Essential Gunsmith and Gun Cleaning Gear

My gunsmith will hate this article. He’s an amazing craftsman who has little patience for amateur gunsmiths. If you’ve attempted your own gunsmithing, and made a mess of things, he won’t work on your gun. In deference to my gunsmith, I’m not suggesting that you attempt your own trigger job or any other advanced gunsmithing work. However, as a hunter, you really should know the basics of gun cleaning and maintenance. At a minimum, you need to know how to strip down and properly clean and maintain each firearm you own. Bonus points if you take on mounting your own scopes. To complete your own basic gun maintenance, you’re going to need some essential gunsmith tools and gun cleaning gear.

The following is an overview of the tools and supplies that I most frequently use to maintain my hunting shotguns and rifles. Note that certain guns may require tools that are specific to maintaining that model. As such, this is no way is this a complete list.

Basic Gun Cleaning Tools and Supplies

Here’s a list of the bare essentials. If all you want to do is keep your gun clean and maintained after use, this is all you need.

  • Drymate Gun Cleaning Pad – I love these water proof pads. They are inexpensive, come in a variety of sizes, they help ensure that my gun doesnt get scratched and they don’t allow solvents or oils to seep through.
  • Dewey Cleaning Rods – Save your bore and invest in a quality coated cleaning rod in both rifle and shotgun sizes. Dewey is a favorite.
  • Bore Guide – For your bolt action rifle, a bore guide is a nice tool to protect your trigger assembly from grime and solvents when cleaning from the breech, as you should.
  • Jags, Bore Brushes and Mops – You’ll want a brass brush and brass patch jag for each gauge / caliber of gun.
  • Silicone Gun Cloth – I have a bunch of Hoppes silicone gun cloths for a final wipe down before locking up my guns.
  • Cleaning patchs for each gauge / caliber of gun.

PRO TIP: The owners manual for your gun provides all the information that you need to take your gun apart, clean and lubricate it. If you don’t have a manual for your gun, most manufacturers offer them on their website.

Intermediate Gunsmith Tools

This next set of tools will allow you to take on slightly more advanced projects.

  • Gunsmith Screw Driver Set – If you ever feel the need to turn a screw on a gun, resist the urge, you’ll more than likely mess it up. If you can’t resist, please don’t use screwdriver you bought at HomeDepot, you’ll wreck the screw head and diminish the value of your gun. You need a hollow ground professional gunsmith screw driver. These specialty screwdrivers are designed to fit more snugly into the parallel opening of the screwhead on your gun. You can still mess up the screw head if you’re not careful, but you’ll greatly improve your odds. Grace screwdrivers are the classic choice.
  • Bench Block – A bench block is a nice to have item. I most frequently use mine as a base for when I’m punching out the pins that hold the trigger assembly in place on shotguns.
  • Bore Light – I like to use a bore light to inspect my progress with cleaning the bore on rifles and shotguns. It’s also a handy thing to carry with you if you’re evaluating a used gun.
  • Pin Punch Set – A 16-penny nail with a blunted tip will work as a pin punch. But a pin punch set is better choice.
  • Plastic and Brass Drifts – If you have iron sights, that you want to adjust or change out, a good set of drifts are required.
Gunmsmith and gun cleaning tools
Being organized makes it easier to maintain your guns. I dedicate a couple of drawers in my tool chest to basic gunsmith tools.

ATTENTION: 1.) Always make sure your gun is completely unloaded prior to working on it. Keep any ammunition completely away. 2.) Never attempt to modify the trigger or action in any way. 3.) Know your limits. You’re better offer having a professional gunsmith do it for you – than messing up your gun.

Gunsmith Scope Mounting Tools

Gunsmith Vise
A quality gunsmith vise is a key to a professional scope mounting job. It’s also great to have for a variety of other projects.

I prefer to handle scope mounting projects myself. It’s not hard to mount your own scope and I can sit and fuss with it until I get it absolutely perfect. Here are the tools you’ll need to mount your own scopes.

  • Inch-Pound Screwdriver – Most scope rings and bases have exacting inch-pound torque specifications. A good inch pound screw driver is a must have.
  • Gunsmith Vise – I use my gunsmith vise constantly for mounting scopes, adjusting iron sights and cleaning the bores of my bolt action rifles.
  • Scope Level – For a proper scope mount and maximum potential accuracy, your reticle needs to be perfectly level with your rifle. This scope leveling system by Wheeler is the best I’ve used to date.
  • Scope Ring Aligner – This is a set of two bars that you mount in place of a scope in the rings. It’s a good check tool to ensure that your rings are in perfect alignment – before you mount your scope.
  • Ring Lapping tool – This is not applicable for all rings. Make sure the rings you select are appropriate for lapping before you start grinding away at them. This will be noted in the installation instructions for the rings you select.

Gun Cleaning Chemicals and Solvents

gun cleaning chemicals and solvents
A sampling of the gun cleaning solvents, cleaners, and oils in my cabinet.

There are a dizzying array of gun cleaning chemicals and solvents available today. It can be overwhelming. While they all have their place, I can boil it down for you. All you really need is a good bore cleaner like Hoppes #9 and an oil, like RemOil or G96. Here are the most common ones I use.

  • Lubricating, protective oil. CLP, G96, and RemOil are favorites. I also like Ballistol, but be warned the stuff does have a unique odor.
  • Loctite 243 (the Blue stuff, don’t use the red stuff) for scope bases and rings as appropriate.
  • Bore Cleaner, I use Hoppes of course, and I like Butch’s Bore Shine.
  • Gun Butter for lubricating the high wear areas on my Glock and other guns.
  • Gun Scrubber – Can be good for cleaning extremely dirty parts, but use with caution. It’s basically brake cleaner and it can strip the finish from your gun.

Gun Cleaning Traveling Kit

Plastic case with gun cleaning supplies

Finally, I like to stock a traveling gun care kit that I take on all my hunting trips. It’s often on a hunt in the middle of nowhere where your gun would benefit from a little TLC at the end of the day. I switch out some of the items in my travel kit based on what gun(s) I’m taking along.

  • Bore Snake – A bore snake is not a replacement for a proper cleaning with solvents, and a cleaning rod. But it’s great for travel. Running a Bore Snake though your bore at the end of the day will give it a modest cleaning and remove moisture.
  • Nylon Bristle Brush – (An old tool brush works too)
  • Gun Oil
  • Micro Fiber Towels – for a wipe down at the end of the day to remove any moisture or dirt
  • Silicone Cloth – for a final wipedown with a touch of oil

Hopefully, this list of gunsmithing tools and gun cleaning gear and supplies gave you a few ideas that can make your gun cleaning and maintenance a little easier.

Related Content: HuntTested Pro Tips: Gun Care and Maintenance

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