Let me guess: you own a GLOCK-brand GLOCK. Or maybe you bought a similar semi, like a Springfield XD, Smith & Wesson M&P, FN FNS-9, H&K VP9, Walther PPQ M2, Taurus Millennium G2, SIG SAUER P320, Kahr P45 or Hi-Point 9MM (chef don’t judge). Now you want to make your gun better. Here are the three best ways to do that . . .

1. Replacement Trigger

If you like your trigger, you can keep your trigger. Some of the guns listed above (e.g. the Walther and FN pistols) need a trigger job like Michal Idan needs to go on a diet. But there’s no question that a great trigger can transform an OK gun into a most excellent firearm.

A great trigger gives you better control over your pistol, increasing accuracy, reliability and speed. Just ask owners of the Smith & Wesson M&P who’ve fitted an Apex trigger to their gat.

The new modular handguns developed for the U.S. Army make trigger replacement the firearms equivalent of Close ‘N Play (ask your father). Whether it’s DIY or a gunsmith deal, a trigger upgrade really is worth the time and money.

Oh and about that “they’ll use the fact that you shot someone with a lighter trigger (or some other mod) against you in court.” Never seen it. But I have read stories about good people who lost a gunfight. ‘Nuff said?

2. Night sights

Many if not most violent attacks happen in low-light situations. If you use your gun for self-defense and it didn’t come with night sights, swap ’em out.

As the old expression goes, every bullet comes with a lawyer attached. Simply put, you can’t afford to miss your target. While point shooting is a thing, it’s not the best thing. The best thing: use your sights. Which you can’t use if you can’t see them (d’oh!).

There’s a huge selection of night sights in all the usual configurations available for all commonly available pistols, some from the original manufacturers, some from aftermarket suppliers.

If you’re going to change the type of handgun sights on your gun  (e.g., from three-dot to JWT’s fave Heinie), rent a gun with the new set-up to make sure you’re comfortable with a different configuration. When you get your new sights, zero your gun — even if a gunsmith has to do the work.

3. Laser

I ‘m not a huge fan of lasers for handgun self-defense. I know: a laser is ideal for unconventional shooting positions (i.e. when you’re knocked flat on your ass), it helps you to focus on the threat, and it’s a ballistic boon in low-light situations.

I’m not going to debate the real-world pro’s and cons here. The reason I’m pro-laser is simple: training.

Shooting your gun with an onboard laser is an excellent way to master trigger control, grip and recoil management. You learn how to keep the gun steady to shoot what you’re aiming at.

Which is why I recommend a rail-mounted laser over a grip-mounted laser. You can take it off when you’re done training. Is that a modification? A temporary one, but one that can save your life.

——–

There’s plenty of other ways to mod your handgun, from simple grip tape to improved barrels to lights and red dot optics. Most modern handguns don’t need modification; they work just fine without them. But there are very few handguns that wouldn’t benefit from some customization. As always, YMMV.

59 Responses to Top 3 Mods For Your Semi-Automatic Self-Defense Handgun

  1. Planning on better sights for my lowly Taurus 111g2. I’m not spending huge $ modding a 230 buck gun..

    • Got a good deal on a new 111G2. Took it to the range, fired 275 rounds with no issues, put it back in the box…and the rear sight fell off and I lost the screw. It took Taurus 4 weeks to send me a new one. I should have just bought new night sights and forgotten about it.

    • I bought a very inexpensive and very compact IORMAN mini red laser to mount on the short pic rail of mine – same one I use on my 1911 with Recover CC3H grips. Works like a charm. Amazon had them at the time for about $16.00. These things change, so it may be available from eBay or whatever.

  2. My home defense guns all carry lasers.

    I can see a laser without glasses, sights, not so much.

    When seconds count, your glasses should be the last thing you are reaching for.

    • I’m slowly heading this direction, myself.

      I really, Really, REALLY don’t like having any part of my defensive handgun setup depend on batteries, but lasers have so many advantages as a person’s vision degrades with age that I just can’t ignore them any longer.

      • Been there, spent that. Now all my CCW guns have lasers on them.

        “Focusing on the front sight” is all well and good, unless you physically CANNOT focus on the front sight. A laser solves that problem.

        And yes, I’ve had a scenario where I took one of the laser-equipped guns out of the safe and found that — the laser was dead. Oh, the horror! It was exactly like … like I’d never put the laser on there in the first place. I mean, there were still sights. So exactly how was I worse off? Still can’t figure that one out. I still have the sights, I’m still every bit as good off as if I didn’t have the laser, except — in the 99.998% of the cases where the laser IS working, well, then I have a laser too. It’s all win, as far as I can tell.

    • Which would be easier:
      (1) Identifying your target? or
      (2) Seeing your sights?

      Or, do you plan on shooting a target you have not been able to identify?

      Or, did somebody tell you that a laser would illuminate your target, making identification possible?

      – – – Just curious

  3. I’d take a light over a laser any day. Of course there are also light laser combos, but a laser doesn’t illuminate a target like a good 300-600 lumen gun light. I’ve searched a lot of rooms and made a lot of felony stops at night, and a good gun light has always been helpful. They also reduce recoil and muzzle flip.

    • Must be nice, we aren’t allowed to use weapon lights and use issues maglites or personal flashlights. I’d rather have the option of keeping both hands fully on the gun

    • I also fully endorse a light. There’s nothing a laser can do in a low-light close environment that a good light can’t- on the flip side, there’s plenty a light can do that a laser can’t.

      Although a laser can give away your position in a dark room without telling you anything about where your opponent is, so there’s that I guess.

    • A lot of departments, don’t do weapon lights because when the bad guy is blinded by your light, you are what’s behind the only target he can see. I believe the FBI still teaches special agents to hold the light away from their body.

      • NEGATIVE!!! Phased plasma rifles come in the 40w range. The laser on arnolds long slide .45 had a battery pack with a cord that ran up his jacket sleeve and that was probably in the 900mw range.

  4. I remember reading a review here for Diamond Sights (or something like that) a while back. Was looking at some Trijicons or similar, but those keep coming to mind – anybody here have and use them on a regular basis?

  5. A white light is another good thing to have, if there is a holster available, for your pistol, to accommodate the light. Case in point, I have a CTC light guard on my M&P and carry it in a crossbreed that’s molded to fit it.

    Already have an Apex trigger, still want night sights…

  6. Night sights are over rated, spend the 100 bills on a flashlight. Better yet, two flash lights, one for your other strong hand and one for the gun.

    • My sentiment exactly, what good is it if you can see your sights but you can’t see the bad guy? Besides, the glow in the dark sights need to be replaced almost as often as you’ll be changing batteries in those flashlights.

      • You’ve either been getting some crappy night sights, or really, REALLY GOOD batteries.

        Most night sights are good for 10-12 years, and I’ve used them for 15 years or more several times. Even if you don’t use your weapon light or EDC light much, I’d recommend you change the batteries more than once every 10-12 years.

        • It’s called ‘hyperbole’. An exaggeration to make a point. Tritium has a half life of 12 years. You can use them as long as you want, but every 12 years they become half as bright. Some people may be OK with 20 year old tritium sights, others may insist on changing them every 5. Either way they’re much like the batteries in a flashlight. Some people will run them until they’re dead, others will replace them every 6 months. The only difference is that batteries are really cheap and tritium sights are fairly expensive.

  7. Lights on a pistol! Didn’t you see what John Wick did to eleventy nine bad guys, all with lights on their pistols?

  8. Sights, a light, and if doable, a can. Anything else is just you trying to do something to your gun to say yours is different. Spend that new trigger money on ammo and shoot it. You’ll figure out the trigger, it’ll work itself into being better, and you’ll have accomplished some marksmanship instead of trying to buy better results.

  9. I agree with all three, though I think the same rational about the night sights apply to the laser sight. Anything that minimizes misses is good.

    Misses = bad.

  10. better triggers are for target guns, my defense and edc guns are all factory with the exception of Hogue grip on the p90dc, but that’s not likely to be a carry gun, ever.

  11. (1) I trust Andrew Branca (author of The Law of Self Defense) when he warns against altering triggers or removing magazine disconnectors from defensive firearms. If the opposing lawyer doesn’t argue that you were looking for someone to shoot, he will say that the shots you fired were an accident brought on by your negligence in altering your firearm from what professional engineers, wiser than you, thought it needed to be. The best way to get a good trigger on your gun is to buy one that comes from the factory with a good trigger.

    (2) According to Tom Givens (Rangemaster, Memphis), none of the six dozen gunfights involving his students have occurred where light levels were low enough to require night sights or flashlights. Long before there were night sights, Jeff Cooper commented that, if you can’t see your sights, you can’t properly identify your target.

    (3) Red lasers are ok. Apparently, green ones leave a trail that points right back to the shooter. Something I would worry about is time spent looking for the red dot on the bad guy’s body when I could do well enough just using sights. Red dot optical sights offer many of the same advantages as lasers but only if you can find the dot in the little screen.

    • If youre talking about a criminal trial and a DA making that argument, then there will be more evidence including a lack of corpus for a justified shoot. In that case, “accidental shoot” is your best defense. You also wont be compelled to testify against yourself.

      If you are talking about a good shoot in a civil case, then a modded trigger is an easy sell. You have to testify in civil cases and you can point out that you intened to shoot the guy, did indeed shoot the guy, and actually hit the guy….. now if you miss the bad guy and hit the neighbor, then your screwed. Thats an easy win for the plaintiff/neighbor re: your modded trigger that led to the negligent and unintened discharge of your firearm that wounded my client!

    • The human eye is most sensitive to green light. For the same power output green appears considerably brighter.

      The ‘trail’ you mentioned is atmospheric dust being illuminated by the green laser…

    • I’m much slower with a laser because I chase the dot, just like you are describing. They are good for dry firing, but might as well buy the fun version as the serious version if that’s what you are going to use it for. The real solution is more ammo downrange.

      • Watching laser users at the range, it seems they all want to use the light to make precision shots. The result is a colored dot that cannot actually assist. It would seem a more natural use of the laser is to get the barrel of the gun on the intended target zone, and make the hit when you are sure the barrel will not point off target. Looking to get shots in a 6in or 8in zone. Many of the laser users I see could actually hit the desired zone quickly, but waste time trying to get perfect alignment on the bullseye. The precision use of lasers makes more sense on a rested/supported rifle.

        • You are exactly correct. I have Crimson Trace lasers on three of my carry guns. They are great for getting on target quickly. I can pick up the laser far faster than my eyes can focus on the front sight. But if I’m shooting for accuracy at the range, punching paper—-iron sights are far superior.

    • I don’t think anyone is suggesting shooting at a target in pitch darkness with only the sights. Nights sights coupled with a flashlight make for a very potent combo.

      Think of this scenario.

      You have to draw down on a fella. He’s standing in your living room with the light on. You’re at the end of a darkened hallway, and he sees you and starts to turn with a gun in his hand. I dunno about you but I’d want those sights to be bright.

      Or you’re in a parking lot at 3am and a guy opens up on you. It’s lit, but it’s not like it’s daylight out there.

      Most PD shootings occur in low light. Both of those scenarios happened to my co workers within the past 6 months and both were grateful for night sights.

    • Kendahl, would you be kind enough to help me get more info on green lasers leaving a trail right back to the shooter? I’ve never heard that argument before, and I’d like to listen to it a bit more.
      I looked on the internet and didn’t find anything. Not asking for long reply, just maybe some suggestions so I can search for more info on my own. Thank you!

  12. Lhstr, I buy 2 of the 3! If you are in court and you have a trigger job, well its just a bit shady. You are ask why did you custom your trigger to help kill the defendent. Just saying, all my hardware have stock triggers. Now if in the shit hits the fan, I would love to have that special trigger! Be safe out there.

  13. I thnk it should have been named 3 ways to waste money on your SD gun. I have a “non-Glock” gun and it shoots fine. I’m not going to shoot in total darkness since I am always where there is some light. I am not going to shoot at such a distance in the dark that I need night sights or far enough to need a laser. All three of mine are dead stock and don’t malfunction in that condition.

  14. Hmmm, maybe and maybe not. Screw with the gun to have a hair trigger, I have always been advised by other shootist and a couple of lawyer friends of mine. Don’t screw with the trigger/hammer/springs that are custom or modified.

  15. Question, here: Are there many, or any, cases where an otherwise good shoot got the defender jailed because of a modification (of any kind) to a gun? Thinking an elderly, frail grandmother who had an Apex trigger in her Shield in order to allow her to be more safe, and more accurate would not be guilty of anything just because the trigger is aftermarket.

    • There was a cop a while back that had “you’re f***ed” on the dust cover of his AR and practically got crucified afterward due to the media attention it got. I remember at the time it didn’t look like a bad shoot. Don’t remember much about it though.

      As for non-cop civilians, I can’t think of any that I’ve ever heard of.

    • I have talked to lawyers about this. It’s pretty simple, do what you want, but be prepared to defend it in court.

      For example, if you do a trigger job and you don’t have some disability you can point to (like arthritis or something), the prosecutor or attorney, if it goes to a civil suit, will hit you with being a wanna-be professional killer, or making your gun unsafe with too sensitive a trigger, etc.

      Lights, lasers, better sights are usually not a big question, but functional changes… triggers, ported barrels, etc., can be a problem even if you say “better accuracy,” “faster target engagement,” or “less recoil for better followup shots.” These will all get you “So, you even with all these customizations, you couldn’t wound my clients son, ” or “you made your gun so accurate, you must have deliberately crippled my client.”

      I was even once told that my snake-skin paint job on my hiking pistol could make me look like a crazy gun-not who wanted to “strike the bad guys down with my deadly viper.” 😉

      Same goes for reloaded rounds… only that one, just don’t ever go there. The lawyers will tear you apart for your “custom killer ammo.”

      • I agree, and all my ammo is stock ammo no realoads nor any zombie pills. I do have hollow point so that it helps the bullet not to go beyond penitration.

  16. I think gun mods like trigger replacements might come into play if the shooting was questionable. A prosecutor might take a case he’s on the fence about if he sees evidence you were looking for a fight. But that’s easy to argue in court.

    How is a trigger job any different than forking over money for a gun with a better factory trigger? Making a trigger so it’s not so heavy that it pulls your shots off target, is that… A, someone who was hoping to get his home broken into so he could kill or B, someone who was made a conscious decision to prevent stray bullets hitting innocent bystanders?

    • Triggers, even “bad” ones, do not pull shots off target. SHOOTERS pull shots off target, by spasmodically jerking/slapping the trigger instead of smoothly pulling it without applying excess or off-center pressure.

      Anyone who ever received training on a double-action revolver learned to shoot with a DA trigger pull weight of around 12-16 pounds, while moving the trigger one-half inch or more before firing. And they hit the target just fine, once trained and practiced. I’ve not seen any modern defensive pistols of the type described in the above article that could not successfully be used with their stock trigger action at normal defensive distances.

      This is nothing more that shooters blaming the mechanism for their own shortcomings, aided and abetted by accessory manufacturers who will happily lie to you and tell you that this-or-that modification is all you need to shoot better.

      Buy some ammo, get some training, practice your shooting, folks.
      Your handgun is just fine, just the way it is.

  17. I’ve criticized TTAG in the past at times, so I’d like to say that this good article is just what a lot of people need.
    I’ve read similar articles elsewhere since forever. They’re usually perfectly fine and all, but they usually focus on one accessory instead of just telling the reader what to do.
    They’re also a whole lot longer. That good…but not when all of them are a lot longer. This is a Goldilocks article…not too big, not too small, juuuust right.

  18. I believe that I am more confident with a light/laser combination. On my defensive rifle a weapons light of 450 lumens and a green laser will work fine too most reasonable distances. I find it easier to find the green dot at night than the cross hairs because of the reflection on the front glass. On the pistol the same combination with a 200/300 lumens is right for both my wife or myself. Laser is center of the light and is turned on with the trigger finger. I have all the needed paper work for my suppressers but have a concern as to how they would be viewed in court, however the pistol is suppressed for home defense. Daytime iron for the pistol and low power scope for the rifles. This just my opinion.

  19. What’s going on here, added a good, informative post this afternoon, why does it appear to have been moderated off?

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