I recently read an article advocating that you keep your carry gun stock because any modifications will be used against you in court to suggest you wanted to kill someone. While I admire the author’s zeal and understand his intentions were to keep people out of jail, I respectfully disagree.
A clean shoot is a clean shoot. If you are prepared to articulate the modifications to your firearm and said modifications don’t compromise firearms safety features you’ll be safe.
If you haven’t already, I suggest you watch the following videos on youtube: Sage Dynamics – “EDC Handgun Modifications” and The Gun Collective – “Carrying a Modified Gun”.
(Links to videos at the bottom)
Aaron Cowan is an expert instructor in the realm of self defense and Adam Krout is a lawyer with a special pro 2A emphasis.
The overarching argument that minor changes to mechanical aspects of a firearm makes someone inherently more deadly, capable, or negligent, is down right silly. However, the argument exists and we need to be prepared to address it.
I’ve been fortunate enough, due to my line of work and training, to speak with a couple people who have had to actually utilize deadly force. They didn’t learn about it from a forum or argue on youtube comments, they actually pulled the trigger in a real world situation.
The defining factor in how things transpired for them after a shooting or gunfight has been their ability to articulate what they did, how they did it, and why. If you make dumb decisions with a stock gun, you will still go to jail.
I carry a Glock 17 Gen4 on duty, conceal carry a Gen4 19 with and without a Streamlight TLR-1HL, and occasionally borrow my wife’s Glock 26. The modifications to these weapons don’t compromise the weapon’s inherent safety features and are also approved by my police department’s policy.
As you can see, I’ve done extensive personal work on the frames (stippling, magwell cuts, trigger undercut, etc.) I’m not made of $, so I’m that dude who does his own white trash framework in the garage. (Sorry instagram, my guns aren’t pretty and I occasionally miss my intended target). I’ve made slight changes to the trigger, but all are Glock OEM parts (gen 3 trigger bars and dot connectors). I also have skateboard tape on the tops of the slides and slide serrations across the top of my Glock 19. I think it’s safe to say my guns aren’t “stock”, so let’s take a close look at how I justify the mods I have so I won’t get in trouble.
Modifications and Justification:
- Everyone changes the sights on Glocks (except you dudes preaching “don’t modify your carry gun!” You had better have stock sights). These are all pretty much consistent. Square black rear and bright thin front. Left to right: G26 = Ameriglo fiber optic sights, G19 = Dawson precision rear with hiviz front. G17 = Ameriglo pro I dots (by policy my duty gun has to have night sights).
- TLR 1 weapon light
- The weapon light for me serves two purposes. One, it helps provide information and identification of a potential or increasingly dangerous threat in low light/no light conditions. Two, by putting the hot spot in someone’s eyes it can potentially serve as a means of subduing a threat and preventing the need for deadly force or, it can serve to increase my personal safety by hiding my “exact” location. The same can be said for a bright handheld light (which ideally should be used BEFORE the gun light).
- Stippling helps provide a more aggressive texture as well as more points of contact. These both support a solid grip on the weapon, increasing friction and leverage, which is important for accuracy and speed. The more accurate I can be, the safer a potential shoot is by limiting the number of rounds off target. I tend to get sweaty hands, so stippling or grip tape is a must for me.
- The trigger undercut works in conjunction with a solid grip by allowing me to get a higher purchase on the firearm. It’s also more comfortable.
- The ramp, or shelf I have on the support side of my handguns provides a consistent point of contact for my support hand thumb which aids in mitigating recoil when shooting rapidly and accurately.
- Magwell cutouts
- In terms of a self defense shoot, the likelihood of having to do a reload is slim, so I can’t see how you’d argue the cutouts (or slide release) make me or the weapon inherently more dangerous. But, for the sake of explanation, the cutouts aid in stripping stubborn magazines, which are helpful during reloads or clearing malfunctions.
- Extended slide stop/slide release
- All my glocks have extended slide releases because that’s how I do emergency reloads. (And no I’m not getting into the kindergarten “gross motor skill” argument right now). I’ve trained with and consistently used the stock slide release without issue, but the extended release is more intuitive. I also have short thumbs, so the added length and ledge are helpful.
- Skateboard Tape/Additional slide serrations
- Twelve o’clock slide cuts or tape aid in general weapons manipulations, but they are especially helpful if I have to safely operate or function the weapon with one hand, especially support hand only manipulations.
- The trigger is arguably the greatest mechanical barrier affecting accuracy. Accuracy = safety. We are responsible for every round we fire. Accurate shot placement mitigates the risk of liability for injuries to others who may be present and, most importantly, influences how long we are in a fight or how much damage a dangerous subject is allowed to inflict. There are far more “drastic” changes you can make to a Glock trigger, such as drop ins or aftermarket triggers, without hiccups. The gen 3 trigger bar and dot connector (4.5lb) I have in my guns make for a slightly lighter, and perceptibly shorter trigger pull without completely changing the sensation you get hitting the “wall” on a stock glock. I’ve had them all tested with trigger scales, and all three consistently break at 4.5-5lbs.
A clean shoot is a clean shoot. I can’t stress that enough. If you do your job in legally, safely, and effectively defending yourself with a firearm, you won’t be criminally charged. You CAN, however, be found criminally negligent if your mods remove safety features. Ensure that you either properly install your mods or have them done by a professional and that they are of quality manufacturing.
There are other “modifications” people make to weapons which don’t serve any mechanical function, such as paint jobs, custom back plates, etc. That stuff isn’t for me, and I know of at least one case where that type of modification didn’t bode well for the shooter, but if you need a punisher skull on your glock, I say go for it.
One of our firearms instructors has one on his duty weapon and another officer I know has a “deadpool” themed backup gun. If they use those guns in a shoot, it’s their responsibility to deal with the potential backlash.
Ask yourself why you have the mods you have and be prepared to explain them to your attorney if you have the unfortunate circumstance of having to defend yourself or your family with your “modified” weapon.
Do what you want with your money and your firearm, you have that right. That being said, I don’t think you should just go out and drop $2,000 on a tricked out gun or muck up your gun just to try something that “looks cool”. I know shooters with crazy expensive guns who suck, and I know shooters who have rubber bands on their grip that can destroy me. Modifications should be done to compliment proficiency, not compensate for inefficiency. If you suck with your stock gun, you will suck with a modified gun, so keep practicing.
Sage Dynamics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fKynbknk4g&t=17s
Gun Collective: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsaI5raGZfA