The alternate title of this post being “stop putting crap all over your gun“.  We all point and laugh at Rooney Guns and the people that dress their ARs up with rails stacked on rails on lights and other shenanigans, and it’s good to do that.  The problem is that it’s also easy to obviously tell what a Rooney gun is, but it’s much harder to tell when you have “too much stuff” on your gun.

A wise woman (not a wise Latina) once said to me that “you take stuff off a gun to make it more reliable”, meaning that it’s generally foolishness to clutter up your pistol, rifle, or shotgun with all manner of unnecessary gadgetry.  Unless your guns are set up for specific tasks that require specific gear, such as an Open Division 3-gun shotgun, the simpler your can keep your set-up the better off you’ll be.  My personal set up is a pistol for every day carry, and a long gun for home defense.  Your mileage may vary, but here’s what the guns I use every day have on them.

  • Pistol: night sights and Crimson Trace Laser.  No “reliability package” work from the gunsmith, no light triggers, no silly gimmick sights.
  • Shotgun: A flashlight.  That’s it.  Still has the wood furniture.
  • Carbine: a Magpul sling and a Crimson Trace Light/Laser foregrip.

This set up may or may not work for you.  Some people may want an optic on their rifle or shotgun, and that’s fine; keep in mind that optics break and some require batteries.  If I put less stuff on my gun, I get a lot of benefits.  The primary benefit is that there is less stuff to break, and let’s face it – stuff breaks.  The second benefit is that my guns are lighter, which means they’re easier to manuever around, and also means I’m more likely to shoot them in practice.  The third benefit is that because I’m not spending money on all kinds of accessories, I get to spend more money on actually shooting my guns and increasing proficiency.

Remember though – the gear listed above is my set-up that works for my needs.  I’m not engaging targets at 300 yards with my carbine; in the worst case scenario I’m hunkered down behind my bed with it yelling at the 911 operator to “get the cops here so I don’t have to plug this guy” while the alarm howls in the background.  Although, there is one other reason I tend to eschew optics on fighting guns – anything I can do with iron sights I can do with an optic, but not vice versa.  If I can shoot fast and accurate with an iron sighted rifle, carbine, or shotgun, I know that if I need to shoot fast and accurately with an optically sighted gun I’ll be able to do it.

Keep your guns simple, and spend that money on ammo and quality training – you will not regret the decision.


  1. Someone said “sometimes less is more” and in my opinion that’s true when it comes to firearms. Most people’s money would be better spent on ammo for more practice shooting at the range than on the latest gadgets. I’ve found most guns work just fine right out of the box.


  2. Less/More doesn’t really matter. And added stuff, at list on primary weapons, doesn’t really change it’s reliability. THE MISSION DRIVES THE GEAR. I know a lot of guys shipping to ASTAN are taking two PO optics with them (Aimpoint/M68, and ACOG) since there is likelihood in theater of needing to switch. OK, great. Sling? VFG? handstop? Bipod? Stock? Light? PEQ? All mission driven. For FISHing/MOUT, maybe just light, non-magnified optic. But I also know that my rifle deployments today will likely be from car or house. Either way, I’m likely getting just the ammo on the gun. So I add a REDI-MOD and BAD. The mission requirement for me being to maximize my ammo, with no way to carry it on my person.

    And not taking advantage of the tactical advantages that things like non-parallax optics just to be minimalist is silly. I’ve never seen my aimpoint or Surefire G2 flashlight stop my Colts or Noveske from working, or anyone else’s.

    So again, Less ISN’T more unless your requirements are “less” (weight maybe?).

  3. I absolutely agree that the mission drives the gear – but I’m not really writing this for soldiers and LE. This is for Johnny Six-Pack that bought an AR because it’s cool and will probably shoot it 6 times a year, but instead of spending money on ammo and training is spending his hard earned cash on silly accessories that don’t make him a better shooter.

  4. Caleb,

    True dat. A lot of silly stuff out there. I think even more to your point about training is the old saying: “Amateurs talk hardware, professionals talk software.” While I still like talking hardware (hey, I’m an armorer, and I love working on guns), software (training, mindset, whatever) wins fights.

  5. Most of us are not going to be in combat. The guys who are should be provided everything their missions might call for.

    The rest of us can usually make do with the basics. A sling, either the one that comes with the gun or an upgraded after market sling. Most run under $50.

    Depending on what type of shooting we are doing an optic is nice. But common sense has to come into play. You might get more benefit out of that $600+/- Aimpoint mounted on a S&W M&P 15-22LR that’s fired a few thousand times a year than on that AR that has a few hundred rounds at best fired annually.

    Lights are nice on personal defense guns, but otherwise only add weight.

    I thoroughly enjoy tinkering with guns, but you don’t have to have every gadget or be the world greatest shot to get out there with your gun and have some fun.


  6. I admit I tried to mount a red-dot on my Mossberg 590. The mount couldn’t stand up to the recoil and shook lose.
    So, I’ll just have to make due with the side saddle, surefire light, and the bayonet… and the 19 rounds of ammo on board.

  7. Amen Caleb. I got my first AR in January and I elected to keep it simple. M4 carbine style, iron sights (detachable carry handle so that if I ever do get the bug to put optics on it I can), and the only upgrade I did to it was a 1 1/4 nylon sling.

  8. @Noops: uh … could you please explain all the acronyms you just used? Thanks! 😀

  9. I think you can make a good argument for swapping out the original furniture for an adjustable stock. It is nice to have a firearm that can be easily used by any member of the family regardless of their size.

    I think a side saddle makes sense for shotguns. And if the shotgun comes with a bead sight I think it’d benefit from putting some sort of rifle-style sights on there too.

    Finally, I can see putting a light on some handguns. If your primary “bump in the night gun” on the nightstand is a handgun (and not a carbine/shotgun) then it makes sense to put a surefire on it. Many new pistols come with a rail for just that purpose.

    Good philosophy, though!

  10. That’s the thing, that this is a philosophy – my set up for my combat guns is just that: my set up. The point is to get shooters to take a hard look at the gear on their guns to evaluate whether or not that gear is making you a better shooter, or if it’s a crutch to hide weaknesses in your skills.

    Ideally, before you buy a $400 piece of gear to hang on your AR or pistol, look good and hard at that gear and ask yourself “would the money I’m about to spend on this be better spent on training/ammo/shooting more?”

  11. Good post, Caleb! Although I do still insist that when you get older, “gimmick” sights will become increasingly less gimmicky. Most of my self-defense guns have some limied level of trigger work, but never a reduction in trigger pull…I don’t care about trigger pull weight, only smoothness. If the guns needs a “reliability package” from a gunsmith, it never goes into service as a carry/self-defense gun. As much as I love ARs, the self-defense carbine is an out-of-the-box Marlin 1894 Cowboy in .44 Magnum (my Sweetie is a cowboy action shooter, and I subscribe to the “highest common denominator” theory of weaponscraft — all primary self-defense guns need to be readily operable by all potential users. She practices weekly with her cowboy rifle and deadly with it. Net time I take the Marlin out of service, I’ll fit a light to it. Same strategy on shotguns.

    BTW, any thoughts on how I might best cover the BIANCHI CUP this year? I’nm probably going to do it again for SHOOTING GALLERY, and I’m open to suggestions…

    Michael B

  12. SimonTheTall, from NoopsTheShort: Sorry about that

    FISH(FISHing); Fighting in Someone’s House
    MOUT: Military Operations on Urban Terrain
    M68: Actually the M68CCO: Currently a standard issue Close Combat Optic (CCO) for various branches/units.
    ACOG: Advanced Combat Optical Gunsite: Another optic. This one is magnified.
    VFG: Vertical ForeGrip
    PEQ: Target Pointer/Illuminator/Aiming Light
    REDI-MOD: A device that allows you to store an extra magazine on your rifle.
    BAD lever: A device made by magpul allowing bolt catch operations with firing hand

  13. I’m considering buying a light to hang on the rail of my bedside gun just so I don’t have to fumble for 2 items in the dark. But – I don’t have a light switch handy to the bed; and I don’t carry that gun.

  14. Optics break, but I’ve accepted that I’ll never make Rifleman at an Appleseed without magnifying optics, because I literally cannot see the targets beyond 200 yards without help. Thus I believe I’ll have to trade simplicity for capability–and I take your essay to mean that’s the trade that should always be demanded. Adding complexity without adding capability or correcting a specific, known deficiency is analogous to making a bet with a potential loss and no potential return.

    1. That is 100% correct. Mission driven accessories are fine, my beef lies strictly in adding stuff to the gun that doesn’t correct a flaw.

Comments are closed.