One of the fastest rising industries out there right now is CNC machining. While woodworkers and engravers have found their niche with this new technological development, I have chosen to explore the world of CNC gunsmithing specifically. Though it’s may not seem like a natural fit, CNC machining allows me to personalize my firearm to my specifications and add unique touches to the design.
Gunsmithing is a unique art form, however, so finding a CNC machine that would allow me to address all of my needs was a bit difficult at first. With the number of CNC machine types available, it’s not surprising that there is often a lot of confusion surrounding what models perform best for gunsmithing. Luckily, I’ve done most of the work for you and compiled a quick list of the best CNC machines out there for gunsmithing specifically.
While this is only a small snapshot of the many CNC machines out there, this should give you a solid foundation as to what you should look for specifically when making your final decision.
- Here are our top picks of the best CNC Machines for Gun Smithing
- Buying Guide: Picking a Good CNC Machines for Gunsmithing
Here are our top picks of the best CNC Machines for Gun Smithing
To start, let’s look at the standout CNC machines for gun smithing available on the market.
CNC Piranha XL – Best Beginner CNC Machine
It’s completely common to be a bit apprehensive when you first begin CNC machining. The CNC Piranha XL is a great choice for beginners because it comes already assembled. If you’re someone who wants to get the benefits of using a CNC machine without having to worry about how you’ll manage to put everything together, this CNC machine is just what you need.
You’ll be able to start testing out the included software the same day it comes to your home and you won’t have to worry too much about being able to transport it as it weighs 75 pounds by itself. If you’re looking to mill a firearm, this is a solid choice that allows you to switch out routers seamlessly for more customization of barrels and bore for chambering.
This is completely a plug-and-play CNC machine that does just about everything you need when you’re first starting out.
JFT CNC3040 Router/Milling Machine – Best CNC Machine for Durability
When reviewing CNC machines and looking for the best options, this JFT CNC machine caught my eye for a couple of reasons.
Initially, I was looking for something more heavy-duty and this is one of the most solid and rigid models. It has an all-metal construction, a large work bed measuring 22×14, and a 110-volt water-cooled machine making it great for long-lasting projects. Though I didn’t need something quite that robust, it will be great for those looking to start a small business and really explore the world of CNC machines.
This has tons of torque which produces .59 NM and a spindle that turns at a rate of up to 2400 RPM. This allows for not only engraving of more intricate details on your project, but also allows you to create multiple project types. For gunsmithing specifically, this lets you explore milling larger firearms and create sturdy infrastructure within your design.
To some, the Chinese import factor may be a slight drawback here but the company itself has a solid reputation which puts it above most of the other brands out there. Their customer service and warranty have been highly rated by previous users which makes this a competitor
CNC Shark HD 4 – Best CNC for Versatility
Though this is an upgrade to a previous CNC model, the Shark Pro Plus which was also popular, this is a fantastic choice for DIY CNC users. One of the most important elements I’ve found through trial and error is the need for versatility
When you decide to invest in a CNC machine, one of the main draws is a purchase that allows you to seemingly do everything you need it to do without multiple extra parts needing to be purchased. Though this comes with very few extra parts, it allows for a great deal of cross-compatibility meaning that if you happen to know someone who has a router or software to try out, you’ll more than likely be able to make that happen with no issue.
This CNC machine also makes things a bit easier for you if you’re worried about accuracy as it comes with auto-edge and auto-sensing software. For those with little to no experience, the system will measure the workspace and identify the toolpath start point for you.
CNC Piranha FX – Best for the Money
While I was originally tempted to purchase this CNC machine, I went with the CNC Piranha XL because of my skill level. That is something that will inevitably vary from person to person, but the Piranha FX is still a great choice for those who may want to save some money while still purchasing a reliable CNC machine.
Though it is considered to be a base model, it still has a lot of robust and substantial features that make it competitive in an already crowded field. One of the most appealing elements may actually be its size. This is a smaller unit than some of the CNC machines out there and it comes with a 12×18 inch table which makes it great for those may be limited by space restrictions.
It supports the 3D digital touch probe that lets you trace and duplicate objects down to a hundredth of an inch in detail. It has touchscreen controls for easier convenience and is very similar to more expensive options.
It also comes compatible with multiple router sizes to allow for more versatility making it a good overall pick for those who may be getting into CNC machinery but would prefer to stay within a smaller budget.
Buying Guide: Picking a Good CNC Machines for Gunsmithing
System Types: CNC Mills vs Lathes
When you finally decide to take the next step into CNC machining, you’ll find two specific system types: mills and lathes. While CNC mills tend to be more popular for their capabilities, there is a considerable amount of risk associated with them.
CNC milling machines can move around according to the specifications included with the software being used. This makes it ideal for engravers, woodworkers who need more intricate work, and gunsmithing. While this certainly allows for some really amazing work, it has the potential to go wrong because of the movement.
CNC lathes, however, are stationary and do not allow for some of the fancier things we often like to do. They could prove useful for chambering in some situations, so they shouldn’t be completely off your radar when making your final purchase choice.
For me, it came down to which type I thought was the most versatile. I didn’t want to spend too much money on a model that may limit me, so the risk was worth the possible reward. If you want a safer choice, that’s okay too just make sure you have weighed both the pros and cons of each.
Though I was fortunate enough to have multiple space options available when I started CNC machining, not everyone has that luxury. The amount of working space you have is one of the most important elements to consider when you’re choosing a CNC machine. If you need something compact, make sure that you purchase something that fits in your allotted space and not a model that could take up an entire two-car garage.
When I chose my CNC machine, I decided to do a bit of old-fashioned measuring to make sure I got it right on the first try rather than ordering blindly hoping that my choice would fit. If you need a benchtop CNC machine to get started at first, that’s okay too. Getting started is the most important part of the process.
The weight of your CNC machine is something that you consider pretty early on in the buying process. While there are some desktop CNC machines and smaller versions that may be able to work for you, there are others that are extremely heavy. If you want to be a DIY CNC machinist, you’ll want to find a CNC machine that doesn’t weigh more than what you can carry by yourself or maybe with a friend.
If you’re in the process of purchasing a small business or a larger area, however, the task of purchasing one of the more heavy-duty models may be viable. Either way, make sure you purchase one that fits your needs at the time.
When talking about gunsmithing and heavy metals, power is an inevitable consideration when choosing a CNC machine. If you don’t have the right amount of power in your CNC machine, nothing you plan on doing when milling your firearm will work.
In addition to the output power of your CNC machine, you should also consider the power source that you’ll be using. You must have a well-grounded power source. This is even more important if you plan on purchasing one of the larger CNC machine models. If you’re even remotely considering exploring the option of something bigger for your CNC machine, you should make doubly sure that you’re ready to invest in the power source to sustain it or you may end up with some blown circuitry.
The cost of a CNC machine is not something to take lightly. Though the initial cost is certainly something to keep in mind, I view affordability and price in terms of the amount you pay upfront combined with the amount of time you’re willing to invest in learning CNC machining. If you’re not willing to invest the necessary time into learning about your CNC machine, I don’t think you’ll get the real value of your purchase.
Is it illegal to mill a gun?
As with many things in our society today, the answer to this does depend on where you are. Just as a personal rule of thumb, I always recommend you do your homework and check your state laws, however, most states will allow you to mill your firearms. Doing the same for someone else though does require specific licenses and permits so it’s always best to check if you’re unsure.
What files do CNC machines use?
Generally, there are multiple file formats used by CNC machines. Every CNC setup is different, so you’ll need to become familiar with the specific needs of your machine, however widely accepted file formats are AI, PDF, DXF, DWG, STL, OBJ, STEP, and 3DM. I’m sure that this list will expand as CNC machining becomes more popular.
What is Mach3 CNC?
Airsoft’s Mach series of CNC software first debuted in 2001 and has since become the most popular and available PC-based CNC software. Mach3 converts a Windows-based PC or laptop to a fully featured CNC controller. This is not an option that would work for most beginners; however, it really does serve to repurpose old equipment and save money as well.
Is it hard to learn CNC machining?
The answer to this specific question will vary greatly depending on the person you ask. While it took me some time to learn more advanced techniques, very basic CNC programming is easy to learn if you have a basic math and machining background. This portion can usually take a couple of days to learn. If you want to make higher-quality items, however, you should expect to dedicate some extensive time to learning and becoming proficient.
For me, the purchase of the CNC Piranha XL was the best choice I could have possibly made. As a complete beginner, the other possibilities seemed a bit too far out of skill level and I wanted something that would allow me to do unique work with little to no worries. Overall, I’ve been pleased with it and using for gunsmithing specifically has been enjoyable and rewarding.
Though I took what seems to be the easiest option, I encourage you to explore the spectrum of CNC machines available and choose what works best for you. Regardless of your choice, I’m sure your gunsmithing will reach the next level in no time