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Are "Gunsmith" Screw Drivers Necessary?

Discussion in 'Gunsmithing and Repairs' started by ATTHECROSS, Feb 26, 2018.

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  1. ATTHECROSS

    ATTHECROSS Member

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    Hello Everyone -

    just wondering if it is necessary to have an expensive set of "gunsmith" screw drivers, say like a Lyman set, as opposed to a set of craftsmans that you have owned for years. Thanks for the help
     
  2. ColtPythonElite

    ColtPythonElite Member

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    I have never had an expensive set of gunsmith screwdrivers. I do have an inexpensive set or two. I take care to find one that fits before I go to cranking. I don't recall ever bumming up a screw head.
     
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  3. Sarge7402

    Sarge7402 Member

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    Gun screws have different dimensions than regular screws and bolts. Using the"best fit" regular screw driver will minimize buggering up a screw, but it will happen and when it does the screw or bolt head will be more difficult to remove or reinstall afterwards
     
  4. drband

    drband Member

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    Gunsmith screwdrivers are hollow ground so tips have parallel surfaces to better fit precision gun screws. Cheaper regular screwdrivers have angled, non-parallel tips.

    || vs. \ /

    The parallel tips fit the parallel slots in screws offering better engagement and less chance of jumping out of the slot and damaging the screw head or firearm. That assumes you choose a good fitting screwdriver and possibly even file it to fit precisely.

    You can certainly use a regular screwdriver on gun screws but the result may damage the screw or gun if the screw is tight.
     
  5. edwardware

    edwardware Member

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    They don't need to be expensive. I bought this set at Northern Tool (I know, cheap Chinese junk), and they're surprisingly good. They're also cheap enough to buy 2 sets and grind bits to fit particular screws!
     
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  6. boom boom
    • Contributing Member

    boom boom Contributing Member

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    Some screws can run easily $5-10 each or more. For example, a K31 Swiss action screw can run you $18 for one screw.
    Buggered up screws on rifle actions also will cost you on resale value as the marred screwheads are readily visible and buyers often wonder what else you did to the firearm. To some degree, they can be fixed if you have the files and swaging tools, but it takes time and its not perfect. The screws and the cost of ruining them is especially expensive on handguns.

    Now, if you can grind your screwdrivers to fit action without ruining the temper of the steel which either requires a slow speed water grinder or a very light touch on a bench grinder/dremel/etc, then go for it. I don't have the touch nor a water grinder so I generally use files and stones to alter one by hand which I only do in a necessity (old French military longarms use spanner type stock screws for example). Better than ruining a screw on a old antique.

    Otherwise, use the right tools--Brownells and Chapman sell good sets and you only pay once for the handle, the hollow ground tips are replaceable and are of good quality steel.

    Wheeler, sold by Midway, Lyman, Pachmyr, sets seem to be made out of softer steel and will deform under the right conditions, especially the smaller delicate screw bits, but are okay for light use---don't recommend using the former cheaper sets for rusted or tight screws at all.
     
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  7. GBExpat

    GBExpat Member

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    This!
     
  8. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    The parallel blade tips are the key and are seldom found except as gunsmith supplies.
    They are nearly all quarter inch hex drive, you can use any old handle with Brownell's bits.
    If you knew what size screw slots you had, you could just buy the bits at $2-$3 each. The sets get you a lot of bits that you will seldom use.

    Before the imports, Chapman screwdrivers in the yellow box were the class act.
     
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  9. entropy

    entropy Member

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    The insert screwdrivers are your friends. Correctly ground tips can easily be found in sets, or ordered individually from Brownell's. Otherwise, many gunsmiths grind regular ones to fit as needed, but most have at least one set of Grace gunsmith screwdrivers.
     
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  10. Jim Watson

    Jim Watson Member

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    If you want straight screwdrivers, the Bonanzas are good. Graces are carpenter's screwdrivers with a short parallel ground on the very tip.
     
  11. Blue68f100

    Blue68f100 Member

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    I've seen the small sets even at Walmart, cheap......
     
  12. Mauser lover

    Mauser lover Member

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    Short answer... Yes.

    Long answer... Yes, but they don't have to be THAT expensive. Get some removable bits from someone (Lowe's, etc.) and take them to a grinding wheel, or file, or favored metal removing device and make them parallel.
     
  13. Slamfire

    Slamfire Member

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    Still have my Brownells, set, must have purchased it in the late 1970's or early 1980's. It was one of the best expenditures I ever made, I had ruined a lot of screw heads before I got the proper screw drivers. That set has been the most used set of screw drivers I own.
     
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  14. doubleh

    doubleh Member

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    Just get a set from Brownells. They aren't really that expensive, especially when you take into consideration that they will last the rest of your life and probably that of whoever inherits them. It's still possible to booger up a screw with them but you have to be a REAL klutz to do so.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2018
  15. dfariswheel

    dfariswheel Member

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    The reason why gunsmith screwdrivers are needed requires only to look at most used guns to see the chewed up screw slots.
    Ordinary screwdrivers are wedge shaped and only grip a screw at the very top of the slot. The force against the top edges of the slot bend or chip the steel.
    Another problem is, get a screw in a deep hole and a standard screwdriver will chew up the top edges of the hole.
    A classic is the grip frame screw holes in a Colt Single Action that are in a deep hole. Try a standard bit and the finish is forever ruined.

    A real gunsmith bit is straight on both sides and faces. This type of bit contacts the SIDES of the screw slot and directs the force to the strongest part of the slot.
    Since the bit is parallel on all sides, it fits down into a deep hole without scarring the finish or dinking up the hole edges.

    The Brownell's Magna-Tip bits are the industry standard.
    Then make more sizes then anyone, and unlike most others, Brownell's are American made of the finest quality.
    Handle a Brownell's bit and you'll note how glassy smooth they are.

    Break or damage a Brownell's bit, and they will replace it FREE.
    All you have to do is send an email about which size you need and they'll ship you a new one.

    The best handles are the Brownell's "law enforcement" shorter handles. These get you close to the work for much better control and fewer slips then the bigger handle or the fairly useless stubby handle.
    These handles come in magnetic and clip-retention. They're cheap, buy both types, you use both.

    Finally, if you don't want a full set, buy a handle, then just buy the bits needed for a specific gun.
    As example they sell a 4 bit set especially to fit S&W revolvers. Instead of buying the bits and handle, just buy the bit sets for the guns you own.

    This is very much a case of "Buy once, cry once". Since replacement bits are free, you only have to buy one.
    The first time you dink up a gun screw that may not even be available you'll wish you'd bought the Brownell's Magna-Tip bits.
    Even if the screw is available, you'll have to pay more for the screw then the bit costs, plus shipping charges and waiting time.
     
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  16. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Hollow ground and you can adapt screwdrivers yourself. I prefer gunsmith screwdrivers because they're less likely to bugger up a screw head like some hardware store/wally world screwdriver.
     
  17. BBBBill

    BBBBill Member

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    ^^^ +1,000 on the Brownell's screwdrivers. If you cannot properly grind your own parallel blades they are the way to go. Even then you might occasionally have to grind one narrower to fit a screw head. As noted, far less expensive than repairing/refinishing a damaged gun.
     
  18. GunnyUSMC

    GunnyUSMC Member

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    The short side of the long answer, YES!
     
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  19. dh1633pm

    dh1633pm Member

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    The proper tool for the job is always a requirement. You can use non gunsmithing screw drivers on your firearms if you want. But everyone will know first look. Proper tools don't always cost a fortune. Good research is the key.
     
  20. Jim K

    Jim K Member.

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    Since I am long retired, I will 'fess up" on screwdrivers. Rather than buy (and invariably break) expensive hollow ground bits, I just bought regular bits or screwdrivers and ground them on the wheel. For some special sizes, I made bits out of spring steel, which is less likely to break for those thin sizes (like Browning shotgun screws)..

    Jim
     
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  21. Mr. Standfast

    Mr. Standfast Member

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    It depends on the gun. For some, the dimensions of a modern general-purpose screwdriver is fine. You do need a good quality screwdriver, as one that has become rounded at the edges can easily slip and damage the screw or worse.

    Other guns, especially old and precious ones, have much thinner slots. These are the most demanding, for as well as the right thickness, the screwdriver needs to be of really good and well tempered steel. What can do more harm than a slipping screwdriver? A slipping jagged-ended broken screwdriver.

    I am slowly progressing towards making my 1860s rimfire Webley into a cased set, and for this I ground a special screwdriver from a high speed steel parting tool blade - not hollow ground, and probably a shade brittle, but good enough for this undemanding application, and handled in black horn with a silver ferrule. You can also make a perfectly good screwdriver from water hardening drill rod - silver steel to us in the UK, like Colonel Colt Imported to change the Navy to the rebated-cylinder Army. I hold it in a hand vice between two pieces of sheet metal, to use on the grinder rest to keep the two sides of the blade parallel.

    You have to ask you why every screwdriver in the world isn't hollow ground, and the answer is that it stops slipping, but weakens the blade further back. The best grinding wheel or belt sander roller for this job is the smallest in diameter.
     
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  22. Striker

    Striker Member

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    In my experience, unless you are an accomplished tool maker, yes.
     
  23. a5werkes

    a5werkes Member

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    I have every Brownells magna-tip made, many are the very fine tip widths for European style screws such as the Browning A-5. The best instruction on how to make
    hollow ground screwdrivers that I have seen was done by master gunsmith Art Issacson of Art's Gun Shop specializing in Browning firearms. This is how I make mine thanks to him.
    You can see his method of fabricating screwdrivers here:

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/9p1babm19cfxwe0/Art Iassacson Makes Screwdrivers Complete.mp4?dl=0

    I have made a few using the methods of master gunsmith Jack Rowe as well; here he is showing us how the proper method to make "turn screws".

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/nrh4ab3rl8xsf4t/Jack Rowe Screwdriver Fabrication Complete.mp4?dl=0
     
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  24. MachIVshooter

    MachIVshooter Member

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    This.

    However, a lot of the 1/4" hex insert bits you can get pretty cheaply also have the radiused grind that leaves the parallel tip
     
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  25. John Joseph

    John Joseph Member

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    The proper tool for the job is a joy to use, even if---especially if--- it's one you made yourself.
    As others mentioned parallel ground is what's best and for good reason.
    Brownell's are a good value.
     
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