It doesn’t matter if you own an open-to-the-public business or if you fix, customize, or maintain your personal firearms in your basement or garage–if you work on guns, you need stuff. Stuff like hand tools, power tools, measuring devices, clamps, blocks, fasteners, cleaning supplies, buckets and bins, personal protective equipment, batteries, light bulbs, paper, pencils, tape, and the list goes on and on. Some items, like a set of good quality gunsmithing tools, are purchased with the intent of using that item for a lifetime (or a very long time), and I would never suggest buying those items at a dollar store. But some items are purchased as consumables and need to be replenished often. These are the items to look for at a dollar store.
As I thought about this article over a cup of coffee this morning, many useful dollar store items popped into my mind. And as I thought about which items to include on this list, it hit me – what does “dollar store” mean to everyone else? Depending on where you are reading this article, the dollar store may be a local mom & pop corner store, the town’s general store, a Five & Dime, Five Below, or some other convenient store with the word “dollar” in its name. To me, the Dollar Tree is the dollar store, and up until recently, everything in that store cost no more the one dollar; but now, and for the first time in its 35+ year history, the Dollar Tree has raised prices to $1.25… still not too bad. Family Dollar and Dollar General also come to mind when referring to a dollar store, and quick internet search revealed that Family Dollar (also owned by Dollar Tree – I didn’t know that until just now) has over 8,000 stores in 48 states (and Canada) and Dollar General has 18,000 stores in 47 states. So, chances are, you are familiar with either the Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, or Dollar General. Now, armed with that information, and done with my coffee, I decided to head out and shop at each of these stores to find out what they currently have in stock that would be useful in my shop.
Not surprisingly, I found that each store carries similar items. Price, packaged quantity, and availability may differ slightly between each, but for the most part, these items are available at any of the dollar stores.
All Purpose (AP) Brushes: AP Brushes, or in this case toothbrushes, can be used to clean dirt, debris, and fouling from those tough to reach places that your cleaning rag just cannot get to. I found a set of four brushes for about a buck, and, just like AP Brushes, they come in many different bristle types and thicknesses.
Wire Brushes: These are perfect for busting surface rust, scrubbing and degreasing parts in solvents, and removing welding scales. I found a three pack of what appears to be a steel brush, a brass brush, and a nylon brush, all for about $1.25.
Dental Pick: Picks can be used to poke, prod, and scrape in hard-to-reach areas. I’ve got dental picks in each of my toolboxes, range bags, cleaning kits, and even hanging on the workbench wall. I found one advertised as a Craft Pick and priced at just about a dollar.
Sanding Sponge: This medium coarse Sanding Sponge is very handy when reworking wooden stocks or just about any other sanding job. It can be used wet or dry. It is stiff enough to hold form but spongey enough to contour perfectly to your hand and the curves of your project piece. These things are a bit harder to find so I usually grab a handful every time I see them. The sponge cost about a dollar, but even if you can’t find the sponge, dollar stores usually carry packs of sandpaper for just a few bucks.
Cable Ties: I have seen cable ties used to indicate a checked and cleared gun at gun shows and in some gun stores. In a gunsmithing shop, they can be used to tag a gun as it comes in for repairs or to mark an ammo can once you’ve inventoried the contents. And these things are very handy when doing mock-ups or repairs. Dollar stores have multiple sizes, colors, and quantities available at a discount price.
Magnifying Glasses: Great for reading serial numbers and markings on the barrel and/or frame of a gun; but even if you don’t need reading glasses to read with, grab a pair and keep them handy for when working with those small internal gun parts or when inspecting brass before reloading it. It is important to note that these reading glasses may not have a safety rating so they should be used as a magnifying tool only and not used in place of safety glasses. Dollar stores usually sell reading classes for only a few dollars, and they come in multiple styles, colors, and magnifications.
Shop Towels: Who doesn’t need shop towels?
Ear Protection: If you work with guns and machinery, you can never have too many ear plugs laying around. I got this 4-pair pack for around a dollar.
Compartment Tray: Sold as a “Lunch Tray,” this plastic, compartmentalized tray makes a perfect addition to any workbench and allows you to keep small parts grouped together in a convenient location.
Open For Business Sign: I must say, finding an “Open/Closed” sign in the dollar store was a big surprise; but this is perfect for your business. Hang this on your door to let customers know to come on in or flip it around to tell them that you are currently closed but will return at a specific time.
So, I’d love to know – what is on your dollar store shopping list? Where else do you go shopping for discount shop supplies?
Earl Roberts is the Owner-Operator and Chief Instructor of Mobile Marksmanship LLC, a Firearms & Safety Training Company located in Northern Virginia. Earl is a retired Marine, former private security professional, and an Emergency Medical Technician with a degree in Firearms Technology and multiple armorer certifications. His instructor credentials include NRA Rifle, Pistol, and Shotgun, National Sporting Clays Association Certified Shotgun Instructor, CCW Instructor, Range Safety Officer, Active Shooter Mitigation & Response Instructor, Crime Prevention & Personal Protection Instructor, Trauma First Aid Instructor, and CPR/AED Instructor. When not teaching, Earl can be found competing with shotguns, pistols, small-bore rifles, and/or muzzleloaders…and occasionally writing gun related articles.