Monday, January 31, 2022

We Have An AR At Home, Part 2: Tools

When assembling an AR pattern rifle, a variety of tools are used. The firearm parts involved in the build will affect what tools are needed to some extent; depending on the style of AR being built, there may only be one or two specialized tools needed to complete the rifle. Many people will already have a number of the tools I’m about to describe. But if not, these tools are so generally useful for a variety of projects, it’s a good idea to have them in the toolbox anyway.

Bits and Driver
Nearly everyone has screwdrivers in their home tool box. Unfortunately, most hardware store screwdrivers are not a good choice for working on guns, especially flat bits. The majority of less expensive flat bits are ground with a wedge shape, which will often cause the blade to ride up out of the screw slot when pressure is applied, often damaging the screw and possibly the firearm.

In contrast, proper gunsmithing bits are hollow ground, meaning the sides are ground in a curve ending with the flats parallel to each other near the tip. This prevents the bit from riding out of the slot and damaging things. Othias of C&Rsenal talks about this issue in his recent video.

The two types of flat bit screwdrivers: Wedge (left) and Hollow Ground (right)

Depending on the parts being used, flat, hex, and/or Torx bits may also be needed. I’m a fan of replaceable bit drivers in general, and the Brownells Magna Tip Bits in particular. Bits can be purchased in sets or individually and there are a variety of handles as well. If one of the shorter handles is purchased, the Magna Tip 4” Extension bit is very useful.

Punches and Hammers
When dealing with coiled spring steel pins known as roll pins, it’s very important not to damage the ends during installation or removal. This is where specialized Roll Pin Punches really shine.

A selection of Roll Pins

Of course, punches aren’t much use without a way to drive them. A hammer with removable and replaceable heads, one side brass and the other nylon, is an excellent general purpose tool.

Vices and Holders
Pretty much any bench vice with a maximum distance between jaws of four inches will cover most conceivable needs, as long as it’s securely fastened to a solid bench. A vice this size has enough clearance to hold an Upper Receiver Action Block. This accessory reduces the chance of damage when installing a barrel.

Upper Receiver Vice Block set

Another useful vice fixture is a Lower Receiver Vice Block which will keep the lower receiver from shifting when putting in the fire control parts. Magnetic Soft Jaws are useful for holding pretty much anything else while reducing the risk of damage.

Specialized Tools
A bog-standard ¼” by 2” Clevis Pin, while not required, makes installing the front pivot pin on an AR a much less stressful affair. Everyone who works on these rifles should have one in their kit.

Standard Clevis Pin

Depending on the style of rifle being built, the other specialized tool that might be needed is an AR Armorer’s Wrench. It helps with stock, barrel, and muzzle device installation and removal.

AR Armorers Wrench

Now that we’ve covered the necessary tools, my next post will detail the parts required to assemble a functional and safe AR style rifle.

Have fun, and safe shooting!

1 comment:

  1. Very good information.

    After searching for a few lost detent pins and springs, I bought the Real Avid AR15 PIVOT PIN TOOL. It costs around 12 dollars and while not absolutely needed, it makes the job quite easy.

    I'd also getting a specialized pin punch for the bolt catch pin. There are any number of work-arounds, but the right tool makes it a bunch easier with lessened risk of damage.

    And the risks of breaking an ear off when installing a trigger guard are worthy of a post all on its own.

    Thank you for sharing this information.


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