not pretty, but it will work

Speaking of building your own "garage-expedient" firearm, this may just be a trailer for a movie, and thus just a dramatization, but, yes, making a firearm-like device capable of grievously wounding / killing someone really is this simple:

Look at the tools and materials she used: wire snips, a block of wood, a knife, a short length of steel pipe, a file, the pipe end cap, copper wire, a small square of cotton fabric, a handful of screws, matches, duct tape, and some kind of powderized propellant.

Aside from the last item, it is a fair bet that most of the homes in America have the same, or at least similar, items as are what are shown in the trailer, and even if they do not, I can guarantee you that every "home improvement" store worthy of the name does.

And it is not like the last item is that hard to make. Various instructions exist online for the production of black powder, and buying it is just like any other online transaction – the stuff can be delivered to your door, no questions asked (in most states).

Would I want to fire such a contraption myself? Oh hell no. Would I if I had to? Probably. Would I want to be downrange of it? Only if we are talking distances of a football field or more. Would it be lethal? Assuming conversational distances, assuming everything worked, and assuming the screws did not just fly off with reckless abandon, I could easily see a device like that killing someone. Possibly a few someones.

Which just goes to show how futile the notion of "gun control" really is. There is absolutely no way you can "control" wood, steel pipe, basic hand tools, and so forth, and even if you tried to, people would just buy the materials from different stores and you would be none the wiser. Worse, I am fairly certain even I could manage to produce at least one of those contraptions a day (especially if I used better tools than the character in this movie apparently had access to), and with practice, that rate would unquestionably increase, and the functionality – and thus efficacy – of the device would increase over time as well. So what is the point of registering / regulating / restricting firearms again? Is a person somehow less dead if they were killed by screws moving at hundreds of feet per second, rather than a specifically-made bullet doing the same?

[Caution: I have absolutely no idea how a device like this would be legally defined. Given that it does not use cartridge-based ammunition, it is not legally a "firearm" in my understanding of the law, but aside from that, you are very much on your own if you undertake the assembling of one.]

(Courtesy of Everyday, No Days Off.)

need a holster for your lists?

Rob Reed asked for an explanation of the tools/materials I use to fabricate the two holster-looking things I have managed to produce, and the short answer is "watch these two videos":

I hate sitting through a 30-minute video when I could just read something, but I made an exception in those two cases, and I am very thankful I did; PHLster is a very accomplished kydex-smith, and he is not at all bashful about sharing all of the various tricks and secrets he has learned along the way.

However, for those folks who really do not want to watch a video, here is the brief rundown:


– A press. Any kind of "book press" will work just fine; the general premise is you have to have a working area at least as large as the biggest gun/holster combination you want to make, and you want to apply pressure evenly across the full surface of the press. PHLster shows a home-made version in his videos that would not be too hard to kitbash together, but I wussed out and went store-bought. Be advised that the presses with hinges require care to ensure the pieces stay lined up as you close it. ($0 – $85)
Bar clamps. If your press does not have a way of clamping it down, you will obviously need clamps… and, no, that silly little chain on the press I linked to above plus your body weight is not going to be enough. You will be putting a fair bit of pressure on things, so do not skimp here; I got 3 of those exact ones. ($45)
– An oven. Kydex needs to be heated to around 320 degrees Fahrenheit to be malleable (at least from what I have read / experienced), so you need to get it there. I use my kitchen oven; pros use purpose-bought kitchen toaster ovens. ($0 – $40)
– A ruler. Preferably something long, wide, and clear. I use something like the linked one, but I paid a lot less for it locally. ($5 – $15)
Eyelet flaring dies. I use 1/4" eyelets, so I got the #8 / 1/4" dies. Simple. ($25)
– A brad point drill bit. Make sure you get the same size as the eyelets you intend to use. I find the brad-and-lip design makes for cleaner holes through the plastic… most of the time. ($5)
– A coping saw. Once you get the plastic formed to the gun, you will want to cut off the extra (and you did initially cut big, right?); this can suffice. ($7)
– A utility knife. Score the kydex once or twice along the ruler with one of these, bend it along the score, and, presto, two pieces. I am sure you have one laying around.
– A hammer. You have one. Trust me.
– Sandpaper. For finishing the edges; you probably have it.
– A flathead screwdriver. For any Chicago screws you use; you should have it.
– A permanent marker. As long as you only mark on the inside of the holster, no one will know or care.

Nice to Have:

Cutting mat. All those straight lines make it easy (well, easier) to get things lined up, plus it protects whatever you are cutting your kydex on. ($30)
Eyelet flaring die guides. The quickest way to screw up an eyelet is to try to flare it off-center. This fixes that. ($13)
Arbor press. Even with the guide, trying to set eyelets with a hammer is… challenging. Thankfully, I liberated a press from Dragon Leatherworks‘ trash bin, so it was free for me, and Harbor Freight has them cheap. ($90)
– A scroll saw. I discovered that trying to cut kydex using a coping saw or, worse, a little teeny dremel circular saw attachment was… dangerous. $90 for a used Rigid off Craigslist seemed a small price to pay for intact fingers. These can get expensive, though. ($90 – $200)
– A belt sander. Finishing/shaping/polishing edges is a lot easier with power behind it. I raided my local Harbor Freight with a 20% off coupon in hand. ($50 – $150)
– A heat gun. Some people refuse to use them. I find it easier to go back and touch up molding with one, and it is essential for how I make belt loops. ($13)
Greenie meanies. You probably have these hiding under your kitchen sink, but the scouring pads really help with giving that nice, finished appearance on the cut edges of the kydex.
– A bench buffer. I do not have one of these yet, but supposedly, when combined with a sisal buffing wheel, they produce beautiful finished edges. ($60)
– China markers. Find the kind that wash off; mine do not.

Those are all the tools. Now for…


– Thermomold plastic. A square foot of name-brand Kydex goes for $5 for 0.06" thickness, $6 for 0.08" thickness, $7 for 0.093" thickness, and $9 for 0.125" thickness. I use the first for holsters and the last for belt loops, and have found a little over a square foot is necessary for compact gun holsters, and almost a full two square feet necessary for large guns. One square foot of the thick stuff makes… a lot of belt loops, depending on how you do it. There are alternatives like Boltaron and Holstex, but I do not know anything about those.
– Eyelets. Go ahead and get the #8-10 (or #6-10) variants; they will work on any plastic thickness you will come across, and are downwards compatible. They run $0.17 a piece, and you will use between two and 10 a holster, if not sometimes more.
Chicago screws. You will use these to attach belt loops to your holsters, and thickness matters. I have found that #8 – (0.1875 x 0.250) is just enough to attach one 0.125" belt loop to two sheets of 0.006" kydex eyelet’d together. Figure four a holster, at $0.48 apiece.
Foam. Just like holsters, you will not like to think of it as a consumable, but it is. The press I linked to above comes with some low-density stuff, but if you want really strong definition in your holsters (and I do), you want the "Xtreme Form". $17 equips the above press, but I have no idea how many sheaths you can make before you have to replace it.

Note that most of the consumables get cheaper the more you buy; it all depends on how much stuff you plan on making.

So if my math is right and I did not miss anything, you can fabricate your first holster for anywhere between $106 and $578, depending on how much stuff you already have on-hand and how cheaply you buy or how good you are at used markets. On the flip side, 10 holsters will only cost you about $725, and the price per holster will only decrease the more you make (asymptotically, of course). I figure I have somewhere around $450 invested in the process myself at the moment, and am less than halfway through the materials I have, so it should pay itself off by the time I am done (remember, kydex is useful for more than just holsters).

not like i could compete with it

As I said on the Facebooks and Twitters a few days ago, one of the fun advantages of making your own holsters is the ability to do crazy things you would never actually ask someone else to make for you.

And, sometimes, they work:


Obviously this is not an everyday carry holster, but I contend that neither is that an everyday carry gun (though a friend tells me they are increasingly popular with folks on account of their affordable price (both the gun and the ammunition) and ease of use). Once the new-production Zastava M57s (with their actually usable safeties, unlike the POS I still need to remove from mine) start hitting our shores in greater numbers (I actually saw one at the last gun show I went to), I might change my opinion though (especially if they start importing the 9mm variant).

Enough parentheses? Shiny.


Flat gun, flat(-ish) holster. I actually heated up the back sheet of kydex and put it on top of a couple folded t-shirts in my press, rather than straight on the metal or not forming it at all In retrospect, I should have used the cheapie low-density foam that came with the press for the top sheet, rather than the high-density foam I prefer for its better definition, but it still came out ok.

Well, mostly ok. I made a few glaring errors – which you will have to pick out for yourself – but this is all part of the learning process, right?

Oh, and why did I spend $50 (at least when I bought it; the price has gone up) to put a silly-assed muzzle brake on a $200 gun?

Because fireball:

tokarev fireball

Also, the brake/compensator does actually help with perceived recoil and post-shot recovery… but, really, fireball. I am taking my high-speed-video-capable new toy to a shoot this weekend, so maybe I will have some better pictures of the effect soon…

not just for firearms

So for Christmas, the in-laws got me a Mora 106 Knife and a 220 Woodsplitter; thanks to my hand deciding to give the world, including myself, the finger, I have not had a chance to actually use them yet, but they needed safe places to live.  The 106 comes with something that could be charitably called a “sheath”, but anyone who knows Mora knives knows that thing does not amount to much – it is a one-size-fits-all hard plastic monstrosity meant only to protect the edge during shipping.  There is nothing wrong with that – I would rather pay for a good blade than for a nice from-the-factory sheath – but we can do better.  And so I did: 

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I swear, without a drill press, I have no idea how the pros get their lines of rivets to be so perfectly straight… but that is why they are pros and I am some schmuck whacking rocks together in his garage.  In any case, yes, I did use a ruler, but apparently my drill bit wandered mid… something. 

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Another factor of Mora design is that they are not likely to stay in their sheaths just through friction, so I helped it out a little.  That bubble on the back is a neodymium magnet molded in and then riveted in place.  It will not suffice if you were to hold the sheath upside down and shake it, but it keeps it from popping out randomly. 

In other news, I apparently need to figure out the tool to remove split rivets. 

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This one took some thinking…  traditional sheaths will not work, so this is more a clip.  When you have it out, just slide one handle into its divot, then pop the other one into place; remove by yanking… which is why the edge is towards the rivets. 

Moras are, frankly, epic knives, and I am looking forward to using them when I can… and figuring out how to use the 220 at all.  At least, for now, they have somewhere safe to live. 

i have to keep reminding myself this is practice

I am not a perfectionist – just ask my wife – but I have an annoying tendency to want to do things right the first time, and not getting it right frustrates me.  This despite the reality that, if I have no experience doing something, I cannot exactly do that something particularly well. 

Anywise, enough whining.  Aside from being wider than strictly necessary, yesterday’s lens cover holster turned out pretty well.  That made up for this: 

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Oh, sure, it looks ok-ish from the side (aside from looking a little sad), but turn 90 degrees and… 

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That shim – the flat white thing – is there because my chicago screws are too long for one layer of 0.06” and one layer of 0.125” kydex… which is kind of funny, given they are almost too short for two layers of 0.06” riveted together plus one layer of 0.125”.  Go figure. 

Anywise, once I get shorter chicago screws, the mag sheath will be a little closer to my pants, but thanks to that big-ass clip, it will still be riding a little ways out…  Given it is just holding up a magazine, I have to wonder if a premade clip like one of these would be a little better. 

I really need to learn to cut bigger than I think I need, though, as evinced by the rivets on the left side, and I hit the problem even worse today.  I am not sure if my oven just sucks that hard, or kydex naturally shrinks no matter if you go over 330 or not, but, yeah, cut big, bake it, and then trim it down to where you want it. 

Speaking of, if you want one of those lens cap covers for yourself, drop me a line – like I told Nick, $20 including shipping should cover them.  On the flip side, this is a fine example of the reasons I stopped weblogging for now (the comments, not the post – ENDO is an awesome dude). 

i am sure i stole this idea from somewhere

… but damned if I cannot remember where at the moment. 

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It had to go through some modifications in the process – notably, rotating the cap 90 degrees, due to those pushy-thingies not being terribly well attached to the cap – but it still turned out better than my magazine carrier attempt did…

well, that is that

After damned near eight solid hours of work, more trial and error than I care to admit, and only a small amount of blood loss, I have this: 

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Not pretty, but it works. 

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Definitely not pretty.  One of the reasons it took so long were these: 

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Since I wear a neutered rigger’s belt, I dislike having to unthread it every time I get home in order to load up, so… clippy thingies.  Unfortunately, the bottom of the clip is flush with the body when it is not on my belt, so I have to wonder if they will hold up over time.  Making them has taught me a few things, though, so maybe the next iteration will be better. 

At least it works.  Maybe I will figure out “pretty” over time. 

(Thanks to PHLster’s series of YouTube tutorials for helping me avoid even more trial and error.  I hate sitting through a video when I could just read something instead, but I made an exception in his case.)