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Top 3 Handgun Upgrades For Defensive Shooting

I'm not a huge concealed carry handgun upgrader. I'm not one of those people who will buy a gun and immediately start to upgrade it to be something else. In fact, there are certain upgrades I feel shouldn't be done except under certain circumstances.

For example, I'm a firm believer that changing anything mechanical on a carry gun isn't necessary (minus what I mention below). That is, unless you're into competition shooting. For me, components like the internal trigger parts are placed there the way they are by the manufacturer because that's what they thought was best to do.

You know what I do when I'm in the market for a new gun with a trigger I don't like? Pick a different gun.

There are some upgrades that are not only fine for a carry gun, but will actually help you out some in terms of defending yourself properly. Please note, that I'm not saying that you should just buy upgrades instead of range time and ammo. Quite the opposite, actually.

I think there is huge benefit in learning how to shoot your gun in stock form, in case you ever revert back to it. Anyway, here are what I consider to be the top upgrades for your concealed carry handgun:

Aftermarket Sights/Optics:

The most popular aftermarket upgrade for concealed carry handguns are usually sights. Even more specifically, people opt to install night sights on their pistols.

Night sights are great if you ever need to defend yourself in low light. But even if you don't opt for night sights, regular aftermarket ones are a big step in the right direction.

Many times, gun makers install sights on their guns that aren't that great or are made from a material that surprises people when they find out. Glock sights, for example, are usually plastic.

Even more popular these days, are guns coming pre-cut for an optic. Heck, I've got a red dot that I keep on hand for those times when I get a T&E in with an optic cut. In fact, that pictured G45 MOS above is wearing that optic.

This is an up and coming section of the firearms aftermarket, and it's not going anywhere. People are using red dots for their carry pistols and aftermarket night sights are also still wildly popular.

This will help you in a defensive situation because better sights or a red dot will help you find your target better.


Very early on in my concealed carry journey I owned a firearm with a grip that was so intense it was hard to carry. The sheer abrasiveness of the grip itself rubbed raw spots on my love handles and it drove me nuts.

Otherwise it was a good gun.

I had a couple options. The first option was to do a custom stipple on the grip. While many people opt for this I'm not comfortable with it because to me, it lessens the resale value of the gun. This is a permanent addition and really cannot be reversed.

I could have worn an undershirt, but I sweat profusely and that wasn't technically an option.

So, I opted for Talon Grips. I had a pair sent out to me and in quick fashion, solved my problems. You can read Matthew's Talon Grip Review, next, or just take my word for it. They're a good addition to any gun.

I even keep some of their non-gun specific grips around just in case. I've got them on AR-15 mags and everything.

A grip like this will help you in a defensive situation because your gun tends to get slippery if your hands start to sweat during a critical incident. This will help you hold on to your gun better.

Extended Mag or Slide Stop

These are both technically mechanical. However, these can both damper your ability to operate your firearm if you can't find a gun with controls you can effectively get to.

One of the main problems with most guns out there, is that they're made for a specific “average” hand. That means if your hand is bigger, smaller, or if you have fingers that bend differently than what the gun was designed for, you may not be able to reach the controls.

As a gun reviewer, who got my start in the industry reviewing guns, I can say that this is one of the hardest things to measure. If I say something like I was able to hit the controls, that's a very subjective thing because I'm the only person on earth with my hands.

Your hands are shaped entirely different than mine are which means what may work for me won't work well for you. What this equates to is secondary manufacturers making components for this.

I put this one last for a reason, though. The main reason being that not all guns have these aftermarket components made for them. And if this is the case, you'll have to be like me and learn to use your index or middle finger on your strong hand (on the other side of the gun) to hit the mag release, instead of your thumb.

These will help because one of the first things to go during a defensive encounter are the motor skills needed to operate the slide lock and mag release. If you need to reload your gun and get it back into battery, stacking as many things in your favor as possible is a huge benefit.

I do want to warn you that a mag release that sticks out too far could be engaged when you don't want it to be, causing you different problems. Be careful, and only go out as far as needed and only use trusted companies when making these changes.


There is absolutely nothing wrong with upgrading your firearm if it's what you want to do and it actually helps your overall goal of protecting yourself and loved ones if that time ever comes.

I advise against making mechanical modifications to internals like the trigger, but really it's all up to you. What have you opted to change on your gun? let us know in the comments below.

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11 Responses to Top 3 Handgun Upgrades For Defensive Shooting

  1. James Griffith June 11, 2020 at 9:51 am #

    I purchased a Glock 30SF and loved the way it fits my hand better than any other of the Glocks Ive looked at.
    My problem is i cant find a IWB holster that is said will fit it properly due to the slim frame, but 30 wide slide. Any recommendations?

    • Tim June 14, 2020 at 8:42 pm #

      Check out Great holsters. I carry a Glock 19X and also a Glock 48 using their Axis slim AIWB holsters. I also have a one of their OWB holsters. Most comfortable AIWB I have found. Prices can be high but I’ll pay it for a holster I can wear 12+ hours a day without pain or discomfort.

  2. Gil Lee June 14, 2020 at 8:19 pm #

    I love my Glock 30 S and have been own carrying it comfortably for over two years. N82 Holsters…

    • Gil Lee June 14, 2020 at 8:21 pm #


  3. Lynn Edwards June 14, 2020 at 8:44 pm #

    I own several Glocks, not all the same model. Every one had a trigger that had the safety protrude out in the center. After a few rounds, the trigger became bothersome and interfered with practice. Every trigger on my Glocks have the trigger shoe replaced with a flat faced trigger. Future Glocks will also receive the same treatment.

  4. Bill Knickerbocker June 14, 2020 at 9:34 pm #

    As a fairly new competitor in IDPA, I found that a “trigger job” on my Beretta 92 by a competent gunsmith made my trigger pull smoother and more positive and predictable. This is not something that I feel comfortable doing myself but it resulted in better shooting accuracy.

  5. Allan Pederson June 14, 2020 at 10:13 pm #

    try an

  6. DEFENDER June 15, 2020 at 9:58 am #

    If you really want to learn about Defensive Shooting:
    Go watch an IDPA(Intl Defensive Pistol Assoc) Match.

    Yeah, I know, you dont want to shoot in Competition.
    IDPA is a lot more than a Competition.
    You will meet people from your area who are serious about being prepared
    for a Self Defense encounter and are practicing for “that time”/ when it comes.

    There are gun clubs all over the US that sponsor matches.
    Look up IDPA and find a club near you – go watch(visitors usually free) and
    talk to people there – they are your neighbors.But they are serious about Defensive Shooting. In all 50 States.

    Many, like me, are there to Learn and practice Defensive Shooting but not really “Compete”.
    And that is fine with everyone else. They understand that.
    Our club – Match entry fee is $10, visitors are free – to watch.
    “I” have never come close to winning a match and they understand that is not why I shoot there. And there are a lot more like me there.

    Stages are set up with Threat and Non-threat targets and vital area hit zones.

    You will learn a Boatload of info you currently don’t know. And maybe make some new
    2A and gun savvy friends.
    You will learn how to actually defend yourself with a gun.

    Side benefit is you will learn “Real” Gun Safety like you don’t currently know.

  7. Lonesome wolf June 16, 2020 at 8:24 pm #

    I agree with you about grips, especially on blocks and their imitators. There are so good and some great aftermarket grips for them, as well as other guns. They can even help to fit the gun to your hand better. Not a big fan of optics the require special holsters and/or add to the ‘bulk’. Be careful with extended mag releases, I have known people who drew and dropped their mag because it got released while wearing, just sayin’. Also, for defensive carry, I prefer Ambi-safeties on guns with a thumb safety such as 1911’s and clones.

  8. Carol Labozzetta June 17, 2020 at 1:21 pm #

    I would like to purchase a handgun for protection because I’m a small woman with major disabilities. Examples I can’t walk properly due to having a total of 5 spinal surgeries and I live alone with my 80 year old dad..I hope someone can help us.

  9. DH June 18, 2020 at 12:50 pm #

    Whenever I am looking at pistols, I always bring the pistol up to a shooting stance. If I can see the front sight without shifting my grip, it’s telling me that it points naturally for me. There are pistols that will do this for me and others that will not. Many of the gun shops that I haunt, allow dry firing of center fire pistols. So I dry fire. If the front sight will not line up naturally for me, I set the pistol back down.
    After I buy a pistol, if it doesn’t have night sights on it, I buy some and install them. I have done this to my S&W M&Ps, SigSauers, Walthers, HK and even on a Taurus PT111 G2 that I use when I have to leave my pistol in my car. If my car is broken into, why let them take a more expensive pistol?
    Then I buy spare OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) magazines. Some of these bargain priced magazines are junk. Mec-Gar magazines are NOT junk. They are the OEM for quite a few magazines for various pistol companies. If your magazine has “Made in Italy” stamped on it, it’s Mec-Gar, regardless of the pistol. I saw a man at a gun show ask a man who was selling magazines, if he had any Sig brand magazines for a P226. The seller told him that he had Mec-Gar magazines for it. The man got an attitude and told the seller, “I said Sig factory magazines.” What he did not understand and would not accept, was that Mec-Gar is the OEM for Sig.
    Another very good magazine company I have found, for HK VP9s, is XTech. I bought a bundle of 5, 17 round magazines for my VP9, and they function flawlessly. Their 21 round magazines work perfectly too. When I take that pistol to the range for the first time, I will test the spare mags for function as well.
    I usually put 5 rounds of defense ammo through it, before I shoot any range ammo. My thinking is, if I can shoot 147gr JHP rounds through it, straight from the box without any problems, there’s a good chance that it will function well after the pistol has had it’s preliminary break in session.
    I buy Kydex holsters for my carry guns. I have leather ones that I use too, but I usually use my Kydex holsters. It’s just my preference.

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