My Unpopular Opinion: Don’t Customize Your Gun

By Ryan Domke
Posted in #Skills
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My Unpopular Opinion:
Don’t Customize Your Gun

May 14th, 2023

6 minute read

I, like many others, have been known to customize a firearm or two. From replacing internal components to adding accessories and even getting custom Cerakote work done, I’ve done just about it all. Those firearms are few and far between in my collection, though, with the overwhelming majority of them staying very close to how they came out of the box.

do not customize your duty gun
Customizing your firearm can be a great option. However, there could be some reasons why you might want to keep your gun unmodified.

In fact, I’ve come to the personal conclusion that there are plenty of reasons why you may want to keep your gun “stock”, or at least close to it. So here is my unpopular opinion … you don’t need a Gucci gun.

Big Dollars, Small Items

Many times, the customization and addition of accessories will run you more than the upfront cost of the gun. I’ll usually add an optic because of its obvious benefits. But let’s say you wind up also replacing the furniture and sights as well with it, and you can quickly find yourself with a very high price tag.

stock ar-15 rifle
When you buy a high-quality firearm, modifications may introduce problems you had not anticipated. Pick customizations carefully and thoroughly test them on the range.

In regard to the accessory side of the discussion, I completely understand that when you find something you like, you stick with it. But, at what point is it worth it to simply buy a better and more upgraded gun? For example, rifles like the SAINT series (offered in three “levels” from the SAINT, to the SAINT Victor to the SAINT Edge I have myself) are designed to offer you just about everything you need right out of the box.

Then, consider replacing select internal components. If you feel an actual need to replace internals, let’s say the trigger, for the gun to be accurate or reliable, it’s probably not the best gun. Many of us choose to upgrade parts, but I wouldn’t buy a gun that I felt I had to. You should be able to run your gun completely stock, proficiently and without issue(s).

Legal Concerns

Look, I’m no lawyer, nor to do I claim to be one. But, in the event you ever had to use your gun in a defensive scenario and wind up in front of a court of your peers (or lack of peers!), that ultra-lightweight trigger kit you installed and the Punisher skull you had engraved on the grip can cause instant assumptions to be made. Unfortunately, certain changes to your gun can potentially change an outsider’s perception of you, too.

custom parts for rifle
Accessories like ambidextrous charging handles and forward grips can provide benefits like an improved ability to run the gun.

It’s not only peoples’ opinions you need to worry about, either. The laws and regulations regarding firearms, accessories and parts vary from state to state, and even county to county. The obvious example is good ol’ California. You know that brand new Magpul pistol grip you added last week? Changing out that part can get you in serious legal trouble. Be sure to understand all the local, state and federal laws that may apply to your gun and any changes you make.

Custom Problems 

There are some tried-and-true aftermarket parts and accessories out there, but if they are installed even slightly incorrectly, they can cause some serious issues with your gun.

metal sights on ar-15
Sight systems are a must on any firearm. Fortunately, a wide variety of options are available that make it easy to find something that works for your needs.

The more that you replace or modify, the greater the chance something can go wrong. And that’s only referring to pre-fabricated and readily available parts. Once you start getting into truly custom parts that your neighbor’s best friend makes in his garage, multiply those potential issues.

My First AR

Let me take you many years back when I purchased my first AR-15 (not a Springfield rifle, but I wish that it had been). I put aside a few hundred dollars for what I thought at the time was a good entry-level AR. Now, remember, prices were different before certain political or economic events. That same gun today retails for nearly twice as much, but I digress.

ambi safety on ar-15
An ambidextrous safety, like this one on a SAINT Edge rifle, can improve your ability to run the gun no matter which shoulder you are shooting from.

While that AR was a solid entry-level option in the basic sense, it caught me off-guard in two of the three above-mentioned headache categories. Ultimately, I wound up dumping way too much money into it.

Granted some of it was by choice, but I also wound up causing an issue that wouldn’t have been present if I wasn’t modifying it. Friendly reminder … don’t be embarrassed to ask for help or take your firearm to a gunsmith if you’re unsure of how to do something.

My Current AR

I’m not a competition shooter, but I do get out to the range frequently and am continuously working on improving my skills and learning as much as I can. So, when I was looking to upgrade my old AR-15 and get something new, I decided to go with one that I wouldn’t have to continuously upgrade or do any custom work to.

testing gear at the range
Always test the gun with your customizations before relying on it in a competition or for self-defense. Find and work out any issues early.

After many hours researching online, I wound up going with the SAINT Edge from Springfield. Why did I choose the Edge? It’s simple. With the enhanced internals and upgraded furniture that it comes with straight from the factory, it performs and feels like a custom-built AR. I knew all I would likely need to do was add an optic.

It has a modular match-grade trigger … so I didn’t need to drop in a new trigger. It has a free-floating handguard and upgraded Bravo Company furniture … so I didn’t have to add a couple of hundred dollars in furniture to the order. It features the Accu-Tite Tension System and adjustable gas block, both of which help maximize performance without having to search the market for new parts to do so.

ar-15 at range for testing
The author’s SAINT Edge is completely stock, with the sole exception being the addition of the Holosun AEMS sight.

These are just a few reasons why I chose the Edge, but I think you get the picture. I didn’t have to worry about removing/installing anything, I didn’t have to worry about spending a ton of extra money on top of the rifle itself and, finally, I could rest easy knowing that everything was put together correctly and tested prior to it getting into my hands.

Final Thoughts

I’m not trying to convince anyone to not customize their gun. There isn’t a “one size fits all” approach that will suit everyone’s needs, so do what you feel is best. What I am saying, though, is that there shouldn’t be a need to customize them.

When you purchase a gun that already has the type of quality parts you are looking for and is assembled, boxed and shipped to your local FFL, you can potentially save time, headaches and even money in some cases.

Next time you’re looking at picking up one of “those” guns you already know you’ll be replacing the trigger, sights, barrel, etc. on, think twice about if there is an easier and more cost-effective route in the long run to go!

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Springfield Armory® recommends you seek qualified and competent training from a certified instructor prior to handling any firearm and be sure to read your owner’s manual. These articles and videos are considered to be suggestions and not recommendations from Springfield Armory. The views and opinions expressed on this website are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Springfield Armory.

Product prices mentioned in articles and videos are current as of the date of publication.

Ryan Domke

Ryan Domke

A freelance writer, photographer and social media consultant, Ryan Domke is a shooter with a passion for both guns and tactical gear. He has a commitment to learning as much as he can about firearms and sharing that knowledge with the firearms community.

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