Whether you are building, repairing, maintaining or enhancing your AR-15, having the proper tools is a must. If money’s no object, you can certainly purchase a manufacturer-compiled, gadget-laden armorer’s kit comprised not only of tools you can’t live without, but also many you may never have a reason to use. Conversely, you can piece together your own essential tool collection item by item, or you may want to add certain tools to a more basic pre-assembled kit.
Regardless of the method to your madness, there are nine essential items you’re going to want to have on hand in order to get (and keep) your AR-15 in top working condition. Let’s take a look at the must-have items you need for your basic armorer’s kit.
Punch and Drift Set
Assembling and disassembling your firearm, more specifically your AR-15 lower parts kit, it is virtually impossible without a high-quality punch and drift set. While punches are used to drive objects such as roll pins, drift pins (also called drift punches) will help you to align holes for fastening. These tools allow you to work with precision when dealing with the smallest of your AR-15 parts.
Sets are available in both brass and hardened steel, but you will likely find you need attributes of both depending on the task you are performing. Because brass is softer, you can trust it not to damage your steel parts. Unfortunately, brass is also subject to deformity with regular use and may begin to bend. Hardened steel sets are much stronger, but are subject to breaking due to the brittleness of their structure.
Purchase a combination of both brass and steel punches and drifts to ensure the widest diversity for your project needs. It may also be wise to stockpile a few of the smaller sizes in order to easily replace them in your set when they break or warp.
Having a variety of standard screwdrivers may be sufficient for your needs, but we strongly advocate adding a gunsmithing screwdriver set to your armorer’s kit.
While a standard set will likely get the job done, the specialized build of gunsmithing sets provides for better protection of your firearm and the screws themselves. Instead of tapered ends like standard sets, gunsmithing screwdrivers are hollow-ground, allowing the blade of the tool to completely fill the slot of the screw. Not only does this allow for more torque, it also decreases the likelihood of the blade slipping and/or disfiguring the screw head.
Hammer and Mallet
A lightweight, sturdy hammer is essential for inserting and removing pins in your lower parts kit. If your task puts your firearm’s finish at stake, use a rubber mallet to avoid marring and damage.
AR-15 Combination Wrench and Pivot Pin Installation Tool
The combination wrench performs multiple functions, allowing you to install or remove:
- flash suppressors
- extension and free-float tubes
Another AR-15-specific gadget is the pivot pin installation tool. Although not essential, this tool helps to eliminate the oftentimes difficult task of keeping the detent and spring from launching across the room while installing the pivot pin.
Don’t shy away from these tools simply because they are specifically designed for only one firearm. They aren’t gimmicks, and they make working on these areas of your firearm far more pleasant than alternative methods.
Vise and Blocks
Being able to hold your parts in the proper position for easy access is invaluable. Specialized blocks can also be added to your vise setup to hold your project even more steadily. When using a vice without a block, make sure to utilize non-marring jaw pads to protect your part finishes!
Touch-Up Marker and Masking Tape
When performing tasks with the potential to nick or mar your firearm finish, use masking tape to cover and protect surfaces. Because slight scarring is inevitable, having a touch-up marker in your kit can help provide quick cover-ups.
Cleaning and Lubrication Tools
In addition to a high-quality rifle cleaning kit that includes bore brushes and brass or steel rods, be sure to keep cotton swabs and toothpicks on hand for hard-to-reach places. A carbon scraper is also a worthy add-on for removing carbon buildup inside the bolt recess without damaging the bolt carrier. Solvents work well in order to break down and remove carbon, copper and lead deposits.
Include gun oil in your kit to use on pins and springs. This will prevent binding and helps to protect your firearm from rust and carbon buildup. Grease is another essential lubricant for your armorer’s kit, and should be used where metal parts will interact with each other, such as the contact surfaces of the AR-15 trigger and hammer.
AR-15 Manuals and Educational Materials
The more detailed knowledge you have regarding the mechanics and operation of your AR-15, the easier it will be for you to maintain, repair and build your own firearm. Whether you choose to utilize how-to videos, collect gunsmithing books, take an armorer’s course or educate yourself through some other means, keep your references easily accessible by storing them with your armorer’s kit.
How you decide to store your armorer’s kit depends heavily on the overall quantity of your materials. A large, portable toolbox is generally the simplest way to get your gear organized. Choose one containing a variety of drawers or compartments in order to group related tools together – cleaning kit in one drawer, screwdrivers and punches in another, etc.
Instead of scattering them throughout your toolbox, put tiny parts (such as pins or screws) into small labeled containers and place them together in a specific area of your kit.
Liquids (such as oils and solvents) can be tricky. Unless your toolbox has sufficient depth to allow them to stand upright, it is best to store such items nearby in a separate container where they won’t spill.
Learn As You Go
The more time you spend working on your AR-15 projects, the more tailored your kit will become. Although this list provides a great foundation for your armorer’s kit, it is by no means exhaustive. Check out new tools on occasion to find out what works best for your needs. Just don’t waste your time trying to reinvent the “tried-and-true” basics.