There is a good post over at tslrf about the importance of spare gun parts.
This post will add a few thoughts to that. I’m uniquely qualified to talk about spare parts, because I’m a borderline hoarder when it comes to parts and tools. If you stock gun parts, follow these simple rules:
1) Keep parts organized by little ziplock bags which are labeled by the weapon the parts go with. For things like springs, it’s good to have even smaller bags and label the part number on the bag. If the parts come in labeled bags, keep them in those bags. Some small parts can look like each other and still be different.
2) Print out a schematic of the firearm in question and fold it up and keep it with the parts.
If you fail to do either of these, years down the road, you won’t remember what parts go with what guns. Trust me. I’m right.
3) Whenever a part fails, purchase a spare in addition to the replacement part. Certain parts have a higher likelihood of failure. If something fails once, be suspicious it will fail again.
4) Just because you fixed something once, doesn’t mean you’ll remember how to fix it again in the future. Time leads to forgetfulness. It helps if you keep a small diary of more complex repairs. Did you need to fit the part or was it a drop in replacement? Were there any hang ups with the new part? A little note can jog your memory in the future. I’m not talking about basic field stripping, which is second nature to you, but about those parts that you rarely remove and can cause confusion.
One way to have a better chance of having parts is to stick with common weapons and even purchase a second weapon of the same model and caliber.
Even if the outer surface of a gun is rough, the internal parts might not have been subject to much wear. For the popular 870 Remington and other weapons issued by police, police auctions and sales are one place to look for a less expensive backup.
If funds are tight and you’re a recreational shooter who wants different guns, I wouldn’t buy multiple guns for parts. It’s more fun to have different models! If your 870 breaks, you’ll have an 1100 as a backup. If your 45 1911 fails, you have a 357 revolver.
Some shooters question if today’s parts are as good as the parts of yesteryear. Many small parts today are made by MIM or Metal Injection Molding. The process is briefly described here.
When a part is modified or made differently it’s frequently done to reduce manufacturing costs and ring more profit out of the sales. This has a long history. A popular example is the beloved pre-64 Winchester Model 70s. The guns functioned well, but were expensive to produce. The bolt was modified to streamline production. The goal wasn’t to make the best gun. The goal was to make an acceptably good gun with less cost.
The same is true of hardware. All bolts aren’t created equal! I’ve had especially bad luck with longer wood screws from the big box retailers. I’ve had some rip the heads off. Others, more commonly, strip out. This is in softwood with predrilled holes. If you can afford it, purchase quality. If not, big box budget fasteners are better than nothing.
One way to acquire assortments of bolts, nuts, nails, and other hardware is to purchase mixed assortments which are swept up and tossed together. Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, you’re never quite sure of what you’ll get.
If you’re looking for assorted stainless steel nails, for example, Mcfeely’s has a five pound box for $26. Be sure to get their $1 shipping special. Mine were American made, but I don’t see them advertised that way, so YMMV. Stainless steel nails are great because they won’t rust like regular nails. They can be used outdoors, on treated lumber, pretty much anywhere.
Grab a few more plastic bags and divide your nails into three general sizes: Small, Medium, and Large. That way you don’t fumble through as many nails looking for what you want in the future.
Bolt grade and quality is especially important for bolts critical to safety, like the bolts attaching your engine to its motor mount. For mission critical bolts, unless you’ve educated yourself about bolt grade, try to purchase the replacement bolt directly from the vehicle maker. You’ll pay more, but you’ll be safe.
It helps to have a bolt gauge, English and Metric, to help you identify thread pitch and bolt diameter when you’re looking for a replacement. As a final check, hold the two bolts up against one another. The threads should match perfectly. This will keep you from mixing up close bolts, like 3/8-16 and Metric 10mm x 1.5.
If you toss out an old appliance or other machine, if you have the time, you can strip it of its old bolts, nuts, sheet metal screws, clamps, and other hardware. This will build your hardware collection at no cost.
Some people score good deals purchasing bolts and nuts from estate sales.
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