5 Best Gunsmithing Lathes in 2021 (Reviews and Buying Guide)
Getting yourself a decent lathe for your metalworks can make an enormous difference in how you approach your work and how quick and efficient your workload becomes. But when it comes to gunsmithing, that difference is even more significant.
Without an accurate, able lathe, your gun barrels will most probably end up disappointing you. But the process of finding the best gunsmithing lathe doesn’t just end at finding one. You have to consider your requirements and abilities.
Sure, the high-end models with a gigantic price tag will be much better, but that may not cater to your budget range, your size requirements, and so on. Moreover, simply because a lathe is expensive doesn’t make it a great one by default.
Therefore, we have considered these factors and come up with some of the top gunsmithing lathes. We have made sure to include products from various price ranges and requirements so that there is an option available for each user.
Finding a quality lathe for yourself might not seem easy, but the effort is well worth it when you consider the benefits you get. Here are the top lathes for you.
01. Erie Tools Bench Top Lathe
As the first pick, we have a benchtop lathe from Erie Tools – a solid contender as the best lathe for the money gunsmithing purposes.
Price and Performance
One of the biggest highlights of this lathe is the price it comes in. As you probably know by now, products such as these do not come cheap. And that is undoubtedly one of the reasons this one impresses us.
When compared to most of the competitions, you will realize that it is comparatively inexpensive. And that does not make it sacrifice anything in terms of features, either, which we will explain in further detail.
As expected, you get a bunch of needed accessories right out of the box with this product. You get the chuck key, internal and external chuck jaws, and 11 feed rate gears along with the lathe.
Firstly, the chuck jaws are pretty decent in quality, and they are precise-cut to give you an accurate result. You also get a five-piece carbide tipped cutter kit, which does the cutting for you.
Now for the crucial part, the size and dimensions of the lathe. When it comes to the swing over bed (the distance you have between the bed and the center of the spindle), it measures 7”.
On the other hand, the distance between one center to the other is 14 inches. Now, this size should be enough for most projects. Moreover, the benchtop form factor allows you to place it in your workplace with ease.
The motor is a variable speed supported one that adjusts to 2500 RPM in any of the two rotational directions to allow for left-handed threads as well. It also has thread indicators indicating from 12 to 52 TPI.
- Reasonable pricing
- Carbide-tipped kit included
- Compact form factor
- Thread indicators for convenience
- Digital readout support
- Plastic gears are not very durable
- Quality control needs work
02. Grizzly Industrial Gunsmithing Lathe
Here, we have a robust lathe if you do not need to be conservative about the space and want the best size lathe for gunsmithing.
The motor that the G0709 comes with is a pretty impressive one and can output two horsepower. This amount of power should allow you to get through professional workloads with comparative ease.
Moreover, to allow you the highest amount of wiggle room, it provides a total of eight ranges regarding speed. You can start from 70 Revolutions Per Minute, all the way up to 2000, which is excellent in allowing you full control.
In terms of the main dimensions, this lathe measures 51-3/4” (H), 71-3/4” (L), 30” (W). The size is not humongous, and it is not too small that it will create obstructions in creating comparatively longer barrels.
When it comes to the shipping weight in total, the number is around 1550 pounds. Furthermore, you get a decently-sized 11” faceplate.
This part is essential in determining the compatibility and convenience of your gunsmithing lathe. The spindle bore is 1-9/16”, while the spindle nose taper follows the standard MT#5 shape.
In terms of the spindle’s nose size, it uses the D1-5 size (Camlock design). And if you don’t know what these numbers mean, they essentially tell you the measurements for various accessories that you are going to use with the lathe.
Accessories and Length
The swing over bed length is 14 inches, with the swing over gap measuring 19-3/4 inches. Furthermore, the distance between the two centers is 40”, which means you get a sizeable product here. You also get a drill chuck, MT#3 sleeve, two dead centers, and an arbor.
- Suitable for large projects too
- Ability to provide various speeds
- Powerful 2HP motor
- Brass-tipped spider bolts
- Standard D1-5 spindle nose
- It’s a bit over the budget for some
- Not suitable for small workshops
03. Central Machinery Precision Mini Lathe
The third pick might not be some full-fledged best mill lathe combo for gunsmithing, but it does the job well if you’re looking for a budget option.
As we said, this lathe is a great option if you only intend to go through smaller tasks or are a beginner that does not need a lot to begin with. But don’t let that let you think that it is not competent enough for slightly larger projects.
You get a quality build with the necessary accessories right out of the package, which is an excellent deal if you ask us.
So, how heavy of a workload can you expect a mini lathe to accomplish, especially considering the price you pay for it? You would probably be surprised. First of all, it comes with a powerful 3/4 horsepower motor.
This motor also allows for variable RPM for granular control. You get two options with the variable knob speeds – 0-1100 RPM on the low setting, 0-2500 RPM on the higher one. Moreover, you get thread support for 12 to up to 52 TPI.
In terms of the swing over bed, this lathe measures 7 inches, which is standard for a mini lathe. When it comes to the distance between the two centers, the distance is 10 inches – decent enough.
Of course, this product is a mini lathe, so expecting to churn through long barrels would not be realistic anyway. Hence, you should be able to do small to mid-sized work with this product without any issues.
Safety and Accessibility
This lathe comes with an automatic feed system and a chuck guard with a micro switch. Moreover, the spindle taper follows the MT2 measurements. However, the controls can be challenging to reach for left-handed people.
- A decent 3/4 horsepower motor
- There are two options for speed
- Typical MT2 measurements
- Affordable price tag
- Small and compact design
- Its controls aren’t ideal for lefties
- The torque is average
04. Shop Fox M1112 Gunsmithing Lathe
We now have a product specialized for gunsmithing, which suits you well if you need something professional – the best lathe for gunsmithing DRO support (that’s not all it supports, of course).
The Spindle Bore
First, let’s talk about the spindle bore and its design. The bore’s measurements are 1-5/8”, and the nose follows the D1-5 standard, which uses a Camlock mount design.
That allows for a convenient and worriless operation. One of the first things that impressed us about this product is that it has a full-length splash guard, which goes a long way with safety.
Moreover, it comes with a built-in halogen light to help you see better and get accurate measurements. Another superb feature is the quick-changing tool post.
As you know, it certainly helps to have a tool post that allows for efficient switching. This one has a piston-like system and a carriage handwheel that you can slide along the bed.
Size and Materials
You probably have guessed that this won’t be a compact product by the amount of power it holds. Well, the swing over bed distance is 12 inches with a 36-inch space between the two centers, making it suitable for large projects.
Moreover, it uses a heavy-duty cast iron stand, high-precision bearings, and a cast aluminum gear cover. These work in conjunction to ensure your safety with improved vibration absorption and stability.
The powerful motor that this lathe comes with is undoubtedly one of the biggest highlights. It is a two horsepower one, first of all, and 12A with a single-phase mechanism. Moreover, it allows for a vast number of options in terms of speeds, ranging from 70 RPM to the highest RPM of 1725.
- 7-1/4” bed width
- Carriage handwheel
- Convenient cross slide system
- Halogen work light
- Quick-change tool post included
- Quite large in size
- Not for beginners
05. Shop Fox M1015 Micro Lathe
We are ending our list with another unique product from Shop Fox – a micro lathe this time. The biggest advantage (a disadvantage to some, however) of this product is its minimal size and comparatively lower weight.
Therefore, the best use case for this product is with small-scale projects. It also means that you will not need a large space to store this lathe. The swing over bed and distance between centers are 6” and 10”, respectively.
As the compactness of this product suggests, the motor does not hold as much power as the bigger cousins. You get a 1/5 horsepower motor here, but it still manages to provide variable speed.
The spindle can turn at speed ranging from 100 to 2000 RPM, which is pretty good. This amount of power should be enough for most beginner (even intermediate) workloads.
This lathe gives you the ability to opt for either an auto or manual feed. You can move the carriage on either side using the handwheel, and the feed rate can be 0.0002” or 0.004” per revolution, which is convenient.
Accessories and Applications
The spindle bore is 3/8” in this case, and it includes three pieces of jaw chucks out of the box as well. Moreover, you can have the ability to cut threads of 16, 18, 19, 20, or 24 TPI (the included gear ratio threading chart should be a great help here).
Furthermore, you get four hex wrenches, which is certainly appreciated. Having this many useful tools out of the box is always a convenience.
- Automatic and manual feed
- Lightweight and minimal design
- Excellent for small workshops
- Three external jaws included
- Variable RPM options
- The power might not suffice for some
FAQs of The Best Gunsmithing Lathes
What is the best gunsmithing lathe?
One of the most crucial parts of a gun is its barrel. It’s the long portion of the gun through which the bullet is released. And as you can imagine, the gunsmith must do a perfect job to make sure that it performs just as intended.
This part is where a gunsmithing lathe comes in. Creating a barrel that is accurate to the millimeter is a tough job to pull off by itself, except you also need a quick and efficient method to get things done in time. Essentially, a gunsmithing lathe is not very different from a usual metalwork lathe.
However, as you need a serious amount of accuracy when getting a barrel made, these come with one thing in particular – an outboard spider. This bit is one of the specialties of a lathe meant for gunsmithing, as it holds the barrel of the gun in one place while you are working on it.
Moreover, you might see things like a torque-wrench equipped tailstock, which makes things even more convenient.
How big of a lathe do I need for gunsmithing?
The size of your lathe depends on the type of work you are going to do on it. For instance, if you intend to work with pistol barrels, even a smaller 7x12 lathe might work out well enough to be the best lathe for gunsmithing for you.
On the other hand, if you intend to work on rifle barrels, it helps to have the extra space since smaller lathes might fall short. Moreover, the amount of work you do also affects this decision to some extent.
What is the best benchtop lathe?
In essence, a benchtop lathe is a compact product that takes up less space than a full-sized one and can be the best small gunsmithing lathe for you. While there is no definitive answer to a question such as this, there are some signs.
First, the product should be rather compact in size, given your requirement for a benchtop design. Moreover, it should be extremely accurate, along with materials that are durable and robust.
What is the best metal lathe to buy?
Be it the best metal lathe for gunsmithing or any other purposes, make sure that the one you are buying has enough space for your purposes, uses high-quality materials, has proper safety mechanisms, and ensures excellent accuracy for decent results.
Can I turn metal on a wood lathe?
It is theoretically possible to turn metal on a wood lathe. Although, whether we recommend it is another question. The first issue is that wood lathes usually run at a higher speed than metal lathes, which is not ideal for metal.
Moreover, even though you might get away with turning softer metals, tougher metals are almost impossible to turn on a wood lathe. Therefore, we would not suggest doing that.
How much is a lathe worth?
Once again, it depends on the type of lathe we are talking about. For instance, a premium industry-standard lathe might be worth thousands of dollars. On the contrary, a small product intended for small projects would barely cost a fraction of that.
Are Jet lathes any good?
Jet is a manufacturer that produces various tools related to the metalworking industry, which are not limited to lathes. And given their long list of products and customer satisfaction, it is safe to say that Jet products are, indeed, quite good.
How heavy is a metal lathe?
As you know, lathes come in different sizes and shapes, ranging from small benchtop products to large industrial ones. These tools turn various types of materials, and they can weigh anywhere from a hundred pounds to a few thousand pounds.
Where are Jet lathes manufactured?
Jet is a brand with an extensive line of tools in various sectors of the market. It first started in the USA, and now its operations are spread all around the world, including countries like Taiwan, China, and Germany.
If you are in the marketplace for a lathe for your next gunsmithing project, we understand the amount of confusion that can occur. There are numerous brands and an endless amount of jargon that make things even more baffling.
Well, the products that we have reviewed above should be enough to help you find the best gunsmithing lathe for your projects. Choose the one that suits your gunsmithing requirements, remember to wear your safety gear, and have a great time using the product.