What Is a Gunsmithing Lathe?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A gunsmithing lathe is a tool gunsmiths can use while working a gun. Lathes lock materials in place around a single axis of rotation to permit metalworkers to do symmetrical work like boring out a gun barrel. In the case of a gunsmithing lathe, the device needs very narrow tolerances as well as a high degree of flexibility to work on weapons of different types, whether the gunsmith is fabricating new guns or making repairs and retrofits to existing ones. Such supplies are available directly from manufacturers as well as catalogs aimed at gunsmiths.

Gunsmithing lathes are used to create gun parts such as barrels.
Gunsmithing lathes are used to create gun parts such as barrels.

Hand-gunsmithing is a relatively rare occupation, with most major gun manufacturers relying on mass production techniques to meet their needs. Gunsmiths who perform repairs need lathes, as do those who produce custom work for their clients. Hobbyists may also turn to a lathe to work on their own projects, especially if they do not have access to a shop with the necessary equipment.

The gunsmithing lathe allows the worker to lock a gun in progress into place and turn it to work on various activities, from boring out the barrel to finishing it. Various tools fit into the lathe for working the metal as needed, and the device is often mounted on a cabinet or table to position it at a good working height. As the gunsmith uses the lathe, she can adjust the settings to meet her changing needs, repositioning the barrel and other components.

Gunsmithing equipment needs to be extremely precise. Any errors in the barrel of a gun can translate into significant problems, including an inability to fire the weapon, or dangerous situations when attempting to use it. The gunsmithing lathe contains a number of moving parts machined within very precise tolerances, and the operator must regularly clean, oil, and maintain it to keep it in good working order.

It is sometimes possible to lease or rent a gunsmithing lathe. This can be a good option for hobbyists who are not sure about the model and size they want, as they may not be able to afford the purchase price for a new lathe. Used lathes are also available through a variety of sources. When purchasing a lathe, it is advisable to think about future projected uses; size can be a significant limiting factor, and it is important to purchase a lathe large enough to accommodate any future needs as well.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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