I love customizing my guns, and I think a lot of that has to do with memories I have of my grandfather. He was a gunsmith, and a lot of my childhood was spent in his gun shop. He was old-school and taught me that guns are tools to be used, and everything on them should serve a purpose.
The best gun accessories are those that make the firearm more useful and effective. They are:
- Iron sights
- Grips and stocks
Below is a list of the best accessories that you can add to your gun. Not every gun will need everything on the list, but selecting the right accessories for your gun will help make it more functional and enjoyable to use.
Best Accessories to Add to Your Gun
If you use a semi-automatic handgun or rifle, having good magazines is a must. Most malfunctions involving semi-automatic firearms are the result of being dirty or using poor quality magazines. This makes good magazines one of the best gun accessories that you can buy.
Magazines produced by your firearm’s manufacturer will usually be reliable. If you aren’t happy with the magazines that came with your gun or are looking for ones that are more affordable, there are a couple of options. For handgun magazines, those produced by Mec-Gar are what I use. They are actually the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) for several firearm companies, so their quality is among the best. For semi-auto rifles, Magpul makes very good but inexpensive magazines for AR and AK pattern guns.
I would suggest picking up extra magazines sooner rather than later. There is always talk of magazine bans at various levels of government. Having a healthy supply of magazines for each of your guns is an excellent idea.
I bought my AR-15 at the beginning of December 2012 without picking up any spare mags. Sandy Hook happened a few weeks later. Because of the panic buying and shortages that happened after this, I had a really hard time finding spare magazines.
If a magazine restriction had passed where I live or at a federal level, I would have been stuck with one 30-round magazine and whatever magazines I would have been allowed to buy later.
Quality Iron Sights
One of the most important things about a gun is its accuracy. For this reason, quality iron sights are an excellent accessory for certain types of firearms. Some great guns, like Glock pistols and Ruger 10/22’s, are awesome except that they come with horrendous iron sights. In fact, changing the iron sights on my 10/22 was one of the first modifications that I made to it. You can see my article on how to replace Ruger 10/22 sights by clicking here.
There are different reasons why someone may want to upgrade their iron sights. The first is increased visibility. On my 10/22, the front sight post was so tiny that it was almost impossible to see. The fiber optic sight that I replaced it with makes shooting it easier and more enjoyable.
Another way to increase your iron sights’ visibility is to replace them with tritium sights. Tritium emits beta radiation that is relatively safe but glows all the time. They are a much better option than sights with photoluminescent paint which requires you to shine a light on them before they glow.
The second reason that someone may want to upgrade their iron sights is to give them adjustability. Most stock iron sights are either unadjustable or require the use of a punch or file to adjust them. Adjustable sights allow the user to dial their sights in with the turn of a screw.
The third reason that someone may want to add iron sights to their firearm is to serve as a backup to their optic. This is especially popular on defensive carbines as it gives the user redundancy in case their main optic fails at the worst possible time. Many times these sights can fold down when not in use and flip-up quickly when needed.
Depending on what you will be using your firearm for, optics can be a great accessory to add to your gun. Red dot or holographic sights on defensive carbines and even pistols can give you an upper hand in low light situations and competitions. The best manufacturers of these types of optics include Trijicon, Aimpoint, and Eotech. If you are on a budget, Vortex optics are an excellent option.
For long-range shooting, nothing beats a good scope. In fact, it isn’t uncommon for target shooters and varmint (prairie dog) hunters to spend as much or more on their scope than on the gun itself. The best scopes include parallax adjustment, anti-fog lenses, and reticles that will help you estimate how much a bullet will drop as it travels. Good scope manufacturers include Swarovski, Leupold, Nikon, and Vortex.
Rifles and shotguns can start to feel really heavy when you have to carry them over long distances. A quality sling will allow you to carry your long gun more comfortably and keep your hands free when needed.
The type of sling that you will need will depend on what you are using the gun for. For hunting guns, I like a padded sling that I can adjust easily. This makes carrying the gun more comfortable and allows me to store it out of the way while I am opening up a deer blind or clearing branches out of my path. If you may have to shoot a rifle free-hand, it may be better to have a sling with less padding that you can wrap around your arm. This will allow you to use your sling as a brace when firing.
For defensive long guns, you will need your sling to be a little more acrobatic. You will want something that you can adjust quickly, use as a stabilizing brace, and that will allow you to quickly transition the rifle onto your back. This is useful if you need to climb or deal with a medical situation. John Lovell created an excellent video that covers tactical sling selection. You can view it by clicking here.
One of the biggest mistakes that handgun owners make is buying a cheap holster to carry their firearm. Some spend $600 or more on their pistol or revolver and then carry it in a cheap $15 holster. The issue with this isn’t the price. Instead, it is a matter of build quality and whether or not the holster will do its job effectively.
Cheap holsters are naturally going to made of cheaper materials. Many cheaper holster materials, specifically neoprene, will fall apart quickly. My first concealed carry holster was one like this. It is now dissolving like half of the life in the universe at the end of Avengers: Infinity War.
Another issue with cheap holsters is that they are difficult to use or uncomfortable to wear. You will usually have to completely remove your belt to attach those that are belt-mounted. Cheap shoulder and ankle holsters are even worse. The most unpleasant handgun carry experience of my life involved an inexpensive shoulder holster digging into my underarm. If you want a shoulder holster, get a good leather one.
Every gun owner, especially those who are preppers or carry a gun often, should invest in a good holster. For inside-the-waistband, I prefer leather/Kydex hybrid holsters such as those made by Crossbreed or Alien Gear. Companies such as these produce holsters tailored to specific firearms and for right or left-handed shooters.
Kydex paddle holsters are good options as well. Like leather/Kydex hybrids, they will be firearm-specific, allowing them to hold a gun securely. They are much easier to put on and take off than holsters that pass through your belt and even the hybrid holsters.
Good holster manufacturers include Crossbreed, Alien Gear, Galco, Bianchi, and DeSantis.
Grips, Stocks, and Fore Ends
Many times guns come stock with cheap or uncomfortable grips, stocks, or fore-ends. For handguns, many users choose to purchase rubberized grips, especially for guns that have high recoil. People that conceal carry their firearm my opt for smooth, low profile grips that don’t reduce felt recoil but make the gun easier to conceal and draw.
As far as long guns are concerned, your options are practically limitless. You can buy stocks specifically designed for long-range shooting as well as those designed to be used in defensive situations. Some firearms, such as the Ruger 10/22 can even be reconfigured into a bullpup design simply by adding a different stock.
Shooting at something that you can’t see is irresponsible and dangerous. For this reason, a flashlight is an excellent addition to any firearm you own for defensive purposes. This is true for both handguns and long guns.
Since shooting is best done with both hands, it is always better to have your flashlight mounted directly onto your firearm via a rail. Most tactical lights meant for handguns will have a switch located on the back of the light. This will allow you to activate the light without compromising your grip.
On rifles and shotguns, you should mount your light towards the end of the barrel. This will prevent the light’s beam from being obstructed by the barrel itself. The user should be able to activate the light without having to take their hand off of the gun. This is done by either positioning the light on the rail or by using a pressure switch connected to the light and mounted at the proper spot on the firearm.
For close-range shooting, especially in low light, few accessories will allow you to get on target faster than a laser. Lasers are excellent additions to either pistols or defensive rifles.
What Gun Accessories Should You Avoid?
While many accessories can make your firearm more ergonomic or easier to use, some accessories only add weight, “cool factor”, and potential liabilities.
In general, you want to avoid gun accessories such as “aggressive” decorations or those that are illegal in your area.
Some personalizations may open a user up to additional scrutiny if they have to use their weapon in a defensive situation. Personally, I wouldn’t want my gun to be emblazoned with things like a skull and crossbones or a punisher logo if a prosecutor is trying to convince a jury that I was some whacko looking for a fight.
If I have to use a firearm in a defensive situation, I want it to be as boring as possible so that aesthetics can’t be used against me when the gun is presented as evidence. Some designs, like a state flag, probably won’t be an issue, but avoid more “aggressive” personalizations that an overzealous attorney could use against you.
Illegal Accessories or Modifications
It is also important to avoid adding illegal accessories or modifications to your firearm. This can be a challenge if you live in a state with expansive firearm regulations. Some accessories, such as bump stocks, may have been legal when you purchased them but are now illegal.
If you ever had to use a weapon with an illegal modification or accessory in a defensive situation, it would likely result in charges, even if the shooting was justified. If a law enforcement officer discovered it during a search of your vehicle while traveling or while hunting, you could be arrested. Both of these situations would likely affect your ability to own firearms in the future.