If there’s one thing we learned doing our DIY AR 15 build out—you’re going to need the right tools. Grace USA has a whole complement of high quality roll punches and screw drivers that are specifically designed for gunsmithing.
As with many companies associated with the firearms industry, Grace USA is a small, family run business. They are also benefiting from the current high demand environment of anything connected to guns. The owner, Dan Morrison said, “The gunsmith industry has always been a strong market for our products though and the last 6-9 months has been overwhelming at times.”
This hasn’t always been the case.
Dan told me that the company was founded in 1941 by his uncle, Ed Grace, who in 1973 sold the business to Dan’s father, John Morrison. That year, at age 13, he was quickly introduced to the bench grinder, drill presses, lathes and whatever other task was demanded. He said he’s still running the same equipment 40 years later and has raised 4 children around the tool shop, “with all of them starting at a much earlier age then myself in the business.” As with all entrepreneurial ventures, running his company has not always been a walk in the park.
As Dan put it, Grace USA has had “plenty of ups and downs”. When times got tough, the family had to pick apples, run a lawn mowing business and worked in a cherry processing plant. They did “whatever it took to survive”.
Dan says that the last ten years have seen the most growth because the company has diversified by entering into mechanical, industrial, military, and most recently, the woodworking markets.
His day typically begins at 6:30 am and doesn’t until 10:00 in the evening. “You do what you have to do to serve your customers the way you would like to be treated and if that means 16 hour days, then you just do it.”
What you get with Grace
The quality of the Grace punches and screwdrivers are very high. Yes, they are more expensive than the exports from China or even the Craftsmen tools. I’ve had reports that the Chinese-made tools may break or bend so it’s well worth buying something decent once and having it for the rest of your life. The punch set I purchased from Home Depot a few years ago (see above photo) is already rusting. You’re not going to get that kind of deterioration so quickly with a good quality tool.
Whatever you do, don’t use a “standard” screwdriver on a firearm.
I made that mistake years ago on a Smith and Wesson and I butchered the screw. Never again. There are real design differences between a standard screwdriver and a gunsmithing version. First off, the quality of the steel and hardness differ between the two varieties but the main distinction is that the gunsmithing screwdrivers have hollow-ground tips. The standard version for contractors and carpenters (ie Craftsman) are taper-ground.
The tapered versions are appropriate for around the home or shop, but they are not at all suitable for repairing your guns. If you examine the profile of a hollow-ground screwdriver, the blade is the same width for 1/8 inch or so back from the tip. It then flares out to the width of the shank. A taper-ground blade on the other hand, has a profile that tapers from the tip to the width of the shank.
The gunsmithing blades are have a different design because gun screws tend to have narrower, deeper slot. That’s because they frequently get torqued more than a typical “household” screw. Thus, unlike taper-ground screwdrivers, a hollow-ground screwdriver tip will fill the screws entire slot and not try to “walk” out when you torque it.
The Grace screwdrivers are hand assembled by Dan & Co and hollow-ground to fit scope screws, plug screws, guard screws, floor plate screws, sight screws, and many other gun screws as well. His tools are proprietary and were designed by Ed Grace, the founder of the company.
The square-shanked blades are hardened and tempered to R/C 52-56 and guaranteed not to twist or chip. The handles are turned from Maine hardwood and guaranteed to last for years. Grace will replace screwdrivers that don’t meet your satisfaction. Dan stated that only a fraction of 1% of the tools are ever returned that’s from gunsmiths who give them a real workout. (The term “hollow-ground”, Dan informs me, was coined by his Uncle Ed, the founder of Grace USA).
I got the 8 piece HG-8 set which is priced at at around $42.
A tip on using the screw driver if you encounter an obstinate screw: If you have to work with an item that is encrusted with rust or loctite, Dan suggests a drop or two of kroil, a penetrating oil. “Put a little kroil on for three days”, he says. That should solve your problem.
You’re definitely going to need roll punches when assembling an AR and the Dan’s website says the steel gunsmith punches on his 7 piece kit will cover 90% of a gunsmiths needs. Each is made to fit a certain pin and includes five pin punches, one starter and one center punch. Pin punches have a reverse taper which eliminates the punch from sticking in the work piece. Price is around $50 or less.
I’d also consider their brass punch kit too. The brass punches are more brittle than steel but they won’t mar or scratch the surface. Their PS-8 kit has eight brass punches sizes 1/16″ to 5/16″. Each punch is machined from quality 5/16″ solid brass hex stock, is polished and packed in a handy field kit. Price is up to $42.
When to use brass vs. steel punches?
Dan suggests using brass if the pin is going to be a routine job that won’t take a lot of force. If you’re going to need to tap the punch with more than an average whack, that’s when you’d opt for the steel punch.
Finally, you’ll want their 8 oz brass hammer to work with. It’s machined from 360 grade brass, hand polished and gorgeous. Fitted with a hickory handle you’ll be able take on most any task. Amazon sells it for about $26.
You can also get their gear at Brownells, Gander Mountain, Cabela’s, Dixie Gun Works, Dillion Precision, Delta Force, Sarco, and Track of the Wolf.
You can visit their website at http://www.graceusaguntools.com/index.htm
All photos by On-Target Hawaii Staff.
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