Side Benefits

Added Value From Handgun Modifications

Shield red dot optic, laser element of the TLR-8 light on
Springfield Hellcat Pro perform different tasks.

When night sights started to become popular decades ago, their obvious purpose was to get good hits when there was enough light to identify a deadly threat but not enough to get a perfect post-in-notch sight picture. Over the years, I never did have to align the three glowing dots on a living target — but I was darn glad to have them during night shooting training.

More to the point of this column, though, I discovered a more-frequent use for those Tritium sight globes. From the 1970s on, I traveled a lot to do research, teach and testify and there were years when I spent more nights in hotel beds than in my own. I discovered when you wake up in the dark, suddenly in a strange place, and really, really want to know where your sidearm is, those glowing green dots were like airstrip landing lights guiding your hand to where it needed to go.

Let’s look at some other unexpected bonuses you might get from certain additions to your handguns.

Note how flared mag well attachment slightly raises XD(m) off resting surface, which makes it faster to grab from there.

Flared mag well on 9mm XD(m) on left, stock configuration on right: This accessory does more than just make reloads faster.

The Flared Magazine Well

In late 2022 a discussion thread appeared at on the topic of flared magazine wells on home defense pistols. It devolved into a lot of “if you can’t do it with six, you can’t do it at all”-type of arguments. I chimed in as follows.

“1.) There are a lot of households out there where one spouse wants a loaded gun available and the other hates the idea, so the compromise they come to is a gun, but unloaded. This guarantees that if actually needed, the gun WILL have to be loaded, very likely in nervous, shaky hands. The flared magazine well on the home defense pistol will clearly be an asset here.

2.) In storage as opposed to home carry, the home defense gun is generally lying on its side in a drawer, box, quick-release gun safe, etc. Digging the fingers between the grip and the underlying hard surface is slow and fumble-prone. An oversize flared magazine well lifts the side of the pistol allowing a much faster, surer grasp of the handgun. We have found this to be true in USPSA matches, and in IDPA where a stage often begins with the gun in the drawer of prop furniture or on the ground as if knocked from the defender’s hands; the latter is also one stage of the popular Hackathorn Standards.

3.) If using an oversize flared magazine well, it is essential the mags to be inserted have extended or padded bottoms to guarantee full, positive insertion!”

The green line from the TLR-8 laser illustrates the “angry smear” on the
target master instructor Tim Chandler uses to explain red dot optic use to students.

Crimson Trace LaserGrips, as Mas illustrates with a J-Frame on
this Panteao training vid, have more uses than just night shooting.

Laser Sights and Red Dots

When laser sights came out, we quickly learned they weren’t just good in the dark and in situations where you couldn’t bring the gun to line of sight, they were also good for teaching. The instructor could demonstrate “wobble zone” and the effect of a jerked trigger safely in classroom or range settings. Students could then “follow the bouncing ball” and quickly get feedback from his or her own trigger pulling and correct errors. Red dot optics showed the shooter’s eyes the same thing, in dry fire and particularly live fire: good for teaching and learning, not just shooting and hitting.

But wouldn’t a red dot optic and a laser sight combined be confusing and unnecessarily redundant? Not necessarily. On the excellent gun forum, Tim Chandler explained how one could help teach the other.

“In class I’ll use the description of a ‘stable dot,’ a ‘settled dot’ and then the ‘angry smear.’ These descriptions in and of themselves are worthless if you try to explain it using more words. They work great, however, when you pair them up with a visible laser. Using a visible laser literally projects a dot on the target that I can use to show exactly what I mean, exactly how much movement the dot has on target while still allowing the hit, and exactly how to call shots and what various tracks the dot takes during recoil mean. This is as close as I can get to having them behind my gun to see what I see when shooting it. When they can see a dot moving around on the target doing all the stuff you are describing as you are doing it, they tend to pick up those aspects of it real quick.”

I’ve seen Tim Chandler teach and coach, and he’s awesome. If you’d like to train with him you can reach out to him through

They call it “out of the box thinking” today. In a lot of ways, a lot of products that were designed to enhance one element of performance can turn out to adapt to additional useful purposes. True of a lot of things … and certainly true in the world of the handgun.

Subscribe To GUNS Magazine

Purchase A PDF Download Of The GUNS Magazine July 2023 Issue Now!