What’s in an Armorer’s Toolkit?

Well, currently, the Army has a thing they call the SARTK, Small Arms Repairman’s Tool Kit. Since we didn’t find a link to it on the public intertubes, we made you one. After all, your tax dollars bought these things, NSN 5180-01-559-5181, for approximately six to ten thousand dollars each.  They are assembled by Armstrong Tool Group, a division of Apex Tools, and most of the tools are Armstrong brand. All the tools are made in the USA (required under protectionist legislation)

(And you thought your Snap-On truck was spendy!)

The kits are assembled by Armstrong Tool Group, a division of Apex Tools, and most of the tools are Armstrong brand. All the tools are made in the USA (required under protectionist legislation), and with no demand for them outside the USG, the price can be set arbitrarily high.

The kit itself is contained in a molded plastic (probably something like nylon 6/6) case with seven drawers, and custom inserts to hold the required tools. Inside, there’s a list of what goes in each drawer, although the custom cutouts for the tools make it readily apparent where a tool you have out goes. This derives from normal military and aviation tool control practice. (Leaving the tool out not only risks losing the tool, but risks screwing up the machine it’s left in or on. Few machines digest tool steel well).

Most of the stuff in the kit, it turns out, is not very exotic, and is not firearms specific. Indeed, most of the stuff we use to build an AR is not included, and one wonders what use a lot of half-inch sockets are whilst working on small arms.

Top area: Miscellaneous Basics, including a multitool, a ratcheting screwdriver with regular and Torx bits, a 1 3/8″ open-end wrench, and a multimeter.

Drawer 1: Hand Tools. Hammers (dead blow and copper head), files, chisel, assorted punches (starting, driving, aligning, center) and an inspection mirror, magnetic pick-up wand. and magnifying glass.

Drawer 2: Grab ‘n’ Twist. Adjustable wrench, assorted vise-grips and pliers.

Drawer 3: Small Fastening. Screwdrivers, regular, Phillips head, and jewelers; drift pins; snap ring pliers; putty knife, tweezers, front sight adjustment tool.

Drawer 4: General Ratchets and Sockets. 1/2″, 3/8″ and 1/4″ drive imperial measurements (minus the 1/2″ ratchet handle and some sockets, which are in Drawer 7), plus thickness gage, measuring tape and rule.

Drawer 5: Combination Wrenches. Box & Open End, imperial fasteners, plus a pry bar.

Drawer 6: Combination Wrenches. Box & Open End, metric fasteners, plus 3 dual-size open-end wrenches for common imperial fasteners.

Drawer 7: Overflow Ratchets and Sockets, Hex Keys & More Misc. 1/2″ drive ratchet handle and 12-point sockets, plus sets of hex keys (Allen wrenches) for both imperial and metric fasteners, plus dead-blow and ball-peen hammers, bench block, another set of files and file card/brush, and another punch set (pin punches).

There may be a subsequent rev of this toolkit; this one was manufactured in 2012 and is labeled as Rev A.

These are quality tools, but you could put together a matching tool kit for far less money, even buying US-made-only (or EU only, if that’s how you roll) tools. You don’t need most of these automotive-type tools to work on small arms. And it’s missing a lot of things that make life easier when maintaining typical weapons. Finally, it has no provision for adding more useful tools.

Finally, the layout of the tools is just screwy. Allen wrenches in the bottom drawer?

 

44 thoughts on “What’s in an Armorer’s Toolkit?

  1. LSWCHP

    I’ve spent what is coming to be a moderately long lifetime working on guns, and I’ve never needed a hammer, a chisel or a set of socket wrenches to get the job done.

    Screwdrivers, probes, torches and assorted specialist tools like the forked bent screwdriver thingy you need to get the trigger rebound slide back into a S&W revolver without it shooting across the room YET AGAIN GODDAMMIT…all those things yes. But never a socket set. That’s for around the house and the lawnmower, not my guns.

    A Word springs to mind, and The Word is “Boondoggle”.

  2. LSWCHP

    I’ve spent what is coming to be a moderately long lifetime working on guns, and I’ve never needed a hammer, a chisel or a set of socket wrenches to get the job done.

    Screwdrivers, probes, torches and assorted specialist tools like the forked bent screwdriver thingy you need to get the trigger rebound slide back into a S&W revolver without it shooting across the room YET AGAIN GODDAMMIT…all those things yes. But never a socket set. That’s for around the house and the lawnmower, not my guns.

    A Word springs to mind, and The Word is “Boondoggle”.

    1. Hognose Post author

      The bench block may be an AR specific one, too. I didn’t look up the individual part number. I’m still trying to think of where I’d use an 11/16″, half-inch drive socket on small arms. Maybe on the tank it’s mounted on.

        1. DSM

          My thinking as well. Half of my small arms TO library (TM to the Army and Marines present) was solely ancillary equipment; mounts, pedestals, etc.

        2. Miles

          Give the man a ceegar.

          And Uncle;s idea of what a “smallarm” is, is quite expansive. It used to go up to old 4.2 inch mortar.

  3. Aesop

    IIRC, Brownell’s has splendid armorer’s set-ups, for AR-15, M1911, and Rem 870s, at a far more economical price point, as well as all manner of other goodies for other weapons.
    Just for one example.

    I’m betting Apex Tool is several congressmen/senators’ favorite donor.
    All logrolling is not done in the woods.

  4. Jeff

    not to be sarcastic, but you know so much about it; you can put together better kits and sell them for less. wanna make some money?

    1. Hognose Post author

      The thought has crossed my mind. I notice that Brownell’s has updated their AR armorer kits to include a Pelican 450 case instead of the old el cheapo case, and for someone working just on ARs, that’s a better kit for much less money. (~1800). It may not all be Hecho en EE.UU., though.

      I’m still trying to understand the purpose in supplying so many sockets and handles. I have more sockets and ratchets than that but mine are in my automotive/aircraft toolbox, not in the gun boxes. I suppose you might need some of them for some vehicle mounts. I’m not sure where the Army chops responsibility between the wheeled vehicle mechanic and the armorer these days. (In SF we did it all, but we often got a “real” mechanic attached to us, and some of those guys were good! Their bosses told us we ruined them for working in the motor pool, though).

      1. Kirk

        Seriously? Y’all think an Army armorer is supposed to repair weapons?

        This is me, rolling on the floor and laughing like a deranged walrus.

        Silly Weaponsman… In the regular Army, anything that would require “special tools” is not authorized for an armorer to be doing; thus the paucity of “2” coded parts and assemblies in the manuals. Organizational-level maintenance consists of looking at the weapon, ensuring that the problem wasn’t operator-induced, and evacuating the weapon to third shop. Hell, spare parts aren’t exactly allowed, either.

        The sockets and such are there for the mounts, which are a gray area of maintenance. Motor pool might be responsible for them in theory, but in practice…? Nobody is. So… Armorer. Most bitched-up, thankless job in a line unit possible. Mostly filled by disinterested supply clerks, and the odd re-purposed primary MOS for that type of unit. Occasionally held by someone with a clue, and even more rarely, by someone who has a clue and who gives a fuck about the weapons and the job. Which is why most of those tools in that kit are irrelevant to the job–That way, the armorer can do less damage.

        1. robroysimmons

          As usual you’re here to harsh the mellow. I don’t know how it is done in the armory these days but back in my time in the MC at the battery level I was a custodian of my battery’s weapon locker. I answered to the CO his step and fetchit butter bar and the battalion’s school trained armorers who could retighten a flash suppressor and drop a chamber or barrel gauge down a barrel oh’ and since it was the M-60 era stone the oprod.

          FTR I cared but literally reading this blog and others I knew exactly Jack Shit. We kept our M-16s dry and we were obsessed with keeping the carbon off the barrel end on our rifles. So who the frick needs a crown on a rifle in an org that prides itself on marksmanship

          1. Boat Guy

            “…back in my time in the MC … ” There’s the distinction.
            I was a Marine and Battery Armorer (heavy SP’s) and ALL of us were school-trained.

  5. Boat Guy

    Back when dirt-was-new and I was a young 2111; I made up a little kit that fit in a couple of M16 cleaning-gear pouches; punches, a really nifty miniature channel-lock, using the rod-sections to hold as many extra clenaing rod sections as would fit. I’ll have to take a look at it tonight and see if there’s anything in there truly “special”. Yeah we had tool boxes – set up by weapon (M2HB, M60 etc) but they were a real hassle to drag around in the field – fine for ranges and whenever we set-in someplace.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Yeah, the Pelican 450 is a great toolbox but it’s over 40 lb. empty, probably 50 with drawers and foam inserts. (And you really want the two-tone foam so you can say, “What rat bastard has my barrel-nut wrench?”) Most of the stuff I use assembling an AR would fit in a pouch the size of a large mag pouch or IFAK. Not much is needed for Glocks, Berettas, etc. and there are only a couple of specialty tools for Browning MGs.

      A telescoping magnetic wand is super useful in the field, even more than in garrison.

      “Where were you when you dropped the extractor pin, PFC Smedlap?”
      “Uh, I’m SPC Smedlap, Sarge.”
      “Not if we don’t find the goddamned pin, capiche?

  6. Hillbilly

    I’m pretty sure I had a different kit in the armsroom I had as a 19D and almost postive it was different when I helped out in the armsroom as an instructor.
    I was one of those non supply types who got picked out to work in the armsroom. I always blamed beating the Troop Commander in a pistol match during Kit Carson week on my getting placed in there.
    The funny part was during one period 3 out 4 armourers in my unit went to SFAS and eventually ended up at 1st Group.

  7. medic09

    I don’t know about the weapons-specific tools; but I DO know that I have a cabinet full of high-quality tools (nearly all made-in-USA) with all the variations to fit my various motorcycles over the years – and I’d bet it didn’t all cost me $10,000!

    (I will admit, though, that none of the aforementioned rides were made-in-USA; just the tools.)

    1. Hognose Post author

      My automotive tool box was the neighbor’s son’s, a professional motorcycle mechanic. When he died in an accident, his friends from the Harley dealership brought the box a few days later, and he pushed it into the back of his garage. When he sold his home, he had a yard sale and sold me the box and tools. Judging from some of the specialty tools, he worked on Harleys and on a wide variety of imported street and racing bikes. His tools get used every day, mostly on airplane stuff.

    1. Miles

      Okay, from reading that list, what they’ve done is move some of the smaller hand tools that were normally part of a smallarms/artillery shop set into the individual repairer’s kit.
      That’s a much larger kit than the ‘new’ ones I saw that were ’05 issue dated.
      This goes along with Big Green’s – somewhat idealistic – plan for two level “Field Support – Sustainment Support” level of maintenance.

  8. James

    Huh,really don’t need most of that stuff,for most part excepting vise block /good quality AR multi wrench really have gotten by with basic auto repair kit.That said,can see the 1/2″ sockets,reason though is they are always borrowed/lost(perhaps with those single socks I keep ending up with!)/stolen ect.The 1/2 sockets need to be plentiful!

  9. John Stephens

    Concur that a line Unit Armorer is far more about accountability and POC for DS maintenance than actual repair work. The most useful thing I did to keep weapons running was coding out magazines during rifle qualifications. With a mallet, to make sure no one fished them out of the scrap metal bin to replace the ones they lost during the last FTX. Good times!

      1. Miles

        I mashed them with a big hammer first. Just to make sure some dip$#!+ didn’t pick it up later.

  10. Someone You Know

    Dear WeaponsMan and other readers,

    As a former Unit Armourer, Mechanized Infantry and Light Infantry, I concur; most of those tools are useless. Plus, they forgot to include back issues of P.S Magazine: The Preventative Maintenance Monthly for the sound advice.

    Sincerely, SYK

    Link:
    Virginia Commonwealth University – PS Magazine, the Preventive Maintenance Monthly (1951 – 1971)
    http://dig.library.vcu.edu/cdm/landingpage/collection/psm

    NSN Center.com – PS Magazine, the Preventive Maintenance Monthly (1951 – 2014)
    http://www.nsncenter.com/Library/PSMagazine

    Logistics Support Activity (LOGSA) – P.S Magazine: Current Issue
    https://www.logsa.army.mil/psmag/pshome.cfm

    WeaponsMan – Wednesday Weapons Website of the Week: PS Magazine Archives
    http://weaponsman.com/?p=12822

  11. Raoul Duke

    I’m scratching my head over some items; what exactly would a small-arms armorer use a multi-meter or electrical crimping pliers for?

      1. Kirk

        Multimeter is necessary for some of the testing with the power and battery systems for the sights. We argued for years to get one included, because it was a pain in the ass to have to go down to the motor pool and sign one out of the tool room. It’s well past time the damn things were included, frankly. Half the stuff in the Arms Room these days is opto-electronic in nature.

      2. Miles

        Yes, Miniguns, also more into Chainguns and some holographic, laser and thermal sights seem to pop into mind for some reason too.

  12. David

    I’m sure he got it from somewhere, but Stephen King describing a socket set as “bolt fuckers” has stuck with me for almost 30 years.

  13. Kirk

    One of these days, I need to write up my “Arms Rooms as She is Really Run” notes, and dump them on Hognose. There’s a lot of shit that just isn’t covered in formal training, like “What to do when your commander is a f**king moron and insists on doing shit you know is going to put him, the XO, the First Sergeant, and yourself into f**king jail…”.

    Biggest problem I’ve run into with arms rooms isn’t really the systems; you can make those work, for a certain value of “work”, one that is more-or-less acceptable. The biggest problem is generally the people running the place, and the commander.

    You would not believe some of the crap I’ve seen putatively smart, well-educated people do, when put in charge of arms rooms. It’s the one area of a command that can literally put your ass into jail, with the keys thrown away, and they pay not one bit of attention to it–Until it’s too damn late, and someone has screwed the pooch, one each. Or, worse, multiple pooches at the same time. Group sex is something you ideally want to enjoy with partners of your choice–When it’s random strangers from CID and the Provost Marshall’s Office, you really don’t want them sticking things into your various orifices. Because, when they do it, you can almost hear the same song our MET team used to play, pulling up for an unannounced inspection: “Going to a Gang Bang…”.

    Which, I find, ain’t out there on the internet. I thought there was one with those lyrics by the Sex Pistols, but I’ll be damned if I can find it.

    1. Hognose Post author

      When I was on Rear D once, a no-notice inspection occurred, and I (as the silver tongued one, and sacrificial SFC) had to stall the inspectors as my partner, who had loaned out a Swedish K from the arms room, contacted the borrower and recovered the firearm and replaced it in the arms room, whilst I kept the inspectors chasing small violations upstairs. “Hey, we did this in the property book, is it okay?”
      “It’s not okay, what are you guys, retarded?”
      “Well, what if we did this?”
      “That’s even more stupid.”
      Seriously, it was looking like The Three Stooges, and I think the property book guy was going to call me, “You featherbrained imbecile!” and poke me in both eyes at any minute.
      Then my partner gave me the high sign over the guy’s shoulder. “Hey, Joe is back with the combination to the alarm, we can open the arms room!”

      Later the CO got feedback: “Those two guys you left are complete imbeciles, how did they get out of an institution, let alone, into SF?” and he came to me and asked what the story was. I told him that there were things that, as commander, he was entitled to know if he insisted, but that might be better for his peace of mind to just know they were handled as NCO business.

      Later, borrower guy wanted the K again. He had been taking dimensions off it or something. He didn’t get it.

      1. Kirk

        Your partner is someone I recognize from my career. They’re normally identifiable by the trail of mayhem and ruined careers they leave in their wake, while they stare in befuddled amazement at you as to why you might be angry with them…

        I’ve often thought that the NCOER and OER ought to be true 360 degree documents; not only should your boss rate you, but your peers and subordinates. I bet you’d find that there are a lot of folks who are “stellar performers” only in their own eyes, and the delusions of their supervisors. Meanwhile, their peers and subordinates are wondering if prison is really so bad, and how bad could a few years for homicide really be, if it eliminated that “stellar performance artist”.

        1. Hognose Post author

          Western ones, perhaps. It’s worthless in militaries built on the Soviet system or in highly caste-conscious or class-conscious cultures, like most of Asia and all of Latin America. A Bolivian officer has a private to carry his rucksack, and is amazed when the American declines the offer of a private to carry his.

          1. Kirk

            Mmmm… There’s a bit of translation between “NCO” in Western usage and “Warrant Officer” in the Soviet system.

            This is taken from TV Tropes, but it covers a couple of different jokes about Soviet Warrant Officers I first heard from a legit Red Army veteran who’d emigrated and enlisted into the US Army:

            “Warrant Officers in particular are often portrayed as ingenious improvisers who are great at fixing things, but have kleptomanic tendencies.

            The Foreign and Defence Minister comes in to see Gorbachev. The Foreign Minister places an object on Gorbachev’s desk:

            Gorbachev: What is that?
            Foreign Minister: It is a gift from the Americans, a model of a neutron bomb.
            Gorbachev: What is a neutron bomb?
            Defence Minister: It is a nuclear weapon that destroys living things, but leaves possessions and property intact.
            Gorbachev: That is terrible! How should we respond?
            Defence Minister: [after considering the question for a bit] We send them a Warrant Officer! They destroy possessions and property, but leave living things intact…

            Two generals, Smirnov and Chernov, call for a Warrant Officer. Smirnov wants a new car and Chernov calls because nobody seems to be able to fix his car.
            Both Generals: Are you finished, comrade praporschik?
            Warrant Officer Yes, comrade general Smirnov and comrade general Chernov.
            General Chernov: It’s been twenty minutes and you say that my car is already fixed. Prove it.
            Warrant Officer: Yes, sir. Comrade general Chernov, please follow me.
            General Chernov: (incredulous): *Starts car* It works! But wasn’t this Smirnov’s car?
            Warrant Officer: It is your car now, sir.
            General Chernov: Indeed it is. But what about my old car?
            General Smirnov: (shouting from a distance): Praporschik, this new car of mine won’t fucking start!

            Commander: Praporschik, have you fixed my four broken down tanks yet?
            Warrant Officer: Yes, sir. Not a problem to be seen.
            Commander: (Looking outside): Or a tank, for that matter.

            A Nazi sniper is looking through his scope, waiting for a Soviet officer to appear. When one does, he peers at the officer’s rank insignia and then looks through the manual, which says “Colonel – 100 Reichsmark bonus”. Happily, he looks through the scope again, but the officer is already gone. Some time passes. He spots another officer, looks at his rank insignia, and finds it in the manual. “General – 200 Reichsmark bonus”. The officer is once again already gone by the time he looks. Determined not to screw up again, he waits for another officer, shoots him first, then starts looking through the manual. “Warrant Officer (note: sows demoralization through own ranks) 500 Reichsmark fine“.

  14. 45B3P

    The Small Arms Repairman Toolkit (SARTK) isn’t really intended for the unit level armorer. The primary purpose of this toolkit is for the direct support (DS) level 91F (Small Arms / Towed Artillery Repairer). With this in mind, TACOM decided to standardize the equipment that applies to the now defunct -20 level (unit armorer) and -30 level (direct support maintenance) maintainers of US Army small arms, so as to streamline costs (the failures of which I would gladly get into as some sort of a guest post). Part of this is born out of the (fairly misguided) effort to turn every US Army unit armorer into an MTOE required position of a 91F (formerly 45B), into the US Army equivalent of a USMC 2111, wherein you have someone who is a fully qualified operator and maintainer on every piece of weaponry on their commander’s hand receipt. While the obvious problem is that this system simply does not scale well, the real problem resides within the individual motivation, interest, and drive of the individual 91F in question.

    In my decade of experience, (8 years of which as an NCO in charge of multiple Soldiers within all MOSs across the Armament field), too many Soldiers are given this job as an assignment, from a list of options they are qualified to fill. We simply don’t have enough Soldiers who have a love or passion for the work we do. Almost 90% of the Soldiers I have gotten throughout the years don’t have any sort of passion for the work we do. They are here simply to fill a slot that Big Army™ decided needed to be filled, and they perform the job that BigArmy™ trained them to perform: a simpleton parts replacer. Actually diagnosing the weapons; understanding their theory of function, and having a passion for the *SKILLED TRADE* they do, is lost on the current generation of 91Fs…

    My passion is why my current 913A pushes me so hard to become a warrant like him – our field isn’t any sort of rote science like some others, and it isn’t an art – I feel that skilled trades are the warrant officer equivalent of the marriage between art and science.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Thanks, Sergeant. Much appreciated. For the record, one of my friends used the SARTK recently at a foreign weapons armorer course. Having a single TK for both small arms and artillery explains the abundance of honkin’ big sockets in the set. There is a USMC version of the kit that has more small arms specific tools in it.

      Frankly, we’d love to have some guest posts — one such as you describe, perhaps, and maybe one on what end users can do to avoid having their stuff wind up on the -30 or up repair bench.

      We do some nonstandard stuff in SF, maintenance wise. But we are also blessed to have a lot of weapons enthusiasts, and a whole unit full of motivated men. Sure, we’ve all had to deal with unmotivated troops, but that’s when training foreigners… there are things you can do to fire guys up, but some people just resist being motivated or motivating themselves.

      The best warrant officers are the ones that are truly experts in their field, and are passionate about it. Everybody says “3rd Lieutenant School” sucks but you do sound like a good candidate for the MOS. Good luck! I’ll drop you a line in a day or two.

      1. bloke_from_ohio

        If they ever disband the VA and you feel like shifting fire onto the acquisitions process I would be more than happy to provide material.

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