Customizing your gun goes way beyond tacking on the latest accessories – rather, personalizing your favorite handgun, rifle or shotgun should increase its reliability, accuracy and functionality. You’ve undoubtedly seen ads for the latest, highly-customized AR-15’s, tactical Glock pistols or survivalist-designed pump-action 12-gauges, but there’s more to customizing a gun than simply replicating the look of some of these art-house gun specials.

We’ll divide this discussion up into three distinct groups – handguns, tactical rifles and shotguns. We’ll focus on some of the most popular and valuable customization opportunities for each weapon type.

Handguns

Customized Glock

While most modern handgun manufacturers do a pretty fantastic job at designing and building highly-usable, reliable, and aesthetically pleasing guns, these companies are also in the business of building weapons that must offer mainstream appeal. That said, there are a few key areas that you can customize on your handgun to make it more usable and attractive:

Grips

This is an inexpensive yet valuable addition to nearly any handgun. Unless the stock grips fit your hands perfectly, you may find that aftermarket grips offer significantly more control, a more durable finish, and they may enhance your overall accuracy due to the enhanced control. Materials like solvent-resistant rubber and G10 are both prized for their durability and comfort.

Sights

Most factory sights are passable – and some are actually quite good, but an upgrade to sights like the Hi-Viz brand (high visibility) or tritium night sights may help you acquire a proper sight picture more quickly than stock sights.

Hard-coatings

Handguns, especially those that are used for concealed carry, take a lot of abuse during the course of their lifetime. Special hard-coat finishes can be applied that dramatically reduce the scratched, scuffs, and wear patterns that are inherent to frequent handgun use.

Tactical Rifles

ar-15 with upgrades

The ubiquitous AR platform lends itself quite well to the skilled hands of a gunsmith. There are so many after market accessories available today that the AR-15 has become something of an expression of the individual user’s tastes. Some of the most popular custom accessories that can improve the handling and looks of an AR-15 are:

Upgraded Handguard

The high rate of fire and light barrel contour of a stock AR-15 can cause heat to literally bake the user’s hands in no time. A free-floating handguard will help heat escape, as well as provide a more usable gripping surface. The ability to add Picatinny rails delivers multiple mounting points for a variety of accessories like lights, lasers, fore grips, and more.

Custom Stock

The standard AR-15 fixed stock is pretty basic. Upgrading to a collapsible stock with an integral cheekpiece will improve the looks, handling, and functionality of the rifle. You’ll enjoy a much better sight picture with the higher cheek positioning afforded by most aftermarket stocks.

Sights

The standard AR-15 sights (especially the fixed sights, versus the folding units) are not designed for precision work. Upgrading your sights to an ACOG scope, EOTech holographic sight, or any other top quality sight will do wonders for your accuracy and target acquisition times.

Shotguns

Semi-automatic combat shotgun

The venerable pump-action shotgun is the perfect platform for customization, as it is inexpensive to purchase, highly reliable, and receives modifications well:

Recoil Absorbing Stock or Pistol Grip Stock

A good recoil pad, spring action, recoil-reducing stock, or pistol grip stock can all help reduce the significant recoil of the standard 12-gauge shotgun. They make these guns much more fun to shoot, and can eliminate much of the flinching and hesitancy in firing one of these powerful defense weapons.

Extended Mag Tube and Breaching Barrel

Sure, increasing capacity is important for defensive situations, but the comfort of knowing that you’ve got up to nine, 12-gauge shells in the tube for any reason is reassuring. The breaching barrel adds a serrated and reinforced end cap that can help slam open doors and acts as a stabilizing element when firing breaching rounds. Plus, it makes any shotgun look incredible.

Sights

Most shotguns come with a simple bead sight that does little more than provide a point of reference. Adding ghost-ring sights, a laser or holographic sight, or a low power (or no power) scope can help you put more pellets on target in any situation.

Customizing your gun doesn’t have to cost a fortune, and the payback is often seen as increased accuracy, better control over the gun, a more comfortable shooting experience, and a sleeker look. Whether you’re looking to personalize your handgun, tactical rifle, or shotgun, you’ll find hundreds of aftermarket parts and accessories on the market today to fully customize your favorite weapons.