As said in the previous article by Howard, it is always good to take a minute from your plans of what to do next to “upgrade” your firearm and think about if you need them. It is fun to fill your head with action hero fantasies where you are the spec ops operator mowing down commies or rescuing your busty sister in law from the zombie horde, but it can lead you to buy things for those most unlikely of outcomes that you do not need.
All over the internet you will find a lot of people giving their opinion of what is needed for the perfect fighting rifle or pistol. You have two major sides for the most part, the KISS side and the others. The KISS guys will tell you that you need nothing on the rifle other then a sling and a mag, maybe a A2 sight if you are lucky but mostly just a A1 rear sight will do. It is easy for some people to fall into this way of thinking for many reasons. One of the main reasons the KISS group usually likes to hide from newcomers is the simple truth that the appeal of just buying a rifle and not spending any more money is strong for them. Some of them want a fighting rifle, but even if they want the other things to go with it, they just do not feel they will use any of it enough to justify its purchase. That is fine. if you take a long look at what you intend to do with your weapon and stop thinking about the zombie horde and realize it is a dirt blaster for fun or tin cans, then the KISS idea is fine.
The problem is a lot of the KISS soothsayers will go to the top of the mountain and sing the praises of having a light on your gun is a waste of money or “just hanging crap off it” to be cool. This is a very large flaw in thinking is you want a series fighting gun that will give you the most versatility and an edge to help you save your life or you loved ones.
While it is certainly true not everyone needs this stuff or even a gun, but I think this is a lame excuse. You do not buy car insurance or a spare tire because you plan on problems. You do not even carry a gun because you expect to do to Detroit and get into a fire fight. You do it because you simply do not know what will happen. If I knew if I would run into the trouble, then I just would not leave the house and save myself and not worry about carrying a gun for defense.
We have all read the posts on forums of guys who say they do not need a light or a tritium sight, or a mag that holds more then two because when an intruder comes in their house in the night, they will sic the dog on them, barricade the door, call 911, fire at an upward angle with Granpa’s pump action blah blah blah. They have this set in stone situation in their head about exactly how a deadly encounter will happen and absolutely KNOW that they will execute some plane. They can not accept or even admit that some thing beyond their control or at a time when they are completely away from their bedroom and the safety of their fantasy response plan. Crazy.
This is why some things are an upgrade to your weapons. Not swapping the blued safety on your gun to a extra long extended safety in nickel. For the most part. Its a good policy to just leave the weapon the way it came from the factory until you know what you can do with it and you determine if it has a problem that needs fixing. Until you use it enough to show real skill, there is no real reason to mess with internals to “improve ” it. Putting match triggers in guns not originally meant for them is one of the most common things I see done. Usually from people that have not shot enough to benefit from a match trigger anyway. New types of fore grips, butt stocks, angled fore grips, bipods, bayonet lugs, fancy rails and rail covers and rail lengths are other culprits that do not always give you more for the money. Some do and can, but usually skill has to improve before a lot of these things can help you. They do not improve your shooting, just the versatility of the weapon and times of day you can use it.
Things that are needed to truly upgrade can be listed very quickly. On a carbine or rifle meant for fighting/home defense, the bare essentials in my and many other minds are as follows.
1.A light. You can not hit what you can not see at night. Want to risk shooting at the “badguy” in the house with no positive ID when you also have a panicked kid or two running around? Usually running to your bedroom right to you expecting protection? May look like an aggressor coming to slice you up at 2AM in the morning in the dark with sleep bleary eyes and you are scared out of your spider man PJs. Of course seeing in corners, temporary blinding the foe, etc et. But learn to use it right so you do not point your muzzle at a friendly when you are jacked up, just to see who it is. A light on a loaded gun is just as dangerous as a loaded gun pointed at some one any other time. Night glow in the dark sights are NOT a substitute for a light. Even if you can see your sights, you still do not know who you are aiming at. A light lets you ID targets and backlights the sights.
2. A good sling. You may need to do other things with your hands, call 911, carry a baby, open a door, cover a wound, while keeping the gun own your person and not getting tired from trying to hold it up with just one hand and arm. Also retains the weapon if you need to switch to a sidearm or climb etc etc etc. Use your common sense and you can see why a sling is important. Dont just get anything though, think this through otherwise your GI issue silent sling is useless or some math problem like three point may snag the light and turn it over and trip you up when you are not paying attention.
3. Holster for handgun. Pretty much the same thing as a sling for a rifle. You may need a free hand and you want it on you.
4. Optics. A lot of people will argue with me on this, but try this at home with a rifle. Lie on your strong hand side, in the dark and look under the bed like you are using it for cover and see how easy those iron sights on your carbine is to see. Or any other position where you can not get nose to the charging handle. If you can get them, get them. DO not go cheap. Get the best you can get. I will go back a little and say optics are not a MUST HAVE. But thing will almost never be better in situation without optics. A Red Dot Sight in preferred.
There are other must haves but they are not anything you will not get anyway. Good mags, good ammo, etc. But those 4 will give you almost every thing you need to defend your self outside or an Iraqi night time fire fight. Other things are nice and will make you more flexible, but those are the things pretty well accepted as being must have. Do not let the KISS concept guys talk you into taking a less then effective weapon to a fight just because that is they way it was when they were in the Army in 1981 or their Daddy’s Daddy’s Daddy did it, and that is good enough for you.