Wrench Set

A lot of firearm screws utilize hex or Allen key patterns. To make it harder, there are metric and U.S. standards that roughly correlate to the origin of your gun. This long arm wrench set makes it easy for both standards.

I’ve probably bought half a dozen sets to place everywhere since they are never around when I need them!

Screwdrivers

Stanley All-in-One
Stanley All-in-One

And of course screwdrivers, you’ll need a sturdy multi-purpose one as well as a precision kit.

Threadlocker

Blue Threadlocker
Blue Threadlocker

Screws in a gun go through an immense amount of stress due to recoil and some will actually start backing out. That’s where threadlocker or Loctite (brand) comes in.

There are a couple of varieties but the two most used are blue (medium) which is great for vibration issues (such as handguard screws) and can be easily removed.

And red (high strength) ($6) which is when you want to lock something for almost forever (such as scope rings) since it requires heat to remove.

More Specialized Gunsmithing Tools

Torque Wrench

If you’re doing anything with precision involved like putting on optics…you’ll want a torque wrench combined with threadlocker.

Wheeler FAT Wrench
Wheeler FAT Wrench

Torque wrenches make sure you’re in spec with the in-lb force and that all the screws have equal tension.

And the industry standard (and our go-to for years) is the Wheeler FAT Wrench.

50
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

It comes with useful bits that will do for most jobs…and it’s super easy to dial in the appropriate force.

Fix It Sticks

Looking for the top-of-the-line gunsmithing kit? Check out Fix It Sticks.

FixIt Sticks
Fix It Sticks

The Works is truly the works and even has its own super nice torque wrench. Pricey but the best shooters out there (and most of the Pew Pew Tactical team) has one in their range bag.

280
at Fix It Sticks

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Want to learn more about the kit? Check out our complete Fix It Sticks Review and also our coupon PEWPEW10 that will save you 10%.

Also…don’t have a range bag yet…check out our Best Range Bags article.

Trigger Pull Gauge

Doing some trigger mods?

You’ll want to make sure you’re actually doing something instead of going by pure feel.

We have an in-depth guide to the Best Trigger Pull Gauges.

Trigger Pull Gauges

But the simplest one that will work for all but the most OCD is the Wheeler Trigger Pull Scale.

Wheeler Trigger Pull Scale (2)
Wheeler Trigger Pull Scale
20
at Amazon

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Gun Specific Gunsmithing Tools

There are tons of gun-specific tools, but here are the main ones that you’ll likely use for your Glock and AR-15.

Glock Tool

Glock Tool
Glock Tool

This tool is actually really useful to get the pins in and out without marring the polymer frame, and also to disassemble magazines.

AR-15 Armorer’s Wrench

There’s a lot of versions of the AR-15 Armorer’s Wrench…so much so that we have our own dedicated article.

However our go-to is the Magpul Version.

Best Armorer's Wrench
59
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

There are versions on Amazon but we haven’t had the greatest of luck with them breaking little bits when torquing important AR-15 parts.

AR-15 Upper Receiver Vise

If you’re adding a barrel (or taking one off)…you’ll need a special vise to make sure you don’t warp the upper receiver.

Aero on Receiver Vise
Aero on Receiver Vise

The current one we use is the Obsidian Arms.

40
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Real Avid AR-15 Armorer’s Kit

If you want a one-and-done situation for your AR-15…check out the Real Avid Armorer’s Master Kit.

Real Avid AR-15 Armorer’s Master Kit
Real Avid AR-15 Armorer’s Master Kit

It’s ginormous and has everything you need. And we have a full review.

Application Specific Gunsmithing Tools

There are too many to list here but they all depend on your specific application. If you want to fit 1911 parts, you’ll need some files and a polishing compound. But if you’re just looking to drift your AK sight, you’ll need a special tool.

Check out our DIY Gunsmithing Tutorials where we cover all the steps and necessary tools.

Looking for more gear we’ve tested to get you started? Start with these:

Tested Shooting Ear Protection Muffs
Tested Shooting Ear Protection Muffs

Conclusion

There you have! The tools we recommend when starting your firearm journey.

All of these should get you where you’re going, but know that certain tasks might require more specific tools. So, it’s always recommended to do a little research before you jump into a project.

(Lest you be like us and make 25 trips to Home Depot or Lowes…)

What tools do you use the most? Let us know in the comments below. Are you building an AR-15? Make sure to read up on the parts and tools you need to do the job at our AR-15 Parts & Tools List.

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4 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Mike

    To all the aspiring gunsmiths, order the Brownell's catalog. It's the best 10 dollars you'll ever spend. Along with all the tools there's separate sections for ar's, 1911's, rifles, shotguns other pistols and revolvers.

    November 7, 2021 12:07 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Clark

    Echoing the other comment related to screwdrivers, I would really recommend a Torque Screwdriver. Gun smithing frequently requires precision work and over-torquing can ruin a receiver's threading.

    December 30, 2019 9:39 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Robert

    All the tools you talked about are good basic tolls with the exception of the Stanley All-in-one screwdrivers. Th correct screwdriver will need to be hollow ground to properly fit the head of a screw. If you don’t use a hollow ground you are going to damage the head no matter how hard you try.

    May 23, 2019 5:26 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      bob

      Exactly, cant take this article seriously now.

      February 4, 2020 10:41 pm
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