When watching our videos, you will see us use various tools. One of the most common is the punch. But did you ever wonder why we sometimes use two different punches to remove or install a pin? How about why we choose a particular punch to do the job? In this article, we are going to explore different punches that we use and explain why we chose them for the job.
Not only will you need to choose the punch type, but you will also have to decide to use a steel, brass or plastic punch. Each material performs better for different situations.
Gunsmith Punches – Types
Generally, you will run into three different types of punches, drive pin punches, roll pin punches and roll pin holder punches.
Drive pin punches
Drive pin punches are the most common gunsmith punch you will come across. They taper to a shaft that is the diameter marked on the handle. Also, drive pin punches are flat-tipped so that the entire surface transfers energy to the pin.
Roll pin punches
Roll pin punches are built just like a drive pin punch except for the tip. Instead of having a flat tip, they have a small ball in the middle of the tip. The ball fits on the inside of the roll pin. This design keeps the punch from slipping off or caving the end of the pin.
There are two lengths of roll pin punches, standard and starter. Starter roll pin punches are shorter versions of the standard length. The philosophy is that you use a starter punch to get the pin moving. Since they are shorter, they are harder to bend and break, especially on roll pins that are stuck or tight. Once you get the pin moved the distance of the starter punch, you switch to a standard punch to finish driving the pin out. In our videos, you will usually see us use both types on the same pin.
Roll pin holder punches
Starting the install of a roll pin can be hard. Without a roll pin holder punch, you will use one hand to hold the roll pin, align the pin with the hole and control the tip of the punch. Your other hand is free to work the hammer. A roll pin holder punch allows your hand holding the punch with only the task of aligning the pin with the hole.
A roll pin holder punch is hollow at one end. This allows you to insert the roll pin into it. Therefore, you only have to hold the punch in place and hammer the pin in.
These punches are for starting the install of a pin. After the install has been started, you will use a regular or starter punch to finish the install.
Gunsmith Punches – Materials
I mostly use steel punches for installing or removing pins. Steel holds up well; especially on hard to remove pins. The disadvantage of using steel is if the punch slips, it can remove the finish of the pin or firearm.
Brass is much softer than steel and does not last as long. If used in the correct situation, the softness of the metal is far superior to steel.
Typically, you use brass punches for drifting sights. The softness of the metal will keep the punch from denting, gouging or scratching your metal sights. If you leave a mark on the sight, it usually comes off with a pencil eraser.
Another use for brass punches is on high value or antique firearms. Should you slip, you are less likely to mark up the firearm.
A plastic punch makes an excellent choice for plastic or other synthetic surfaces. As mentioned above, brass is used to drift metal sights because of its softness. However, brass is still too hard of a material to use on plastic sights. If you are drifting a plastic sight, you want to have a plastic punch. I do not own a plastic punch since I use a sight pusher for moving, removing or installing sights.
Gunsmith Punches – Care
Punches do not need a lot of care. The biggest issue with using punches is that they eventually wear out. This comes in the form of mushrooming. Mushrooming is when the end of a punch deforms from use and the ends start to fold over like a mushroom cap. This can happen at either end of the punch.
When the punch mushrooms, the effectiveness of transferring force is reduced and the risk of damaging a firearm goes up. However, fixing a punch with this damage is easy to do since you just file the damaged end down. Make sure the surface is flat and at a 90-degree angle. Also, make sure that the shaft is round and is the correct diameter of the punch. When you finish fixing the punch, it should be smooth and with no jagged edges.
Gunsmith Punches – Working surface
One of the tools that you will see us use in just about every disassembly or reassembly video is a bench block. A bench block’s purpose is to hold the piece steady while you drive out the pin. They are typically made of plastic to keep from marking.
Bench blocks can get expensive. However, other common alternatives exist around the house or hardware store. Rolls of duct tape are an excellent alternative for workpieces that have an odd shape. The roll gives a little to take the form of the part. A 2×4 can also be used as a bench block. Drill some holes into the 2×4 for the pins to pass through as you punch them out and you have a bench block.
I like the 2×4 as an alternative over the duct tape. The surface is stiffer, allowing more energy to be transferred to the pin.
Your workbench should be solid and have little to no wobble. You want to make sure that your work surface is stable so that your punch does not slip or you miss with your hammer. A wobbly bench can steal energy from your hammer as well, making it less effective on tight or stuck pins.
Mats on a workbench help firearms from getting scratched. However, when using a punch, it is the bench block’s job to protect the surface of the firearm, not the bench. Do not punch on top of cleaning mats because they can also steal energy from your hammer as well. If you have a mat on your workbench, move it aside for when you are using a punch.
Punches are a required tool if you are going to do gunsmithing either professionally or recreationally. There are just about as many pins in firearms as screws.
Don’t go overboard with buying punches at first. Start with a simple kit and work your way up to a more advanced one. You are going to break a punch so realize that now.
I recommend that people purchase their gunsmith tools at Brownells whenever possible. Brownells has Guaranteed Forever policy on most of the products that they sell. If you don’t need it, don’t want it or don’t like it, they will take it back anytime. I have used their Guaranteed Forever policy on punches that I broke removing stuck roll pins. It was a simple process of contacting customer service and they replaced the punches at no cost to me.
If you would like to know more about gunsmithing tools, read our article about gunsmith screwdrivers.
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