The AGI armorer’s course is a $39.95 investment that you will recover with your first not-visit to the gunsmith. Guns are simply mechanisms and unless you need something machined or a part custom built, most likely you will be able to fix your gun yourself.
This assembly on a 1911 may look complicated, but when you see how it actually comes apart the mystery dissapears and you know how to do it with no intimidation.
An AGI course is not what you get from a clown on Ebay selling CDs with manuals and schematics. The schematics are of course included, but the AGI armorer’s course videos are also a crafted personal lesson on the gun from a master gunsmith.
The guns are carefully and step by step taken apart and put back together completely. This is a PARA P-14 on the 1911 video.
Though many of the AGI videos were originally released in VHS tape, they have been updated to include DVD menus so you can focus on specific tasks and return to them for refreshers.
I suggest you watch the video through once before working on the gun. Details like this spring that tends to fly out while you are following along if you are ahead of the instruction. Just make the kids sit through it. We watch enough Dora and Spongebob don’t we?
This tip alone on how to spot a trigger on a 1911 that will give you trouble is worth the $39.95 alone. It is the kind of problem that you would not be able to figure out and that would end up at the gunsmith.
There is a Christmas special going on for the custom 1911 series videos individually, or you can buy them even cheaper as a set. If you think you have a long future with AGI videos you should call them and sign up for the Silver AGC membership.
With all of the “piston driven” AR-like systems out there, being able to understand the differences and spot the parts and how they work is very important.
The AR-15 armorer’s course also has a complete lesson on how to turn your regular sized AR-10 into a .308 carbine, similar to guns that are going for several thousands of dollars out in the market today.
The master gunsmiths who become your personal teachers in AGI videos are shooters just like us, and you can see the excitement in them when something comes out the way it is supposed to. This is from testing the AR-10 carbine project.
Take some time to go through the AGI catalog. There is more there than you might think, and the courses are a treasure trove of lifetime skills that very few people can teach these days. AGI videos are an opportunity that I would call completely unique, and they are worthy of the time to investigate of even a casual gun nut.
American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI)
Gunsmithing is not something you can just sit down and teach yourself through trial and error. Guns are a high ticket item, and a little too much sanding here or a little too much pressure in a vice there and your treasured and expensive firearm could be destroyed. The destruction of the American family has produced a difficult byproduct in our generation. Skills that should have been handed down from father to son weren’t, and as the last generation passes on, the next generation doesn’t know how to do stuff that the previous generation did. Now, at 30 and 40 plus years old, a lot of us wish we could do some of that stuff, yet sadly we have nobody to teach us. Everything from electronics, to woodworking, to leatherwork, even sewing, are falling away as things that hobbyists know how to do. In gunsmithing, for someone who has never been taught, even taking apart the guts of a 1911 slide can be mind boggling.
The American Gunsmithing Institute, or AGI, has tried to fill this generational gap by producing a series of extremely good videos on the disassembly and reassembly of most popular firearms, gunsmithing basics, and even advanced gunsmithing courses. Some of them are so advanced that you would expect to have the mechanics of a gunsmithing degree in place before ever having access to such advanced skills. Believe it or not, there are still physical gunsmithing schools in the US (very few), but for those of us who don’t have the time or freedom to go to school, with AGI you can get a real gunsmithing education in your own home, right on the screen, as you have time or it. Depth is optional. Just an armorer’s course at $39.95 might be all you need.
I reviewed the armorer’s course videos they sent me for both the 1911 and AR-15, and I can safely say that the $39.95 is an expense you will recover in your first trip saved to the gunsmith. A gunsmith is “doing you a favor” if he only charges you $40 to fix something that turned out to be a minor problem, and the armorer’s course videos are full of little tidbits from master gunsmiths that are exactly the kinds of things that you would bring to a gunsmith and find out that it is a $12 part causing your problem. If you don’t know, you don’t know, and there are people out there paying gunsmiths for simple tasks that often involve drop in parts, all laid out in these videos.
I personally have stared at the slides of my 1911 pistols for years when I take them down to clean them, wondering exactly what goes on inside there, and what if anything I should or could be cleaning. But in the end, rather than figure out the guts of the gun, I generally just spray Rem-Oil in the cracks and hope it’ll be ok. Now I know exactly how both a series 70 and 80 work, and how they easily come apart and go back together. In my early childhood I grew up with a machine shop in my basement, lathes, milling machines, etc., but I never was able to learn any of that stuff, and I was intimidated by a simple mechanism simply because I had never been shown how it works. When you know, you know, and now I know, the slide, the trigger, the springs, all of it.
The AR-15 armorer’s course is a complete disassembly of a standard AR-15, and I mean complete. Every part of the gun is taken out and put back together, even the door on the buttplate compartment. There is also an overview of the Patriot Arms version of the “piston driven” AR-like system, and an explanation of what to look for in other versions that have come along since. You will feel zero intimidation at taking apart your AR once you watch this video. It isn’t as hard as you might think, and they warn you about springs that tend to fly across the room and parts that may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. There is also a very detailed explanation of how to turn a standard AR-10 into a shorty .308 carbine of M4 length. This is a killer video and well worth the forty bucks.
I also took a brief look at the 3 part series on building a custom 1911. This is a very old video, first produced on VHS tape, and it is a real gift to the gun community that AGI has preserved this knowledge for future generations so that the 1911 can continue in reliable service for the next 100 years. Master gunsmith Gene Shuey takes you through how to build a reliable combat 1911 in the first video, comparing the minor changes you would do to a modern Springfield Armory 1911 compared to an old military gun that requires a good deal of work. There are two more videos in this series, and the whole thing goes for $189. If you buy this video and play it on your computer, make sure to play it in Windows Media Player. I take my screen captures in VLC and it did not play it correctly. I also tested all of these videos on my home DVD player and they function perfectly.
If you are already a “gunsmith” but have little formal training, you may find yourself embarrassed by these videos, so don’t watch them with friends for whom you have done work. Gene and the other gunsmiths (in the even the armors course videos, let alone the advanced ones like the 1911 series), will often stop and say “this is how a lot of gunsmiths deal with this problem” and explain why this isn’t a good idea, or how it will come back to haunt you later, then they proceed to explain the preferred way to fix the problem. If they use a fixture or other special tool they will tell you who makes it and what it is called, so you can go look it up in Brownells and get it for yourself. They will also tell you what to look for in parts that aren’t up to standards, and how to avoid common mistakes that can ruin the gun.
The armorer’s course videos are available for just about every type of firearm you can think of, 51 total. They have everything from military surplus bolt guns, like Mausers, to semi-autos, like the FAL, to modern pistols like the Springfield XD and Smith & Wesson M&P. If you watched all of them you would be a defacto gunsmith as it is, never mind the advanced courses. These videos are a wealth of information and I wish I had time to watch them all (yes I have owned or own nearly every type of gun they offer courses for), but I will try to watch at least some of them and do more reviews of them in the future. Take a look through the catalog of over 200 videos and you will be amazed at the scope and breadth of the material.
Basic metalwork skills are something I wish I learned when I was younger. Later in life I taught myself how to weld with a 117v Harbor Freight mig welder, but real welding skills with a stick welder or a torch are an art that needs to be taught by a master. On obsolete guns that break an important part, often the only option is to build the broken part up with a welding rod then file it to fit. You also may need to make parts with a milling machine from a chunk of bar stock. As a gunsmith, basic machine shop skills are a must, and you guessed it, AGI has a video series for these too.
Can you learn to be a gunsmith on your TV screen? AGI has a one year money back guarantee, and some of their courses sell for thousands of dollars, so my guess is that you can. In this tough world of finding a job and the explosion in new gun owners out there, learning some gunsmithing as a side job is both practical and affordable with AGI. Everything I have seen so far in the videos is explained with drawings, so you really learn how the guts of the guns work, not just A to Z on specific repairs or modifications. It takes a lot to impress me these days and I have to say that AGI truly has impressed me.
If you click through to the AGI website you will see offers to join the Gun Club of America at the “brass” level for $19.95 for a year. If you sign up for that (it gives you over $150 of free videos), you will be offered a “silver” membership. This includes a monthly video and costs $29.95 per month. I have not yet seen the monthly videos or had the time to dig into this stuff yet, but if it is anything like what I have seen so far, it will be worth your time to give AGI a call if you feel that even a part-time career in gunsmithing is in your future. The Christmas sales flyer that AGI has asked us to advertise has large discounts for both the bronze and silver level.
Winter is here. The days are shorter, and cable is hardly even worth watching at least until Idol starts back up. In a busy world it is sometimes difficult to slow down and turn your brain on in your favorite chair instead of turning it off watching meaningless dribble on the TV. I was personally surprised to find that the AGI video series is a goldmine of information about the guns I know and love. Now I know at least a couple of them better, and I hope to learn more as we go down the road. Stay tuned I’m sure we will see more of AGI on the GunsAmerica Blog.
American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI)