All too frequently, I see a post like this one on social media: “I just bought a new (brand name here) handgun. What custom accessories should I get for it?”
When it comes to defensive handguns, this fellow has put the cart before the horse. Now, I will freely admit that personalizing a handgun is something that most serious gun guys like to do. Right from the get-go, I’ll admit that I am part of that group. A tricked-out handgun just makes a personal statement, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s just that I would suggest that maybe a fellow ought to shoot that new handgun first.
The smart move is to gather up the new gun, a suitable amount of ammo and spend some time at the shooting range. Run some of your standard defensive drills. See how the scores stand up to those that have been previously shot with other guns. If the scores are lacking, then it is time to examine that new gun and see how it can be improved.
We know that a defensive handgun, to be effective, needs a good trigger and sights that are quick for the eye to pick up. So that is clearly the place to start.
For me, a proper trigger does not have to be extremely light. But it does have to be smooth and clean-breaking. When I press the trigger, I don’t want to feel it drag and creep. I want to make a smooth trigger press and have the gun go “Bang!” somewhere during that press. A smooth, clean trigger break helps me to avoid anticipating the shot.
In this day and time, we are blessed with good sights on most defensive handguns just as they come out of the box. That is, they are big enough to help us quickly get a proper sight picture. However, the sights may not be exactly what the shooter needs. In my case, I want something on the front sight, a white dot or gold bead, that draws my attention to it because I shoot a bit quicker with this arrangement. I also prefer a completely black rear sight. Other shooters may find that they do their best work with a fiber-optic front sight of the several colors available.
While a good looking set of stocks really set a pistol off, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that the real job of pistol stocks is to help with a sure and positive shooting grip. That should be our first priority. Get stocks that actually fit your hand and serve as a shooting aid. If those same stocks happen to look good, so much the better.
Anything else that we change or add to our defensive handgun ought to be done after we have shot it quite a bit and determined that we honestly need the addition. I am explicitly thinking of external safeties, slide releases, and magazine releases. Shooters should honestly ask themselves if they really need it and if it will actually make a difference in performance.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you add a light to your defensive pistol, you should also purchase a handheld light to go with it. If you are using the gun-mounted light to check things out, you are also pointing a loaded pistol at things and people that you might not really intend to shoot. That is where the handheld light is designed to be used.
Those of us who have spent a lifetime packing a fighting handgun can pretty quickly tell when another fellow is a defensive rookie just by the stuff he’s got hanging off his pistol. We really are blessed that so many accessories exist for today’s defensive pistol. Choose the ones that you actually need, and you won’t be sorry.
This article originally appeared in Shooting Illustrated.