3D Printed Guns: Will They Affect the Firearms Industry?
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Having a favourite airgun break on you is a real pain. Finding spare parts for it may be difficult. One broken airgun is one too many, but if you collect airguns as well as use one or two, then it’s not uncommon to have a handful in need of repair left sitting in a forgotten corner. Sometimes they can sit there for ages, on occasions that can mean years. The issue is usually that of finding the specific spare parts needed to bring them back to full working order. The truth is there’s no easy way but there are some avenues to follow. So where can we look?
Broken Stock, if not repairable that'll be difficult to replace
For more mundane items that aren’t incredibly rare, there are some options available, both for searching out spare parts and also more general accessories such as pellet and BB magazines which for some airguns can also be difficult to find. In the UK a number of gunshops and businesses specialise in selling such items. These are:
Airgunspares (referred to still as J. Knibbs')
Bagnall & Kirkwood
All contact details can be found online. Remember that with the sheer volume of airguns made over decades here, no business can hope to stock everything on demand. Add in foreign airguns that have sold here since the 1880s and you get some idea that even with these specialist spares suppliers, finding that elusive part may still mean that an airgun must be left to sit in the corner for a lot longer than expected.
Airgun forums are useful for making contact with owners who have similar interests, whether it be recent Co2 pistols or classic springers from the 1950s i.e. early HW's or BSA Cadets. It’s not unknown for a wanted request to turn up something like a trigger spring or a grip plate for an air pistol that has been in a drawer for many years unused.
Co2 Spares, relatively easy even for this 1970's air pistol
Parts sourced from broken airguns kept as a reservoir for spare parts is another option. Simple things like stock screws can be scavenged. The downside is one corner of the spare room or garage workshop will start to heave with broken kit that always appears to multiply after a visit to the car boot, auction or club fair.
Another resource in the UK is the auction platform eBay which, despite its many restrictions, still allows most airgun parts to be listed. The area to look for is called Accessories which lies within the Sporting section, in the sub-section ‘Hunting’. Such used spares if not themselves damaged or too heavily worn, are invaluable for restoring life to a tired airgun. However, it's now normal to source and fit used spares especially for older airguns as finding the same parts in new condition can be a monumental challenge that can cost one's peace of mind and far too much time. Occasionally, new vintage parts turn up found in someone's attic or shed.
Unwanted spares selling - a source of spare parts
For some models no spares exist and inventive hobby engineers - whether airgun or model engineering - can help here by replicating unobtainable items. It's obviously better to have an original item for a clean copy, however by the very nature of collecting airguns many original parts i.e the specific ones needed will be missing. This means asking around collectors or club shooters for a diagram schematic with measurements taken by a micrometer for the part from an identical airgun. Nothing is impossible where there's a will.
As an example, one of the vintage airgun collector's biggest bugbears is how the famous pellet repeating Haenels from before the last War always seem to turn up now with their wonderful circular Drum magazines missing. Cocking the gun also rotates the magazine and drops a pellet automatically into the breech ready for action. The whole point of owning and enjoying these air rifles is using the multi-shot magazine system; otherwise we’d just stick to regular single shot Improved Model D's made by BSA. Removing these parts and the operating linkages for whatever reason appears to have been common in the past. The amount of these rare air rifles minus their magazines that have been stumbled upon in recent years doesn’t bear thinking about. However, a few magazine assemblies have been replicated recently to a very high standard indeed on a one-off basis by a few with skills in engineering.
All this just to get a damaged O ring out of the valve!
Lastly, manufacturers can prove useful too, although they rarely have large stocks of older items for discontinued models. A phone call is best, followed up with an email or letter. Spending time looking for parts means it’s always helpful to provide the office with the correct part number or identification code. On occasion, a part for a modern alternative model may actually be compatible. Warehouse parts in bins and buckets are usually assigned coded identification to allow quick selection without any ambiguity during production. If no diagram can be found online to show these identification codes then a request for this first from the manufacturer's office will save you and the person looking later a lot of time.
Most people want to be out airgunning not fixing faults. It does have to be said that taking an airgun apart then refitting everything back together after a clean and lubrication can be very satisfying indeed, even if nothing is actually broken. Very few airgun users are competent gunsmiths but repairing airguns can be achievable at home with only the most basic of tools.