Do you need to modify your carry gun? Should you?

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In the dim past (which wasn’t really all that long ago), if you needed to change something on your carry gun you took it to a gunsmith. You’d wait for him to do the work, pay him lots of money, and go home happy — more or less.

That was the state of things largely because making the available guns suitable for concealed carry and self defense required modifications. In fact, not all that many years ago it was difficult just to find a reliable autoloading pistol, one which would make it through a full day of training! In any case, going to the gunsmith was often a necessity for those early concealed carriers.

Times have changed

Today’s world is very different: it’s actually hard to find bad guns on today’s market! Though sub-optimal designs still proliferate, even those are functionally better than they were a couple of decades ago. The carry guns we have today, with few exceptions, are both more reliable and easier to shoot well than the guns of just a generation past. There are always exceptions to that observation, but if you buy just about any modern striker fired pistol it’s going to be true.

Gone are the days when gunsmiths had to do extensive (and expensive) work on a pistol just to make it reliable, and with fewer people carrying revolvers action jobs are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. You can pick up just about any Glock, M&P, Springfield XD, polymer Walther, or Steyr pistol and they’ll all work just fine out of the box. They’ll be fun and easy to shoot, too.

Do-it-yourself is big business

In this new age making changes to your carry gun is easier than ever. “Drop in” parts, meaning parts that don’t have to be specifically fitted to an individual gun, are the norm. If you have a modern handgun of recent manufacture, chances are you can order up parts and install them yourself within a few minutes of opening the package. Many companies have sprung up to supply all manner of accessories — and they’re all marketed as “vital” to shooting well. There are more parts and accessories available today than at any time I can remember; special triggers and barrels and other accoutrements litter the internet.

So, we have an apparent contradiction: defensive firearms are more suited to the job than they’ve ever been, and yet you can make more modifications than you’ve ever been able to (faster and cheaper to boot.) The question is: do you really need any of those products?

Think before you spend

There are a lot of people, for instance, who are convinced that in order to defend themselves with their carry gun they need a special trigger to reduce the pull weight and increase the speed of the reset. Is that something you need to do? In the vast majority of cases I’d say no; the factory triggers on modern striker fired pistols do vary quite a bit in quality, but I’ve not found myself nor my students handicapped with even the worst of them. (Some of them, like my beloved Steyr S9-A1, are really quite good already and would be difficult to improve.)

In most cases I’ve observed that the money students have spent on things like trigger “upgrades” would have been better spent on practice ammunition and range time. Doing so would have taught them to handle the stock trigger properly while at the same time allowed them to practice all the other skills related to defensive shooting.

The various bolt-on and drop-in devices don’t really bolster the carry gun’s operation. What they do is give the owner a false sense of competency, a feeling that the new parts are what will enable them to deal with a surprise attacker rather than their learned and practiced skills. It also reinforces the notion that their gun is the primary instrument of their physical safety, rather than simply a special-purpose tool for a narrow range of defensive circumstances.

Hardware doesn’t keep you safe

Don’t fall into that trap. Buy a quality firearm, then learn to shoot it properly. You’re living in an age when the defensive carry handgun has never been as reliable or as “shootable” as it is today, and those “go fast” parts won’t make a scintilla of difference in the outcome of your defensive shooting.

Don’t be fooled and don’t be led.

– Grant Cunningham

P.S.: I know someone is probably going to make the comment “who cares what people carry?” or “what business is it of yours?” Simple: my job is to educate people, to help them make good self defense decisions. Informing my students about spending money needlessly on things that won’t make them any safer is part of that job; to not do so would be a lack of integrity on my part. When I go home at the end of the day, do I care what you carry? Nope. Do I care that you understand your own decision making process with regard to your personal safety? Yep. If that offends the people whose self image is wrapped up in their gun bling, so be it.

 
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About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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