Doin’ The Twist

And Causing No Harm.

“The safety guard’s gone from his grinding machine He got a stiff paint brush he only sorta got clean He’s the hired man, my neighbor and a cousin in law He’s a jerry riggin’ fool, he got the tool for the job Well it’s vise grips for pliers, and pliers for a wrench A wrench for a hammer, hammer’s everything else It just don’t seem to make much difference I sure do like him but he’s hard on equipment.”*

Dave bought this Winchester 70 in 1973 (above). A big screwdriver from a tractor toolbox got this screw out, but not without scraping the surrounding metal and twisting up the screw slot. A screwdriver grabbed from the tractor toolbox (below, left) has sides slanted so most of the pressure is on the top of the screw slot. A screwdriver blade shaped for use with gun screws (right) fits to the full depth of the slot, and ideally should fit both width and length of the slot.

Do No Harm

We could all take a lesson from the physician’s basic rule – “do thy patient no harm.” Or to put it another way, if you can’t make it better at least don’t make it worse. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do it.

Many a collectible firearm has had its value destroyed because someone thought it would be a neat idea to reblue metal or refinish the stock. Depending on the gun, even quality workmanship can reduce value.

No one is telling you what you can or can’t do with your own property. Maybe someone acquires an excellent condition Savage 99 once owned by Roy Chapman Andrews. If he decides to add sling swivel studs, drill and tap for scope bases, and carve a bounding whitetail in the stock, no one can order him otherwise.

Much as I value collectible firearms I value principles of liberty and private property more (though I might feel obligated to advise he’s doing the equivalent of burning a stack of $100 bills).

Damaging valuable firearms is a shame, but not the worst thing. The worst thing is to create a dangerous situation. I’ve known people who can barely get a gun apart who still feel qualified to adjust trigger pulls, spinning adjustment screws and stoning components. The fire control system of a firearm is not something to be learned by trial and error.

“He ain’t never read a manual ’cause that’s like cheatin’

He don’t mind the grease on his hands while he’s eatin’…”*

OK, enough with the lecture! Time to buy something! What to buy first—screwdrivers, punches, vise, milling machine? For those with more patience than I had 50 years ago, the first thing to acquire is knowledge.

An excellent basic resource is the Gun Digest firearms assembly/disassembly series, with several volumes written by J.B. Wood and Kevin Muramatsu. Currently volumes are available for auto pistols, revolvers, rimfires, centerfire rifles, shotguns, law enforcement, and tactical firearms.

The NRA has published several firearms assembly books. Though there is some overlap with the Gun Digest books there’s also some good stuff on older, obscure guns.

Brownells stocks these books and a lot of others. They also have an extensive series of videos. There are specialized books and videos for popular firearms such as 1911 pistols and AR-style rifles.

Although not really manuals, I enjoy the “Gunsmith Kinks” series started long ago by Bob Brownell. Intended for working gunsmiths, there are lots of interesting tips and tidbits of information; not to mention jokes, stories, and clever solutions to tough problems.
*Corb Lund Hard on Equipment / Tool for the Job
By Dave Anderson

The action screws on Dave’s Biesen 3-generation custom M70 .270 (above) show what screws should look like—slots straight, smooth, undistorted, and aligned with the axis of the rifle. The full set of gunsmith screwdrivers from Brownells (below) is an absolute joy to use. Dave would have fewer grey hairs and fewer twisted up gun screws if he’d bought them decades earlier, instead of “making do” in order to buy another rifle.

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