When I first started working on my own guns, I would use whatever tools I had nearby. This would make the job more difficult than it needed to be and result in unnecessary damage to my firearms. After I made a bunch of frustrating mistakes, I decided that I needed to invest in the right tools to work on my own firearms the right way. Purchasing a Brownell’s Magna-Tip Screwdriver Set is one of the best decisions that I have made as a gun owner.
Gunsmithing Requires Hollow Ground Screwdrivers
Most screws used to hold guns together have a slotted head. As such, they require the use of what is known as “hollow ground” screwdrivers. Hollow ground screwdrivers and driving tips are much different from traditional flathead screwdrivers. Normal flathead screwdrivers have tapered ends that become more narrow and thin until you reach the tip. Because of this shape and design, screwdrivers such as these do not make full contact with the entire slot on the screw head. This causes them to slip out of the slot very easily.
Hollow ground screwdrivers and tips are much different. While their thickness does taper, they remain a consistent size near the end of the tip. This allows a hollow ground screwdriver tip to completely fill up a screw’s slot. This helps prevent the screwdriver from slipping and damaging the screw or scratching your firearm. It will also make removal of stubborn gun screws much easier.
I once tried to remove a screw from a shotgun’s bolt with a regular flathead screwdriver. It would slip out no matter what I tried. When I used the proper hollow-ground tip, the screw came out with no problem. All slotted tips found in Brownell’s Magna-Tip Screwdriver Sets are hollow ground, which makes them perfect to remove gun screws.
A Wide Variety of Bits
Brownell’s Magna-Tip Screwdriver Sets come with numerous slotted bits that are organized based on their size. The two main dimensions are their width and thickness. These dimensions are important because you want to use the bit that will provide a perfect fit in the screw you are working with. An improperly-sized bit will not fit correctly in a slot and will defeat the purpose of using hollow-ground screwdrivers.
Brownell’s offers a total of 75 slotted bits, giving you a very good chance of having the perfect size bit for almost any gun screw. They also sell Allen, Torx, Phillips, and specialty bits as well. The specialty bits include firearm-specific bits, such as 1911 bushing drivers, and bits to install scope rings. Magna-Tip bits are made of hardened steel and designed for durability. If any bit ever breaks, it is covered under Brownell’s Forever Satisfaction Guarantee.
Every Magna-Tip bit has a 1/4 inch hex shank, which allows it to be used in virtually any magnetic screwdriver handle. This also means that you can use bits from other manufacturers in your Magna-Tip handles. Although I strongly recommend using Brownell’s bits for slotted screws, it is useful to be able to use Allen and Torx bits from other manufacturers, especially if you encounter an odd size.
Magna-Tip Screwdriver Handles
Brownell’s Magna-Tip Screwdriver Sets also come with a variety of handle options. As the name suggests, most Magna-Tip handles use a magnet to hold bits in place. This magnetism transfers through the handle and bit into the screw. The various handle options do a great job filling a wide range of personal preferences and job-based needs.
All of the handles feature a traditional, but ergonomic handle design. I’m not sure what material the handles are made of, but it seems to be similar to acetate (think Craftsman screwdrivers), but softer. It is sort of like a hard rubber material which is solid but comfortable to hold.
Another nice feature that Magna-Tip handles have is that most of them, with the exception of the stubby handle, have a hex shank that will accept a small wrench for added leverage if necessary.
No. 81 Handle: This is one of the largest Magna-Tip handles that Brownell’s offers. It is 8 inches long with a 1 1/4 inch wide grip. It is a good choice if you need a long reach or a lot of leverage.
No. 84 Handle: The No. 84 handle is identical to the No. 81 handle except that it features a hollow grip. This allows you to store a few bits inside, making it a perfect choice to keep in your range bag for minor repairs and adjustments in the field.
“Law Enforcement” Handles
Magnetic Law Enforcement Handle: The law enforcement handle is the most popular type of Magna-Tip handle. It is medium-sized, ergonomic, and keeps your hand close to your workpiece. This gives you more control over the screwdriver, reducing the chance of damage caused by slipping. Law enforcement handles are 5 1/2 inches long overall with a 1-inch wide grip.
Clip Tip Law Enforcement Handle: This handle is identical to the regular Law Enforcement handle, except that it uses a spring to hold bits in place instead of a magnet. Although I prefer the magnetic one, the clip tip handle is useful if you need a non-magnetic screwdriver.
Law Enforcement Hollow Handle: The Law Enforcement Hollow Handle is slightly larger than the regular Law Enforcement handle and uses a magnet to hold the bit in place. Like the No. 84 Handle, it has a hollow handle which allows you to store a few bits inside. It is another good option for a field repair kit to keep in your range bag. The Law Enforcement Hollow Handle is 6 3/16 long with a 1 1/4 inch wide grip.
Stubby Handle: The stubby handle is short and very easy to control. It is only 2 1/2 inches long with a 1-inch diameter handle.
Magna-Tip Ratchet Handle: Brownell’s T-shaped ratchet handle is a well-built and ergonomic. It will give you more leverage than other handles if you are dealing with a screw that requires a lot of torque to remove.
Different Magna-Tip Screwdriver Sets
Brownell’s offers its Magna-Tip Screwdriver Sets in several different sizes and configurations. They range from affordable yet quality sets for consumers all the way to decked-out “Super Sets” for professionals. The sets vary in the number of bits they contain as well as the number and type of handles offered.
The base options for Brownell’s Magna-Tip Screwdriver sets are simply called “Magna-Tip Sets”. These are good choices for shooters who want a professional-quality gunsmithing screwdriver set but can’t invest a lot of money. If your needs outgrow these smaller sets, you can always add additional bits and handles as needed. They are broken down into the following options:
Standard Set No.1: This set contains 24 bits total: 11 slotted bits, 3 Phillips bits, and 10 hex head bits. It also includes one handle of your choice (No. 81, No. 84, Magnetic Law Enforcement, or Clip Tip Law Enforcement) and a tray and case.
Standard Set No. 2: This set contains the 24 bits included in the Standard Set No. 1 and the handle of your choice (same as above). However, it does not include the tray and case.
Standard Set No. 3: This set contains the 11 slotted bits from Sets 1 and 2, but does not contain the 3 Phillips bits and 10 hex head bits. It does include the handle of your choice and the tray and case.
Magna-Tip Super Sets
The Magna-Tip Super Sets are the next step up from the standard Magna-Tip Screwdriver Sets. I personally feel that these are the best option for most home gunsmiths, and the larger sets are even suitable for some professional gunsmiths or armorers. All Magna-Tip Super Sets include a case with a removable organization tray. They come in the following options:
22 Bit Starter Set: The 22 Bit Starter Set comes with 22 straight bits for slotted screws and includes one handle of your choice (No. 81, No. 82, Clip Tip Law Enforcement, or Magnetic Law Enforcement). If you purchase this set and want to expand it, the Super Set Add-On Pak can be purchased and added later.
44 Bit Professional Set: The 44 Bit Professional Set comes with 44 straight bits for slotted screws, includes one handle of your choice, and a stubby handle. This is the set that I personally own, and it has a suitable tip for almost every gun screw I have needed to remove.
58 Bit Master Super Set Plus: The 58 Bit Master Super Set Plus Magna-Tip set includes all of the slotted bits contained in the 44 Bit Professional Set, one handle of your choice, and a stubby handle. However, it also contains 10 hex-head bits, 3 Phillips bits, and a 1/8 square bit for Remington buttplates.
Magna-Tip Professional Super Set
The Brownell’s Magna-Tip Professional Super Set is the largest and most comprehensive set of gunsmithing screwdrivers available today. It includes all of Brownell’s slotted bits and a large variety of other bits, such as Allen, Torx, Phillips, and numerous specialty bits. You can buy this set with bits and handles or just the bits. You can also buy a set that includes the bits, handles, and an adjustable torque handle. This set is suitable for professional gunsmiths, armorers, competitive shooters, and really serious shooters.
One really nice feature of Brownell’s Magna-Tip Screwdriver sets is that most of them come with some method of storage and organization. These include storage boxes with removable trays and bit blocks for your workbench.
The 44 Bit Professional Set that I purchased included the box and tray combo. I really like that I can remove the tray from the box without having to worry about spilling the bits everywhere. The box and tray included a sticker that shows how the bits are supposed to be organized by size within the tray. Because of this, finding the right-sized bit is never a problem.
Another nice thing about the box and tray is that I never have to worry about spilling bits if the lid is shut. I have carried my entire Magna-Tip set to the range in a backpack and have never had the lid open on accident.
The Magna-Tip Professional Super Set comes with a Delrin bit block that will hold all of the included bits and handles. It isn’t as easy to transport as the box and tray, but it works very well on a bench or inside of a tool chest.
You can buy all of the boxes, trays, and bench blocks separately. That way, if you purchase a smaller set and add to it, you can purchase additional storage to keep your bits and driver handles organized. Also, if you buy a standard Magna-Tip Set or a Super Set, you can purchase bit blocks to keep near your work area.
If you have a Magna-Tip Screwdriver Set from Brownell’s you will be much better prepared to work on your firearms. For a more complete list of the tools you will need to work on firearms, check out my article, Essential Gunsmithing Tools.