Rolling my Own…

As most of you may or may not know federal law allows individuals to make firearms for their personal use. Such firearms cannot be made for the purpose of sale to another; this is a gray area where sometimes the sale might be allowable, but it’s poorly defined enough that one risks prosecution if they sell or transfer a home-made firearm. The BATF does state that if one is to transfer these weapons (presumably to heirs) it must be marked on the frame with the maker’s name, model number if any, caliber and city that it was manufactured in. They even specify how tall and deep these numbers and letters must be. But seriously, if you intend to make a firearm and eventually sell it legally you are better off if you obtain a manufacturer’s license. The point is that, as long as you comply with state laws and the Firearms Act you may manufacture a firearm for your own use.

I’m a knife and sword-maker by trade so I have a pretty well equipped workshop. Last year I watched a number of videos of people’s home-made firearms. In most cases these would be more properly termed ‘improvised’ firearms; zip-guns or slam-fire shotguns made from iron pipe. I thought, “I can surely do better than that.” It turns out that I could; I made a single-shot derringer chambered in .45 ACP.


It’s very solid, functions quite well and is fun to shoot… a few times at least; recoil is stout. It doesn’t like cheap ammo, but other than that it works. After that I made a single-shot .22 caliber target pistol using a similar mechanism. I’ve also modified several firearms to suit me and made several custom exotic hardwood grips for revolvers. I’ve  enjoyed making and personalizing my firearms to suit me, and everyone needs a hobby, right?

Recently I’ve found myself thinking about doing a ‘black-pipe’ shotgun build. Not some cheesy slam-fire gun; a top-break with a proper stock; something that really looks and functions like a proper gun.  I consulted online videos of other people that have done these and poked around online quite a bit. I went over various design issues and solutions, carefully worked out processes using the tools, equipment and materials that I have on hand and figured out that I could pretty much make the best top-break black-pipe shotgun around. Then I ran up against the one issue I could find no answer for…


First off I realized I don’t actually want the best black-pipe shotgun around. So why build it? Bragging rights? People with fewer tools and resources than I have have already done this. It’s not as if making one will show how clever I am; it’s hardly rocket science. And let’s be brutally honest here- the best black-pipe shotgun I can make won’t be as good as a commercially made gun that I can buy for about $100. My labor building my own would cost a lot more than $100. So in the end I’d be spending a lot of time and effort to make a not-very-good shotgun that I don’t even want.

I built the .45 ACP Derringer to see if I could. I built the .22 Target pistol at least in part to show that the first gun wasn’t a fluke, partly because someone offered the .22 barrel and it was just cool that I could make one. Neither one is a gun that I would spend money on to buy, but they were fun, interesting and challenging projects. The black pipe shotgun would not really be the same. It’s recovering old ground at this point, it’s something that others have already done pretty well and it produces a gun I won’t take any real pride in owning, having built or using. I can’t really think of a reason why I would bother.

This isn’t to say that I won’t ever do it. If I can think of something, some feature or mechanism that will ‘add coolness’ I may well do it. But until then I have plenty else that I can keep occupied with.

2 thoughts on “Rolling my Own…

  1. Kevin Clements

    A shotgun is different. All of the cool factor in a shotgun is in the handling, and in the fit and finish. Rather than a black pipe, you could do like the old time London “best” makers and buy a fluid steel barrel, and build yourself a fine lock. Anson and Deely action, chopper lumps, extractors, etc. Then add a custom stock that fits you, and go show off at the trap range. Just an idea, to put all of those metal working skills to the test.


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