When it comes time to replace your MIG gun, you may think it’s as simple as going to the store and buying the same one you’ve used in the past; but is that really the case? Besides the obvious; amperage, wire type, air-cooled or water-cooled, what should you be thinking about when buying a replacement MIG gun?
Below, we’re going to go over three considerations you should make before pulling the trigger on a replacement MIG gun purchase.
First, a simple one: How long of a MIG gun cable do I need? Cables come in various lengths; 10’, 15’, 20’, even 25’ long in some cases. A length of 15’ is the most common because you’ll find that in most welding booths, everything you need is within 15’ radius of the welder.
You might be welding in a tight space like a pipe or vessel where cable slack might get in the way, this means you might want a shorter cable such as a 10’. In some cases, you might opt for a 20’ or maybe even a 25’ torch cable, but that can present wire feeding problems depending on the size of wire you use.
For example: .035” wire doesn’t have the columnar strength to be pushed through a 20’ cable without bending or getting caught somewhere down the line; this is the whole reason that push-pull torches exist. So, first step is to figure out how long of a cable you need, and what you plan to do with it.
Comfort is one of the most important considerations to make, regardless of you being a hobbyist welder who welds on the weekends, or a full-time welder who welds all day every day. A comfortable replacement MIG gun will keep you focused on the task at hand so you can produce the best welds possible and stay happy doing it.
The Department of Sports Medicine at Justus-Liebig-University (JLU) in Giessen, Germany did multiple case studies on the physical effects of welding. They found that there are aspects of some MIG torches that can aid in reducing the negative physical effects of welding on the body.
Things like a rounded handle and molded grip help the torch sit nicely in the palm of your hand making it easier to hold over extended periods of time. Also, smaller features such as extended triggers to keep your hand further from the arc, rotating necks to allow easy access to welds, and ball joint cable connections to give the welder an extra inch or two of movement in their wrist. All of these features work to reduce weight and strain on the welder.
Most torches these days are able to be used with your right or left hand. Having an ambidextrous MIG gun allows you to switch back and forth from left to right, reducing the risk of carpel tunnel. Ideally if it can handle your welding process, a lightweight replacement MIG gun is the best option in terms of comfort. It’s always best to take as much weight as possible off of the welder to maximize comfort.
What torches are you using now in your operation? What machines? What consumables?
There is a significant advantage to having a MIG gun that is compatible with multiple different machines/feeders. Let’s say you’re welding a part, your machine/feeder decides to stop working and the nearest machine to you is a different brand.
Instead of switching guns, or even stopping production to wait for a fix, you can switch to a different machine and continue working; sometimes without even switching power pins on your torch.
Additionally, if you’re a larger shop, having a single brand of MIG guns that uses the same consumables across all of their torches will reduce the number of consumables and replacement parts that need to be stocked. This can cut cost, as well as confusion among your welders on which consumables to use on any given day.
There is a lot to consider when purchasing a replacement MIG gun, and with all the options out there it can be a daunting task. With these considerations in mind, you’ll be able to choose a MIG gun that fits perfectly into whatever it is that you’re welding, and be comfortable while doing it.