Basic gunsmithing for the Beretta Tomcat

Before we get going, I’d like to give the standard lecture about gun safety.  Make sure your guns are empty before doing any cleaning or repairs.  Drop the magazine, empty the cylinders, press check, lock the slide back, etc.  Do everything twice, just to be sure you are in the clear.

The dissected Tomcat. (Image credit: Beretta)

The dissected Tomcat. (Photo credit: Beretta)

It is easy to check a Tomcat, as the barrel tips up.  And that’s what this little how-to is all about.  The barrel rotates on a pin in the front of the frame.  There’s a spring in there that pops breech end of the barrel up. That spring may break, as it has for one of our readers.  Luckily, replacing it is cheap and easy.

Field stripping

To field strip the Beretta Tomcat, you only really need to remove the magazine and slide.  The barrel tips up, so access to it (and the rest of the gun) is pretty easy.  If you want to get a little bit deeper, unscrew the grips.  It is easy, and a real pleasure to do.

The Tomcat's barrel pops up.  Usually.  (Photo credit: Beretta USA)

The Tomcat’s barrel pops up. Usually. (Photo credit: Beretta USA)

But what if you have a bigger issue?  Taking the Tomcat apart completely shouldn’t be intimidating.  In fact, removing the tip-up barrel from the gun is a good entrance into one of the most basic (and most regularly used) skills of the gunsmith: punching pins.

Pins

A lot of guns are held together with short, stout, round steel pins.  Everything from shotgun receivers to pistols to revolvers are all held together with these surprisingly simple bits of steel.

Most of us will never get around to removing pins.  It simply isn’t necessary for the care typical shooters will provide for their guns.  But if you want to put on a Button Sling, or put a beaver-tail grip safety on a 1911, you will need to push a pin or two.

A basic set of punches from Wheeler Engineering.  (Photo credit: Wheeler Eng.)

A basic set of punches from Wheeler Engineering. (Photo credit: Wheeler Eng.)

It is easy enough to screw up. For one, you could very well lose the pins.  They are prone to pop free.  Most are not labeled, so you need to keep track of them in order to get the gun back together correctly.

And if you drift out a pin with a punch that’s made of harder metal than the pin itself, you may mar the pin (or worse, the gun).  Be careful and go slow.  When in doubt, use a brass punch.

Punches are easy to come by.  They are sold individually, but are best purchased in sets.  You will only need one to punch out the barrel pin on a Tomcat, but you’ll want more eventually.  It is addictive.

Brass punches have specific uses, as do steel.  The are pins with flat ends, slightly pointed ends, and concave, cup shaped ends (which fit neatly over convex, dome shaped pins).  Find the punch that best fits the pin.

The barrel pin has a small divot.  Push from this side.

The barrel pin has a small divot.

Most pins aren’t tapered.  They are just bars of steel stuck in a hole.  The friction is enough to hold them in (usually).  The barrel on the Tomcat actually moves very little.  And it stays in alignment thanks to the frame and slide, not the pin.  From what I can see in the various images, the Tomcat’s barrel pin has a little divot in one side.  That divot can be used to center the punch correctly on the pin and to mark which side is which (if it is only on the one side).

Hammers, like pins, come in various materials.  You won’t need a sledge hammer for the job.  In fact, it may be best to have a nylon face, or a a brass face (or a combination of both). If a pin gets sticky, and won’t move, you would rather mar the face of the hammer (most of which are replaceable) than the punch, or the gun.

When you begin drifting a pin, you’ll tap very lightly.  Be sure that the pin has somewhere to go on the other side of the gun, as that’s where it will begin to protrude.  You don’t want to do this on your kitchen table.  Armorer’s blocks are really useful, as they’re designed to hold the gun in place, and catch the pin when it pops free.  Most are made of a nylon that won’t damage the gun’s finish.

A good nylon block makes the job easy. (Photo credit: Wheeler Eng.)

A good nylon block makes the job easy. (Photo credit: Wheeler Eng.)

After you’ve tapped on the pin for just a bit, it should start to push below the surface of the gun.  When it does, the punch will have a guide (the hole the pin is leaving behind) and it should fit in neatly.  If the punch won’t fit in the hole, get a smaller punch.

Improvise

Basic gunsmithing tool kits are inexpensive and worth having on hand.  If you don’t want to make the extra investment, improvise.  I’ve drifted pins with modified nails, old drill bits, wooden dowels.  A normal hammer can work, though you should use great caution.  The pin doesn’t care.  Just push it out.

After all, the fix to a broken barrel spring on a Beretta Tomcat isn’t going to break the bank.  $1.56 for the new spring.  Ten minutes of labor and you’re good to go.