New Must-Haves

| Pistolsmithing |
For The Pistolsmith

By Ted Yost

Nearly every innovation in gunsmithing tools appears to be just another variation on an existing theme. In January, I attended the SHOT Show with high hopes of seeing some new stuff, and wasn’t disappointed. Years and miles on the show floor have taught me the eventual destination for new ideas and new products in the gunsmithing field is the one place you’d expect — the Brownells booth. Among their new goodies, I found a few sure to strike a chord with any pistol smith.

Every pistolsmith I know uses a bench block. It makes the work easier, and reduces the risk of damaging a frame or slide by not controlling it sufficiently while hammering on it. Mine is a stubby steel cylinder weighing about eight pounds. Not easy to slide around the bench, but sturdy. The new Brownells Universal Pistol Armorer’s Block, while not steel, is substantial. It’s also much more versatile than previous designs, incorporating features to accommodate some of the popular service pistols like the Glock, XD and M&P, as well as the 1911. Its new larger design features cutouts for stock bushings and the magazine catch, useful in detail stripping.

Securely installing the 1911 plunger tube has always been a challenge, and the tools necessary to properly do the job have evolved a great deal. Brownells has offered a converted Vise-Grip plier for years which did a wonderful job. Now they’ve surpassed even that excellent design with their new Plunger Tube Staking Tool. It’s simple, rugged, and does an amazing job using the principle of a screw-type vise. The supplied plunger tube support and anvil eliminate any crushing damage to the plunger tube, and allow the rivets to be fully expanded for a tight, permanent installation. Not surprisingly, the tool is of solid steel construction and beautifully finished — as all tools should be!


Brownells’ new Armorer’s Block is synthetic but substantial,
nonetheless. Every pistolsmith needs one on his bench.

Extractor Issues Solved

One of the hallmarks of a really good gunsmith is a well-developed ability to solve problems. My friend John Harrison is such a fellow. John makes a lot of great parts for the 1911, but also has designed and produced some pretty innovative tools too. If you’ve ever installed a grip safety, you’ve noticed how hard it is to hold the part in the “up” position for blending with the frame. John makes an amazingly simple little tool which makes this job easy. I’ve used one for years, and wouldn’t be without it.

Another common problem John’s solved for us is the annoying tendency for 1911 extractor hooks to be placed inconsistently in relation to the breech face, causing incorrect contact with the cartridge case (it’s called “clocking”). Reliability can be adversely affected, but since the hook’s position is determined by the slot engaging the firing pin stop, we’ve been stuck with a less than perfect position of the hook, or forced into heroic measures like welding up and re-cutting the slot. John’s common sense solution solves the problem. Since the slot determines the fore and aft position of the extractor, why not just make a top quality extractor without the slot, and design a holding fixture allowing precise placement of this critical feature?

John’s fixture holds the extractor securely so the slot can be machined in precisely the correct location. It’s simple and repeatable. He also includes well written, easy to follow instructions. John’s products are available through his website.


Also from Brownells, their AR15 Armorer’s Wrench has been improved,
and the Adjustable Torque Wrench assures screws are safe from abuse!


Harrison Custom’s new jig for cutting the extractor’s slot allows it to engage
the firing pin stop plate perfectly, cutting down on rotation issues. Brownells’
new Plunger Tube Staking Tool makes a job easier.

Getting Torqued

I’ve been using one of Brownells’ new Magna-Tip Adjustable Torque Wrenches in my shop, and find it to be an excellent addition. While not necessarily a handgun-related item, it has some benefits for gun work in general. It’s adjustable for torque settings rather than fixed at one setting. It also has a certificate of calibration included. It also accepts any Brownells Magna–Tip bit. I use a lot of thin slot screws, and the driver blades can be fragile. Presetting a safe torque helps keep me from breaking bits and making a mess of a nice stock finish or freshly blued metal surface. The natural, comfortable shape of the handle gives excellent control of the tool, too.

Brownells has also updated their AR15 Armorer’s wrench with an improved barrel nut interface and better support for the extension castle nut with four points of contact rather than one or two. Of course, there’s a torque wrench attachment point to facilitate correct torque specs. The tool is, if anything, overbuilt. Heavy, useful, and durable — as all tools should be!

For more info:;
Harrison Custom: [email protected], Ph: (770) 419-3476

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