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.