Best Gunsmith Lathes – 2020 Buyer’s Guide

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In today’s world, you can never be too prepared for a sudden disaster. And what better way to be self sufficient than to be able to make your own guns? In order to properly machine gun barrels, you are going to want to work with a gunsmith lathe.

Read on to learn more about these awesome tools and all you can accomplish when working with one. 

Hoping to cut right to the chase? Below are the best gunsmith lathes:

  1. Erie Tools Precision Metal Lathe
  2. Grizzly G0768

Comparison of the Best Gunsmith Lathes

Product

Our Rating

Price

Erie Tools Precision Metal Lathe

  • Best for the Money
  • Includes lathe, chuck key, five-piece carbide tipped cutter kit, internal chuck jaws and external chuck jaws
  • Perfect for metal, wood and plastic parts

Grizzly G0768

  • Editor's Pick
  • 600W (3/4 HP), 110V, DC, 10A motor
  • Distance between centers: 15-3/4", Swing over: bed 8-1/4", cross slide 4-5/8"

What Makes a Lathe Great for Gunsmithing?

Wondering what to look for in a gunsmithing lathe? Look no further!

Accuracy

If you think about it, accuracy is really the be all end all when it comes to working with lathes, particularly when working with lathes for manufacturing pieces of a gun. The last thing you would want to have any sort of machining error would be something capable of killing you or someone else. Therefore, you should find the most accurate lathe possible when working with guns. 

Durability

Not all lathes are designed for working with metal, and even those that are designed for working with metal can sometimes wear down more quickly than other models. Since you are going to be working with a high volume of metal, you want to make sure you invest in a lathe that can go the distance for you and not break unexpectedly.

What Size Lathe to use for Gunsmith Shop?

There are a number of considerations to take into account when choosing how big or how small your lathe should be for your gunsmith shop. First of all, you need to think about the available space in your shop – the most effective lathe in the world will not work well if your shop does not have the space to accommodate it.

You also need to think about the size of the gun barrels you intend on machining with your lathe. Hopefully, you will be able to strike a balance between those two considerations and find a lathe size that will work for your needs.

Review of the Best Gunsmith Lathes

Now that you are a little more aware of what to look out for with gunsmith lathes, let’s check out our list of the top products:

Best for the Money:
Erie Tools Precision Metal Lathe

PROS

  • Good option for beginner gunsmiths
  • Erie provides good customer service
  • Has a digital readout for quick, easy processing
  • Particularly great for working with smaller workpieces

CONS

  • Runs more slowly when it is working with metal

Our Review

Do not let the name of this lathe fool you – although it is excellent at working with metal when you are gunsmithing, it is also a versatile little tool that works just as well with wood, and even with plastic as well. One of the most impressive aspects of this model was how precise its cuts are, which is in part due to the 4 in. of chuck diameter it provides. This enables it to hold the work piece very tightly and securely in place.

If you are looking for a lathe that is particularly adept at smaller projects, this is definitely the choice for you.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

If you want to invest in a good lathe for gunsmithing, but you are a little gun-shy (get it?) about the high price tag on a lot of these models, you have got to go with this Erie option. It sacrifices none of the quality, but it is offered at a much, much lower price.

Best Grizzly Gunsmith Lathe:
 Grizzly G0709

PROS

  • Extremely accurate
  • Works well right out of the box
  • Endorsed for use by professional gunsmiths
  • Durable enough to stand up to everyday use

CONS

  • Will take up a lot of space in your workshop

Our Review

This is the lathe you have got to go with if you plan on smithing guns with longer barrels. It has an incredible 14 inches by 40 inches work area, so you can turn pretty much whatever size gun you would want on this beast of a machine. Plus, the spindle’s outboard end has a spider mount system for handling those extra long barrels and rifle shafts.

It also has a quick change tool post to boost overall convenience and ease of use when you are operating this machine. And speaking of ease of use, it will not take you that long to set up.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

We were big fans of the halogen work light included on this model. You can never keep your work surface too illuminated when you are working with a giant power tool such as a gunsmith lathe. Safety first, always!

Editor’s Pick:
Grizzly G0768

PROS

  • Nice fit and finish
  • Grizzly provides good customer service
  • Lathe moves so quickly that even carbide cutters work well
  • Customers report being able to use this lathe for years and years without any issues

CONS

  • Does not have great torque at low speeds

Our Review

There are certainly a lot of qualities to love about this lathe. Users report that its tool post, its compound slide, and its post slide are all super rigid and do not provide any play, which is excellent both for safety reasons and also to make the most accurate cuts possible.

Many reviews also reported that this product does not become greasy very quickly, as opposed to other lathes on the market today. This means you will spend more time turning and less time cleaning and maintaining your lathe, not to mention getting all covered in grease.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

This lathe is standout most noticeably because of its overall size. It is smaller and lot more lightweight than many of the other lathes on this list. If you are looking for a lathe you can easily transport, this is the one for you.

4: Shop Fox M1112

PROS

  • Has high tolerance bearings
  • Awesome for machining barrels
  • Durable and resistant to damage
  • Has a range of speeds from 70 RPM to 1400RPM

CONS

  • On the larger side

Our Review

This lathe is a fantastic choice if you are a more experienced gunsmith who is looking for a lathe that can meet all of your specialized needs and more (on the flip side, this quality also means that this lathe is not the best choice for beginning gunsmiths).

Users report that this lathe works great for machining barrels, but also for working with carbide tooling, counter sinks, and even cobalt drills. Its base is made of solid cast iron, so you will never have to worry about this lathe rocking or tipping over, and it is for sure built to go the distance.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

We were extremely impressed with the cooling system on this model, which is essential for effective gunsmith turning, and can often be an issue you encounter with other lathe models. The cooling on this Shop Fox works particularly well when you are turning rust proof materials.  

5: Techongda Metal Lathe

PROS

  • Easy to use
  • Easily cuts through steel
  • Comes with a six month warranty
  • All dials are in metric system measurements

CONS

  • Does not have a rotation direction switch

Our Review

We loved the high quality design that clearly went into making this stand out Techongda lathe. All of its internal gears and operating systems are made of metal, so you will not have to worry about some cheap plastic part breaking and you needing to take apart your entire lathe in order to get inside to fix it properly.

The speed on the main turning shaft, which ranges anywhere from 50 RPM to 2500 RPM, can be adjusted at will, which is a straightforward and simple process. Finally, this lathe strikes a great balance between size and weight for hobbyist gunsmith use.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

We could not believe the amount of different tasks users report using this lathe for. Not just basic metal turning, but also boring, drilling, facing, model processing, sample processing, and even precision parts processing. There really is not much this lathe will not be able to do!

Quick Take: Best Gunsmith Lathes

In summary, here are the best gunsmith lathes:

  1. Erie Tools Precision Metal Lathe
  2. Grizzly G0709
  3. Grizzly G0768

What Do I Need To Know Before Buying?

Luckily, when looking for a gunsmith lathe there are only a couple of things most people need to look at.

Size

We mentioned this aspect earlier, but it is worth repeating that you really do need to take into account the size of the lathe you are going to need in order to complete your planned gunsmithing projects. Make sure your lathe size is compatible with your shop space and the size of the guns you want to be working on.

Speed

Speed with lathes is measured in revolutions per minute, or RPM. The wider RPM range a lathe has, the more versatile it is and the wider range of projects you will be able to work on. It usually also indicates a more accurate lathe.

Ease of Use

Lathes are complicated, and not to mention, they look straight up intimidating. If you are new to the gunsmithing game, or even if you have smithed thousands of barrels, you are going to want a lathe that is straightforward and simple to operate.

Gunsmith Lathe vs. Regular Lathe – Comparison Overview

Here's what you need to know:

Gunsmith Lathe

One of the most defining aspects of a gunsmith lathe is the various additional tools these lathes use in order to secure the gun barrel in place. As mentioned above, accuracy is crucial when gunsmithing, so gunsmith lathes often have a device on the end of their spindle called a “spider,” which helps to hold the gun barrel in place while the lathe goes to work. These lathes are also typically more precise than other kinds of lathes.

Regular Lathe

Regular lathes, not specifically intended for gunsmithing, may have a little bit more versatility to them than gunsmith lathes. Regular lathes can also be used for wood turning, often times for making bowls and other beautiful decorative pieces that require a lathe to create. These lathes will not have the additional “spider” securing mechanism on the outboard ends of their spindles, but they can still hold and turn pieces effectively – just maybe not with the level of accuracy you would need when working with a gunsmith lathe.

Conclusion

Gunsmiths lathes are really a necessity if you want to machine your own gun barrels. Make sure you invest in a lathe that is the right size for your needs and your workspace, and accurate enough to help you produce the best gun barrels possible. We promise you will not be able to go wrong with any of the products on our list above.

People Also Ask

Because gunsmithing can be such a complex concept, we have included answers to some of the most frequently asked questions below:

What Is A Gunsmith Lathe?

A gunsmith lathe is a type of lathe with several specific features that make it ideal for working with shaping barrels of different kinds of guns. Gunsmith lathes typically have a higher level of accuracy than other kinds of lathes, and some additional clamps to hold your work piece in place.

How Big Are Gunsmith Lathes?

Gunsmith lathes can range in size depending on the size of the gun barrel you intend to work on. The most common gunsmith lathe size is 13 in. by 40 in., which provides you enough space to be able to work on most standard gun projects.

How Much Do Gunsmith Lathes Weigh?

Again, there can be a pretty big range on this number depending on which lathe you are working with. The size of the lathe, plus its internal materials (some lathes have plastic gears and are therefore more lightweight, other lathes have metal gears and are heavier) can be a big determining factor in the lathe’s overall weight. Get ready to need help transporting one either way, though – most lathes weigh over 1,000 lbs.

How To Center On A Gunsmith Lathe

Centering on a gunsmith lathe is most easily accomplished using a centering bar, which is simply a long steel bar with slots at each end. You attach the bar to your lathe, place a test indicator in one of the end slots, and begin turning. You will be able to quickly see whether or not your lathe is centered.