Machine shop for custom handgun parts?
February 27, 2009 3:22 PM   Subscribe

Steel gun parts custom-made in small batches?

I have read & seen videos of computer-controlled milling machines, laser cutters, 3D scanners, etc., and I figure there must be shops out there making small runs of complex shapes using the latest equipment.

I have a Springfield XD .45 pistol, and I want some spare extractors in case the OEM model breaks. However the company doesn't sell the extractor.

There could be safety issues with custom parts, but the extractor won't compromise the safety of the gun were it to fail (unlike a barrel or something). Still I'd want any custom parts made of steel with similar (or better) properties, so I suppose some assay as to alloy-type would have to be made?

Several places sell their own custom parts for XDs online - trigger kits, sears, barrels, guide rods, etc. - so clearly it's possible to find machine shops to make quality parts.

How can I find a shop like that, particularly one doing small runs for a reasonable price (I'd only want 3 or 4 spare extractors, though I might be able to find other people wanting to pool funds or order themselves)?
posted by jjsonp to Technology (8 answers total)
Former CNC machinist/Quality guy at a small shop here...

You're going to need a bigger production run if you want these all made all high tech. Designing and programming the machines is a big job and they may actually end up making 2 or 3 before the run is ready to start, just during set up.

Still, the simplest thing to do is just find a small shop in an industrial park and ask to speak to their production manager. They look pretty simple, a good millwright or toolmaker could bang them out on a few successive lunch breaks.
posted by codswallop at 3:59 PM on February 27, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks codswallop. Yeah I was wondering if I might find someone locally; I searched Craigslist but I wasn't quite sure what search terms I needed to use.
posted by jjsonp at 4:07 PM on February 27, 2009

Yeah, 'small runs' and 'cost effective' are essentially mutually exclusive on a commercial basis when it comes to machining - even more so if there is any metal treatment required afterwards (ie heat treatment).

I'd imagine your best bet is to ask any local gunsmiths for machine shops that do one-off/prototype runs or other gun ork in the area. Without an engineering drawing, or fixtures and jigs, the workload is pretty high to accurately make a copy in terms of time. The more you make, the cheaper it will be, but also you need to find someone who is set up to make small runs of components, as bigger machines that are used for long runs are enormously costly to have sitting idle, so the less chance of them considering it.

I'd go via established channels, like I say, as the chances of finding an enthusiast (or even like minded people to share the cost) within your local gun community is the most likely solution to yield results.
posted by Brockles at 4:34 PM on February 27, 2009

On the small-runs note, there was a story in last week's New Yorker about the guy who invented the full-auto shotgun and how he has a custom gun-parts machining business that uses the lost-wax process to create extremely close tolerances. Maybe overkill for a commodity gun, though.
posted by rhizome at 5:14 PM on February 27, 2009

If there's no market for the part, maybe it will never break. I wouldn't sweat it.
posted by popechunk at 7:16 PM on February 27, 2009

popechunk: there's a market for the part. Extractors wear out. They require you send that particular gun back to the factory for repairs, which keeps them in business with work. It's crap.
posted by talldean at 8:01 PM on February 27, 2009

Maybe look at eMachine Shop. I've never used their services, but have used their software to model parts and see the cost.
posted by whoda at 12:39 AM on February 28, 2009

Are there no more gunsmiths?
posted by notyou at 8:40 AM on February 28, 2009

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