Better than a second pair of hands
For someone as new to the shooting sports as I am, I have somehow managed to accumulate a fair amount of experience in minor gunsmithing. I have fully disassembled (and actually reassembled!) revolvers, pistols and rifles, for the purposes of thorough cleaning, inspection, trigger work and other sundry tasks. Much of this experience was performed alone and unguided other than soliciting assistance from the Internet’s vast pool of resources.
There are some tasks that are simply not easy to do alone. That is, unless, you have something to act as a second (and stronger) pair of hands. Enter the Tipton’s Best gun vise. The Tipton vise is a light-but-sturdy, versatile and well thought-out platform for all sorts of gunsmithing. It can be configured to work with handguns, but is (in my opinion) most valuable when working with long guns.
One of the things I most appreciated about the Tipton vise is that it holds the gun at both ends. Besides lending additional stability, this feature reduces the chance of banging one end of the gun on another item on your overcrowded workbench while you’re busily working on the other end. The end that secures the stock has a rest and opposing hold-downs (which are cleverly engineered to permit both screw-in and level-actuated tightening and loosening), while the end that holds the forestock or barrel is a saddle-shaped support that prevents that end of the gun from moving around too much. Both end-pieces can be adjusted for height, and the forestock holder can also move foreward and back, allowing the vise to fit most any firearm (I have used it to secure rifles with 16″ to 26″ barrels, and it performed beautifully on both.
The frame of the Tipton vise is made of nylon, and is light, stiff and fairly chemical-resistant (though I did manage to scar it a bit when I poured some lacquer thinner onto a stock I was stripping). The center of the frame features recesses to hold gun parts, whlie the four corners feature both rubber feet and holes for bolt mounting, should a permanent installation be desired. Everything that touches the gun is made of a fairly soft rubber, so there’s essentially zero chance of marring up the gun while working on it.
One of the really neat features of the Tipton vise is the L-shaped support piece in the middle of the frame. This piece can slide back and forth, can be mounted in two positions or removed completely. I found this support piece to be especially useful when working on my AR-15 in the “broken” position. It’s thoughtful and well-designed details like this that make it evident that the vise was designed by gun enthusiasts.
It’s probably not completely honest to call a gun vise “essential,” but once you’ve had one, it’s hard to imagine life without it. And, if you’re going to have one, you might as well have a good one. The Tipton is one of the best, and I expect to be using mine for a long time.