Gun or Rock? Pitfalls & Perils of Pimping Your Gun
Eve Flanigan 06.21.19
The gun accessory industry cranks out a bevy of new products every year. Most promise to enhance performance, improve handling, or just make the gun look better. Given that the primary focus of my shooting work is based in practical, defensive use, I’ve come to take a dim view of most of these products. Maybe my observations can save you money and stress when selecting accessories for your own firearm.
Let’s begin with a few of the dozens of examples I’ve witnessed on the range:
Example 1: Race gun-turned-rock
A shooter at the Kyle Defoor class I attended this year brought a thoroughly tricked-out race gun, complete with a hulking compensator, side-mounted charging handle, and a mag well so generous it bordered on obscene. If you’re going to carry a gun that’s so flashy as to be noticeable across the range, it better work, and you better shoot well! And that’s exactly what happened, up until it came time for contact shots—firing with the muzzle in very close proximity to the cardboard IDPA target used in class. The gun simply wouldn’t cycle. There is a noticeable backdraft of energy when shooting at any target within about 36 inches of the muzzle, and this very expensive firearm would have none of it.
This would be no big deal for a gun that’s used in matches, as this one was made to do. But, in the milieu of self-protection, which this class was about, a gun that won’t fire in close quarters is nothing more than a rock.
Example 2: Convenience add-on works a bit too well
A friend and student decided that not being able to effortlessly put her thumb on the magazine release of her Glock 19 was insufferable. There is of course an easy and quick method for pressing the release, which on earlier-generation Glocks can be challenging to reach. This student decided to purchase an extended magazine release, and came to a class in which about 200 rounds are consumed. After the magazine unintentionally fell out three times while firing the first 50 rounds, she decided to loosen her grip so as not to disturb the new gadget. Any experienced shooter knows the result—she was suddenly unable to manage recoil during multiple-shot sequences. Frustrated, she opted to borrow my Glock for the remainder of the class.
Gun or rock? Test your accessories before entrusting your life to them.
Example 3: Hotshot goes red-faced
Waiting on the firing line at a police agency qualification, an officer proudly displayed his choice of off-duty gun—a tricked-out handgun with a lightened slide, match-grade chrome barrel, and high-dollar trigger with a two-pound break. Purposely here, all brand names are left out since said officer is also an influencer with the company that makes these accessories. One failure to fire after another occurred, and not just one variety of that malfunction either. The shooter is an excellent gun handler and I place no blame on his skills. But he’d become so obsessed with improving singular aspects of the gun that he forgot to pay attention to whether it actually works as a whole.
Gun or rock? Don’t entrust the life of you or someone in your community to aftermarket parts.
Example 4: It’s not just accessories on the gun itself
At a recent department training day, the most advanced shooter the group produced a Glock magazine extension that he’d procured on his own. Such equipment isn’t permitted by agency policy, but on this training day, he wanted to be better-equipped. On the first slide-lock reload, the magazine hit the ground and practically exploded, with the spring, case, and floorplate all flying in different directions. After reassembly, it happened again. Class was delayed while this shooter retrieved and loaded stock magazines. He went on to perform with success the rest of the day.
Gun or rock? No working magazine equals no gun.
Example 5: Hot accessory fans courtroom fire
This example is a little different, but no less important. If you must choose aftermarket accessories, be conscientious that they don’t send a message that could be used against you after an incident involving the gun, however justified. As OutdoorHub reported in 2017, an inscription inside the dust cover of a Mesa, Arizona police officer’s AR-platform rifle cost the officer his job, and heaps of unwanted attention from the press. In their unsuccessful attempt to prosecute the officer for murder, the words “You’re Effed,” (paraphrasing a bit there) were used as evidence of intent to murder. While the charges were dropped, an officer who had served otherwise dutifully was fired over attempted humor on a $12 dust cover. Don’t think this can’t happen to civilians—talk of using social media statements as an excuse to confiscate firearms has happened here in the States. According to friends in New Zealand, social media statements are being used now as an excuse for red flag-style raids. I’m not saying I agree with free speech infringements. Until enough Americans decide that the growing train of usurpations and abuses of liberty is sufficient to invoke our right and duty to overthrow the current system and install a new one, I will equip students with the information necessary to make educated decisions about whether to choose jail or gun freedoms.
Don’t let an accessory become a veritable rock that gets thrown through the window of life.
Evaluating accessory choices
Accessories, especially holsters, can often invite safety problems, especially for inexperienced gun handlers. Ask yourself if the accessory you’re considering causes any violations of muzzle or finger discipline and if the answer is yes, ask yourself if your own safety habits are consistently perfect.
Ask yourself if a gun-part accessory will help you accomplish your objective. If you walk five blocks from school to home after dark, the need to see a potential threat is real. Weapon-mounted lights have advantages and potentially serious safety drawbacks. Will a good flashlight do the job instead? If you’re a competitive shooter of small stature, that compensator can look attractive in terms of recoil management, but are you ready to replace your holster as well for one that not only fits the gun, but doesn’t require you to lean over during the draw?
There’s no shame in having style. Some trims and accessories are purely for aesthetics. Ask yourself what message that decoration may send, and if you’re prepared to deal with any potential consequence, whether it be in the function of the gun or in the courtroom.
As my best friend and master firearms instructor is fond of saying, don’t let your equipment defeat you. Once you’ve modified or otherwise added some gadget to your loadout, any failure to perform is on you. Separate emotion from fact in choosing what goes in, on, and around your firearm.