The AR Builder’s Secret: Roll Pin Wizard

Here’s how it works: The guide holds the punch, and the punch keeps the roll pin in place for your gentle installation.
Here’s how it works: The guide holds the punch, and the punch keeps the roll pin in place for your gentle installation.

The Roll Pin Wizard saves your gun from unnecessary abuse during routine maintenance.

In the old days, you’d see a lot of really ugly ARs. (One might say there are ugly ones today, but that’s another discussion.)

One mar on an AR build was the various and sundry scratches you’d see from someone trying to install the bolt hold-open roll pin. Basically, you’re trying to use a part to compress a spring that’s driven by a plunger, line up the hole in the part and then drive a small roll pin through the holes—all with a small, lightweight aluminum part you can’t easily hold.

Back when I was early to wrenching on ARs, I had an elaborate assemblage of old towels in a vice that would hold the receiver, along with small blocks, with masking tape to hold the parts in place … while I tried to find a third hand for the roll pin, hammer and punch.

Well, no more.

Roll Pin Wizard Magic

The Roll Pin Wizard holds the punch in place. It keeps it aligned. The roll pin tip holds the pin in place well enough, because the front end of the pin is sitting in the receiver hole for it.

The Wizard comes to you from the fertile mind of the Gas Block Genie—a simple tool (I wish I had thought of it!) that lets you line up the gas port and gas block on that part of the assembly.

Using the Wizard is easy: Insert the guide in the rear takedown pinhole. Stand the receiver up on the front face. Line up the pin and use the punch, once you’ve slid it through the guide, to hold the pin in place.

Now, place the spring and plunger into the receiver and press the bolt hold-open onto them. Wrap your hand around the receiver and use your thumb to compress the bolt hold-open into alignment. You can use a small drift punch from the other side to get things lined up. Then, press and hold.

The Roll Pin Wizard has both the guide and the roll pin punch you’ll need for a clean build.
The Roll Pin Wizard has both the guide and the roll pin punch you’ll need for a clean build.

Now, with one hand holding the parts in place, pick up your hammer and tap the punch that will press in the roll pin. Your “third hand”—the Roll Pin Wizard—will be keeping things lined up … as long as you don’t hit too hard or off-line.

I know this sounds a bit complicated, but it’s a piece of cake compared to what we did in the old days (well, for those of us who didn’t have a benchtop fixture that held everything in place with clamps).

Raise Your Gear IQ:

Looking Good Is The Point

This is a simple piece of plastic, and it costs you $18; to some, that might seem a bit much.

Sure, you could make one … if you had a lathe and a milling machined to fabricate the part out of a billet of aluminum or mild steel. But that’s just the guide you’re making. You’ll still have to buy a roll pin punch, which chops that “$18 savings” in half.

If you already have those power tools, saving $18 might seem like an afternoon’s entertainment. To the rest of us, investing $3,000 to $4,000 just to save $18 or less sounds like the sort of thing a lifelong politician might suggest.

Man up and reward ingenuity: Spend that $18 to avoid scratching your receiver on your next build. And, while you’re at it, spring for the Gas Block Genie.

The Roll Pin Wizard is available online. And, as long as you keep it a secret from the others at your club, your builds will be good-looking (well, no scratches, anyway), and everyone will think you’re the king of the AR builders.

The article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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