Why I Avoid Modifying My Carry Pistols

Whenever I mention that I carry Glock pistols, I am asked what sort of modifications I have done to them – sights, trigger, grip reductions, and so on. When I say that my Glocks are entirely stock, more questions follow – most relating to the word “why.”

Glocks are similar to AR-15s in terms of popularity, and the number of companies offering every part imaginable for both platforms are too numerous to count. Many of these parts are intended to make the firearm more practical for real-world use, or so say the advertising claims. This practical parts plethora puts plenty of pressure on pistol people. It’s not quite at the level of “I don’t have the new flux capacitor assembly from 3rd Millennium Blasterwielder, this means I’ll get killed in a gunfight,” but the atmosphere in the firearm community often overemphasizes the importance of minutiae gear considerations.

Boring photograph of boring pistols

The primary reason why I leave my Glocks alone is that they are functional and reliable as-is. Not all Glocks are, and I am rapidly losing faith in Glock’s ability to do the right thing, but vintage Glock 19 Gen 3s and newer production Glock 22 Gen 4s are generally reliable pistols. In the absence of a clearly identifiable need for modifications, I do not wake up every morning trying to think of new ways to spend money.

Furthermore, I have respect for the engineering expertise of firearm designers at major manufacturers. No, they don’t always get it right, and yes, they often have to design firearms with illogical legal or liability concerns in mind. However, they have the resources to thoroughly test designs before releasing them to market, and recognize the concept of manufacturing the pistol as a system better than smaller companies which seek to modify specific portions of the firearm.

Those who take a myopic view of trigger modifications, for example, often render firearms unreliable (light strikes, failure or inability to reset) or dangerous (disabling or reducing the effectiveness of internal safety mechanisms). This is not to say that all trigger-related modifications are bad – magazine disconnects, for example, are dumb. However, if something sounds too good to be true, such as a 1911-like trigger in a Glock, then it most likely is (I have two requirements for a carry firearm – that it work when I want it to, and that it not randomly shoot my balls off when I’m running, jumping, and climbing trees).

To help you get that image out of your head, here is a photo of some homeless kittens in Africa. I tried to build a little shelter for them, but some kids kicked it over. Fairly representative of what eventually happens to all African relief work, I guess.

As with any industry, a number of companies seek the endorsement of celebrities in order to sell their products. In some cases, the celebrity or personality recognizes the responsibility of this and tests, examines, or evaluates the product in a proper manner – or seeks input from others who may have engineering expertise – on the product before endorsing it. In other cases, names have been attached to products that should not have been released to the general public as-is. I am no celebrity, but at this point I can tell the difference between a genuine T&E offer from a manufacturer and someone that just wants to give me free stuff in exchange for pimping it on my blog.

Before anyone asks about other pistols that I carry from time to time – my Kimbers are far from stock. This is because Kimber didn’t design the 1911 – they just found ways to screw it up. My J-frame has a Crimson Trace lasergrip. The Kel-Tec P3AT is stock with the exception of a…”custom finish.” The Sigs and Berettas are stock. Kahrs are stock. Oh - I used to replace Glock sights before they switched to using a screw to attach the front sight.

Now, if you want to modify your carry guns, feel free to do so. Whatever works for you should work for you. What works for me might not work for you. And as a final note, I do not put much stock in the idea that modifications to carry weapons might be used against a concealed carrier in court. If the shooting is justified, little else should matter.

23 thoughts on “Why I Avoid Modifying My Carry Pistols”

  1. My carry gun is (almost) completely stock. I have a Hogue Handall Jr. grip sleeve on it, but that’s the only modification to the gun. And really I wouldn’t honestly call it a major modification.

    To fan the flames for comments, my carry gun is a Kel-Tec PF-9. I know, I know. Some people hate them. Mine’s been 100% reliable and goes with me 100% of the time.

  2. I don’t modify any pistol that works, minus adding night sights if it didn’t come with them.
    I have a 229E2 and I really like that grip and thought about getting an E2 grip conversion for my flawless 226… I left that as thought about. No reason to mess with a perfect pistol.

    1. Agreed, night sights are very necessary and anybody who says otherwise has never fired a pistol in the dark without them. Shooting with a flashlight is difficult and carrying a pistol with a flashlight mounted on it is just not very practical for the average person. Also when using illumination devices (lights/lasers) at night you illuminate yourself as well as the target.

  3. Nice alliteration in the second paragraph. 🙂

    I agree with you on not modding carry guns.
    I got lucky, I suppose; I have two Gen4 Glocks that actually run, a 17 and a 19. I’ve put better (for me) sights on the 17 since it’s the one I train with the most, and I find that I’m liking them enough that I will eventually put the same ones on the 19. But that’s going to be it. The internals will remain stock, for all the reasons you discussed.

    Thanks for another great article.

  4. Poor kittens :-/ anyways back to the story at hand. I used to not modify my carry gun until my buddy talked me into a 3.5 connector in my 17 (couldn’t really tell a difference anyways still felt the same), and I installed a set or Warren/Sevigney sights on it. Other than that it’s stock. Good read as always Andrew.

  5. This is truly a ‘to each his own’ thing. I carry a modified M&P40 with an Apex trigger, but then again I compete with the same gun. If it can burn through a few hundred rounds a weekend with no issues, then I can rely on it to perform should the need arise.

    The problem is that guns are manufactured per Lawyer’s specifications, as well as being geared for ‘the average person’ who doesn’t really exist. Some people like smoother triggers, some like a different grip, etc. There’s nothing wrong with having your gun competently modified if you’re not comfortable with the way it works out of the box.

    I will say though that I am vehemently opposed personally to any modification that would force me to rely on it. My goal in life is to be able to pick up *any* random rifle and hit a 12″ target at 100 yards, or *any* handgun and hit an 8″ target at 25. If I cannot do that without some sort of modification, then the problem isn’t the gun’s configuration, it’s me.

  6. Keep it Simple Stupid! Reminds me of certain B-team trumpet blowing security gurus in Fallujah who shall remain nameless always wanting the newest high speed junk to clutter their squeaky clean guns with. I always tell people, there’s no substitute for training, having a $2500 1911 is awesome but it’s just a paperweight unless you can hit what you’re aiming at repeatedly. I can’t think of one well trained shooter I know who can do more with a $2500 gun than he can with a stock $500 one. Besides a set of night sights an / or a good flashlight, there’s not much else a carry gun may need. Take that extra cash that’s burning a hole in your pocket, buy a reloading system and start making your own ammo for practice, then shoot, shoot, shoot, and when you get those calluses built up, shoot some more. Training is the key.

  7. I didn’t Gen 3 glocks are considered vintage? What does that make my Gen 2 G21 and G23, antiques? I love my Gen 2s. They are great guns and trust them.

    I think this is good writeup. You really don’t want to mod your carry piece despite how cool a Punisher back plate and Lone Wolf milled body w/ built in bottle opener are. The last thing you want is for your piece to not go boom.

    Take the blinged out pieces to the range to impress the people that don’t know.

  8. For guns that my life may depend on, my rule is to modify as needed, not ‘as wanted’. My Kimber Ultra Carry is tweaked, but my XDm compact is not. (500+ rounds so far, zero failures.)

    On the other hand, the Ruger Mark III pistol is modified like a teenager’s first car. They shouldn’t have put rails on it if they didn’t want me hanging all kinds of bling on it…

    You admit in public that you carry a P3AT? Brave man. (BTW, so do I upon occasion, but I’d never admit it on the internet. Um…)

  9. Now that I think about it, all of the guns I carry have been modified. But the one I carry most – the LC9 – has mostly been modified to rid it of stupid “safety” features that may fail.

    I got rid of the magazine disconnect after observing that it was inconsequential to the function of the gun at best.

    Same with the thumb safety. The LCP doesn’t need it, this has the same trigger and it doesn’t either.

    I ditched the loaded chamber indicator as well after deciding that unlike the one on my Steyr, it was a poor design which could cause a failure to go into battery if it became fouled.

    Sure, I could have bought a PF9 and saved myself the trouble. But I trust Ruger more than Kel-Tec – which may be very irrational these days.

  10. One other thing – why did you stop replacing Glock sights after the switch to the new style? I’m new to Glocks and installed Ameriglos on my new G21 with a bit of blue loctite, with nary a problem over the last several hundred rounds. Seemed easier than replacing the rear sight for sure.

  11. The one Glock modification I do like is the OEM 4.5lbs connector. I’ve always found the standard trigger pull to be just a tad on the heavy side and the 4.5lbs connector puts it right in line with what I like. But generally I agree and would not modify my carry gun with any aftermarket parts.

  12. Ayoob has documented instances where the modification to a defensive firearm has been used against someone in court. Most specifically lightening the trigger to below factory specifications. So I make sure all of my carry guns meet or exceed factory specifications.

    1. Mas Ayoob has documented cases where overzealous prosecutors used that info. He also has testified in cases where a competent defense attorney has made mince meat out of such tactics. If your defense attorney(or even worse, public defender) is used to trying petty possession charges, find someone else. It is also a matter of location. Here in NJ I’ll get railroaded if I hurt a home invaders feelings with harsh words, let alone put a hollow point into him(which is legal contrary to popular belief, the HP law applies to carry). In rural area of any state with “castle doctrine”, not so much.

  13. I like accessorizing some guns (that’s basically WHY I got my M&P), but fail to see the advantage of doing much other than sights to others.

    The one I carry most is unmodified, save all that custom lint I installed.

  14. I switched the sights on my Gen4 G17 to 10-8s with a brass bead. I only have one pistol and I shoot it in competition but I don’t want to have to worry about changing or breaking fiber optic rods, so the brass bead was the best compromise.

    Everthing else on the gun is factory spec.

  15. Pingback: SayUncle » Mods
  16. There are somethings that I think need changing on a Glock and some things that should absolutely stay stock.

    Sights. Glock’s stock sights are terrible. Maybe if you get factory night sights it isn’t so bad, but if you get the base sights, they should be coming off.

    Grip plug. Probably a good idea anyway even if it isn’t necessary for a carry pistol. Debris can get in that channel in the back of the grip, then into the gun, potentially shutting it down.

    Changing trigger characteristics isn’t a bad idea provided you keep it simple and stick to Glock factory parts.

    Grinding off the ridges on the front strap is probably also a decent idea if you’re one of the many people that have fingers that are too large or too small for them.

    Stuff you shouldn’t do-

    Reduced power striker spring. Competition-type trigger systems. Adjustable and/or fiber optic sights. Anything else that can decrease the reliability and/or safety of the firearm.

  17. Feral cats were doing just fine as a species before humans went and invented language and building things. Cats will continue doing just fine after humans finish killing all of each other off.

    If you have an impulse to meddle with something until it is dependent upon your meddling, well – better cats than the government I suppose.

  18. Been carrying a gen 3 G17 for a while now. It came with night sights, but the only mod I did to it myself was an extended mag release. Other than that, I’ve no problem with anything else. Trigger feels fine to me as is.

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