The Proper Order

by Braxton Taylor

Like a lot of you, I grew up reading articles and books by that grand old man of sixgunning, Elmer Keith, and one of the things that I enjoyed most was seeing photos of his engraved handguns with their carved ivory stocks. Probably my favorites were his Colt single action and his engraved 4-inch Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum.

Interestingly, Keith was a practical man. As a general rule, he didn’t order engraved guns with fancy stocks. What he did was tinker with a gun, shoot it a lot, and then, when he decided that it was an exceptional handgun worthy of embellishment, he fancied it up. He had certain guns engraved and fitted with fancy stocks because they were exceptional shooters. Therein lies the lesson.

Today I see social media posts from people who have just gotten new guns.  From their comments, it is clear in many cases that they haven’t even shot it yet. However, they are asking for advice about what sights, or stocks, or other accessories they ought to put on it. It’s as if they think that these untried accessories will make the gun shoot better or make them a better shot.  The fact is they’ve put the cart before the horse and really need to put the whole process in the proper order.

The first order of business when acquiring a new gun is to shoot it, and shoot it a lot. In this manner, one gets the idea if this particular gun is reliable enough to carry for personal defense and if it truly suits the individual shooter. Ideally, this is done without spending any more money than is absolutely necessary. It is a subjective thing, and the shooter really needs to know if a particular gun really fits him or her, or not. 

Then, and only then, should the armed citizen decide if an action job is needed. They may also consider replacing the sights with after-market sights that can be picked up more quickly and easily. And, now that the gun is a keeper, they might consider putting different stocks on the pistol to make it fit better in the hand. In short, aftermarket accessories should be put on the gun only when the shooter has a good idea that they will improve performance. 

Adding accessories or making alterations to a defensive handgun to make it look cool should be way down at the bottom of the list, if it is even on the list at all. It is an excellent idea to remember that in personal defense it is not about what you carry but rather what you can do with it. Alterations and accessories should only be added with that in mind.

None of us want to be standing around your coffin saying, “…yeah, but he sure had a cool looking gun.”

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