Question of the Day: Mods for Everyday Carry Gun A Bad Idea?

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“My Dad was a mechanical engineer,” TTAG reader revjen45 wrote in a recent comment. “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.” God knows I spent enough money modifying cars to learn that lesson: if you want something better, buy something better. Then again, most products are tuned for most people. What’s a little trigger job between friends—other than invitation to a light primer strike. Hmm. Does stock rock or is it just a starting point towards perfection?

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

48 Responses to Question of the Day: Mods for Everyday Carry Gun A Bad Idea?

  1. avatarjwm says:

    i’m not a compititer. i shoot for fun with a side of self defense. except for swapping wood for neoprene grips my guns are bone stock.

  2. avatarLoyd says:

    There’s always *some* improvement that can be made to weapon, hence the customizations of 1911s, AR-15s, and even Glocks. Do I have the technical or mechanical competence to make said improvements? The ammount of trial and error I’m having assembling my AR-15 from parts kits leads me to leave my EDC just the way it is.

  3. avatarRIGHT! says:

    Trigger jobs are the 1st improvement I make to my keeper guns, even my $200 Uberti has an upgrade.
    A normal shooter will see a 50% improvement in thier shooting.
    Thankfully today’s shooters have a wide choice of ready to install triggers. Glocks normally require a new spring and a plastic part to tune thier trigger, my G19 upgrade cost about $35 New spring technology solves the light primer strike problem, leaf style hammer springs are growing rare in modern arms and will break-in after a thousand rounds anyway. A leaf spring is the only main spring I had fail but that was after 1000′s of rounds down the pipe

  4. avatarfrankgon4 says:

    For my Conceal Carry, I changed out the front sight.

  5. avatarKelly in GA says:

    For EDC, probably best as is. Except for maybe some night sights or something.

  6. avatarST says:

    Remember that the gun does not shoot itself. Its a component of a two-part weapons system, the other one being the shooter. I will not presume to know the skill of other shooters, but in reference to my own abilities the weakness of my two-part system isn’t the gun. Between the firearm and myself, I know what needs aftermarket modification. As such I do my gun mod shopping at the ammo counter and not at the sights and parts area.

  7. avatarSnachnim says:

    Well any gun you plan to carry will not be a fire and forget, no pun intended.
    Regardless of what you do you should go through your fair share of bulk ammo purchases with it.
    If you pull the trigger and it doesn’t go bang then you will probably fix it. This might mean a change of ammo or something else. In the long run you will be confident in your gun of choice regardless of modifications.

  8. avatarDr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

    I’ve ridiculously pimped my G19, and in the 1000+ rounds since, have not had 1 light strike or FTF/FTE.. Put in a fixed Fulcrum trigger, springs, Ti safety plunger and striker. I may get an extended slide release.

    Say what you will, but the trigger is a lot lighter, cleaner and more comfortable, plus the red trigger safety that goes flush with the main trigger (flat faced, polished billet) is hella pimp.

  9. avatarCharles5 says:

    All I have done to my carry guns (a Glock 19, Kahr CW9 and Kahr CM9) is add night sights and a rubber slip on grip (I have large hands). No lights, lasers, or trigger jobs for me.

  10. avatarJim22 says:

    Race guns like the one in the short video should be modified. That’s part of the sport. Trigger jobs are part of that.

    Carry guns are another animal. I don’t do trigger jobs on my carry pieces for the same reasons I don’t carry handloads. In a self-defense situation you’ll be judged by the police and the district attorney. They will determine if you have possibly violated any laws. Even if they let you go expect to be the target of a civil suit. The guy you shot or his family will sue you. When that lawsuit gets to court the family’s lawyer will do anything to cause the judge and jury to award a lot of money. If you had a trigger job it will be called a ‘Hair Trigger’ to make you look like you were planning this shooting. If you used your own reloads they will be called ‘Special Killer Loads’ you worked up yourself to be extra deadly.

    Why give the dirtbag’s attorney ammunition to use against you? I use the factory trigger and factory ammunition. I look for the stuff labeled ‘Police Duty’ ammo. It costs more but worth it.

    • avatarGordon says:

      This is especially important in a state like California where a wider number of the general population have a suspicious eye toward anyone who is “paranoid” or “trigger-happy” enough to carry concealed. But your advice is good advice for any state.

      This is why even though I own a Kahr CW9, I plan on purchasing a Kahr P9 with Night Sights for EDC. Even modifying a firearm with NS can be misconstrued by a judge, jury, etc and used against you by prosecutors. The P9 can be bought with them factory-installed. Plus, I won’t mind having a BUG that is generally the same as my EDC in case something happens to it or I need to ship it to another state I am flying to and plan on carrying when I arrive.

    • avatarbrcSVO says:

      The whole civil suit thing is the reason that I like having a shotgun with wood furniture for home defense. I know the AR style adjustable stocks and pistol grips make for better ergonomics, but its easier to claim you grabbed your hunting shotgun than one that you had set-up just for home defense.

  11. avatarMatt in FL says:

    I can see both sides of this argument. Currently everything I own is bone stock, but I’m seriously considering a trigger job on my XD(M). Powder River Precision makes some drop-in kits that look like they really improve what is already a not-bad trigger. (TBH, I’d never thought about it ’til I picked up an M&P Shield the other day, and as much as I love my XD(M), the Shield’s trigger was just… better.)

    I look at it like this: While revjen45′s dad is right about the thought and design that goes into our favored mechanical devices, that statement ignores an equally true factor in their design. Virtually every gun we’ll ever own is designed not necessarily to a price point, but it would be naive to think that price was ignored in the design process. Putting a “better” trigger on my XD(M) from the factory might be something that 90% of the people who buy one wouldn’t care about, and may have added $50 to the sale price. That $50 increase would probably make a decent percentage of that 90% buy something else. So instead, they go with a solid, good but not great trigger group, keep their final cost and price down, and those few that care about having a better trigger can take care of it themselves.

  12. avatar2wheels says:

    revjen45s dad was right, I’ve heard almost the exact same thing from several auto master techs when talking about aftermarket parts.

    We LOVE to customize stuff we own, and there’s nothing wrong with that… The problem is with a carry gun reliability is more important than anything else, and aftermarket parts may or may not have a negative effect on that reliability. Be careful and test any modifications extensively. Installing lighter springs in a revolver is the perfect example, it’s cheap and easy and you get a lighter trigger pull, but you potentially reduce the reliability of your gun!

    I feel that often, an aftermarket part is bought when the shooter has a problem, not the gun, or maybe they feel they can gain an advantage easily. People are unwilling to spend their time and money training or changing their technique, so they slap on an aftermarket part that will “solve” the problem or make them faster. Extended mag releases… Slide stop levers… Modified triggers… etc… Or, they feel that they can “improve” the gun when it really isn’t needed, steel guide rods in the place of factory plastic ones, stronger recoil springs, etc. You’d be better off spending money on ammo!

    I believe it was Col. Cooper who said something like the only thing you need on a carry gun are sights you can see and a decent trigger, he was referring to the 1911 but I think you can apply that to any handgun. Most people would be better off shooting more, and modifying less.

  13. avatarTD says:

    your dad is right from a pure engineering standpoint, but he needs to spend some time with marketing folks who decide price points that need to be met, legal departments that say you can’t do this or that, purchasing departments that negotiate with suppliers, and on and on…. lot goes into deciding what comes in anything that is mass produced. no reason to assume that improvements can’t be made.

    • avatarEric says:

      I’m an engineer, and I think his dad is totally wrong (or at least myopic) from a “pure engineering standpoint”. Engineering is a exercise in compromise; you’re typically trying to balance a variety of factors to create a product which fulfills a mission. These factors vary, but a few generic ones can be identified:

      -Cost
      -Weight
      -Size
      -Concealability
      -Stopping power
      -Ammo capacity
      -Accuracy
      -Reliability

      A product, a weapon in this case, is a compromise between all of those factors. It is meant to be sold to thousands of people. Even the best engineer can’t design a weapon that is perfect for everybody, thus folks customize.

      You can certainly ruin a product by making the wrong customizations, but you can also improve it for your mission.

      • avatarDJ says:

        I agree with Eric, to a point. Military weapons systems are typically designed to be 3 things 1) cheap to manufacture 2) easy to use (6th grade reading level, for US stuff) 3) reliable. So, if you want “extra performance” from a military platform, you are going to have to do some work on it.

        Heavy 1-stage AR 15 trigger? Yep, that’s milspec.

        Just be aware, that as soon as you start “improving things” “reliable” will be the first to go. Want a match rifle? You are going to need tighter clearances, and that is going to equate to a weapon that is more sensitive to temperature and more prone to miss-feed.

        However, before you go mucking about:

        1) you need to understand what the equipment/weapon was spec’d for originally and most people don’t.

        2) you need to understand what your requirements are

        3) ideally, you are bringing the original specs into alignment with your requirements. (Like a trigger with less than 8lbs pull).

        So… weapons are designed for a specific purpose. Could you take an AK platform and turn it into a sniper rifle? Mayyybbbeeeee…. But you could take that same $2500 you would spend on parts and buy a really nice custom rifle.

        At the end of the day, what matters is that you are happy with the platforms performance. I have a couple of weapons in my safe that have “character” and those are the ones I will never sell. But I CARRY a stock P220 I bought in 1995. :)

  14. avatarMr. Lion says:

    The trick is in knowing what the heck you’re doing. If you modify any production car made and it turns out worse than it was when you started: You don’t. Same answer for guns.

    While it’s true that many very good engineers design really, really good stuff, no where near most of it ever ends up in products that are built to a price in order to compete in a given market space. This is as true of cars as it is guns.

    Never met a trigger group I couldn’t improve, short of full out race guns that have already been tweaked to perfection. And that’s merely the difference between buying a stripper Mustang and bolting on a supercharger, and just buying a GT500 in order to have that performance out of the box.

  15. avatarAharon says:

    “Does stock rock or is it just a starting point towards perfection?”

    It depends and it is all subjective in the end. IMO, a $3000 1911 had better not need any improvements (beyond a possible minor adjustment) to be more perfect. My $500 revolver does not require mandatory mechanical or service only improvements to be effective. However, some gunsmith work on it, new handles, and possibly new sights can be added that will unleash its potential to an even higher level.

  16. avatarDavid says:

    Any moment now Massad Ayoob is going to sign in with a whole list of accepted legalities about, ‘Why’ nobody should ever modify his EDC. Mostly assinine, I’ll agree; but, nonetheless, typical of the surrealistic world of the modern American courtroom.

  17. avatarHasdrubal says:

    This question is vague to provoke discussion, but the specifics of each case and each mod are important. To take a trigger down under two pounds and leave it there even after some safety concerns surface (had a CZ rifle with a set trigger that would trip when you thumped the stock on the ground before I adjusted it away from the salesman’s preferred configuration), is more obviously a bad idea than adding a flared magazine well to speed reloading.

    To be as vague as the question, each mod should be considered after enough training/practice to help determine if the mod would really help, and then tested with more training/practice until it becomes clear if it detracts from safety and reliability. If you’re too afraid of lawyers, then converting a NYPD pistol back to factory trigger weight could look like a “hair trigger,” when most reasonable people will see it is no such thing.

  18. avatarMatt says:

    Speaking of mods….who here wants to tell me why it’s a good idea for NYPD cops to have 12# replacement triggers on their Glocks? It goes both ways. Asking for trouble.

  19. avatarGraybeard says:

    I might switch sights/add optics to a rifle, add a recoil pad to a shotgun, or a laser pointer to my defense guns.
    Otherwise, I tend to purchase a firearm that shoots better than I do. It’s easier & cheaper to change the nut behind the buttstock successfully & safely, IMHO.
    If I’m looking at something and wanting to change it a lot, then obviously what I’m looking at is not what I’m looking for.

  20. avatarPascal says:

    No gun from the factory is perfect fit to anyone. Be it sights, trigger, grip or something else. Minor adjustments to give you a better fit or performance are just fine.

    That said, if you don’t know what you are doing, you should leaves things alone

  21. avatarRalph says:

    Keeping a gun in stock condition is fine if that’s what works for the shooter. The problem is that every gun is made to be sold at a price point and with a specific, “average” shooter in mind. It wasn’t too long ago that changeable back straps weren’t available, and pistol handles came in two sizes — too small and too large. Frankly, it’s hard to find a perfect box-stock gun of any kind at any price.

    Most of my guns are modified in some way. They all work flawlessly and better than before. thay were modded. The reason that the AR platform is so popular is because it’s so easily modified. Customizing a gun is what it’s all about. So, go ahead and customize.

  22. avatarJK says:

    This isn’t exactly on topic but close enough that I feel comfortable asking. I have a S&W Sigma 9mm and the trigger pull is pretty brutal. I’ve seen some DIY trigger fixes on forums and youtube videos that revolve around removing a spring (the pigtail, I believe) or two. This is my first firearm, so I wouldn’t be comfortable doing anything complicated, but they also seem pretty straightforward. I don’t EDC, and this is purely for range/home defense. My question is, would a mod like this affect reliability? Obviously, a long trigger pull is preferable to an unreliable gun, but a much more manageable trigger pull would be extremely helpful.

    • avatarDJ says:

      It will void the warranty. As far as reliability, that depends on who does the trigger job. I’d make sure a reputable gunsmith did the work, and I’d put at least 100 rounds through it when I got it back to ensure that it is still reliable.

      All firearms are mechanical systems with multiple moving parts. Even if you do nothing to a firearm, it can still break. The quality of engineering that went into a design just affects the likelihood it will break. It’s a good idea to plan on things failing under stress, and having a back up.

      “Two is one, and one is none.”

    • avatarRich says:

      If you’re going to use the gun for self defense I’d leave it as stock as possible for the reasons stated above.

  23. avatartdiinva says:

    All my carry guns are stock. They all go bang when I pull the trigger and will go where I point the gun. I see no reason to tinker.

  24. avatarsmwlce says:

    leave your weapons alone mall ninjas. A concealed carry weapon does NOT need to be modified. I know some states wouldnt care, but it wouldnt look good in a jury if you shot a suspect with a pistol with a 3 lb trigger pull.

    • avatarmatt says:

      My FNP-45 Tactical’s SA trigger is 3lbs from the factory. If youre that worried about the court room, you can point out plenty of other carry guns come from the factory with light triggers, night sights, etc.

      If you lose a civil/criminal case to the fact you had a light trigger rather than the circumstances of the incident, you actually had either a shitty attorney, or a jury who is very biased.

      • avatarNWGlocker says:

        While I agree with the phrase “Better to be tried by twelve than carried by six”, why make a trial that much more painful, lengthy and expensive?

        Remember, a courtroom is it’s own “virtual reality”. Opposing counsel will try to introduce *any* doubt about your abilities or intents. In a hypothetical court case, you, in your own mind for example, had no doubt you fired and had no doubt you intended to shoot (with a modified trigger).

        To your opponent, that doesn’t matter. The opposing attorney will assert “YOU DID NOT MEAN TO FIRE” and it was the trigger — modified to be lighter than what the manufacturer intended — that led to you shooting accidentally. All of that is BS, yes. But if the lawyer can produce any doubt that’s hard to disprove…

        When you factor in courtrooms, staying stock (not including sight changes) is the best approach. I’d rather put the money in training and practice rather than paying for mods in that might improve my shooting a little, and would definitely give opposing counsel openings for attacks.

      • avatarAK says:

        …and you were alive to lose the case.

      • avatarsmwlce says:

        i should have been more specific too. if it has that trigger pull from the factory, then great. if not, leave it alone.

  25. avatarJim Barrett says:

    I’d say it depends on who does the modifications. Springfield Armory offers a range of modifications for their XD/XDM and 1911 lines. In the details, they specifically state what modifications are intended for. For example they offer both competition and carry gun trigger/action mods on the XD/XDM, so be sure that you get the right modification for your intended use.

    Sig Sauer is another manufacturer who offers some changes. If your pistol did not come with a short reset trigger, they can add one. If you want a shorter trigger, that is also an option. For those who want a smoother action, the Action Enhancement Package is available for some of their guns. The AEP does not lighten the trigger, but it does smooth the action out quite a bit. I will say that after having one performed on my guns, I put in some serious range time as the weapon does perform differently

  26. avatarBob says:

    My Sig P220 has a Sprinco recoil reducing spring and Hogue rubber grips with finger grooves. Both mods did improve the feel of the pistol in my hand, which made it easier for me to shoot faster and more accurately.

    I will not do any other mods, unless Laserlyte starts producing a rear sight laser for the P220. It helps that the Sig DA/SA trigger is so good stock.

  27. avatarfreeport56 says:

    Most every gun can deal with some form of improvement. Whether it is a trigger job, upgraded sights, extended magazine release button, ambi-safety and /or grips. Most improvements I have seen amongst my friends have to do more with their individual needs/tastes, than with improving how the firearm operates.

    Last year I bought a neighbors NORINCO .45 ACP. I changed the grips to wooden Hogues and added an EFK Firedragon recoil reducing system. I went for better grips than what came with the gun and the new guide rod system tightened up the dust cover a bit. The NORINCO does need work and eventually will be completely rebuilt. That however is out of ego, not necessity.

  28. avatarKendahl says:

    If you are prosecuted or sued after a DGU, the other side’s lawyer will use anything and everything against you. If you used the same stock weapon and ammunition issued to the local police, he will say you are a wannabe cop. If you modify your weapon so that it works better, use premium ammunition, get a lot of training and practice assiduously, he will say you were a nut acting out your fantasies. It’s your own lawyer’s job to argue persuasively that your choice of weapon and ammunition, your training and practice enabled you to shoot only when legally entitled to do so, to fire as few shots as possible, and to avoid misses which would have endangered innocent bystanders.

    Whether you will be prosecuted or sued after a DGU depends heavily on where you live. After legitimate self defense shootings, our local prosecutor often holds a press conference during which he emphasizes that the defender’s actions were justified in the midst of a terrifying situation. This spikes the guns of anyone hoping to sue.

  29. avatarlordcliff says:

    Only mod I can think of to really shy away from is the 9mm barrel laser etched “smile and wait for the flash”

  30. avatarDyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    What’s with all these Glock mods I’m reading about here?

    I thought the whole point of owning a Glock was that they were “perfection.” That’s what they keep claiming, anyway:

    http://eu.glock.com/downloads/GLOCK_en.pdf

    Yep, right there across the top of the first page: “Perfection for Professionals.” If something is perfect, then it shouldn’t need any modification, right?

    BTW, before you Glock fanbois go off half-cocked, I own two of these bits of combat tupperware…

    I put night sights on the first one, and said “screw it” on the second one. I use a Glock for a carry piece because if (God forbid) I’m ever involved in any DGU incident and my carry piece is taken for evidence, I can go down to the local dealer in combat tupperware, lay down six Bennies and walk out with another one just like the one I used to have. They’re a commodity gun, IMO, and therefore I’m not going to spend another dime tarting them up.

  31. avatarDavid says:

    You could always use the defense that you didn’t hit 9 innocent bystanders like the officers in NY if you ever have to defend a personal DGU. After that the choice of gun, ammo and mods would be moot.

  32. avataruncommon_sense says:

    Anyone who designs anything always has constraints including time, cost, regulatory, political (within a company’s ranks), knowledge/competence, and performance. Yes, there are even performance constraints — competing performance objectives that negatively affect each other. Whatever the constraints, they quite often result in a product that is anything but close to perfect — especially for certain applications.

    When it comes to triggers on guns, there are competing performance and safety/liability/regulatory objectives. The lightest trigger possible results in the greatest accuracy possible. It could also increase the probability of unintentional discharges, violate trigger laws (minimum acceptable trigger actuation force in pounds or whatever), and fail to detonate primers.

    I believe there are two key factors at play here. First, it is probably a bad to idea to radically change something. If a snub nose revolver comes with a 12 pound trigger pull, it’s probably not a good idea to alter it to 3 pounds. Second, a relatively minor change might be okay; just make sure to test it a lot before depending on it.

    Minor changes can be a huge advantage in some cases if the minor change puts performance past a threshold. For example my wife’s snub nose revolver had a really stiff stock trigger that affected accuracy. (It was next to impossible to pull the trigger without jerking the gun.) A trigger job lightened the trigger a little bit — just enough so that she can pull the trigger without jerking the gun. What the trigger job did NOT do is fail to make several hundred primers go bang or make the trigger so sensitive as to be dangerous. And the trigger job does not violate any trigger laws in our state because we do not have any. I call that a successful modification.

  33. avatarRIGHT! says:

    I don’t know where you guys live but you all seem concerned with persecution because you have changed the sights on your FIREARM (never use the term WEAPON, that will sink you in court faster than fast, WEAPON is a Legal Descripton used in Courts and Police Reports)
    As for wood stocks vs tacticle stocks, all my firearms are equiped to perform a function. When you cower and fold to the PC crowd you are supporting thier agenda. If you draw a CC FIREARM without cause your in the Poo and it doesn’t matter what sights and trigger it has. If you worry about suits then create a family trust.

  34. avatarAzman says:

    For my part I’m planning on putting an RMR on my EDC, because I know I’ll never be able to hit a pin with iron sights and a red dot sight is simply easier. It’s there to do the function of the firearm better, to minimize issues caused by the human factor–me.

  35. avatarJLR says:

    I can definitely appreciate the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, especially when it comes to a defensive firearm which must be above all else reliable.

    I think mods are okay for a defensive firearm, but reliability can’t be sacrificed. The Apex DCAEK trigger upgrade for the S&W M&P series are a must-have in my opinion, and it’s designed to be a reliable upgrade for defensive handguns. Night sights are another no-brainer upgrade for a defensive firearm.

  36. avatarRoy Odhner says:

    I think doing modifications to an EDC self-defense weapon is asking for trouble, both mechanically and legally. My Taurus Model 85 is my favorite (and primary) EDC. It worked just fine when I bought it, and many rounds later it still works fine and the trigger pull has smoothed out nicely. Ditto on my Bersa Thunder .380 and VZ-82. The design teams on all of my weapons put a lot of thought into them, and the result was three great weapons. No need to monkey around with them. If I do have to use them for their intended purpose, I know that they are going to work as intended and I will have less to worry about should I be taken to court.

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