Put down the Phillips screwdriver and hammer. Yes, I see you, banging away at your trigger pins and moments away from the inevitable slip-and-gouge across the side of your AR lower. A gouge you’ll either pay to have repaired or, more likely, leave as a permanent, scarred reminder of your penchant for the Wrong Tool for the Job.
I’m the first to admit building up your collection of task-specific firearms-related tools takes time and a not-inconsiderable amount of money. In the past few years I’ve been going through trigger pull gauges like crazy thanks to theft and random, odd breakages.
I’m also no stranger to frantically rushing around town for a uniquely-sized hex key or some bizarrely-shaped bit (the latter of which is typically on a foreign-made optics mount, leaving me cursing and sweating to meet my review deadline). All that said, I have a pair of tool kits that have proven to be invaluable: Brownell’s Magna-Tip Super Set and Gunsmith Master Punch Set.
Brownell’s Magna-Tip Super Set comes with 58 bits and two handles, one short and one long. There are also 22 and 44-bit sets available but I highly recommend the largest. Why? Because the 8-bit set includes flat blades in nine different widths and six thicknesses, a variety of Allen bits, and even a tiny torx.
As the name implies, the bits are magnetized which has been extremely useful for hanging onto tiny screws. To satisfy my OCD side, it comes in a hard plastic case with a carefully-graphed chart showing where each bit should be placed within the many holes. I’ve also found I can store the numerous tiny hex keys that come with aftermarket triggers and optics in the compartment with the shorter handle.
It made my life – and my job – much simpler last week when I needed to play musical triggers with a few ARs to install a Timney Calvin Elite AR trigger in a DPMS Hunter for a business trip. The pistol grip screws all had different sizes and types of heads and I had bits for all of them.
And when I install an aftermarket hammer spring in one of my hunting revolvers later today I know I’ll have the correct bits for the job. Damaging the side plate of a cherished gun because you don’t bother to use the right screwdriver is no small failure (in my opinion).
Brownell’s Gunsmith Master Punch Set is similarly valuable. I’m not quite as obsessed with it as I am the Magna-Tip Super Set, but it comes in handy on a regular basis.
It includes four starter punches for stuck pins, four hardened-point pin punches, one prick punch, four brass punches, three nylon front-sight drift punches, and one center punch. There’s also a small neoprene mat, a nylon bench block, and a hammer with one nylon and one brass head.
This set comes in a polyethylene case with removable dividers. Having the right punch for various gunsmithing jobs big and small has saved more than a few guns from scratches, gouges, and being thrown out the window in frustration.
The only downside I’ve found to the Magna-Tip Super Set isn’t product-related, it’s human-idiocy related. When the day arrives that you – or someone else, ahem – accidentally spill the box of neatly-organized bits, you’re probably going to lose it (your composure).
The good news is the bits are all engraved with their part number, so if you stick the diagram on the inside of the lid, you can easily figure out where they go. Organizing them is a bit time-consuming – pun intended – but worthwhile. When the bits are arranged by size, finding the specific bit you need happens a lot faster. Just don’t lose them.
As for the Gunsmith Master Punch Set, I have no complaints about the tools themselves. I do wish the compartments were sized differently and the removable dividers were, well, not removable. One of the long dividers with no replacement cracked badly the first week I had the set. In addition, the neoprene mat is too small for the majority of my needs. None of those are terrible flaws, just minor frustrations with nothing to do with the punches or hammer. At some point I’ll buy a different case.
Bottom line? It’s much cheaper to buy the right tools than it is to pay to repair gouges. Ask me how I know. I’ve Dremeled down more than a few screwdrivers from the hardware store to precisely fit various revolvers and far prefer having these sets on hand.
The Magna-Tip Super Set is awesome; I have a gunsmith friend who owns multiples of it and have been seriously considering buying another myself. The punches are necessary tools if you do any work on rifles and Brownell’s set provides the varied types needed for different tasks which I appreciate.
Now, put the Phillips down and get some proper tools. Not only will you not regret it, you’ll love it. And your guns will thank you, too.
Rating (out of five stars):
Tool Quality * * * * * / * * * * * (Gunsmith Master Punch Set/Magna-Tip Super Set)
I’ve used these tools hard and they’ve withstood it all. The Magna-Tip Super Set, specifically, has been fantastic. There have not been any issues whatsoever of bending, let alone breaking. These are some of my favorite tools.
Case Quality * */ * * *
The case the punches came in is all right. I believe the case itself will likely last for some time as long as I do not drop it; the hinges and corners are unlike to survive a fall. The dividers are brittle which would be less of an issue if it came with extras for every piece rather than only the shortest ones. I’ll replace the case.
As for the Magna-Tip Super Set case, it’s made of tougher stuff than the punch set’s. I like the individual slots for each bit. I do wish it closed more securely; the lid is secured by a slight ridge at its center and has been finicky. And, yes, it’s been spilled. So while it’s good, thick plastic, the latch is iffy.
Value * * */ * * * *
Can you ever really give something five stars for price? It isn’t as though spending money is fun. The Gunsmith Master Punch Set gets three stars because although the tools themselves are great quality, the case is not. At $109.99 I would hope for a slightly better case.
The Magna-Tip Super Set has an MSRP of $129.99 which is pretty fair considering the overall quality of the set. Considering the screwdrivers and hex keys I’ve broken I have to say it’s well worth the price.
Overall: * * * */ * * * *
I highly recommend the Magna-Tip Super Set and recommend the Gunsmith Master Punch Set as well. Between the two the Magna-Tip Super Set is my favorite. It really has proven invaluable (in fact, I have the short handle and various bits with me right now on an out-of-state hunt). Having the right tools makes your work a whole lot easier.
The Scattergun Trail
Story and photos by Larry Case
“It takes hundreds of decoys and a thousand is even better”
I used to get tired hearing about the good old days. Older hunters and fishermen are the world’s worst when it comes to relating how great it was in the “good old days.” I don’t hear this so much anymore; maybe because I have become one of the old guys that talk about how great it used to be.
As far as wildlife and game populations go, in many respects we are better off now than 50 years ago. With deer and turkey there is no question but our smaller game, that is a story for another time.
In one area of waterfowl hunting however, we are completely off the charts and that is with snow geese. Known as “light geese” in the waterfowl identification world, this group includes the greater and lesser snow goose, Ross’s goose and some variations including hybrids of these.
Snow geese, especially the greater snow goose, can cause great damage to the habitat they feed in. Geese are grazers and pull different grasses and plants out of the ground while feeding; they will also dig into the soil with their powerful beaks to extract more of the roots. This may not sound like a big deal until you think about oh let’s say, 10 thousand geese descending onto one field. Those are the kinds of numbers these geese may travel in.The arctic tundra, where these birds nest,is very fragile with a short growing season. The snow goose was literally eating himself, as well as other birds and wildlife, out of house and home – something had to give.
Long story short, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was able to change some rules to allow for a much greater harvest of light geese. This meant longer seasons (107 days in some states) extending into March and restrictions on things like plugged shotguns and electronic callers were removed. They clearly wanted hunters to knock down some geese!
“the damage they can do to crops, well, you just have to see it to believe it”
What has emerged in the past 15 years or so is a new genre of waterfowl hunting. Even though this is February, it is considered spring hunting as the season often runs into March and April depending on what state you are in. Hunters who are obsessed with this (believe me, these guys are out there) basically start in the south around Texas to Arkansas and follow the white geese on their northern migration.
I wanted to talk to someone on the snow goose trail and I found Josh Dahlke lying in a muddy field in Arkansas. Josh runs the popular website ScoutLook.com. This site is the cat’s meow for keeping hunters and fisherman updated on the latest weather and conditions for your area. There is a ton of information and articles on whatever kind of hook and bullet arena you play in.
Josh was hunting for snow geese with Eaglehead Outdoors outfitters; these guys are the real deal and chase them as they move north from February to April. “I know these geese cause damage to the tundra when they get to their breeding grounds,” Josh told me “but here in the states, the damage they can do to crops, … well, you just have to see it to believe it. We found a huge flock of snows staged next to a 40-acre winter wheat field, here in Arkansas, and by the next day, that field was totally obliterated – nothing left but mud.”
Even though the snow geese flocks can number in the thousands, Josh Dahlke was quick to point out that this is not always an easy game. “These birds get shot at all the way to Canada,” he said, “They have seen decoy spreads all along the route and can be “dang” smart. To be successful at this it takes a lot of work, driving (hundreds of miles) and scouting, finding the geese and then setting up massive decoy spreads. A few dozen decoys just won’t do it. It takes hundreds of decoys and a thousand is even better. The average hunter can’t do it,” Josh explained, “that’s why if you want to try this, you may want to give an outfitter a call.”
Even though we are talking millions of geese here, there are no guarantees. When conditions are right however, you can stack up a lot of snow geese. Josh told me about a time when his party took 64 geese and sometimes the numbers can go much higher than that. The daily limit in some states is as high as 25 with an unlimited possession rate.
I may not make it on a snow goose hunt this year – but then again I might. I still have some squirrel hunting to do and then spring turkey to think about. If you want to go, you might give the guys at Eaglehead Outdoors a call, 320-224-3614, www.eagleheadoutdoors.com. I hope you get to shoot so much that you burn the barrel off that shotgun.
Josh Dahlke used the Winchester Blindside ammo on this snow goose hunt. If you are a waterfowler and have not tried it, you need to check it out.
The basic premise for why these shotgun shells are so deadly lies in Winchesters revolutionary HEX™ shot technology. The shot is shaped like a hexagon – they look like tiny dice. When fired from a shotgun shell, this shape is devastating to anything it hits; Imagine hundreds of miniature tumbling bricks. This means bigger wound channels than with a conventional round shot. Also, because of the hex shape, the shot is actually stacked neatly within the shell casing. More shot can be placed into the shell, up to 15% more. Is this going to help you take more ducks and geese? You can bet your sweet Benelli it is.
Winchester Blindside Shotgun Ammunition
Blindside ammo also has a really wicked diamond cut wad that delivers a beautiful pattern and what is really interesting, Winchester introduced a high velocity version of Blindside last year. These shells offer 12-gauge loads of #5’s and BB’s moving at 1675-fps. That is screamin’ my friend.
Josh Dahlke told me the consensus on his hunt was that those using the Blindside ammo experienced less cripples and the high velocity loads helped with snow geese as you often have long shots. If you are a duck and goose hunter you just might want to take a look.