How do you feel about aftermarket replacement parts and modifications for firearms?
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Thread: How do you feel about aftermarket replacement parts and modifications for firearms?

  1. #1
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    Question How do you feel about aftermarket replacement parts and modifications for firearms?

    We interrupt your regularly scheduled news threads regarding which retailer is siding with anti-gunners and recent shootings to bring you an actual discussion that isn't about drama. (If you don't like it, feel free to exit the thread immediately and resume posting about retailers PR campaigns and who shot who.)

    In the past I was never really into aftermarket modifications to firearms because my interests were more geared towards utility than anything else and as such I couldn't care less about how good of a trigger my gun has as long as it works reliably enough to save my life should the need arise. Now in many ways that hasn't really changed, I'm still more concerned with functionality than overall performance or comfort, but I've at least dropped in on threads regarding modifications and explored the concept of modifications to improve firearms for more practical reasons like extending the service life with the installation of more robust aftermarket parts or making the firearm easier to aim/hit with through the installation of high visibility sights.
    However, in a rather unfortunate turn of events, I find myself growing steadily less interested in aftermarket modifications than ever before due to the sheer number of instances I've seen of firearms actually becoming LESS reliable after installation of aftermarket parts, and I'm not talking about Bubba's kitchen gunsmithing going horribly awry here either, I'm talking about simple drop in parts made by reputable manufacturers which are supposed to be helpful ending up completely detrimental.

    Lately I've seen a concerning amount of threads in which a firearm which is generally known for its reliability becomes a complete "jam-o-matic" after the installation of a simple drop-in part like a guide rod, recoil spring, or barrel. Worse yet is that on the occasion in which I've followed these threads, I've witnessed the ever more concerning trend of the manufacturers of these aftermarket parts providing absolutely horrible customer service, often due to their own arrogance and inability to accept that every little part they manufacture might not be perfect, or even as universally compatible as they advertise them to be. To avoid any unnecessary drama here, I'm going to avoid naming names here, but I keep seeing the names of otherwise well respected and highly praised manufacturers come up in these threads as well.

    Due to the proliferation of these threads, I have seen a growing sentiment arise in their wake that perhaps these aftermarket modifications aren't necessarily at all to begin with, with those who have been burned first by the dip in reliability they've experienced after they installed said modifications and again when the manufacturers got uppity with them for daring to contact them with the issue implying that their parts may be to blame questioning why they ever felt the need to augment what was previously a 100% reliable firearm.
    As much as I tend to value first-hand experience over all else, I must admit that such reports as well as the growing sentiment which has arisen in their wake has gotten me to thinking along the same lines. Like many others, I have followed the conventional wisdom that is; "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." but I have also been guilty of seeking to improve upon something that already works just fine, nitpicking otherwise negligible flaws in the process. Now I can't help but wonder if in many cases the most that aftermarket modifications offer is a solution in search of a problem. The aftermarket Stainless Steel guide rods to replace the factory polymer guide rods which have no reputation for failure, the aftermarket recoil springs to soften felt recoil and extend the service life of a firearm which isn't known for having harsh recoil nor lacking durability, the aftermarket match-grade barrel with polished feed ramp offered as a replacement to a factory barrel which is neither inaccurate nor prone to malfunction. Are any of these things actually necessary? Do the benefits they claim to offer justify the cost in cases in which they actually function perfectly?

    What do you think?
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  2. #2

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    "Are any of these things actually necessary?" No. If it's absolutely necessary, the firearm is defective. But a lot of them are very worthwhile improvements.

    "Do the benefits they claim to offer justify the cost in cases in which they actually function perfectly?" Depends. I've installed a couple of extended thumb safeties on 1911s. They were not drop in, but they function perfectly and I'm very, very satisfied with the addition.

    I will say I see what you're talking about regarding modifications though. There's a lot of "I"m installing this because the stock part might not be flawless at 25,000 rounds. Lots of people wondered about the polymer mainspring housing on my Colt 1991 when they were first introduced. Mine has been flawless. And I'm sure there were folks that decided to change it, did it themselves, and bent a spring or dinged the metal around the retaining pin.

    So I guess the fundamental answer to your question is "sometimes it's worthwhile, sometimes it's not." Remember, you heard it here first.
    olfarhors likes this.
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  3. #3
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    In some cases aftermarket parts can make improvements. I changed out a Glock barrel for a Lonewolf. The advantage was using cast bullets. Glock is 1:10" where the Lonewolf is 1:16" which is more suitable for cast bullets in a 9mm.

    Volquartsen insides in my MKIII .22/.45

    I encourage people to put better sights on. Aftermarket sights are great in most cases.

    The only guide rods I've replaced was in a Glock after the plastic one broke, and some 1911 rods with Tungsten rods for steel plate shooting, but only on the .45's.

    None of my AR's have a GI trigger. They are all geared around hunting or long range. On my two Glocks, I only changed out the connector with GLock's 5.5.

    On anything I have for self defense, only sight replacements for me to see them better.

    On anything I have CZ, only sights. Witness, springs so my brass could be found.

    Remington 700's have Rifle Basic triggers. Some pump guns have Carson's mag extensions.

    So I do use some aftermarket parts, and some magazines like Mecgar.

    So I understand where you are coming from. I only do modest changes to make things better for me for the most part.


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  5. #4
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    I see a good deal of the aftermarket parts fall into 1 of 2 categories. 1 - they are direct replacement parts that do not alter the fundamental design, and 2 - they are modified parts designed to improve an aspect which does change the fundamental design. Since I make my own grips, I am technically a manufacturer of aftermarket parts. Grips are a grey area which fall in-between the 2 categories. The do not really change the fundamental design but they also modify an aspect. If you look at the current Glock and AR markets, it's a combination of the 2 and those parts that do attempt to improve of an aspect are often detrimental to the reliability and performance. Changing a pistol grip or handguard doesn't impact the functionality of the mechanical interface; changing a barrel, BCG or FCG absolutely does. If we shift things to look at cosmetic changes vs functional changes, I don't believe the cosmetic changes cause any harm. Once you start dickering around with the internals, you deviate from the original design and are asking for problems down the road. The internals are designed the way they are for a reason. There's usually years of R&D that went into the how's and why's and some schmoe doesn't invest that much effort into their redesigns. This is why they fail. I can completely redesign a trigger and fire control group for my AR and work out all the kinks and it'll perform flawlessly in my AR. The minute I market it I will guarantee you that some kitchen table smith will find a way to get it not to work. My failing is that I designed it for MY specific application for use on MY specific firearm. I didn't put in the R&D to verify it will work with ever possible variation of AR ever made. I do not account for some idiot thinking they can just drop it in to their franken AR and expect it to work flawlessly. This is why things like guide rods and springs and triggers have high failure rates. It's not just the failure to test in every make and model but also neglects the average user is not a fully qualified gunsmith with decades of experience on that platform.
    Tuco_Ramírez likes this.
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    Like Tuco, I’m not really a trigger connoisseur - if it goes “bang” it is functional. I often do a double take when someone says they want to buy “such-and-such” brand firearm so they can swap out the stock part for an aftermarket brand.

    Really? Why? I’m thinking that most pro shooters have their gun custom built for their particular competitive shooting stage. I doubt Jerry Miculek does his own custom cylinder timing or porting.

    My own experience is I haven’t run into a gun problem that I could peg any faults on the gun but I sure found out that Wilson Combat 9mm 1911 mags won’t run in a Springfield 9mm RO Compact. They don’t share the same geometry as the OEM mags and interfere with the slide stop function. I did re-do a RIA Commander once b/c it came stock with the mil-spec hammer and grip safety. It bit the heck out of my hand with each shot. I installed a WC wide beavertail grip safety, Combat hammer and a new hammer strut. Fortunately they were true drop in parts and required no tooling or adjustments. I went ahead and installed a pair of CT laser grips b/c I couldn’t see with the mil-spec sights.

    Anyone know how an aftermarket modification would play in court? Say you defend yourself with a gun you have changed out the fire control module in; does that particular modification make it more lethal? It is often argued that use of self reloaded ammo is considered a no-no; how ‘bout that 40 S&W you swapped a barrel for one in 357 Sig? That a problem?

    Dunno but I still like to see the various reasons listed for why folks do the aftermarket mods for.
    Tuco_Ramírez likes this.
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  7. #6
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    I have a Glock Mod 22 40 cal ARkansas Highway Patrol the trigger was terrible so I changed it out for an updated trigger I can't remember the make but it made a world of difference in the pull and accuracy in fact it is like a totally different pistol
    i would like to find a aftermarket hammer for it though
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    When you carry a gun the bottom-line question you should ask yourself is, how will it function if I get into a gunfight? I look at modifications as gaining a potential advantage in that situation. Anything that gives me an edge in a life-or-death situation deserves a look. And if found that it does provide that advantage, it should be installed. Modifications done because they are trendy or glamorous should be critically examined to insure they don't have the opposite effect.

    Be ready to justify the rationale for your modifications. As someone posted above, they should have been done to make the weapon more lethal. More accurate. To give you that edge that may have resulted in your being in a courtroom instead of a morgue. Detail how each item contributed to the end result. The only drawback to weapons modifications, and it's a most powerful one, is if a modification caused the weapon to fire when you didn't intend it. That's why you have to verify the efficacy of the installation. Look no further than the Taurus recall to see how something like this can end up.
    pegasus likes this.
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    Aftermarket parts are a mixed bunch for sure. It also depends on your own personal experience. How many times out of the thousands of parts rgat were unstalled did you hear someone complain about it working perfectly? You have to remember the information is already biased towards the failures. Recalls on cars are the same way, this one fails, that one fails, but those are two examples out of 50k that were built and run perfectly.
    I agree that replacing some parts "just becauae it might fail" is a very slippery slope. I tend to atick with factory unless i get a personal advantage from the product in question. I.e. i replaced the stock on my Mossberg 500 for the Magpul version. Was there anything wrong with the factory stock? No, but the Magpul aftermarket feels more comfortable for me with the angle of the pistol grip and the longer length of pull i can get.

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  10. #9
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    Do they improve the functionality? Ergonomics? Handling? Accuracy? Safety?

    If the answer is yes to any of the above, then go for it. External parts like grip panels, pin sets, grip screws, ... can improve the cosmetic appearance and, if they don't interfere with functionality, safety,...
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    I think it all depends on exactly what you want the gun to do as in my case I've bought a decent over the counter target rifle it was actually a hammer forged bull barrel Ruger 10/22 and the trigger still sucked even though it was an upgrade from the Baseline so if an aftermarket trigger I improve my groups enlightened the trigger pull making it more accurate whether it's more or less reliable I don't know but it's just a bench Queen so doesn't matter...
    If it were self defense weapon such as one of my carry guns I wouldn't touch a thing if it works perfectly on its own other than maybe sights...
    And things like grips if they make the gun more comfortable and more positive grip in your hand that could actually be an increase in safety accuracy and or reliability but again it's up to the person the quality of the parts the installation and what you plan to do with a firearm I'm all for upgrading and aftermarket parts but I do understand that not necessarily do they make the gun better or more reliable in certain situations


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