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.
Warne produces some mighty fine optics mounts. Like many other quality-seeking shooters, I’ve trusted their products for years and have their MSR and tactical mount 1/2-inch hex nut torque specification engrained in my brain – 65-inch/pounds.
Adjusting a torque wrench to 65-inch/pounds isn’t typically a tiresome task; however, many wrenches like the Vortex Torque Wrench don’t stretch to 65-inch/pounds. The Wheeler F.A.T. wrench, another popular torque tool, has a limit of 65-inch/pounds so you’re moving the needle all the way out and back which, frankly, is anything but a good time.
Warne offers a nice reprieve from adjustable torque wrenches in the form of the TW65 Torque Wrench, a handheld wrench preset at 65-inch/pounds. Manufactured by California Torque Products on behalf of Warne, the 1/4-inch drive comes with a 1/2-inch socket and features electronic visual and auditory limit notifications.
The TW65’s handle is quite comfortable in the hand and easy to operate. The rubber coating provides additional grip support and doubles as an oil and chemical-resistant covering.
Removing the two screws closest one another (above, left side) allows removal of the battery tray which houses two CR2025 replaceable batteries.
At the other end of the wrench sits a 1/4-inch square drive. It secures sockets very well, but is clearly made overseas.
The provided 1/2-inch socket can be swapped out to any 1/4-inch drive socket.
For instance, above, a 1/4″ drive 12mm socket is used to tighten a non-Warne scope mount with the same 65-inch/pound torque specification.
When the torque limit is met, the wrench rolls-over very smoothly and disengages itself from action with a “tactile click,” as they put it. Even with no (or dead) batteries, the wrench will still perform its function adequately.
With electrical power, however, the TW65’s red indicator light shines bright and a rather loud alarm sounds from within the wrench. I suppose some may find these electronic features helpful – especially if you need a sharp reminder to stop wrenching – but I’ve never had any issue feeling a torque wrench hit its limit and could do without the auditory reprimand.
The TW65 is approved for loosening hex nuts, as well. Simply apply force in the opposite direction until the nut is loose. No light or sound indication will be given when used in the reverse direction.
As accustomed as I am to Warne’s very high-quality, made in the USA optics mounts, the TW65 65-inch/pound Torque Wrench (made overseas) is a definite departure in quality. However, it gets the job done without issue and is backed by Warne’s lifetime warranty – that’s the life of the tool, no receipt necessary. The smooth roll-over as it reaches its torque limit is satisfying, but the ensuing shrill alarm is rather loud. The TW65 is a more-than-adequate lightweight solution to serve the needs of folks who often tighten 65-inch/pound scope mount screws.
Specifications: Warne TW65 Torque Wrench (1/4″ Drive, 65 in/lbs)
Price as reviewed: $59.99 MSRP ($48 shipped via Amazon)
Ratings (out of five stars):
Design: * * * *
Warne’s TW65 1/4-inch drive 65-inch/pound electronic torque wrench is a less-expensive alternative to adjustable wrenches and is designed to tighten the 1/2-inch hex nut on Warne MSR and tactical mounts. Simply designed, it features a rubberized coating that resists oil and chemicals.
Quality: * * * *
Compared to Warne’ excellent optics mounts, the TW65 feels cheap. After all, Warne mounts are made in the USA and this plastic-shelled wrench is manufactured by an overseas OEM. That said, I’ve yet to encounter any issues with its performance or reliability.
Ease of Use: * * * *
Ergonomically, the TW65 feels good. It’s easy on the wrist and the textured handle and rubberized grip help to prevent slipping. The battery compartment requires the removal of two screws and a battery carrier. Absent batteries, the wrench still performs, just without the light and sound indicators.
Overall: * * * *
Designed specifically for Warne MSR and tactical mounts, the Warne TW65 is a reliably-performing, relatively inexpensive electronic torque wrench with a set torque limitation of 65-inch/pounds. Backed by a “life of the tool” warranty, this is a wrench any serious Warne mount user should consider for their tool chest or range bag.
It could be a fun weekend shooting with friends, a 3-gun competition, civil disturbance, or zombie apocalypse (I know, so overdone). Guns get dirty, carbon builds up in all the typical places and guns lose accuracy and reliability. A quick in-the-field cleaning can keep guns running smoothly and accurately so you don’t find yourself without an operational gun when things are at their worse or best depending on how you look at it.
I’ve seen many articles on AR’s, but few on cleaning. Over the last few years, there have been numerous tools introduced to facilitate easier cleaning of the bolts and carrier groups and I wanted to compare them side by side to see if they worked and if they worked, how well? I called Brownells (who else) and promptly received a package which included:
– Cat M-4 Cleaning Tool
– The Otis B.O.N.E. (Bolt Operational Necessary Equipment)
– CRT-15 Carbon Removal Tool for AR-15
– Brownells AR-15 Bolt Radius Scraper
– Mark Brown Custom AR-15 Bolt Carrier Carbon Scraper
These items along with 20 boxes of Wolf .223 steel case, military classic ammo which felt dirty, so it was perfect for my project, a few boxes of hand loads from a friend (thanks Ted), and various leftovers from previous range sessions in both 5.56 and .223, I was ready to go.
For the evaluations, I needed to shoot. I used my Spikes Tactical 10.5” SBR with a Nickel-Boron bolt group plus a second bolt and carrier, borrowed from my 10” Spikes 300 Blackout, also Nickel-Boron. I then walked 100-yards to the backyard rifle and pistol range – I know, it’s a rough life. Within 10 minutes I was sent away for scaring the crap (literally) out of the wife’s new foster dog. Darnit
A half an hour later I arrived at the public range and started over. I shot 100 rounds then swapped bolts and carriers and as an added bonus, I twisted on an Advanced Armament 7.62 SD suppressor to increase the gas and pressure to the carrier, hopefully making it a bit more carbon coated (remind me to use this when shooting in the backyard). The nickel boron bolt groups performed well and I had no failures from the Spikes rifle. It digested all the various types of ammo with only a few failures-to-feed from the Wolf ammo but surprisingly the accuracy was really good.
The Clean Up
Cat M-4 Cleaning Tool
Pro – Small, simple one piece design, no moving parts. Bonus screw driver tip holder. Good performance and lightweight. It could be worn by women to attract the right type of guy.
Con – Not perfect. The Cat M-4 didn’t get all the carbon from the back of the carrier.
Pros – Also small, compact, fits easily into the little OTIS cleaning kits. It did a reasonable job on the bolt and a great job on the carrier. Just as with the CAT, it could be worn by a woman as a pendant to attract the right type of man.
Cons – The bone bolt cleaning end felt a bit loose to me.
CRT-15 Carbon Removal Tool for AR-15
Pro – Was the best at getting the carbon off the bolt. It was odd at first applying pressure to the small arm, but easy enough.
Con – Small arm may break off and the carrier recess did not get it as clean as the others.
Brownells AR-15 Radius Bolt Scraper
Pro – Did a great job on the bolt tail, removing most of the carbon the first time.
Con – This is a larger tool and better suited for the workshop. Only one function.
Mark Brown custom AR-15 Bolt Carrier carbon scraper
Pro – This did a great job cleaning the carrier recess.
Cons – This is also a large tool and best suited for the workshop. Only one function.
Conclusion: Size matters. All the tools did a good job knocking the excess carbon from the bolts and carriers. Used in the field I have no doubts that all of them would keep your AR’s running strong. Special thanks to Brownells for an outragous amount of support for this article.
About the author
Rick Ross is a NRA Life member, GSSF and IDPA competitor and AR enthusiast. He is not a Rapper.
Editors note: Rick Ross is an independent reviewer and contributor for Western Shooting Journal and at times, a known goof ball.
See the AR-15 Bolt Cleaning Tools Infograph here.