Handy Handgun Upgrades

When seconds count, a missed magazine release button or a failure to lock the slide back can cost you your life. At Frontsight, it can cost you a DG sticker. Today we will explore several highly recommended upgrades for your handgun that will improve your score on the skills test and may save your life on the streets. Any gun will do if you will do. Modern handguns out of the box are good and reliable. These upgrades are by no means mandatory. Gunfights can be won and DG stickers can be earned with a factory stock handgun.

*The pictures in this article will be of Glock handguns but the principles of the discussed upgrades will be universal for all semi-automatic handguns.




The Agency Arms Flat trigger.







A smooth and consistent trigger pull is essential to shooting well. Most triggers from the factory are heavy and gritty. Factory triggers are typically made to be heavy for safety and liability reasons. Please do not get a Dremel and try to remedy that problem. Trigger work must be done by an experienced professional. Gun Repair and Sales on Range 7 can smooth out most factory triggers on most makes and models of guns as they work on several thousand guns a year there. 

The alternative to having work done on a factory trigger is replacing it. This is a more expensive option that may not be best for many. Be advised: There are more bad aftermarket triggers than good ones, caution must be exercised when choosing a new trigger assembly. Many aftermarket triggers are not drop safe and are not allowed at Frontsight. Also remember that Frontsight policy requires that the trigger press be a minimum of 4 pounds, anything less than that will not be allowed. If you are interested in getting a new trigger, Gun Repair and Sales on Range 7 sell safe, tested and Frontsight approved aftermarket triggers (and have several on demonstration guns so you can try before you buy).

The Agency Arms flat faced trigger and connector has been exhaustively tested by Range staff and us to make sure it will not fail you when you need it most. Reliable, smooth and safe! It has a shorter take up and reset than the factory trigger. yet maintains the drop safety and is not adjustable like many others that fail daily in our classes.  These are the triggers we use and rely on in our carry guns.











Extended controls:

Safeties, magazine releases and slide stops on stock handguns were designed to fit the most people possible and may not be the best fit for you. Left-handed individuals also have an issue with stock controls on handguns made mostly for right-handed shooters.


  • Enlarged or ambidextrous safeties will make it easier and faster to disengage the safety.  


  • An enhanced magazine release will help shooters who have to break their shooting grip or grasp the weapon in an uncomfortable way to release the magazine; shaving time off emergency and tactical reloads.  


  • Improved slide stops are incredibly handy for type 3 malfunctions and left-handed shooters with “right-handed” guns. With a larger lever and textured surface, an enhanced slide stop will be easier to push up with the firing side thumb when locking the slide to the rear. Similarly, for left-handed shooters that lock the slide back with their support side thumb (reaching over the top of the firearm), it is easier to grasp and less likely to slip.      


   Two of these  Glocks are equipped with an enhanced slide catch and magazine release.


The stock lever is on the left and the extended Vickers model is on the right.







Gun Repair and Sales on Range 7 stocks enhanced controls for most make and models of pistols and can install them properly in a short time.




There are so many sights made we can not possibly hope to cover them all today and like triggers, there are more bad ones made than good ones. Stock sights are completely adequate and able to win a gunfight or earn a DG sticker. We are aware that what works for some will not work for all. The sight systems we are about to cover are not the only right answers. If you have sights that work well for you, use them. Will be focusing on two styles of upgrades: the I-Dot and the Red Dot.


The I-Dot system





We recommend upgrading to the I-Dot style iron sights. In our experience, it is the fastest and most easily picked up sight in the dark or during the day. Using it is simple: put one dot on top of the other and make sure there is equal space on both sides of the front sight.  It also does not have bright dots that are closer to your eyes, that tend to complicate or muddle up the sight alignment and sight picture.  These sights have a generous opening in the rear sight for a very fast flash sight picture and are able to be used to rack the slide off your belt, holster or nearest object should you have to rack the gun one-handed. Yet they are contoured to not abrade the hand when racking the slide or skin while carrying them in the holster. 









The support hand was taking the picture, the sights are not perfectly aligned.


Red Dots.

A “new” sighting system for handguns that has been becoming more popular in the last 10 years in law enforcement and the military is mounting a red dot sight on a handgun slide. Red dots are not intended to be the only sights on a handgun, we do not recommend replacing iron sights with a red dot because batteries die and electronics can fail. Red dot sights should be mounted in addition to iron sights. With practice, red dots are a much faster and easier way to get on target. quickly up close and at greater distances that make iron sights difficult to use, and especially for aging eyes, or if you are unable to see your front sight, the red dot may be the fix for you. 

To use a red dot; look at the target, place the dot where you want the round to go and press the trigger. Just focus on the dot like you would a front sight, keeping it in focus.  Rinse and repeat.







Realize that Red dot sights are not for everyone, be sure to try before you buy. There are many sizes of dots and makes and models of sights. You must have a consistent presentation to pick up the dot quickly, and learn to trust it.   A demonstration pistol with a Dual Illumination red dot is available at Gun Repair and Sales on Range 7, come on in and we can discuss the different options. 


Red dot in focus.









The Works:
If you would like to take a standard pistol and have everything done to it, drop it off at Gun Repair and Sales on Range 7. Like the pistol below:





*This Glock is being propped up by a “lens pen” for the photograph.

When this Glock was dropped off it was a new in the box Gen 3 Glock 19. Everything done to it was done by the Gunsmiths at Frontsight, upgrades are as follows:

  • Stippling and trigger guard profile reduction (done by Jon)  
  • Vickers Tactical magazine release
  • Vickers Tactical slide catch
  • Agency Arms trigger
  • Trijicon Suppressor height sights
  • Machined to accommodate a Trijicon RMR (done by Brent)
  • Mounted and Zeroed Trijicon RMR Type 2, 3.25 MOA red dot

The build was completed in two days. The shooter dropped it off in the morning of Day 1 of their 4-day class (using a backup gun for the first two days). The shooter shot 0 down and all shots and malfunctions were done in time on the 4 Day Defensive Handgun Skills Test, earning a DG sticker.


We are not saying all these upgrades will make you a better shooter. Dry practice makes a better shooter. Every little bit helps. If you are having any trouble with your handgun such as fit in your hand or not manipulating a control as well as you like, stop by Gun Repair and Sales on Range 7 and we can get your gun the way that works best for you.


By J.L



AR15 Piston vs Direct Impingement: A Debate 50 Years in the Making








Today we will discuss and evaluate the differences between the piston and direct gas impingement AR15 type rifles. Every shooter has different requirements their rifle must meet to accomplish whatever mission they are faced with. We will mainly be focusing on the principles of operating systems and will not be focusing on particular brands. Instead of picking a winner we will start off with this statement: Direct Impingement and Piston AR15s are in my (humble) opinion equally reliable systems. Any gun will do if you will do. This article will give unbiased facts about both systems in the hopes it will help you make the best decision in choosing the best weapon for you and your needs.     


Problems with Pistons (in no particular order):



  • Carrier Tilt: When a piston impacts a bolt carrier group downward force is applied on it. This will cause the carrier to “bounce” inside the upper receiver possibly damaging the buffer tube, receiver extension threads or buffer detent.




  • Weight: Ounces make pounds, pounds make pain. Piston gas blocks are usually several times heavier than typical direct impingement gas blocks. Quality drive rods should be solid steel and are heavier than gas tubes.




  • Added Parts: In addition to the proprietary bolt carrier and bolt; a piston assembly has about 6 additional parts compared to direct impingement.


  • Handguard Compatibility: Because the piston system is not as slim as the direct impingement, handguards that will work with a piston are limited. Many factory piston uppers are higher profile than the mil-spec to accommodate piston assemblies.     





  • Proprietary Parts: This may be the biggest drawback to the piston AR15 type rifle. Every company has a different, patented, piston assembly system. There is no standardization of parts or “mil-spec”. If a replacement part is needed the company that produced it will most likely be the only source. This is problematic if you are in the field and need a new part (odds are the local gun store won’t have what you need). In addition; if the company who produced your piston gun ceases to produce your model or goes out of business you will need to replace your upper if you wear out a part.  

Where Pistons Shine:



  • Cleaner/Cooler Running System: The piston system keeps expanding gasses out of the upper receiver. This will reduce carbon buildup in the bolt carrier group as well as keep temperatures near the shooter’s face lower than that of the direct impingement system.




  • Higher Reliability in Water: The reliability of the piston system in water environments is one reason that drove the United States Marine Corps to adopt the piston operated M27 IAR. Direct impingement rifles can fill with water when submerged and if fired without draining the gas tube the rifle will probably explode. Piston rifles don’t have this problem.  



Summary of the AR15 piston platform: it is a reliable system if measures are taken to reduce wear (such as a buffer tube that prevents carrier tilt and a reinforced buffer detent). Maintenance must still be performed on any weapon. Although the piston guns run cleaner in the chamber and upper receiver areas the bolt carrier group should still be disassembled periodically and inspected. Carbon buildup at the gas block and piston is an issue that must also be addressed, a fouled piston can cause the weapon to malfunction. Be advised: to properly clean and maintain a piston assembly the handguard will most likely need to be removed and zero with iron sights or rail mounted laser systems must be reconfirmed.  If you do not mind the added weight or proprietary parts or you require your weapon to work in a wet environment (beaches, swamps, exc.) then a piston driven AR15 may be for you.


Issues with Direct Impingement:


  • Cleanliness: The DI AR15 uses gas to move the bolt carrier to the rear and cycle the action. There is no way to avoid carbon build up around the bolt and in the chamber. This is made worse when using “dirty” ammo or a suppressor. The weapon will need to be cleaned and maintained regularly.


  • Gas Blowback: With the hot gasses coming back to cycle the action some gas will come back into the shooter’s face. This issue can be reduced by a charging handle designed to block the gas but can never be eliminated.


  • Gas Keys: There are more bad AR15 components out there than good ones. One thing to be aware of when buying a bolt carrier group is the “gas key”. Gas keys must be properly screwed down with proper grade steel bolts and be staked well to keep the screws from backing out. A loose gas key will cause the weapon to malfunction or worse.



  • Gas Rings: Keep an eye on gas rings as they can wear out over time. Replacements are only a few dollars, it would be wise to keep a spare set or two.




  • Lubrication: All firearms need lubrication. The direct impingement AR15 needs more than its piston cousin.  



Direct Impingement Advantages:



  • Parts Availability: The standard civilian AR15 and military M4/M16 use a direct impingement system. There are cross-compatible parts available from hundreds of manufacturers. Gun Repair and Sales on Range 7 has all the essential quality parts you may need for the DI AR15. The majority of parts and accessories today are being made for direct impingement rifles.




  • Lightweight and Slender: With no piston assembly a DI upper can be slim and lightweight. This is one reason why US Special Operations Command chose a direct impingement upper for service overseas.

Summary of the direct impingement AR15 platform: it is a battle proven system (that has served in every environment across the globe for over 50 years) that requires maintenance over time and in adverse conditions. Your equipment is only as good as the care you put into it. If you properly maintain your DI rifle between missions, it will not fail you. Cleaning a direct impingement bolt carrier group will result in dirtier hands and a few extra rags compared to a piston gun. Almost every gun store in America has parts that will work in a DI rifle (even in states that aren’t too friendly to 2nd amendment rights). If you want a rifle that has proven itself, then a good quality direct impingement AR15 may be what you need.


By J.L



What kind of oil do you use?

This post was born out of the repeated question, what is the best lubricant to use, and what do we use at the Front Sight Gun Repair?

Many of the problems encountered in student’s weapons at the Gun repair are due to lubrication issues, either not enough or far too much for the type of gun they are running. We see the wrong type, wrong application, over applying and in some cases cross-contamination due to lubricants that are not compatible.

Just like your car’s engine requires a specific type of oil viscosity and weight to provide the maximum protection your engine components need from heat, friction, dirt and other contaminants, so do your guns! You need to think of your handgun, shotgun, and rifle as a crude engine. It has combustion, close tolerances, and moving parts that are enclosed in the mechanism of the frame, slide or receiver. Like your car’s engine, the lubrication does several things. 1. It cushions the moving parts via hydraulic action. 2. It acts as a protective film barrier from steel to

These are just some of the lubricants that have been tried and tested over the years.

steel or steel to aluminum and it allows the parts to freely reciprocate, rotate or mesh together, and carry away the contaminants, and heat,  lastly, it protects carbon steel components from corrosion. In dealing with at least 40 thousand guns a year at Front Sight, we have a unique insight into what works well and what does not when it comes firearms lubrication.

In cleaning and lubricating weapons, you have to consider how you are going to be using the gun. Is it a competition gun going to see 40-50 or 100K rounds a year? (You will need to clean it and lubricate it frequently as this like your car would be a severe duty schedule like a taxi, police car or rental car. Is it a defensive gun going to be carried on a daily basis? (If so You will need to inspect it weekly and clean it at least monthly to clear out the dust, and debris that comes with carrying a gun concealed)

Think of your lint trap after 6 loads of laundry. Your clothing sheds and it gets into every accessible place on the gun and will cause a malfunction at some point.

Is it going to be stored for long periods of time like in your safe at home?

(You will need to coat the outside and internals with more lubricant to protect it from drying out) or place it in some form of static proof or rustproof bags that are commercially available.

Where you live has a major influence on your lubrication habits. For instance, if you live here in Southern Nevada, our moisture content on a daily basis is nil, but we have an extreme cold and heat issue and you deal with the effects of sweat on your guns surface for 3 months out the year.

On the other hand, if you live in Florida or Saltillo MS, you are going to be dealing with extreme humidity and sweat almost year-round attacking the guns surface 24/7. So how does one choose a lubricant amidst all of the marketing hype? Do you go with blindly go with brand paid for and recommended by the gun magazine? Just as a reminder when did the gun magazine ever say anything bad about a product? Some of us are old enough when there was only WD-40, 3 in 1 Oil, and Hoppes # 9 so given those parameters, we had it easy, though today’s modern lubricants have far surpassed the old favorites, except for the familiar smell of Hoppes # 9.

Do you use the military standard CLP, taking into consideration that  “Mil-Spec” could be described as, a product selected from the lowest bidder who could meet the minimum delivery schedule, and standards required to last just long enough to get good value?

CLP. Cleaner, Lubricant & Protectant. Something that is multi-tasking as a lubricant cannot be effective at cleaning if it works as a cleaner well it can’t be that good of a protectant as it will dry out over time.

Do you go with a “Green product” like Frog Lube or Seal-1? We tried it and found it to be less than desirable for us and our needs, your mileage may vary and due to the complications from cross-contamination, as some well-meaning student or staff member would apply a petroleum-based oil on a rental gun to get it to cycle easier and then it would not cycle a few days later and require a complete tear down and cleaning.  It also is not a conventional application so it is not used as such and that is lost on many people who show up with guns that inside look like a slab of BBQ ribs with Froglube sauce all over the place in the striker channel and the gun is having failures to fire.

How do you get past the marketing hype, over-promising and under-performing, easy, you go to someone who has seen just about every lubricant on the planet used on a gun, including coconut oil and used motor oil fresh from the car’s dipstick.


Though there are literally hundreds of lubricants out there in the industry. We have whittled it down to what we use on our guns and customers firearms at the Front Sight gun Repair and what we sell in the cleaning kits or individually Lucas Synthetic gun oil.


Lucas Synthetic gun oil is what we use.  Affordable, non-leak needle oiler for pinpoint application. where you need it. 



The problem arises in most cases for our students when they put too much oil in the wrong place, not enough oil in the right place or too much oil all over the gun thinking that will fix the malfunctions they have been having with the gun. It should not look like the “Exxon Valdez” ran aground inside your firearm. This will create more issues than it solves.




For high-pressure applications grease may be a better option, think sear and hammer hooks on the 1911 pistol, AR-15 hammer, and sear engagement surfaces or bolt/cam surfaces we use copper anti-seize from Versa Chem or  Lucas Extreme Duty gun grease.



What’s wrong with this picture?

This is something you would not normally see because the bottles are dark and hide the dirty secret. In many lubricants that you must shake before use the reason for that mixing is the carrier and “magic dust” cost 400.00 dollars a gallon have separated and you now have the two-part mixture doing the same thing in your gun over time. If you just poured this out of the black gallon container without shaking it, you would get the carrier mostly and not the nanoparticles, or whatever they have added to the carrier to give it the lubricity film they were looking for.



Our next article will cover the where for specific guns, how much and how often, so check back next week for that post.








But This is My Competition Gun!

You can not buy proficiency and skill at arms. It does not magically appear when you add an aftermarket part to your weapon, no matter what the product’s advertising promises, or the salesman’s recommendation, or the hype made about it in the latest puff piece in your favorite gun magazine. In fact, when was the last time your favorite gun rag ever wrote a negative article about anything? Or when did a salesman ever tell you “this thing won’t work like you expect it to”? It does not happen because they care about selling you gadgets, not making you better or more effective.

Considering what is at stake when you make changes to your gun, whatever you add or remove must be done with some logic and common sense. You must determine what it is you are attempting to achieve by changing a part. Are you trying to improve the gun’s design, to make it better than the highly-trained and experienced engineers who spent thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars on the gun’s R&D? Or are you trying to make it a little bit more user-friendly? Or are you changing it simply because a magazine article or your shooting buddy suggested it? The part you want to add (or remove) must serve a purpose greater than the stock part. If you are not getting a measurable improvement in the gun’s functional reliability and performance, you’re just feeding your ego by playing into the hype generated by advertising and the desire to impress your friends.

Many of the students who come to Front Sight Gun Repair find themselves in this situation. They have taken a gun that was 99.999% reliable right out of the box and decided to install aftermarket parts, custom coatings, or racing parts, only to bring it to Front Sight and have it fail. It costs them more money and downtime to get the gun running again. Instead of spending their time training, they are stuck in the shop waiting for us to fix the “improvements” they made to their previously reliable firearm!

Realizing the error of gun modification can be costly and frustrating when it happens on the range. The real danger, however, is that these changes could cost you your life on the street. You could be attacked and need to defend yourself but your modified gun may deliver a click instead of a bang, or may only get one or two rounds off before a stoppage or jam occurs. That moment, when the cretin is trying to jam a piece of steel into your abdomen, is a terrible time to realize your new tungsten guide rod causes double feeds, or the 1,500 lumen light and laser combo causes the slide to stall, or the lightened striker spring will not hit the primer hard enough to fire every round.

I chose this topic to write about today because this is such a common, easily-avoided problem our students experience. For example, I recently worked on a student’s Glock that was having misfires. On inspection, I discovered he had changed out all of the springs and some of the internal parts on the pistol. When I brought up to him that using the lightened springs cause the misfires in addition to a slower trigger reset of the trigger, his response was “well, that’s my competition gun.”

“Say what?” I asked.

He did not have anything to add.

“Isn’t the goal of competition to try and shoot better than the other competitors?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“But now you have rounds failing to go off and you cannot shoot the gun as fast as a stock Glock. Does that sound like a plan for success on the range or in a gunfight?”

“I don’t know about that,” he said, trying desperately to hold on to his irrational belief in the magical gun parts he bought rather than face the reality of the non-functional Glock sitting on the counter.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s your competition gun. It’s broken,” I said. “Any gun could be the one you use to save your life. Saying this one is just for competition doesn’t work.”

My goal was not to embarrass my customer, though he was clearly ashamed of his error. It was just a moment of tough love. After discussing with him the problems of using aftermarket parts without good reason, I got his gun running. That said, I can’t take twenty minutes to talk to every gun owner in America! People need to come to the realization that having a reliable weapon comes first – in competition or a gunfight. It must work every time you press the trigger without exception.

My tough love and attitudes toward weapon modification exist because over the years I have made many of the same mistakes as my customers. Now, I practice what I preach. I travel the country shooting for the Guncrafter Industries IDPA team and the absolute last thing I would do to prepare for success is making the gun less reliable by sticking a bunch of after-market super parts in it. My time is valuable, travel is expensive, match fees are non-refundable and the goal is to win! My gun must work every time. More importantly, my competition gun is one of my carry guns!

When you come out to Front Sight, come see us in the Armory on Range 7. We can show you what works and get you set up for success on the range and on the streets. Most important, we will not sell you something that will foul your firearm and get you killed.