Lights, Lasers, and Thingamabobs
The amount of accessories that you have available to choose for your firearms is simply astounding... Every gadget, do-hicky, thingamabob, and gizmo is available for handguns, rifles, and shotguns- and all tout their advantages and the reasons that you "need" them. Hmm.... "Need" is an interesting word... Do you need all of these accessories? Let's take a look. (Note that this article is written with civilians in mind, as mission-specific gear would always be recommended for Law Enforcement and Military applications.)
Target Acquisition and Identification
It is important to be able to acquire a fast and properly aligned sight picture in order to get accurate hits off quickly. It's equally important to be able to do this in low-light environments for both safety and tactical advantage. With the right tools and training, you can make sure that this is plausible for you to accomplish with predictable and repeatable results. In order to speed this process up, some people will make modifications to their firearm which aid in some or all of the steps in presenting a firearm. For instance, one might add a red-dot optic to their handgun in order to pick up the dot faster than aligning the three posts of the front and rear sight. Another way is to add a laser with a grip activation system to your firearm. Another common method is to add a large, brightly colored front sight. All of these modifications have their advantages and drawbacks, but there is one on this list that has often been a source of controversy in our training courses... The Laser...
Should I Add a Laser to My Personal Defense Handgun?
Personally, I'm not a fan of lasers on personal defense handguns. This preference is severely geared toward beginner shooters... But, shouldn't a laser make a beginner shooter more effective? I would argue the contrary. I have found that once a shooter understands Sight Alignment and Sight Picture, that they rarely miss because of poor sight picture. Rather, they will often miss because of poor Trigger Control. A laser isn't going to help with trigger control, and therefore I don't believe that it will increase their hit percentage. In fact, I would argue that most beginners get a false sense of proficiency with a laser, thinking that they will never miss as long as they can see the laser. Therefore, they will forego needed training and their skills will not improve. Verdict = Not Recommended
Should I Add a Light to My Personal Defense Handgun?
If you've followed our articles at all, you probably already know the answer to this... We believe that all firearms should come with lights. It is necessary for us to be able to identify our target prior to shooting it, and if we are going to potentially encounter a threat in low-light environments (such as night time), then we need to be able to illuminate our target in order to identify it. In short, imagine a scenario where you're having to explain to a prosecutor why you shot an attacker. You explain that you were able to illuminate your attacker, visually identify that he was a threat, and engaged him until he stopped being a threat. You were able to do that because you had a light on your firearm... Now, picture yourself in that same explanation- but instead of a light you had opted for a laser. "I put a red dot on my target and shot him." How did you know he was a threat if you couldn't effectively illuminate (and therefore see) him? Verdict = Highly Recommended
Should I Add High-Vis and or Night Sights to My Personal Defense Handgun?
I am a strong believer in after-market iron sights. Generally, I'm not a fan of the sights that come with most handguns. Sig Sauer makes a great set, but Glocks, Smith & Wessons, and several other manufacturers should just ship their firearms without any sights on them so that we don't have to go through the trouble of removing them. After-market sights simply work better when using your firearm for one-handed manipulations utilizing the rear sight, acquiring proper sight-alignment prior to illuminating your target with a light, etc. Seeing your target faster means shooting your target faster. Verdict = Highly Recommended
Should I Add a Red-Dot Optic to My Personal Defense Handgun?
In full disclosure, I do not carry a firearm with a red-dot optic, so I might not be the best source on which you should base your opinion. Many other instructors highly recommend them. My opinion would be to thoroughly train with that sight system prior to carrying it every day as the sight picture is very different. However, if it helps you and you can afford- then go for it! Verdict = Personal Preference
Should I Add Back Plates, Mag Plates, or Other Personal Messaging to My Firearm?
This is a source of debate, and I don't know which side I fall on. Personally, my rule of thumb is this... If I ever plan on potentially fighting with a firearm, then I am very careful about modifications which might look bad in a court of law. For instance, enhancing grips is fine on my carry gun- but I stay away from back plates that say "Infidel" or something similar. They don't add any performance advantages to the firearm, and they could potentially cast a negative light in court. While your opinion may differ, I stay away from "messages" on my firearms that I might have to use in personal defense. Verdict = I decline, but opinions may vary
Long Gun Accessories
The majority of preferences that we have for the handgun hold true for rifles and shotguns, but there are some additional accessories that we want to discuss.
Should I have a Sling for my Rifle/Shotgun?
Yes. The sling is to the long gun what the holster is to the handgun. Shut up and use a sling. Verdict = YES
Should I have a Muzzle Brake or a Flash Hider on my Rifle?
Some people prefer the Muzzle Brake because of the reduced muzzle rise which allows for much faster and more accurate follow-up shots. Other people prefer a flash hider to reduce muzzle signature when firing. I would encourage each person to consider the environment that they intend to use that rifle. If this is a home defense rifle, a flash hider might make more sense so as to not disrupt your vision at night with a large fireball coming out of your muzzle. If this is a truck gun that you intend to use in defense outside, then a mussle brake might more sense. Either way, you're probably going to want some hearing protection... Verdict = Consider the Use, and Decide Accordingly
Should I have a Silencer on my Rifle?
If you live in a state which allows for the use of a silencer, then I recommend that you include this on any rifle you with which you intend to potentially fight. This is especially true for any rifle that you might have to fight with indoors. If you can't use a silencer for legal reasons, then I do recommend electronic hearing protection to be placed near your defense rifle and part of your regular training routine. Blowing out your eardrums after the first blast of fire that you send down your hallway doesn't allow for good sensory input in the event that your threat is not down, there are additional threats, someone else in the house needs help/attention, etc. Your eardrums control your equilibrium, and losing your balance combined with your hearing in the middle of a gun fight is something we highly advise you avoid at all costs. Plus you get the added benefit of the can acting as a flash hider in addition to noise reduction... Verdict = If Legal, Yes
Are There Any Other Accessories I Should or Shouldn't Use for my Long Gun?
A few other things to consider...
Shotgun Ammo Capacity Usually Sucks
One of the biggest draw backs to the shotgun is that the capcity of ammunition storage is far less than most rifles. Therefore, we highly recommend that you use some sort of additional saddles mounted to the shotgun for additional ammunition. This is also useful to store different types of ammunition. For instance, you could have buck-shot in the chamber and slugs available on the side-saddle. Just something to consider.
Most Malfunctions Occur Due to Magazines
If you're going to incorporate a magazine-fed firearm in your personal defense plan, then you should be aware that most malfunctions are caused by magazine failures. Therefore, you should plan on having a backup magazine. This isn't just in case you need additional ammunition, but in case you experience a malfunction and need to clear it as quickly and efficiently as possible. For instance, I use a Mako Survival Buttstock on my personal defense rifle. If my primary magazine needs to be dumped for any reason, I have 10 more rounds readily available with the firearm at all times.
Magnified Optics Make it Difficult to Use Both Eyes
If you are going to use the same rifle that you shoot at reasonbly long distances for personal defense, then you should be aware that it can be quite difficult to co-witness your target with both eyes and your magnified optic. If you're going to shoot with both eyes open, which I can assure you will be the case in a personal defense shooting, then you should have a non-magnified optic for distances inside of 100 yards. Even the variable scopes that go from 1.5x - 7+x magnification aren't ideal as the 1.5x magnification can make it difficult to use both eyes. If you have a variable power magnified optic, opt for one that has a true 1x magnification at its lowest setting to ensure that you can shoot with both eyes open and transition targets quickly.