12 Tools Every Shooter Should Own

The right tool for the right job is how I was taught. Not that I’ve always followed that rule to the letter. But as I’ve matured as a shooter, I’ve come to appreciate quality tools as much as I do quality firearms. Here are 12 tool suggestions for your workshop.

Note: Although Brownells is my go-to supplier for gunsmithing tools, obviously there are other sources to stock your kit. Brownells did not sponsor, endorse or otherwise support this post.

12. Ear and Eye Protection


It’s not just for the range, you know.


11. Hex, Allen and Torx/Star Wrenches


Quality hex and star wrenches will save you from the frustration of stripped screw heads.


Credit: Brownells

10. Punch Sets


Straight, brass and roll pin punches fill specific rolls in gun care and maintenance.


Credit: Brownells

9. Bench ViSe


Don’t forget the non-marring clamping surfaces.


Credit: Sears

8. Precision Pliers


There is no substitute for a good set of pliers.


Credit: Brownells

7. Brass/Plastic Hammer


Tap pieces into place the right way, not with the handle of a screwdriver.


Credit: Brownells

6. Torque Wrench


Two actually: one measured in inch-pounds and one measured in foot-pounds.


Credit: Brownells


Credit: Brownells

5. Bench Block


I’m a hypocrite, I still use an old piece of 2×4. But when I make it big, I’m buying a few bench blocks.


Credit: Brownells

4. Optic level


There is virtually no way to properly mount an optic with a horizontal and vertical reticle without some sort of leveling system. I use the level-level-level from Wheeler.


Credit: Brownells

3. AR-15 Armorers Wrench


You do own an AR, don’t you? Invest in a good armorers wrench.


Credit: Brownells

2. Calipers


Proper measurements are key.


Credit: Brownells

1. Lubricants, Cleaners and Other Consumables





  1. Threadlocker Compound
  2. Antiseize
  3. Ballistol cleaner/lubricant
  4. CLP

Bonus: Brain

Don’t leave home or start gunsmithing without it. When in doubt, consult a professional.


So, what tool did I forget?


LE – Science – OSINT.
On a mission to make all of my guns as quiet as possible.
Twitter: @gunboxready
Instagram: @tfb_pete


  • HMSLion

    Cleaning gear. Dental picks. Screwdrivers!

    • ostiariusalpha

      Yeah, definitely needs some cleaning rods and brushes in there, or at least a bore snake. A trigger gauge wouldn’t hurt to have handy. Snap caps are extremely useful. Go, No-go gauges. I don’t use bore lasers, but it doesn’t hurt to have one. Spare batteries for any electronic attachments. A decent pair of shooting gloves. Chamber flags are often a necessity. A first-aid and trauma kit is smart to have. And please get at least a security container to store the weapon in. Finally, there’s all the reloading equipment you’d need if you choose to go down that rewarding path.

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      Good call. Thanks.

    • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

      If you can’t get to a piece of grime with a good stiff nylon bristle brush or toothbrush, a dental pick is just going to scratch and mar whatever it is you’re trying to clean.

      Stay away from dental picks. Let your solvents work for you.

      If you really think you need a metal scraper, you’d be better served with a brass or bronze brush.

      • Holdfast_II

        I have some polymer picks that are great for getting a small cotton patch into odd places, and they are soft enough that they won’t scratch.

    • Mike

      Ultrasonic cleaner from harbor freight, 50 bucks, drop in parts and they come out clean in 3 mins.

  • A.WChuck

    Not just screwdrivers, GUNSMITH screwdrivers that make bunging up the screws less likely.

    • notalima

      ^^^ That. Right there.

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      Shoot. I meant to put those in too. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Limonata

      May I recommend a great set from my home state

      Chapman Manufacturing — chapmanmfg dot com

      • Stephen Shallberg

        A Chapman set is by far the best bang for the buck – screwdriver and ratchet handle included with hollow ground interchangeable bits.

        • rick0857

          Exactly never, ever use ANY screwdriver on weapon screws unless it is a HOLLOW GROUND TIP!!!

    • Yes, more damage has been done to guns by knuckle heads with crappy screw drivers than any other tool except maybe a Dremel tool. They need to be hollow ground screw drivers and with a bunch of bits so you can fit the bit to the screw head.

      Also a set of pliers with parallel jaws would save much damage of components.

      Leaving off the hollow ground screw drivers is a major flaw in this article.

    • Theo Braunohler

      Yeah, and they don’t necessarily have to be expensive, either. The $18 Weaver kit on Amazon is actually pretty good for most applications.

    • carlcasino

      I just went to the 57 Craftsman Tool box and counted 50+ Screwdrivers, none of which would ever touch one of my guns. Buy the best quality or take it to someone with the Right Tool for the job.

  • Solid list here.

  • iksnilol

    No hacksaw?

    I am disappointed, you should be ashamed of calling yourselves gunsmiths.

    • MadKaw69


    • Edeco

      soldering iron and dremel for modding nylon frames 😀

      • LG

        Plastic frames?? What polymer frames??? That sounds like heresy to me.

  • FriendOfJohnnyM

    Bench VISE!
    “VISE”, not “vice”, ya morons!

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      Ugh. My bad. Corrected. Thanks. You’ve earned three internet dollars.

      • Stephen Shallberg

        And you can buy a vise that is comparable to the one shown for a lot less than $250 – $450, and is also much cooler.
        Search eBay for “vintage bench vise”
        There are many – all made in the good old USA.

        • Pete – TFB Writer

          Awesome. I love stuff like this.

    • Dan

      Not going to even mention what my bench “vice” is.

      • rick0857

        Probably a good idea you can never tell when small children may be near.

  • LG

    A good set of quality files and honing stones for fine finishing of poorly machined parts is essential.

    • BrandonAKsALot

      I would agree with this. Files are some of the most used tools in my shop.

  • nova3930


    • LG

      Good, high quality files and honing stones are better.

      • nova3930

        I think you missed the funny haha 😉

        • LG

          I guess so. I have just seen so much damage from a Dremel Tools that the sight of one makes me nauseated.

          • Nashvone

            Ol’ Dremel Dan has kept plenty of gunsmiths busy for decades!

          • Most professional gunsmiths have Dremels professional cousin, the Foredom. So a newbie not ready to invest in a higher quality tool having a Dremel isn’t bad, as long as they know how and when to use it.

  • Sianmink

    If I can’t do it with a pocketknife, Claw Hammer, Channellocks, and a Dremel, it wasn’t meant to be done.

    • LG

      If it doesn’t fit, force it. If it breaks, it was defective to begin with. You sound like an orthopedist.

      • Sianmink

        Or a dentist.

    • Bob

      Well, that’s my policy with clothes. Dry clean only? Hand wash with cold water and don’t use a dryer? Forget it, I’m throwing it in the washing machine. If it can’t handle that, then it was too weak to live and deserved it’s fate.

  • Hinermad

    Yeah! I was going to add “a good Internet connection and bookmarks for Brownells, MidwayUSA, Youtube, and TFB.”

    Oh, and parts lists & drawings for your guns.

  • Calimero

    Roll pin punches and roll pin starter punches.

    Like everybody I bubba’d roll pins without proper punches. And then I slipped a set of roll pin punches and a set of starter punches in a Brownells order and then I SAW THE LIGHT. True story.

    • + 1

      I think the starters are just are important, it took me destroying two nice Starett punches because I plunked the cash down for a set of starter punches for both roll pins and normal punches.

      Another thing I suggest is roll pin holders, those make it easier to start some roll pins.

    • Stephen Shallberg

      Starter punches a must – particularly for gas tube retaining pins…

  • Rusty S.

    If you use those cleaning agents with VOC’s, I highly suggest a VOC air filter or respirator, as well as a good supply of nitrile gloves. After years of gunsmithing, I mostly gravitate towards cleaners and lubricants that do not contain VOC’s or irritants. Very solid list, though!

  • John Land

    A PC with shortcuts to Google and YouTube are a necessity, not a luxury.

    • Stephen Shallberg

      I do declare that this is the most salient suggestion of the day! There should 11 tools and Google/Youtube rank number one and one.

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      Great point! Thanks

  • GaryOlson

    Magnets removed from a computer hard drive. I put every pin, screw, spring, or other small part on a magnet. The magnets can also pull small springs out of recesses even a small forceps can’t grab. Yes, Beretta, I’m talking to you.
    Small medical forceps — better than those precision pliers.

    • A magnetic parts tray is a better option. As it will still hold items that aren’t magnetic. Like some stainless parts.

      • Anomanom

        Agreed, and you can get one for about 2 dollars at the auto parts store.

    • Rusty S.

      The first shop I gunsmithed in had a shag carpet floor. Magnets were absolutely necessary. Certain high end break open shotguns make extensive use of ball bearings in small recesses of the action. Removal via magnet was key.

  • Bill

    Make the point that using a Dremel without knowing EXACTLY what you are doing should carry a prison sentence.

    I’ve made a ton of bench blocks out of scrap wood.

  • “There is virtually no way to properly mount an optic with a horizontal and vertical reticle without some sort of leveling system.”

    Having the optic leveled is required even for optics without a reticle, like an Aimpoint. As if the optic isn’t leveled the adjustment knobs won’t adjust straight up and down. Which makes it almost impossible to zero an optics precisely.

    • Stephen Shallberg

      Leveling the optic is easy on a well made rifle. The hard part is leveling said rifle in a stable position.
      I’ve tried magnetic, rail mounted, and scope mounted levels all at the same time, and they never seem to match, so I take the happy medium.

      • I just use a regular level. Place it on the rail, adjust and repeat until rifle is level. I then use the same level on the flat of the scope.

        If the rifle will focus in the distance I have available, I double check by hanging a brightly colored string with a weight at the bottom. And look through the rifle to compare.

        • Stephen Shallberg

          That’s it. I align the vertical crosshair with the drawstring on my blinds at about 12 yards. No problem for the distances I shoot, which are rarely farther than 250 yards.
          But you still need to get the rifle itself as level as possible, and I don’t know of a foolproof way to do that.

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      Great point! Thanks.

  • Andrew Dubya

    (I wonder how much Brownell`s paid to have all their links in here)

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      I addressed this in the second paragraph. Nothing. Just because I use Brownells doesn’t mean there aren’t other places to go.

      Post your sources up!

    • uisconfruzed

      I’ve been using them for over 20 years.
      Brownells is one of the best companies I’ve ever worked with.
      I point friends to them all the time & give away my catalog as soon as the new one shows up.

  • Renegade

    It’s nice what toys Midway’s shipping charges can pay for.

  • Andrew

    It may sound lame, but you forgot a good quality work surface specifically dedicated to working on guns. It can be a decent rollup mat, or a board you put on the dining room table, up to a full workbench. But you must have a decent work surface.
    And a small part holder for when you disassemble things.

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      Not lame. Good idea. Im planning a follow up post.

  • MrEllis

    Nicely done, Pete. Where did you find the painting? I dig that. I watch that video about the colonial gunsmith every now and then and it reminds me of that. You know the one, it has the same guy narrating it that warns you about VD, but is mesmerizingly cool.

    • Pete – TFB Writer

      I wanted to credit the artist, but couldn’t find the source.

      • MrEllis

        Cliff Childs and two others.

  • BrandonAKsALot

    I use old ammo trays that the factory stuff comes in add a bench block. Works well and I have dozens. They can be easily modified and thrown away when they get beat up.

  • Great_Baldung

    Brain? Where do I get one of these?

    • rick0857

      The Wizard, just hop on over to Oz and see Dorothy, she’s got the hook up

  • Advocate

    For blackpowder shooters like me, a Mainspring Vise is essential for working on a lock. A Vise Grip or Channel Lock just isn’t an adequate replacement.
    Mine is an original 1861 Springfield Musket Mainspring Vise.

  • raz-0


    I’ve got all of them.

    I’m with the grumbly folks on the proper flat head screwdrivers/bits.

  • Kurt Hargarten

    Several different sized hemostats. I use them to get cleaning patches in areas I can’t reach with my fat fingers.

  • Mike Lashewitz

    Got everything but the level.