View Full Version : Making a pistol??

sid pileski
08-11-2014, 12:38 PM
All- I'm sure there area few informed people here that could tell me, and I think I already know the answer, but.....
I would like to make a pistol.
I saw an interesting design on Pawn Stars. A fellow brought in a Wesson over/under darringer that I thought was a cute design.

I've designed and built a lot of things, but never a gun.

I'm fairly certain that I would need some type of federal license? I only want to make one.
Could I make it and have it inspected by a licensed gun smith, similar to making a car and have it inspected and all the paper work???

I currently have a pistol permit in NY.

What say ye?


08-11-2014, 01:00 PM
I am not familiar with New York laws and cannot address what hoops must be jumped through to comply. The short answer is that according to BATF laws, an individual can make a firearm for his own use as long as it conforms with all local laws. If making a handgun, it must have a rifled barrel.

08-11-2014, 01:02 PM
No federal license required to make one for your own use. You can't make one to give away. The loophole is that you can make it for your own use and then later decide to give it away.

There may be state restrictions that you have to follow as to which features are allowed. I'm in California and they have a whole list of prohibited things. I can still do my own.

BTW, Federal law requires that the barrel is rifled. Many folks simply buy a spare barrel from one of the main suppliers for under $50 and cut it to size.


08-11-2014, 01:54 PM
There used to be a couple of home gunsmith forums with lots of active members, projects, plans, and a lot of the background info spelled out. I can't get to them from work, but try googling it.
The others have spelled out the basics, but NY may have additional restrictions.

sid pileski
08-11-2014, 02:04 PM
The barrel rifling thing is interesting. I was not aware of that, but makes sense.
They want matching finger prints between bullet and barrel.

Might be interesting to do my own rifling too?


loose nut
08-11-2014, 02:19 PM
What if you where making a copy of a smooth bore musket that didn't have rifling originally.

08-11-2014, 02:31 PM
What if you where making a copy of a smooth bore musket that didn't have rifling originally.

there is also a year type. and you are discussig a long gun. Rules are diffrent. Lots of good reading over at the atf web site.

08-11-2014, 04:29 PM
Take a look here as well:


sid pileski
08-11-2014, 04:37 PM
Take a look here as well:


Thanks! I'll look into some of these sites.

Has anyone here made a pistol of thier own?


08-11-2014, 04:49 PM
The barrel rifling thing is interesting. I was not aware of that, but makes sense.
They want matching finger prints between bullet and barrel.

Might be interesting to do my own rifling too?


It has nothing to do with matching rifling print to the bullet but it has everything to do with laws concerning sawed off shotguns. The federal law is that a smooth bore firearm must have a barrel of at least 18" and when they say 18" they do NOT mean that 17 63/64" is close enough! All joking aside don't even think of building a smooth bore breech loading pistol with a barrel of less than 18" or you would be in violation of the same laws that prohibit sawed off shotguns.

What if you where making a copy of a smooth bore musket that didn't have rifling originally.

That would be a muzzle loader and as such would not normally fall under the same rules as cartridge/breech loading firearms, in fact as far as the feds are concerned muzzle loaders are usually not even on their radar.

Paul Alciatore
08-11-2014, 05:27 PM
So, you could make a pistol with a rifled barrel and chamber if for shotgun shells? Probably ruin the heck out of the rifling, but it would still be legal??? Or does the law somehow prohibit that too?

Something sounds stupid here.

08-11-2014, 05:48 PM
There are several handguns as well as long guns that fire both types of ammunition. There is no harm to rifling when firing shot in them. About the only shot shell that might be comfortably fired from a handgun is the 410, and there are several different firearms that accomodate it and a rifle or pistol cartridge as well. Probably the most prevalent is the Taurus Judge and offshoots of the design.

As Radkins states, the rifling requirement is to avoid violation of the sawed off shotgun laws. It would do the prospective builder to read through the BATF legislation as well as any pertinent local or state laws for himself to satisfy any questions.

08-11-2014, 07:17 PM
what type of steel are barrel blanks normally made of ? I have a few laying around here I inherited and know nothing about them at all, never even thought about them until sid started this thread.

08-11-2014, 07:22 PM
If guns are outlawed, then only outlaws will have guns.
Oops, and machinists.
Oops again, and folks with access to a 3D printer.

08-11-2014, 07:34 PM
One thing is yes its legal to make your own pistol as long as by law you can buy one ......

George Seal
08-11-2014, 07:58 PM
RIFLING CAN BE DONE WITH AN INSERT. Brownell's has them in various calibers. Bore you barrel out to correct size then glue or solder the insert in.

Sorry capslock was on

08-11-2014, 08:30 PM
Most carbon steel guns are made of 4140. Barrel, action and other metal parts. Some of the lockworks may be made of hardened tool steel. Most stainless guns are 410 or 416. There are always exceptions. These are the most common alloys. You can buy a barrel blank in any caliber, usually with 3 or 4 choices of twist rate. The blank has the rifling already in it, you just machine the outside to the desired shape and dimensions.

08-11-2014, 08:37 PM
Look at the Judge line of 410/45LC revolvers, also S&W sell them as well as a couple of derringer companies. Also you can legally build a short barreled shotgun or rifle but it is a NFA weapon with a $200 tax stamp that has to be received before construction starts. There is a petition to take silencers & short barrel rifles off the NFA list circulating now.

08-11-2014, 09:53 PM
No claim of knowing very much about gunsmithing, the following is just and observance and an uneducated thought:

I own a commercially manufactured derringer that shoots .45 Long Colt and .410 shotgun. The barrel is rifled, for about 3/8 of an inch at the muzzle.
Makes me wonder if the muzzle could be "rifled" by simply cutting a shallow thread of very course pitch. I doubt the "rifling" has to be effective, it probably just has to be present. If you wanted to get fancy you could cut a double thread.

08-12-2014, 04:11 AM
To make a gun in Illinois the "Firearm Identifacation card" is required. If someone is not allowed to purchase a gun they are not allowed to make one either. Last year I made a single shot derringer. After it was finished I learned it needed to be rifled. So I made another pistol using the derringer firing mechanism but didn't look like a derringer. This time I went to "Numeric Arms" and purchased a rifled sleeve of the appropriate caliber to press into the barrel.

These pistols are a blast to shoot. However, after 30 yards both the smooth bore and rifled barrel bullets so signs of penetrating the target going side ways. Accuracy is just terrible. These pistols are a tremendous hit with other guys.

The original plan was to make an inexpensive pistol that I could keep in my boat for whacking snakes. In this light I decided to make them out of 303 stainless steel. After I made the pistols I liked them so much they never have seen a boat. They Look nice and they don't rust but SS is a horrible material to make a durable gun. I have fired these pistols enough to see the shell casings are wearing a dent into the breach plate. If I were to make another gun I would probably use 4140 or possibly A-2.

These two guns were absolutely the most fun shop project I ever made. Nothing more fun than shooting a gun you made yourself even if the bullets do fly through the air sideways. They are on display in my shop for visitors to see.

I made both guns on my CNC milling machine so the parts are what I describe as "Digitised" in case there would be a need or reason to make more.

08-12-2014, 07:32 AM
Makes me wonder if the muzzle could be "rifled" by simply cutting a shallow thread of very course pitch. I doubt the "rifling" has to be effective, it probably just has to be present.

To each his own but if ANYTHING is the least bit questionable it simply is not worth the risk when dealing with the feds! When I mentioned that a shotgun barrel must be at least 18" and that 17 63/64" was not close enough I was not really joking about that, they WOULD prosecute the possession of such a shotgun! The BATF can be as bad or worse than the IRS and will often prosecute even the slightest violation so unless a person is willing to make the (very expen$ive!) argument in federal court, an argument you could very well lose with devastating consequences, it's best to avoid taking a chance on questionable points when building a firearm, especially an "evil" and easily concealable handgun!

08-12-2014, 08:48 AM
What Radkins said. The BATF and the IRS both force the defendant to prove his innocence, not the other way around as criminal courts must.

As to rifle barrels, most centerfire barrels of modern manufacture are 4140, 22 barrels and barrels for use with black powder can be of lower alloy steels or leaded steels.

If contemplating using a liner, TJ's sells liners by the inch in many popular calibers. They are of better quality then those available from Brownell's or Numrich, and a savings can be had over being forced to buy a 24" liner when only 6" are needed. They also can provide 30" or longer liners.

08-12-2014, 09:17 AM
Another option is straight rifling. Especially if you're pushing shot down the barrel, 4 grooves with wide lands would be appropriate. I believe that's what the snake charmer type derringers do. The added benefit is that you wouldn't need to turn the barrel while rifling it. I would make the rifling deep, .003-.005" so that it is undeniably rifling, and not just a series of bad scratches. Keep in mind that I don't have a letter from BATF saying that straight rifling counts though.

A digression: It's funny how the laws differ between canada and the US. I can make as many smooth bore pistols as I want, but they can never be shot outside the range. The argument is that they have no legitimate hunting purpose. I'd love a .22 on my hip for grouse when I'm out hunting. You can have a pistol while hunting, but it had better have rifling.

08-12-2014, 10:23 AM
I've built half a dozen cannons, some smooth bore and some rifled. I have also built 2 .50 caliber Browning machine guns and two .30 caliber Brownings. Also seven AK 47s one of them in pistol configuration. If you build a pistol from some imported parts there is no limit to the number of parts you use but there is a limit on imported parts in a rifle - go figure the stupid, oddball BATF rules.
I also just finished my first two AR 15s. There are pictures of them in a thread I just posted in gunsmithing on this forum.
As said before you should read the BATFs rules and your states rules so you don't spend time in prison.
Most of the rules are simple but there are lots of them and they don't make sense.
I am lucky that I live and build in Indiana that is a State where almost anything goes.

PS: you can buy partly finished forgings for some pistol parts that are not considered firearms and you can finish machine yourself.
There are lots of suppliers of 1911 frames and slides that you can finish easily.

08-12-2014, 11:24 AM
I just wonder how much longer we will enjoy the right to build our own firearms with the advent of CNC and 3D printing being in the anti's sights (pun intended) as a means for people to easily mass produce assault weapons in their basements and garages. We have only narrowly escaped a couple of attempts at 3D printing bans on firearms and a couple of CNC shops have been busted for hosting a "building party" type of group build where the "builder" just basically had only to push the button to "build" his AR lower. The first time a news worthy event happens involving a home built semi-auto rifle I fear it's going to be a case of Katey-Bar-The-Door and the Law makers with an anti-gun agenda will go into a feeding frenzy! But I suppose now I am getting off topic and that may be out of line but my point is anyone wanting to build that dream firearm might do well not to wait for too long!

sid pileski
08-12-2014, 12:15 PM
OK guys. Looks like the bottom line is that I can make one. Seems I have some homework to do, but that's to be expected.
I'm only interested in a pistol of my own design, based on something I saw.
I like the challange of the design and bringing that design to life.
I may explore the pre-rifled liners. That could save some time.
This isn't something that I'm going to get into right away, but it's on my short list to start the design.


08-12-2014, 12:34 PM
Check out Green Mountain Barrels "Gunsmith specials", these are high quality barrel blanks (both pistol and rifle) at prices that that can actually be cheaper than some liners. Basically they are raw 4140 bars with a button rifled hole through the center, I used one of these to build my scaled down High Wall rifle and it's a real tack driver! I am going to soon order another one of these things in 17 caliber to make a 17 HMR barrel for this same gun since I designed it as a switch barrel allowing for the simple and quick change of caliber.


Don't be mislead by those dirt cheap prices ($40 for a 21" blank, $36 for an 18" in some calibers and only $23 for an 11" long 1" diameter 9MM blank!), these are high quality barrels and if you plan to go to the effort of building your own firearm then you would do well to do it using quality parts!

Weston Bye
08-12-2014, 12:44 PM
if you have access to carbide grinding you might consider "button rifling". A carbide plug with a close fit in the bore would have small radial projections standing proud to cause an interference. the projection would then be flanked on either side by a relief. As the plug is forced through the bore, the projections would displace metal into the reliefs, forming the rifling. Mounted on the end of a steel rod, the rod would have to be twisted while advancing. this could be done with a "cam" sleeve around the rod outside the barrel, the cam being a tube with a spiral groove machined in the side. For a short barrel, the groove wouldn't have to make a full turn. Forcing the apparatus through could be done with a hydraulic press, but visible "stutter" marks might result from the pauses between pumps of the press. A simple arbor press might be enough and accomplished with one stroke.

A lot of work for one barrel, but almost worth it for two, and can be done where two bores are made in a single piece of metal, such as a Derringer.

You might even get by with high-speed steel tooling for just two bores.