tacticool or practical
In todays' market there is no shortage of firearm accessories. If you want to mount a GPS on your AR15, you can find it and slap it on your rail. While some of these accessories are money well spent, others are just a foolish waste of money. Some accesories work for some weapons but not for others. Lets figure out what belongs and what does not. Tacticool or Practical?
THAT ONE GUY, AT THAT ONE RANGE, THAT ONE DAY
There are some local ranges near me that I frequent. As it were, I prefer to annihilate my pumpkins and spoiled melons in the great outdoors. One of my favorites is a local mountain range known as Burro Canyon. It is set among the hills and brush of what forest we have left in Los Angeles. Sure on any given Saturday there will be a few probationers present with their Glocks aimed sideways dumping buckets of ammo downrange at smog, but I like it here. Somehow amidst the cracking of guns and spent brass pounding the earth, I find it serene.
On this particular outing I was alone. I wasn't reviewing anything, neither did I have any task to accomplish, I was simply there for the love of shooting. I brought a few pistols to shoot, but I was really itching to shoot some clays. It is pretty hard to throw and shoot your own clays, so I looked around for a small group of semi-decent clay wreckers with a thrower. Mission accomplished, I approached and offered my box of clays and an ammo can full of 12 gauge shells if I could join the fun. Before I could wipe the sweat from my brow, I was welcomed to the firing line.
There is a strange and uncontrollable power surrounding the sport of shooting that connects people. Without your knowledge or consent, you are instantly bonded with those you are shooting with. Unequaled, it is an amazing power and one of my favorite things about the sport. Before long we were inspecting each others firearms, and mutually sharing the opportunity to fire each others weapons. As the day went on, my new best friends in the whole wide world, proceeded to pass me some rather strange weapon/accessory combinations. At the time, and to be respectful, I nodded, I smiled and indulged my new pals and their excitement to showcase their pride. All in all, it was a fun day at the range, and a day that I will not soon forget. This was not due to the sublime California weather or amount of targets I had destroyed that day, but rather, the lack of clarity and guidance I had just witnessed. When I walked away that day I was strangely enlightened, and a bit perplexed. I had just realized how unaware and misguided people are when it comes to firearms. My new friends had an array of weapons, but not a clue about the practical way to equip them. Instead of equipping their firearms to make the tools more useful, they had spent their hard earned coin on gimmicks. A bunch of tacticool accessories that disrupted the function of otherwise perfectly usable weapons.
The whole purpose for assembling this website was to educate people, which compels me to visit this subject. This brief was not intended to belittle or insult anyone. It is intended to enlighten and educate those that need guidance, because that is what friends do.
WHAT I SAW AND WHY IT WAS NOT PRACTICAL
Item 1: The knife at the gun fight.
The first tacticool accessory of mass destruction I witnessed was a bayonet attached to a perfectly functional Springfield XD. Let me attempt to find the reasoning for selecting this accessory.
The bayonet is needed because you failed to put a practical accessory such as a "tac-light" on the one single rail fused to your firearm, which will cause your shots to miss your attacker due to lack of light. Because the $3 a round 45ACP hollow points are useless when littered inside your neighbors walls, you have no means of defending yourself. This is were the nifty bayonet affixed to that rail really shines. As the attacker fires rounds at you, you can jump around and attempt to slice the bullets out of mid air like a failed scene from the matrix.
Come on folks. Never bring a knife to a gun fight! The rail on the bottom of your pistol is for a practical accessory. For a home defense pistol, a rail mounted tac-light is a good choice. A golden rule for shooting is "Never shoot anything if you don't know what it is." A light allows you to verify a possible threat. It also, offers the advantage of shining it in the assailants eyes. Even better, a strobe feature will not only blind, but slightly disorient a person. From behind the strobe, you can clearly see the target on the other end, again allowing you to verify if there is in fact a threat.
Yes there are some people whom remain "anti tac-light". Their claim is this. "The attacker will just shoot at the light". To that I say definitely maybe. I have (on many occasions) had a tac-light pointed at me in a low light situation. Whilst camping our team finds it quite amusing to carry them detached from their weapons, in their pockets and "light me up" whenever they want a good laugh. Every time it happens to me, my first instinct is to shield my eyes, not to shoot at it. The strobe is even worse! Don't believe me? Try it. Detach you tac-light and make it dark. Give about 4 or 5 minutes to let your eyes acclimate. Now when you are not expecting it, have someone shine it at you. $100 says you shield your eyes. Even better do as my team does, and light one of your buddies up. It's quite entertaining.
Another good option for small concealed carry firearms, is a red or green laser. When seconds count, finding a dot on a person is often faster than finding a sight picture on a small pistol. Many sub-compact pistols such as the Ruger LC9 or Sig P238 come laser-equipped from the factory.
Item 2: The 410 Dumpster Defender.
The second item of total tacticoolness was actually a combination of a few things.
What probably started out as a really cool double barrel 410 shotgun was chopped into a fast and furious useless piece of steel pipe. The stock had been removed and replaced with a tubular folding stock just like the one to the left. While I have no qualms with a fold-able stock or any stock that works for the shooter, this one had no recoil pad whatsoever. He had removed it because he didn't like the way it looked. When I pulled the makeshift stock against my shoulder and fired, the narrow tube nearly snapped my clavicle. It was stupid and useless. I told him he should use the recoil pad, but he assured me he had disposed of it.
The barrels had both been hacked to less than 16 inches, making it short and quick to action. While I suppose this would work for home defense, this was not the feature that baffled me. The bipod attached to the bottom did that. Yes, you heard me right! There was a bipod attached to the shotgun. I suppose if you live in a decent size dumpster and were attempting to snipe a peel bug on the other end, the bipod would prove handy, so I asked him what it was for. His reply was, "The ladies like it" - whatever that means.
Now I am a believer in bipods. They are an effective, lightweight, practical solution for when you need to reach out and touch someone. But, a bipod and a 16 inch shotgun is like monster tires on a helicopter. The tires are pretty useless since the helicopter can simply fly over the obstacle.
So how do I equip my shotgun? Well for a home defense shotgun, I would attach tac-light and an 18" barrel. If I were on S.W.A.T. I might opt for a door breach on the muzzle of my shotgun. That said, I am not, so for me this impractical. I would never use it, thus in my case, a waste of money.
For shooting trap or hunting, I like a longer barrel. 26 to 28 inches works well, some extra shells attached to the stock or elsewhere, and a fiber optic sight on the muzzle. If you have never used a fiber optic sight on your shotgun I would highly recommend it. Shooting trap is effortless, and slugs find targets with ease. I used to catch a lot of flack from old timers about the front sight on my shotguns.
"You don't need a sight on a shotgun young man."
They are correct, you do not NEED it, but it offers a huge advantage. If I were hunting, that sight could mean the difference between dinner or none. Regardless of how proficient I am, I will utilize a product if it offers me an advantage. Does using an optic on my shotgun make me a cheater? No. It works for me and makes me a better trap shooter. I am not to proud to admit it.
Item 3: The Squirrel Saviour.
Anyone who knows me, knows I am a huge fan of the .22LR and rifles such as the venerable Marlin Model 60/795. It is a legend and rightfully so. For about 150 bucks you can purchase a very accurate rifle and 525 chances to wack a squirrel. When properly equipped with a decent optic and bipod, the .22LR is a cheap and fun way to get trigger time. What's not to love?
After several mags with my Marlin, and impressed with the accuracy, my new buddy informed me that he had the same rifle, but could not get it sighted in. As any good person would, I offered to have a look. He returned from his truck with a rifle case. Out came the tacticool Marlin.
I didn't immediately recognize it as the Marlin I am so familiar with. This rifle was sporting some odd accessories. There was no bipod but it did have a similar stock to the 410 dumpster defender. It was fold-able and had a pistol grip for close quarters combat. This was a strange setup indeed considering the caliber of the rifle and size of the scope that rested atop. As I looked it over, I noticed it was a poorly made 8-24X50mm scope. That is a pretty large and heavy optic to hold steady with no bipod and fold-able stock. On a .308, .270 or the like, sure. But a 22LR? Personally I find a 4x scope to be perfectly suited for a .22LR. Anything more makes it shaky and difficult to find the small varmint. So why the fold-able stock? I suppose it could be useable, but the 22LR is NOT a close quarters gun, it is a plinker. Instead of shooting his rifle and trying to zero it, I opted to explain to him why he could not zero his rifle.
"Attempting to zero this rifle will be a lost cause. The stock is all wrong. It is loose and does not fit properly. The scope is to powerful for this rifle and impossible to steady with nothing to rest the rifle on. These clear 25 round mags will not feed reliably and just plain suck. What do you intend on using this rifle for?" - I asked.
"I bought it because it looked cool and the .22 ammo is cheap, but the piece of shit doesn't shoot straight. It never has since I bought it." - he responded.
Well he bought it, ummm...sort of... for the right reason, but he hated it because it did not function properly. If he tried to use this rifle for it's intended purpose, instead filling his mouth with squirrel soup, he would have curse words spewing out of it. This rifle was a squirrel's last chance to get out of Dodge City. What was clutched in my hands was a useless $350 turd. He did not have the original stock, he would need to purchase a new one that fit properly. The scope did more damage than good. Iron sights would have been exceptionally better, so it was a useless purchase as well. He did own a very functional bipod, but it was incorrectly attached to the wrong weapon. If only he had been better informed, I would not have witnessed this travesty. What was once a reliable, functional, Marlin 795, had been murdered.
The proper way to accessorize.
Tactics are the tools available to you to accomplish your strategy. Proper strategy and useful tactics can mean the difference between a well-executed plan and complete failure. The military has learned useful weapon tactics to accomplish their strategy giving soldiers an advantage. I can assure you the ACOG sights and grenade launchers used on military rifles are not used because the First Sergeant thought they looked cool. Each accessory has been chosen because it offered leverage. These weapon tactics improve the function and versatility of the rifle. If the strategy is clearing and destroying a bunker, grenade launchers attached to an AR15 make perfect sense. For that application, a grenade launcher is entirely practical and worth the extra weight and cost. Personally, I can not remember the last time I hurled a grenade at a buck or rabbit, so the added weight and expense of a grenade launcher on my 270 deer rifle, is just plain stupid.
The proper way to outfit any firearm, is to use equipment designed for the enviornment it will be used in. A light on the rail of a home defense pistol, a red dot on an AR15, a scope on a deer rifle. These weapon tactics work to improve the performance of the weapon, and offer advantage to the shooter. In a gun fight, I will use tactics that will help me win. Larger magazines, longer barrel, 5 hour energy. In a hunt, I will tactics that will help me eat. Great optics, camouflage, duct tape to shut up a noisy hunter. These are practical.
Let's face it, your firearms are exactly that. Your firearms. Everyone is free to do whatever makes them happy. If you want to spend 80 bucks on a pistol bayonet, go for it! If you want a grenade launcher on the bottom of your deer rifle, do it! But, if you learn anything from this article, learn this. Do not ever change anything on any firearm that will compromise the reliability, accuracy or function it was intended for. Spend money on tactical tools that will improve the function, accuracy or reliability. If you can improve any of those three things, you have spent your money wisely and gained an advantage. When you purchase worthless tacticool gimmicks, you are squandering money and gaining nothing. Without knowing it, you may be compromising the accuracy, integrity and function of your firearm. If you have 40 bucks burning a hole in your pocket, skip the tacticool bayonet bling and buy some ammo. Practice will prove to be your most practical accessory. You can bet your life on it.
- Jeff | ballistics101
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