Owning Guns Isn’t An Arm’s Race

I know how dumb that title sounds on an article about guns on a website about guns. You’ll really have to hear me out behind the headline to get what I’m going for. A while back, I detailed how I dive into lower-information social media groups. It helps bring context to what the gun industry can improve on, and I realized one of those things is the product-based arm’s race for defensive firearm use. 

I saw two different people post in two different groups out of apparent frustration. This came from the concealed carry world. Both were frustrated because they didn’t really understand why they needed this or that and why one gadget was better than another gadget. In reality, they already had good weapons, so they didn’t need anything. 

Every day, it seems like there is a new optic, light, or even firearm proposing to be the best new shiny thing out there. This can often spawn a mentality that you have to constantly buy new guns or gear, or even calibers, to keep up with the current defensive market trend. If you don’t, you’ll be kilt in da streetz as the meme goes. In reality, most people don’t need the best, most expensive gear to survive a defensive encounter. 

To be clear, it is also perfectly fine to want and purchase the best gear. I love shotguns, so I am willing to spend a ton of money on nice shotguns. It’s not necessarily because I need a Benelli when I already have a Mossberg 590. It’s because I want one. Would I be successful with my Mossberg 590 in a home defense encounter? Highly likely, but I like having the Benelli. 

The Arm’s Race and Accessories 

Guns are one factor, but the fastest paced seems to be accessories. There are much bigger jumps in technology as it relates to accessories than firearms. With handguns, things like weapon-mounted lights and optics have become incredibly popular. New optics are released all the time, as are new weapon lights. 

If you are looking at your plain Jane Glock 17 and reading the hype about the newest Modlite and Aimpoint, then it’s easy to feel like you are doing something wrong. Even worse, maybe you are looking at your Glock 17 with an RMR and a Surefire UBoat and thinking, I need an enclosed emitter and a Surefire UBoat Turbo! 


In reality, do you really need those accessories to survive and win a defensive encounter? No, not really. They can be very nice to have and do have their benefits, but they don’t guarantee a win by any means. I do actively encourage the use of red dots on pistols and think home defense guns need lights. 

At the same time, if you have a handgun and 1,000 bucks to spend, I’d encourage you to spend money on training and ammo over accessories if you have your bases covered. A used Glock 19 Gen 2 in the hands of a skilled user is better than a Roland Special in the hands of a guy who shot 100 rounds and considers it good to go.  

What Do You Really Need? 

At the end of the day, all you need to cross the finish line of the Arm’s Race is a safe, reliable firearm that matches your goal and enough luck. This can be a bare-bones AR-15 from a reputable maker, a classic pump action shotgun, and a modern, plain Jane handgun. In fact, modern is relative. Carrying a S&W Third Gen or a classic Beretta 92FS is fine. If you have a classic S&W Shield, you don’t really “need” to purchase a SIG P365 for an extra couple of rounds in the mag. There are benefits, sure, but need is different than beneficial.

When we talk modern, what I really mean is modern safety features. The gun needs to be drop-safe and can only be fired when the trigger is pulled. The Savage M1907 is a sweet gun, but it’s not drop-safe. A good, reliable handgun or revolver is fine. It doesn’t need to be adorned with all the accessories to be effective. 

You don’t need a 1301 if you can run your Mossberg 500. If you want it, then great, but it’s better to be well-trained with what you have than bumbling with the latest and greatest. If you’re on a budget, then competency will always beat gadgets and gizmos. 

Travis Pike
Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes.