I know a lot of us like to customize our guns. I haven’t bought a gun I didn’t add something to. And if I did buy one and leave it stock, the odds are that gun won’t last long. I know I’ll keep it if I do something to it to make it mine. It just gives me that personal touch that says “This is mine, I made it so.” But it’s possible to take that too far. Some things you might do in the name of convenience can actually end up doing more harm than good. Now the race gun in the video obviously isn’t going to get picked as an every day carry weapon by very many people unless they live in a steel target shoot house but even some of the small things you do to a gun can ruin an otherwise functional workhorse.

A little customization can make a gun a lot more shootable and that’s always a good thing. My favorite carry piece is my first weapon, a Glock 23. I bought it just after my 21st birthday and have at least looked at almost single aspect of the gun and considered if an aftermarket part might be a better option.

Currently it wears Trijicon Bright and Tough night sights, an extended slide stop and takedown levers, a brass plug in the butt, a 3.5lb trigger connector, a Wolff trigger springand a .357 Sig barrel stainless steel guide rod and an increased strength recoil spring of 20lbs over the factory 18lbs for all 9mm/.40S&W/.357Sig Glock compact models. The gun’s my baby and for all I’ve done to it, I find it performs flawlessly and much more ergonomically for me. But that wasn’t always the case. I had a couple bad calls as far as changes that I ended up regretting.

The first thing I did as a new shooter was complain that the gun wasn’t accurate.  Obviously this wasn’t the case but I attacked the most obvious thing to me at the time, the trigger. I went in for the 3.5 pounder and loved it. I also bought an overtravel stop.

My gunsmith, a certified Glock armorer and long-time fan of the product line, (this was our first meeting) warned me about the overtravel stop. He told me that since it’s made of aluminum, it would affect the ability of the part to remain stable and that it wasn’t a simple drop in part.

He has a stance about any aftermarket part that requires a lot of fitting: ditch it. And he let me know that beforehand. His major concern was that the screw holding it in place would work itself out and the part would end up loose in the gun. He mitigated this with Quick-Tite on the screw and offered to remove the part for free if it gave me trouble.

I took the gun to the range, loved the new lighter trigger, figured it was a spectacular thing and called it a day. My next shooting session a few weeks later was the same…all the way up until the closing minutes.

I was clearing the weapon and upon releasing the slide, the trigger refused to reset. I figured it was a one-time error and racked it again. Still nothing. I panicked. I mean I had just bought the gun and now it’s broken so what did I do? Where was that Glock “perfection?”

I racked it again and was about to strip it when a part fell out. Sure enough, the overtravel stop had worked its way out of the weapon and kept the trigger from resetting. Charging it again, it seemed fine but better safe than sorry. I had it checked out the next day and fortunately nothing else was amiss. The moral: be leery of aftermarket parts that adjust or change the way the gun was designed to operate.

Since then I’ve tried the +2 magazine floor pad and tossed it for reliability issues. Then I tried the magazine finger extension and found I didn’t really need it. I did some trial and error with recoil springs a few years back and got some failures to feed until I settled on the weight I have now that works with both .40 and .357 (I have a stock 18lb spring for my 9mm conversion barrel).

Just today I had the extended magazine release I’d installed earlier removed; the button kept engaging every time I set it on a table and reached for it so the mag would be hanging out or drop free when I went to holster it. I let that issue slide for about…5 years (may as well be truthful) and it was today that I finally realized that I wasn’t carrying it nearly as often simply because I was worried about the release button accidentally engaging.

Through all this time, I’d bought other guns I was comfortable with carrying and didn’t give it much thought. But none of them were weapons I really wanted to replace the G23 as my EDC choice. Today I realized what was happening and felt it was a crying shame but part of me prided myself on replacing almost every stock part.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where I went wrong. All of that over-customization – in most cases – isn’t a great idea for an EDC weapon. Flash, panache and bragging rights need to take second place to ease of use, carriage, and reliability. I’ve more than doubled the cost of the weapon in the amount of do-dads I’ve put on it but the bad guy won’t know that and certainly doesn’t care. I finally took that to heart today when I picked up one of my other weapons I hadn’t done anything to and realized it was more trustworthy than the Glock I’d put all of that work into. Which defeated the entire purpose of customizing in the first place.

Lesson learned. The expensive way.

40 Responses to Self-Defense Tip: Keep It Simple

  1. Words of wisdom, LC Judas. Or as my revered grandmother of late, lamented memory would have said, “leave well enough alone.”

    • A guy who wrote a manual on how to strip and service the Glock said “Nothing you do to it will make it serve any better as a defensive weapon than the way it comes out of the box.” or something of that ilk. Long story short…he’s right. I’m perfectly happy with it now and would not carry another Glock over this one but…up till today that wasn’t true. Practical customization has to come to a place where it’s realistic and even a small bit over the barrier has a price it can cost you somewhere down the road.

  2. I learned my lesson long ago. I carry a S&W J-frame Airweight, shrouded hammer, trigger job done by a competent gunsmith, stripe of reflective paint on the ramp. Two controls, a cylinder release and the trigger. Nothing to go wrong, nothing to snag. The lesson of combat is, everything goes wrong, and you aren’t as well trained as you thought. Best to remove as much uncertainty as possible from your equipment.

  3. Strange. I have an extended mag release on my GLOCK 17 and (Factory GLOCK) +2 extentions. Neither one have ever given me any guff.

    A good article, though.

    • There’s a few different extended releases. Mine has an increased surface area, rather it did. If you are speaking on the ones that come on the 17L or 34-35, those are extended with the same finger area purchase. The ones I had were a bit wider and actually were shaped a bit like an L if you looked at it from the side. The basic fact being that often here at home (like now) I have the weapon next to my mousepad on the right side and if I grab it and push down a bit to get a grip the release may engage. Five years of it…I got used to it but subconsciously was avoiding it.

      There’s a couple of extended magazine pads too. Different makers and that. Mine was one of the ones that didn’t want to fit correctly on the magazine and did something to the spring. That particular part I had my range officer put on and…I don’t think he was half the gunsmith he thought he was but if the part isn’t idiot proof then I didn’t want to keep toying with it. The extra rounds are better served with a 15 round spare mag instead of a +2 on a 13 rounder.

  4. Much much easier to slap parts onto a gun then it is to actually spend time at the range learning to operate it. Thus the companies that make extended slide stops and overtravel stops and extended mag release buttons and lighter trigger kits and whatever else will continue to make money off of us…

    It’s not just about the money though, these “upgrades” can get us in trouble. Imagine if that overtravel stop had broken off in a shootout instead of at the range or if that extended mag release had been bumped during a fight.

    I remember reading a self defence incident where a revolver modified to have a lighter trigger had several light primer strikes that failed to fire those rounds, luckily the owner kept pulling the trigger until something went bang. I bet that guy put those stock springs back in that gun REAL fast!

    Modifying a gun isn’t always bad, but you need to make darned sure they work, and you need to be sure you need to change anything in the first place.

    • I had nightmares for months about the trigger failing to reset. Light primer strikes, that idea is the only hangup I have on DAO weapons (but Glock striker springs with increased power seem to be hard to come by) however I have never had one with any Glock.

      You are totally right, though. As a new shooter I fell right into a happily marketed money trap and almost made a paperweight out of my favorite piece at a point. I know I’m not the first to fall into that hole and I figured I would underline it so others could learn because it’s a hard lesson to learn and realize for what it is.

      Since those times I’ve taken a lot of range time to make sure the parts are functioning correctly and even when I was testing my recoil spring weights to get the one I wanted I had a total of 4 FTFs. Those were only while one handed left over several range sessions (one per session) before I decided to stick with the one I have now. The other extended controls and plug don’t change a thing about operating characteristics and neither do the sights so I stick to strictly aesthetic customizations on any weapon unless I have a major hangup and my gunsmith thinks it’s a good enough idea.

      • It’s definitely a good thing that you’re reminding us to be careful.

        I bought a used S&W 442 recently, as a 1911 guy I’m having one heck of a time learning to shoot a DAO revolver well. The previous owner left some aftermarket springs in the case to lighten the trigger, I had to resist the temptation to make my life easier with a lighter trigger and instead bought snap caps to learn how to shoot DA better.

  5. I don’t know why i have this opinion but I always feel like if it runs right to start with don’t mess with it. bland is fine as long as it works every time you need it to work. the Saying a bunch of my teachers instilled in me during high school was “Showing up consistently speaks louder than being good a few times.” and it is something that seems to be equally true for firearms and work.

    • My main project in customizing it was to get the recoil of .357Sig managed to my liking and to get rid of those awful sights that come out of the box. You have a very good point but there’s productive customization to be had if you pay attention. I just…did a lot and didn’t pay enough attention until I really became knowledgeable on the subject and looked back at it critically.

  6. “a brass plug in the butt”

    Why that, and not a more usual plastic butt plug, or none at all?

    Re aftermarket parts in general: except for grips, (and, sometimes, sights) I usually end up taking off whatever I’ve bolted on, and going back to stock.

    • The brass plug adds 1.6 oz as I recall. Changes the balance of the gun in your hand and can help with muzzle climb and bringing the weapon back down on target. I had a plastic plug (which reminds me I should put it in the Glock I’m not using) and I went in on the brass one after I got serious about shooting .357Sig out of this weapon.

      • @LC Judas

        I’ve never read a competent reason why a butt plug would be necessary, or desired.

        If a butt plug was necessary, wouldn’t Glock have put one there in the first place?

        Can you explain why one would desire such a thing? (with the exception of the added weight you mentioned, which does not explain plastic plugs).

        • Well aside from the added weight I’ve got two reasons.

          One is aesthetics as the fact that a hole with dust gathering in it is…rather unprofessional looking on a duty rig. I won’t raise a dust damaging function debate as I can’t find a documented case of it where the plastic plug would have prevented it and it is not really something I’ve ever truly fretted about, to be honest.

          My second and more recent reason is as a compartment. The plug on my G17 has a handcuff key inside of the butt with two folded Q-Tips to keep it from rattling. You can get the plug out with a stout pen, chopstick or anything that can fit into the hole without breaking. There’s a number of small objects like laser batteries that could substitute as the handcuff key I personally use but that requires imagination.

          However, if you’re talking strictly function of the weapon there is not a thing I can imagine that the plastic plug changes by itself.

        • @LC Judas

          You do realize that the hole is there for a reason? In case you get a stuck mag you can use your thumb, or other finger to pry it out.

          Would hate to be in a L&D situation were I had to get a stuck mag out and the plug was in the way.

          Again, if it was a real issue, I’m sure the hole would not be there in the first place.

        • I usually go for the sides of the baseplate when I can’t get a magazine out. Only stuck magazine I’ve ever had was on a weapon that wasn’t mine, a rental Beretta 92 as I recall.

          I never said it was a real issue. I bought a plastic one because it bugged me seeing another officer with dust and crap in the hole and the range official happened to sell it to me. That was ages ago and I still have it because I don’t throw old gear away.

  7. Adding some gadgets to the outside of your rifle or pistol might mess up the balance and handling, but vertigrips and lights and bipods are as easy to remove as they are to attach in the first place. Replacing the operating parts of a firearm is a much dicier proposition. My AR has a replacement trigger and one of my hunting rifles has felt some gunsmithing love, but the rest of my guns are bone-stock on the inside.

    I think your advice holds true for almost all aftermarket operating parts. The only Glock part I would always want to replace would be a ‘New York’ or Massachusetts trigger, and even then I’d only replace it with a stock Glock trigger.

    • The only Glock part I would always want to replace would be a ‘New York’ or Massachusetts trigger

      I can’t speak to the New York trigger (there are actually two different kinds with two different pull weights), but a typical MA compliant civilian trigger pretty much renders the gun inoperable. Sure, the gun will function, but the trigger pull is so absurdly heavy that it’s quite impossible to enjoy the accuracy that good shooters demand.

    • Actually, there’s a good reason to keep the NY trigger: I’ve seen the standard trigger return spring break on a couple of Glocks. The NY trigger is less delicate. If you compensate with the ‘minus’ disconnecter, the overall trigger pull isn’t too bad, and you end up with a more durable gun. And it’s still all factory parts.

  8. Great lesson. A G19/23/32 with night sights is near perfect, right out of the box. Just pick your preferred caliber. In my opinion, it should just come in a generic white box labeled “HANDGUN” in big black letters.

    • Default Glock controls are meh, in particular that takedown lever is simply barbaric (many fingernails died before I got wise). But out of the box pretty much good to go all day any day of the week, no doubts there (though in a generic box you’d miss the iconic “G” circling it). I’d just like to see Glock put a stouter recoil spring on the G23/32 instead of making it the same exact assembly as the G19. That, if no other concession were made, would be ideal in my opinion.

      • I have to say, the takedown lever is definitely one of the two reasons I dislike Glocks – the other being the trigger pull.

        • The take-down on a Glock becomes VERY easy with a little practice, and take-down ease or difficulty has no bearing on a guns defensive use.
          The trigger, also with use and practice, becomes a “second-nature” thing- the fast and short re-set is a big plus in a defensive pistol-I prefer the Ghost 5lb tactical.
          The money spent on a lot of mods would be better spent on more ammo and practice time.
          And yeah, a lot of us Glock “fanboys” are rather fond of our Butt Plugs.

        • The takedown would be much easier if it just came with the extended lever like LC Judas had installed. There’s no reason for it to be so tiny and hard to grasp. As for the trigger? You might like the two-stage deal, but I hate it because it’s an unnecessary thing to have to concentrate on exactly how far you released your finger after pulling the trigger.

  9. I leave my carry guns absolutely stock for fear some attorney will paint me out to be a zealous gun nut if I ever had to use it. My BBQ 1911 is another story. I do like doing my own amateur gun smithing. I do like having a gun that is uniquely mine, not another just like it in the world. I would post a picture of it, but it is in about 53 pieces right now…..

  10. Folks:

    Maybe I’m thinking “too defensively” about my defensive weapon, but I wholeheartedly agree with Sam Wright’s comment. In fact, I even went so far as to have a safety put on my Glock 26 and, with three day’s practice at an extended training course, I have the draw stroke/safety release down perfectly. I figured that MIGHT make me look more, rather than less reasonable & responsible if I ever had to shoot a bad guy. (At least I hope so and I hope never to need to find out.)

    Stay safe!

    • I think you’re thinking too defensively. Or, rather, legally defensive rather than actually defensive. A manual safety added to a gun that has several mechanical safeties already on it, and is the most popular police weapon today is not going to be the difference between a prison cell and your living room. It might, however, be the difference between your living room and a casket. It only has to hang up once, at the worst possible moment, and the only person it will protect is the guy killing you.

      • I know and your point is well taken. I fully understand the trade off, but for my personal circumstances, when I want to carry that gun with a round chambered, I prefer having the safety. (Just like my friends who carry 1911s.) And, upon reflection, my initial post was misleading. The primary reason I added the safety was my own comfort level carrying the Model 26 with a round chambered w/o a safety. The “legal defensiveness” concept came to me second.

        That said, the gun I carry 95% of the time is a DAO J-frame with a Crimson Trace sight. And, my primary reason for having the laser is as a “point-shooting” sighting assist if I were knocked down and needed to shoot from an awkward position, for example.

  11. Great Job LC Judas! Well written and very good advice. Extra points for so much “butt plug” discussion with minimal zingers. I know it must have been very tempting.

  12. I feel your pain…sitting at home I LOVED my glock’s extended slide release, but at IDPA….I kept fat fingering it, and would keep locking it open prematurely.

    Bye bye it is! Stock part is back. Reliability over conveinence.

  13. I’m new to the thread, but I can tell most of the posters on this site are law enforcement. I just thought I’d tell you folks “Thanks” for your service. I’m sure you don’t hear it enough, and it occurred to me I could do a little something about that.

  14. My Dad was a mechanical engineer. He told me that the people who designed and developed a mechanical device put a lot of time and thought into it, and anything I did to change it was more likely to have a deleterious than beneficial effect. When my ’79 Ironhead needed overhaul I went for a Stage 2 S&S Stroker with all the concomitant performance goodies. It took more time and effort than I ever envisioned to get it to run right and it FUBARed a crankpin a long way from home. Rebuild #2 ended up with it running like I wanted with a lot more $ expended. Ol’ Dad was right.
    .
    My ECG remains bone stock. It works every time, accurate enough for serious social work, and the epitome of simplicity of operation. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

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