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?