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March 18, 2013
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Dennis Haworth Firearms Training & Equipment
with Dennis Haworth

Armory tools for police: The mother of all gunsmithing tools

Part two of a two-part series

In part one of this two-part series, we looked at a variety of essential tools for your police armorers work bench.

Specifically, we looked at one very basic way you can save some taxpayer money, as well as two ways in which you can spend it — a top quality vice and a variety of types of bench blocks that will keep everything in place.

Let’s continue briefly with the notion of keeping things in place, and then move on to some precision and specialty tools you’ll want to consider having on hand.

No Loose Screws Here
Loctite comes in very handy around an armory and holding stuff in place. Loctite is used on screws to keep them from getting loose and backing out on their own.

During one of his carbine classes, I spoke with Pat Rodgers, who has a plethora of life experience relating to firearms, about this. He told me that if you screw something together, Loctite it.

I learned this lesson the hard way when the screws on my Aimpoint mount came loose. With firearms bouncing and vibrating in the racks in the cars, screws will come loose.

Be very aware of the various formulas of Loctite. Some allow the screws to be removed with hand tools, some set up so hard the screws are nearly impossible to remove. Read up on what the different formulas are for and purchase accordingly.

My former department issues the SIG P226R with a Surefire X200/300 light and within the first year I had lights loosing screws. I used Loctite on all of the screws on all the lights and ended the problem. I am now well stocked up on Loctite and keep the little tubes that come with various products.

Speaking of screws, Gunsmithing screwdrivers are a little different than what you pick up at the local hardware store. They fit the screw slots exactly and do not mark the slots thereby damaging the screws.

Given what I said before about people bringing you all kinds of firearms to work on, I strongly suggest that you invest in a full set of Brownells Magna-Tip screwdrivers.

The set that I have used for years is the 58 Bit Master Super Set Plus with a #81 handle. They make a handle called the LE version. It is a standard size handle with a shorter shaft. I have used both and like both equally well. In addition to this set, I would purchase the long Phillips blade bit (#080-136-000AA).

These are perfect for removing recoil pads from stocks. The trick is to use a little petroleum jelly on the Phillips bit to get to the screws, if needed. The hex head bits come in handy when you are working on Safariland holsters and other products. 

Precision and Specialty Tools
I recommend having a trigger pull gauge in your armory. The concern is that you will have a firearm with a trigger pull that is too light. What is too light can be defined as somewhere less than four pounds.

I know the IPSC and precision guys are going, “What? Four pounds?”

The reality of law enforcement, and most of the firearms industry, is that a four-pound single action trigger pull is the recognized lower limit for a defensive handgun.

There is a reason why Glock says that their 3½ pound trigger bar is not for duty use. A childhood friend of mine bought a Glock 36, went to the gun show and bought a 3½ pound trigger bar.

He asked me to install it for him. I did so, but insisted that this was a very bad idea and that we were going to shoot it right then so that he could see what a bad idea it was.

I set up some targets and he began shooting his Glock. Sure enough, the recoil on the tiny .45 combined with the light trigger was enough to cause him to shoot doubles when he did not intend to fire a second round. He asked me to put the original trigger bar back in the firearm.

Trigger-pull gauges can get expensive, but if all you are really concerned about is a trigger that is too light then something like the RCBS gauge (Mfr Part: 09450) will do the job at an affordable price. I recommend that you check and document the trigger pull on all firearms used by your officers.

You are going to need to function check your firearms in the armory to diagnose feeding, extracting and all those other pesky issues that creep up. I do not recommend using live ammunition to do this.

I recommend dummy rounds. I like the ones made by A-Zoom as they also act as a snap cap. They are weighed close enough to allow you to check feeding and extraction.

One thing to know about them is that they are a dark brownish color, get lost easily, and are a lot more expensive than the all plastic training rounds. So do not let your firearms instructors sneak them out of the armory to use at the range.

Get them a bunch of the Precision Gun Specialties Saf-T-Trainers. You can get 50 of these in .40 S&W for under $20.00.

These “dummies” are all plastic and are bright orange. They do not get lost as easily and can be used for range training. They are too light in weight to be used correctly for function testing so should not be looked at as an armory tool but as a training aid.

There are a lot of tools that you are going to want to get your hands on that you may not think about. Most of these you can get at your local hardware, big box or department stores. An assortment of punches is always good to have on hand. Get a couple of different sized strap wrenches.

You would be surprised how often you will use these to unscrew various things, especially suppressors.

Look around and find a hammer that has a rubber mallet on one side and a hard plastic mallet on the other.

The mother of all WECSOG (Wile E. Coyote School of Gunsmithing) tools is the Dremel.

A Dremel can be your best friend or the destroyer of worlds. If you can get your hands on one, put it in the tool box but only use it if you have learned how to do so with proficiency. Less is more when it comes to the Dremel.

I primarily use mine for polishing, not grinding and cutting. If you have a Dremel, get a polishing kit for it. Get some assorted hammers including dead blow hammers. You never know what size hammer is going to be just what you need. Get a large set of drill bits. I bought a 115 piece set from Brownells years ago and still use them to this day.

The only problem with this set is the price. If this is not in the budget, just start picking up bits where you can. Get some various sized and shaped pliers and vise jaw pliers. You will need them to hold small parts as well as to perform other functions.

Hemostats of all sizes and shapes come in very handy. Start collecting hex wrenches of all sizes and shapes. Eventually you will end up needing one and will have to modify it to fit the area you are working in.

I save every one that comes with any Safariland holster or other product. I have had to cut and grind some of these to be able to effect repairs on all kinds of equipment over the years.

A Box to Keep it All
What do you get the armorer who has it all? A box to put it all in, of course! Old joke, I know.

If you have the room, get your hands on a roll-away tool box.

Just like the way we opened this two-part article, we’ll close it thusly: Think about talking with the people in your property room. Often you can get these from your property room as well, once the property has been processed.

Let your property people know that you want dibs on any tool boxes before they are sent off to auction.

They may not be great, but they do not cost the taxpayers anything. Label the drawers with the name of the firearm specific tools or parts inside. It makes finding things much easier.

Being the Armorer means you’re going to be working on all kinds of equipment, not just guns. You are going to need a good assortment of tools to accomplish all the tasks that are going to be thrown at you.

Start collecting tools early and often so that when that screw ball gets tossed your way, you can hit it out of the park.

About the author

Dennis Haworth is a police officer with a California state law enforcement agency. He has been a law enforcement range master and armorer for more than a decade. Haworth has served as a police academy instructor and has taught specialized courses on several subject matters. He has been involved in product testing for professional associations, manufacturers and law enforcement agencies. He has a BS in Criminology and an MPA with a specialization in human resources management. Much of his free time is spent as an advisor to the Shooting Sports Club at his local University of California campus.

Contact Dennis Haworth

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