It’s definitely optimal for a firearm – whether you’re using it for combat, hunting, casual plinking, or competitive shooting – to have all the desirable features straight out of the box, yet there’s also something to be said about a customized gun that’s been specifically tailored to your individual needs and desires, just like a custom vehicle or a bespoke suit.
With that in mind, let’s look at the 5 Most Customizable Guns out there.
Shotgun: Remington 870
I myself own one of these “scatterguns” but have left mine completely factory stock.
That said, a December 2017 American Gun Association article titled, appropriately enough, “The Top 5 Most Customizable Guns,” has this to say about the 870: “This Remington 870 has the Warhammer Rail that goes all the way from one end to the other and one on each side. It has a flashlight, laser, red dot sight with backup foldable front sights, and an ATI stock. All the accessories on these shotguns are from different manufacturers, which shows how big the aftermarket accessories industry really is.”
Rimfire Rifle: Ruger 10/22
Just like with the Remington 870, I own a Ruger 10/22 but have left mine factory stock. So I’ll again turn to that American Gun Association article: “If you were to only have one gun in your arsenal, this would be it. This gun allows installation of folding stocks, collapsing stocks, barrel shrouds, sights, rails, etc. You can easily spend over $2,500 building out your 10-22 and still have many more options to accessorize the firearm.”
Centerfire Rifle: AR-15
From a personal preference standpoint, this is my least favorite gun on list, but to paraphrase Burt Reynolds as parodied by Norm Macdonald on SNL Celebrity Jeopardy, “Yeah, well, that’s my opinion.” So many of my shooting buddies have so many different Frankenstein-like variants of the civilian market semiauto-only version of the U.S. Armed Forces rifle – talking about “Oh, I’ve got such-and-such upper receiver and so-and-so lower receiver” – it makes my head spin.
The Subject line of an email I received just yesterday from Daniel Defense, LLC sums it up perfectly: “What makes your rifle, your rifle?”
Revolver: Smith & Wesson K and L-Frame Series
Back in my Federal law enforcement days, when I was regularly competing in the Nevada Police & Fire Games (which unfortunately doesn’t do firearms competitions anymore) and PPC (Police Pistol Combat) when it came to the revolver matches, I’d look at my factory stock Ruger GP-100 alongside all the tricked-out Smith & Wesson guns and think to myself, “Jeez-Louise, am I the only weirdo who competes with a Ruger brand wheelie?” It’s not surprising to see so many customized S&W Model 586 and 686 revolvers in these competitions, as they’re such wonderfully accurate and smooth-triggered guns, to begin with, and they naturally lend themselves to tuning and slicking up.
Smith’s Performance Center has taken this to heart; their online catalog currently lists nine different options in the L-Frame series.
Semiautomatic Pistol: M1911 Series
Okay, this is probably the most obvious and least surprising item on the list. Quite a few fellow 1911 fans may kvetch at me for not putting our beloved gun at the top of the list.
A quick look at the venerable Brownells catalog (which has been around since 1939) will reveal an absolutely dizzying array of 1911 aftermarket parts. Legions of gunsmiths have become practically as famous as the gun platform itself for their sheer craftsmanship in producing masterful custom jobs, from Bill Wilson to Ed Brown to Dick Heinie to Les Baer to Carlos Castillo to T.J. Jimakas to name but a few. (I can personally vouch for the services of the latter two).
What’s that you say? You don’t want to spend the extra time waiting on these top-notch ‘smiths to do their handiwork because you need your pistol ready to defend yourself and/or your loved ones and/or your comrades-in-arms right out of the box? “No worries, mate,” as the Brits and Aussies say. You’ve got a ton of “factory custom” 1911s to choose from, such as the CQB pistol from the aforementioned Bill Wilson, along with the Kimber product line, the SIG Sauer Scorpion, the Smith & Wesson SW1911, the Springfield Armory TRP, and so forth.
No wonder the pistol remains so popular 102 years after its inception; inventor John Moses Browning must be smiling down from Heaven. I’m probably one of the very few schmoes who keeps his M1911s – a WWI-vintage Colt and a 2003-vintage Springfield Mil-Spec – factory stock. Call me a rebel, call me what you will.
Christian D. Orr is a Senior Defense Editor for 19FortyFive. He has 34 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011.