As Americans, we are seldom satisfied with things as they come from the factory; hot-rodding was born in America. It’s the same with guns. Some people are content to carry a firearm exactly as it came out of the box, but it seems most of us look for ways to improve our guns.
Revolvers: Get a Grip
I often wonder why it took so long for handgun manufacturers to recognize that human hands come in many different sizes. Few people, whether men or women, will find the same handgun a perfect fit.
Naturally, entrepreneurs were quick to offer replacement grips for popular revolvers. The first thing many purchasers of compact revolvers such as Smith & Wesson J-frames do is install a slightly larger (often rubber) grip. This is usually to accommodate the pinky finger for better control.
I always recommend rubber grips for revolvers. They improve control and can reduce felt recoil. However, some of the latest, ultra-light polymer-frame revolvers feature integral grips that cannot be replaced. They can, however, accommodate “slip-over” sleeves.
Today, revolver manufacturers offer grip options right from the factory. S&W, Ruger, Taurus and others provide a wide choice of grips varying in both size and material.
Auto-Pistols Catch Up
Early auto-pistols, such as wildly popular 1911s, could accommodate aftermarket grips, and the options today are almost endless: wood, composite, rubber, etc. I myself like the rubber Pachmayr wrap-around model on my Kimber and Colt guns. Newer steel- and alloy-frame guns from SIG Sauer, Beretta and others can be fitted with non-factory grips.
However, as the first wave of polymer-frame guns made inroads into both law enforcement and the civilian markets, most integrated the grip into the frame, making replacement impossible. In such cases, some modification was possible using rubber sleeves mentioned above.
Today, however, many polymer-frame handguns feature removable inserts for backstraps, side panels or both. Heckler & Koch’s pistols are a good example. Such user-friendly customizing options make it easy to fit just about any hand size and shape.
Firearms Optics Options
I nearly always recommend night sights (either Tritium or luminous) for guns that can accommodate them. Night sights have no downside in the daytime and not only help your aim in low light but also can help you locate your gun at night. I take great comfort in those little green dots glowing on my nightstand!
Another big trend today is micro red-dot sights on handguns. Not every gun will accommodate them, but many newer models come with red dots and/or a removable plate that allows users to install their own. While they can sometimes be a little clumsier to carry, the speed and accuracy possible with a good red-dot sight is impressive.
Shed Some Light (Weapon Lights)
I see high-intensity weapon lights as ideal for bedside guns, where size is not an issue. On carry guns, they can be clumsy and often require special holsters. But it is certainly an advantage to see your potential target in a low-light or pitch-dark situation.
Finally, lasers are now widely available and very popular for handguns. Like weapon lights, they can hinder carry and/or concealment and may require special holsters. My concern about lasers is that too many people think they eliminate the need to practice at the range.
Whether the pros outweigh the cons of any modification is your call.
But, as always, be smart and be safe.
About John Caile
NRA Certified Instructor John Caile has more than 35 years of experience in the firearms industry, including training others in concealed carry and practical handgun shooting skills. As the communications director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee, he was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark concealed carry permit law. John has appeared on national talk radio and network and public television and is a contributing writer for Concealed Carry Magazine. He continues his lifelong activism for gun owners and their rights in Palm Coast, Florida.