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4 Pistol Modifications Every Concealed Carrier Should Consider

4 Pistol Modifications Every Concealed Carrier Needs

Image source: Shield

I’ve been shooting for quite a few years, although I really don’t consider myself a competitive shooter. As with anything else that one does repetitively, I’ve noticed a few things – particularly things about my fellow shooters.

Key among those things is that few shooters ever modify their guns, especially their handguns. Most will stick with the way they came out of the factory. Those who do modify their guns tend to go for cosmetic modifications, rather than anything functional. The one exception to this is serious competitive shooters, who go to great lengths to make their guns as accurate and easy to shoot as possible.

But, for the most part, competitive shooting isn’t the same as shooting to defend yourself. This means that most competitive pistols aren’t really useful as defensive weapons — with the exception of one category: pistols that are used in tactical shooting competition.

Tactical shooting is different from other forms of competitive shooting in that it is built around creating realistic scenarios where you would be expected to use a pistol in self-defense or the defense of others. As such, many of the modifications that would help a tactical shooter also will help anyone who needs to use their pistol in a defensive role.

Even though I’m not a competitive shooter, I’ve learned that it’s worthwhile taking a page from their book and customizing my guns. In fact, I’ve customized all the guns that I use regularly, including my daily carry gun. These customizations aren’t cosmetic, but functional, and each of them make it easier for me to use my guns if I ever draw one in a live-fire situation.

1. Trigger

The first and most important thing to consider modifying on your gun is the trigger. Most pistol triggers are set for a five- to six-pound pull. That’s okay, but there’s a reason why competitive pistols have light trigger pulls. That’s because a lighter trigger is less likely to cause you to jerk or pull your gun off target.

Not all guns give you the capability of changing out the trigger or of lightening the trigger pull. But if you can, it’s well worth it. Glock has a replacement bar, which drops the trigger pull down to 3.5 pounds. That’s enough to make quite a difference. On a 1911, you can change the trigger pull by adjusting the mainspring. Some other pistols, like the Springfield XD and XDS series. have replacement springs to lighten the trigger pull.

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Trigger control is the single most important part of accurate shooting — even more so than sight picture. Aftermarket triggers not only adjust the trigger pull, but are usually of finer quality fit and finish. This lowers friction, which reduces the chance of the trigger sticking while pulling it.

2. Controls

Your two other main controls on any semi-automatic pistol are the slide lock and the magazine lock. Typically, these are designed to be as non-obtrusive as possible so that they don’t hang up when drawing the pistol. But those minimalist designs also may be harder to find and operate when you need to do a quick magazine change.

Extended slide and magazine release controls can speed up your mag changes, shaving as much as a second off your time. That second is critical in competition, but it’s even more critical in the only competition that really counts — when someone is shooting at you.

Speaking of easing magazine changes, adding a flared magazine well also can speed your mag changes. There are several manufacturers who supply these, in both polymer and aluminum. They help eliminate any fumbling that can happen while trying to find the mag well with your magazine.

The only other real control that most pistols have is the safety. Once again, this can be worth changing out to make the gun easier to use. A larger safety control lever will make it easier to find the safety and operate it when you’re drawing your gun out to use it. If you happen to be left-handed or have someone in your family who is, you also might want to consider an ambidextrous safety lever.

3. Sights

One of the most customizable areas of any firearm is the sights. The plain iron sights that come on most handguns are fine for short-range shooting in the daylight. The ones with white dots on them are a bit better. But neither will do you much good in a low-light situation. For that, you need something else. Besides, iron sights become harder to use the farther you’re trying to shoot.

While most defensive shooting is done at a range of five yards or less, there is a small percentage that happens at about 50 feet. Shooting with iron sights at that range is difficult at best. Doing so if you don’t have perfect vision is even worse.

Tritium Night Sights

Pretty much every handgun I own, with the exception of ones that don’t have removable sights or are only used on the shooting range, has tritium sights installed. Tritium is a radioactive gas which glows in the dark. So, instead of just having three white dots painted on the sights, you end up with three white dots that will glow in the dark.

Granted, this really isn’t much help in total darkness, when you can’t see our target. But it’s ideal at twilight, when you might be able to see your target, but really can’t see your sights. This makes the addition of tritium sights a lifesaver in some cases.

Reflex Sight

The reflex sight or red dot sight was originally developed for military use. Rather than having to align two sights with the target, it allows you to align one thing — a dot projected on a small, transparent screen — with the target. This saves considerable time in getting on target.

While originally designed for use on rifles, smaller reflex sights now exist for use on pistols, as well. They provide the same advantage that they do for rifles. However, they are not good in low light. So, if you install this type of sight, you might want to have another gun available to you with tritium sights on it.

Laser Sight

Most firearms instructors will advise you not to use a laser sight. If you become dependent on one and then the battery dies, you’re stuck without any sights. So, if you’re going to install one, practice with your metal sights, too.

The other problem with a laser sight is that it can give your position away to the bad guys, just like a flashlight can. The red or green laser light coming out of the front of your gun is visible for a longer distance than it is usable for.

Nevertheless, I use laser sights for one important reason. My eyes aren’t all that good. Unless I have my computer glasses on, I can’t see the all-important front sight clearly. A laser sight allows me to keep my focus downrange, which I can see just fine, with my normal glasses.

If you’re going to buy a laser sight, only buy one that is triggered by gripping the gun. This is accomplished by a push-button switch, which is located where you will be gripping the gun. So, your normal grip turns the sight on. There are only a couple of brands that do this. The rest require you taking the time to turn them on, which might be time that you don’t have.

4. Tactical light

The last thing you might consider is a tactical light. You’ve probably seen this in movies, where the cops have a tactical light mounted to a short rail under the barrel. Not all guns have this rail, but for those that do, having the light readily available is convenient.

There’s just one problem with a gun-mounted tactical light. That is, your light will be on all the time, which means that it will be advertising your location to the bad guys. Tactical instructors say the way to use a tactical light is to flash it on briefly and immediately change position. Then you can act on what you saw. Moving is necessary, in case the bad guys shoot at you. With the light back off, they won’t see you move.

I have a couple of pistols with mounted tactical lights, but I prefer the idea of using a hand-held tactical light, so that I can flash it on and off, as needed. This gives me the light I need, without making me a target.

What would you add to our list? How have you customized your pistol? Share your tips in the section below:

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  1. Unless you are well seasoned with handgun use, keep away from light triggers, AD are quite frequent with them, especially Glocks.
    Myself most of mine are in the 5 pound range. State law here requires new pistols sold have a 10 pound trigger which is excessive.
    ALL my carry handguns have laser sights and tritium sights.
    The laser switch is hit just as I am ready to shoot, not before.
    Reducing spring tension on a 1911 can cause AD due to the sear not being able to hold the hammer back.
    Reducing the hammer spring causes slide/frame damage from the reduced drag on the recoiling parts.
    There are rail mounted lights that have a switch accessed by the trigger finger available.
    IMHO, they are beacons directing fire right to you.
    Reflex sights are awkward and in my opinion are only good for target or hunting not CC.
    Not that it matters, I have been a gunsmith for over 55 years, so my comments are based on that experience.

  2. Gordon A VanSchoick

    I would have started the list with a Taclight. You do not have leave the light on constantly. Although flipping it on and off may/will affect your “night vision”. Taclights come in handy even during the day if the power is out or if you are looking in a basement or closet they come in handy. I know some think that they can shoot adequately with a flashlight in one hand and a pistol in the other but my tests of this have not shown that to be accurate. I have tested over 5000 shooters in 2009-2010 and found that none of them shot better using that approach including me. Overwhelmingly found that a Taclight on the pistol was superior to flashlight in the hand.

  3. Suppressor!!!

  4. On my defensive weapons (pretty much all Glocks) I pretty much wouldn’t mess with my trigger nor would I add a flared mag well, at least not on my ‘Daily Carry(ies)’.
    I’ve seen folks do all sortsa things to their fight pistols and they come out for a training and most just don’t hold up well… at all. Both ideas (trigger/mag well) are awesome on paper, but not so much ‘in the field’. If Glock made the Trigger… good enough for me. And the mag wells I’ve seen fail every single time out at our Range (though I have to admit I’ve not reviewed the veracity of any of them… could-a been chinese or just improperly installed). Before I throw money at my equipment, I’d rather train with it, learn it, reach a solid proficiency with it, theeeeen I’ll go to the easier life (reflex sites). That way, and similar to your insight on the Laser, I’ve trained on a ‘stock semi-auto’ pistol and if I am able to pick up another weapon in the ‘battlefield’, I’ll know what to do, how to do it, and I should be solid using it.
    I went against attaching the light ’cause when (if) I’m searching (clearing my home say), then to really threat identify, I’ll have to point my weapon instead-a my light (sure, I can splash light, but to PROPERLY threat identify… I gotta ‘point the light’. Admittedly I vacillate on this one about once a year, but for now, it don’t make no sense to me. But then… 🙂
    And careful of replacing the mag eject button… some are HUUUGE and may cause a ‘premature ejection’ (unintended). If the one you get is like that, you can just shave it down though.
    All good ideas on the face of it (above), but be sure your mods are ‘Combat Effective’ as Lt. Col. Dave Grossman calls it in USMC suggested reading “On Combat”. Add it, test it, test it again, then test it again… and again. We sure don’t want to test it in ‘combat’ do we.
    Thanks for the suggestions.

  5. When modifying your gun you have to be careful what you do, if you are involved in a shooting you more than likely will be arrested and stand trial the prosecutor will try to turn everything you did including modifications to your gun into intent instead of defense, whether you are in the right or not you need to be aware the prosecutor will turn every word you use every action you took and even the fact you may have modified your gun against you even if the shooting was justified

    • As an added suggestion; if you can use the same ammo your local LE uses, (and it functions in your firearm) this could eliminate some prosecutor saying you were using “killer ammo”.

  6. Agree with earlier comments.

    – Trigger job, bad idea, definitely more risk to yourself (“Glock leg”) as well as legal risk to yourself in a defensive shooting.

    – Mag release bigger/easier? Absolutely for competition, but not good if you get failure to feed because of inadvertent use while firing under pressure.

    – Better sights are one mod that makes sense. But optics? Too bulky for carry, and not useful in all situations. Practice instead. Muscle memory instead of gadget.

    A carry gun is not a competition gun. Even Rob Latham has said “I don’t carry this rig”. Of course he continued by saying, “… “but I don’t think most people would want to get into a gunfight with me.”

    Develop your own skills, don’t rely modifications to make you a better shooter.

  7. All you that have posted and made suggestions, all have valid points. I do not claim to be an expert, but I do have some practical experience.
    I competed in IDPA for a few years, winning a State championship, then competing in the Winter National’s.
    As an instructor, I felt it best to teach my students what would work best for them, according to their specific needs.
    And weapon to hand fit, is just as important, as any modification. Sights, well that goes without saying, extremely important.
    I have tried all the lasers, lights, gizmos, trigger jobs, ect.
    But a firearm that fits your hand correctly, and you TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN!
    Having taught Marines, Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel, and yes, I am a veteran of both the Marine Corps and served as a Cavalry Scout after 9/11.
    Make that firearm one with the shooter, you will have one good shooter.
    Oh! Welcome back Ragnar! Haven’t read anything from in awhile. Good to see your doing okay.

    Semper Fi!

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