Forty years ago, the concept of the ‘modular firearm’ did not exist, and the firearms accessory industry was an infant in diapers. Other than hunters who might add a sling and a scope to their .30-06, most shooters carried and used their guns as naked as the day they (the guns, not the shooters) were born. Police carried their Department-issue Smith & Wesson Model 10s just like Barney Fife carried his, although theirs were at least loaded. Barely-visible fixed sights and undersized wooden grips were the accoutrements du jour for just about every service revolver on the beat. Shotguns wore bead front sights and leather slings and nothing else. Police rarely carried automatics pistols or carbines, and the only SWAT team in the country had just been set up in L.A. in 1968.
A glance through a vintage Shooters Bible shows the then-sorry state of ‘tactical’ or defensive firearm accessories. If you wanted adjustable sights on your revolver, your gunsmith would order a Bar-Sto Sight Rib (an effective, if truly awkward-looking, piece of kit) and mount it to the top of your gun after filing off the original front sight blade. If the tiny grips on your J-or K-frame Smith & Wesson didn’t fit your hands. you ordered a Pachmayr Grip Adapter and stuck it on the gun yourself.
Making stock firearms more comfortable and shootable required skill with tools and a strong DIY ethic. If you wanted a weapon light for your defensive shotgun, you were advised to buy a side-by-side double barrel and duct-tape an Eveready D-cell flashlight under the barrels. If trigger overtravel was a problem on your revolver, experts advised trimming the eraser from a wooden pencil and gluing it to the rear of the trigger guard.
I swear I am not making this up.
The Picatinny 1913 rail hadn’t been developed yet. (Because no, it was not invented in 1913.) Laser sights didn’t exist outside of James Bond’s Q laboratory. Red-dot or holographic sights didn’t exist at all, nor did illuminated reticules or fiber-optic iron sights. In fact, even such a simple iron sight improvement as ‘White Dots’ had yet to be adopted. Xenon and LED flashlights were decades away, and so were the lithium CR123 batteries that would power them. Slings were canvas or leather 2-point designs, and they were designed to carry your rifle comfortably over your shoulder while hunting.
I’ve said all of this just to say that we’ve really got it good these days. Bewildered as we sometimes are by an embarrassment of riches when it comes to tactical accessories, sometimes we’ve got it a little too good.
In today’s market, it is possible if not advisable to weigh down your pistol with night sights, weapon light, laser, lanyard AND a miniature bayonet at the same time. Your modern tactical rifle can mount all of these goodies along with an optical sight, reflex sight, jungle clip magazines, bipod, sling, adjustable stock, laser rangefinder, brass catcher, AND an AM-FM stereo receiver/CD changer/MP3 music player/satellite navigation system at the same time. If you really want it to, that is.
Which brings me to the question (Of The Day): out of this plethora of useful/marginal/comical gun toys, what accessories do your defensive firearms wear, and why?
As for myself, I have found a handful of features or accessories that make my defensive guns more useful and shootable. I’ve found that I like lights and lasers all around, and pistol-grip stocks for long guns.
Informed opinions vary when it comes to weapon-mounted lights (tip o’ the hat to The Rabbi), but all of my defensive guns except one wear them. Whether it’s a pistol, shotgun or rifle, my practice drill includes using my support hand to activate and deactivate the weapon light. I wish that all my weapon lights had the same on-off controls, but I’ve played with all of them enough that I think I’ll be able to manage. I had no trouble manipulating the light/laser combination under stress when I had to.
My home defense pistol has a light/laser combination, which puts a little red dot in the middle of the spotlight beam. I like it so much that I’ll be buying one for my carry pistol as well once I save up the cheddar. My carry pistol is too small for any of my current lights or lasers; its only modification is a DIY rubber grip wrap, but it might find a miniature light/laser combination under the Christmas tree soon…
I also find that I shoot long guns more quickly and accurately with pistol-grip stocks instead of straight-line stocks, so nearly all my long guns all wear them; they also have high-visibility iron sights.
And that’s about it. My tactical rifle (an AK-74) has a red-dot sight, a three-point sling, a bayonet, and a tactical light, but I don’t foresee any situations (short of a Soviet invasion or a full-scale Zombie pandemic) that would call for its defensive use.
What makes your defensive firearms shoot better and feel better in your hands?
Something to consider: Explaining to a plaintiff’s attorney on the stand why you modified your firearms. Is it because you were already planning to kill people like my client’s husband, Mr. Dumm? It’s been wisely said that a defensive firearm should be left just as it was in the box — no accessories, no trigger jobs. And the ammo in it should be what your local police use. The more reluctant you look on the stand, the better. Which argues for choosing your stock firearm with extra care. Just a thought.
MR. attorney " I had the laser and the light put on so that in dim lighting I could clearly see what I was aiming at. The pistol grip allows me to control my weapon better in terms of aiming. But a better question is why was your clients husband climbing in my window in the middle of the night?"
P.S. I can't really get around the bayonet but, Then again I don't have one.
All I have on my SR9 are a set of Novak Tritium 3-dot sights. Otherwise, it's stock. Including the magazine disconnect…
Kinda toying with the idea of getting a rail mount light/laser combo… but with no training in their use, not sure it's going to be much utility versus just some tacti-cool bling.
During a recent high-profile home invasion in my jurisdiction, the homeowner responded with a laser-equipped pistol. It gave him an extraordinary advantage over the alleged intruder, and he landed five critical hits on his target. Miraculously the alleged intruder survived five gunshots to his face, neck and upper torso and is awaiting trial.
No charges will be filed against the homeowner.
If you can’t identify your threat/target (or verify that there is no threat/target) you’re violating two of the four cardinal rules of gun safety, and every bullet you fire is a negligent homicide waiting to happen.
I agree that excessive customization of a defensive firearm can make you appear to be a gun fetishist and possibly compromise your criminal and/or civil litigation defense. You don’t want your defense gun engraved with “Widow Maker” or any such macho BS. But most states bar criminals from suing those who must use force to defend themselves, and the most important thing is to win (survive) the fight in the first place.
Almost all cops use tritium sights and lights, and if you wind up in court your expert witness will testify that these are crucial tools for surviving a gunfight. It doesn’t matter how well your estate fares in court after you die: you need to survive to win.
I would like to get "Problem Solver" engraved in gold on a chrome Model 29, but I don't think that would be my primary home defense gun unless I lived in a state with very strong castle doctrine laws.
Seriously though. Long guns have distance appropriate optics. Handguns and shotguns are stock, for budgetary rather than tactical or legal reasons.
I think though that too much concern is given over what the DA will make of your choices. If you live in NJ or IL, you are probably going to be charged no matter what, and if you don't live in one of those places then it depends much more on how much of a scvmbag your local DA is than anything you do.
my uncle carried a 1911 with the front and rear sights ground off, manual safety pinned off, and the grips replaced with paper thin sheet metal, tucked in his waistband.
My H&K P30 .40 cal only wears a cheap gunshow tac-lite/laser(at least until I can find a good one at a reasonable price) and a mag of Hornady 135 grain JHPs.
My main justification for the tac-light is the knowledge that I won't be able to find a Flashlight in an emergency
My home defense guns are my Mossberg 590A1 (keep an eye out for the review next week), and my XDm-45. The Mossberg has a side-saddle and nothing else but a sling. The XDM has a StreamLight TL mounted underneath. No laser, just a light – I don't get the point (not the purpose, I understand the purpose) of a laser in a home/self defense situation, plus I know a lot of guys who advise against them. I will be replacing my stock XDM sights with Dawson FO/Tritium combos within the next month or so.
Patrick, thanks for sharing. What's the argument against a laser for home defense? Makes you a target?
Of the 2 local SWAT officers (well, not local but within 30 miles) I know, and multiple LEO trainers I spoke with, none have ever recommended lasers. Maybe it was because they were older, but all of them say to skip the laser. Russ, an LEO for 20+ years, Marine Sniper, etc says that he doesn't know of a single Spec-Ops guy that uses a laser. He says that you'll focus on the laser dot instead of what the dot is supposed to be aiming at. Thus, if you need to hit a target, you'll be looking at where the laser is going instead of where the target is going.
"What's the argument against a laser for home defense? "
Just my personal experience with J frame snubbies is that I can shoot faster and better with Tritium Sight(s) up to about 35-40 feet away. Very few home defense shootings are greater than 20 feet away with almost none over 35 feet.
I'm not against lasers for home defense, my lightweight .38 Centennial has a set of Crimson Trace grips which also is equipped with an ON-OFF switch. It's default mode is OFF. But it can be turned ON if I desire.
I can visualize some scenarios where having a laser might be an advantage, I am just aware of some of their limitations as well.
Your milage may vary.
I can see hanging a whole bunch of gizmos on a target gun, but on a self-defense gun? Not so much. The gun in the picture is missing only an apple-corer, compass and nail clipper to be truly ridiculous. C'mon, people. We're not going to be holding our collective breath and taking hundred-yard shots in self-defense. Point the gun, shoot the gun. It's just that easy. If you can't pump ten rounds into a man-sized target at twenty feet, please just give up your weapon and buy a really mean dog.
Lights are a must for me; Shotguns, Rifles and pistols all. Aimpoint for my "fighting carbine". ( I am toying with MRDS for handguns.) Tritium sights are a bonus, but the white light makes them redundant in most cases.
I would add lasers if they were less expensive. As It is the cost of a good laser is better spent on ammo and practice.
I carry Glocks with factory tritium sights and common JHPs.
After doing CQB for over eleven years in the military, my suggestion would be to keep it simple. All the lights, lasers, etc tend to confuse people when the sh** its the fan. Most would be home defenders would be better off investing the money into more range time and work on their trigger control and front sight awareness.
My defense to the lawyer that asked why is my gun sight a red dot? It’s because I want to hit the criminal that broke the law and not my innocent family member. So for safey of my family and I have NO interest in the safety of the intruder he should have thought of that before he broke in. Don’t commit the Crime if you Don’t Like the Punishment. I joined the military (infantry) knowing full well I could die doing my job. If I died doing my job I don’t think I would be wondering if my family would be sueing? So If instead I decided to take up a life of crime and someone shots me Oh Well. Gun Control is hitting what you aim at and intended to hit. Not inocent bystanders. I could go on…..
I have laser sights on most of my guns but use them primarily for dry fire practice.
When I first got serious serious about shooting, that little red dot was was all over the place due to poor grip and trigger control. Now it is steady and on target. Doubt in self dense situation I would use them. Due to distance of gun barrel and laser sight
the bullet is going to hit 1 to 3″ below barrel. I want hits to be center mass, not a gut shots.