6 Modifications for Custom Gunsmithing

6 Modifications for Custom Gunsmithing

Many who invest in a firearm will consider the amount of aftermarket parts and the potential for modification when making a selection. Brands like Styer, Armalite, and Glock have become industry giants- partly thanks to the large amount of aftermarket parts and accessories available. Whether or not you own one of the aforementioned brands, rest assured that mod options are there when you’re ready.

If you’re looking for an introductory rundown on modification possibilities, and you haven’t already read my article on common firearm modifications, I recommend that as a first stop. But, if you’re ready to go a step further, you’ve come to the right place.

Southpaw Considerations

If you’re right-handed, consider yourself lucky. The vast majority of everything that’s manufactured has been made with you in mind. If you’re a lefty, you’re probably no stranger to searching for specialty items that have been made specifically for you- like the very rare and highly sought-after left-handed spatula. Kidding aside, many modern firearms are made to be somewhat ambidextrous. But lefties who are fans of older offerings may find themselves having to mod their firearms of choice.

Parts like safeties, mag releases, and slide/bolt catches (to name a few) are commonly swapped out to make a firearm more southpaw friendly. At times, these upgrades can be a labor of love- especially if the action has to be reset. If you’re not doing your own work, a new lefty firearm can sometimes be less cost prohibitive than the cost of labor and parts needed to complete a conversion project. But, as with everything, your mileage may vary.

Extended slide Releases/ Mag Releases

A little extra real estate on a mag release can go a long way to making a firearm more comfortable to use. Depending on your use case, an extended release can help you maintain your grip more easily while releasing the magazine. Obviously, there is also some potential for an accidental mag release while you’re adjusting to the change. For instance, if you’re using a holster that was made with a stock release in mind, you may run into the aforementioned issue. So, be aware of the potential for an adjustment period.

Engraving Modifications

To the uninitiated, engravings may seem like nothing more than a cosmetic addition that adds little value to a tool. Personalized engravings are arguably one of the most historically significant flourishes that have elevated firearms from utilitarian devices to status symbols. It cannot be overstated just how labor intensive etching and plate engraving is for an artisan. And, as with all labor intensive crafts, it’s priced accordingly.

Laser engraving, however, has made the option much more accessible to the masses due to the relative speed of the process. It doesn’t work so well on curved surfaces though, and it’s not a direct replacement for a skilled artisan. Hand engraving is by no means a lost art, and to the discerning firearm enthusiast, it has an almost unmistakable look and feel.

Check out Matt Kidd’s article on engraving for a deeper dive. The pictures alone make it worth the click!


If you’ve already considered Cerakote and Duracoat and decided that the application process is just too much faff for you, take a look at vinyl wraps. While the more durable coatings excel at producing striking solid colors, wraps shine when it comes to patterns. With an Exacto knife, a heat gun, and no small amount of patience, you can personalize a firearm. And, unlike Cerakote and Duracoat, if you decide that you want another change, or that it’s not for you, it’s easily reversible. Just make sure you don’t wrap the barrel or any gas carrying parts.

If you’ve ever had a jacket or even a piece of furniture made out of vinyl, you know that it’s built for a much shorter lifespan than its more premium counterparts. This is also true of gun wraps. You’ll likely get a few years out of them before the material begins to degrade, but longevity isn’t the point of wraps. They offer a modicum of protection, a lot of personalization, and relative ease of installation compared to the aforementioned alternatives.

Mag Wells

If you’d like to be able to reload more quickly and smoothly, a new mag well may be in your future. For some, flared mag wells can be easier to load by feel alone. If you’ve got a pretty common firearm, replacing the mag well can be as simple as finding the right one. If your needs are far more specific, you may find yourself in need of some dremeling and/or filing that requires a good deal of finesse. Whether or not it’s worth it depends on how much you really need to shave a few valuable tenths-of-a-second off of your reload times.

If concealed carry is a concern, remember that larger mag wells may work against your goals. That’s not to say that you can’t have the best of both worlds, but you may have to choose carefully if you have a lot of boxes to check on your list of must-haves.


If you’ve changed the mag well, added an extended slide release, or made any other modifications that have significantly altered the dimensions of your firearm, it may be tough to source a good holster that meets your needs. Plenty of armorers and tactical supply shops have custom offerings, as do online crafts vendors. Yes, I said craft vendors. Those same websites that showcase vendors making custom wedding cake toppers can also be the place to pick up a custom holster. It may seem unlikely, but in some cases it can be a very viable option.

Whatever you choose, make sure your choices add more functionality than they do bulk. It’s hard to know what you need (and what you don’t) until you’ve tried it for a while, so factor the cost of experience into your budget.

Happy modding!


Written by: Lanna Perkins, Education Writer

6 Modifications for Custom Gunsmithing