Concealed Carry

Pros and Cons of Building and Customizing Your Carry Gun

Disassembly and cleaning Maintaining a 9mm semi-automatic pistol on a wooden table.

Ghost guns are becoming more and more popular every day. Modern firearm design and manufacturing have paved the way for regular individuals to build their guns at home. Don’t worry, you haven’t switched over to CNN and I’m not about to dive into the dangers of these ghastly ghouls. 

Instead, I propose the reverse. Are these new guns the future? And what are the pros and cons of building your own carry gun or defensive firearm? 

Of course, the term “ghost gun” is meant to trigger the masses into believing in an undetectable firearm that can discreetly pass through metal detectors. Those with more understanding know it references unserialized build kits that people can complete at home. However, for the purposes of this article, I’d like to lump in Glock and SIG P320-type firearms, which are serialized, but still offer inexhaustible aftermarket support and customization. This extends to home-built AR-15s for home defense as well. 

Custom Fit

Building your own carry gun offers a number of benefits over simply selecting something off the shelf. First off, it allows you to select the accessories and features you want, and nothing you don’t. Whether it’s sights, stippling, undercuts, trigger style/pull, frame design, grip angle, slide cuts, optics, etc., you can have it your way. 

Additionally, building allows you to add parts as your finances allow. Dropping several hundred dollars in one sitting may not be feasible for some people, but a bit here and there can make it more accessible. One month grab a trigger, the next a barrel, until boom!, you’ve got a complete firearm. 

Building your own firearm also teaches you about how the firearm works. This comes in handy with repair and maintenance down the road. As you begin to build more firearms, you will likely acquire plenty of spare parts, which are good to have on hand. 

Walther PDP Stippled
A stippled grip adds traction and aids in recoil control.

Reliability

Home-made firearms get a bad rap for terrible reliability. This is primarily due to horror stories from bubbas in their garages trashing perfectly good guns with their dremel and a dream. 

Contrary to popular belief, Glocks aren’t quite adult Legos, but they’re much easier to build than hand-fitting a fine 1911. Build the gun right and take your time. Rushing a build or procedure leads to mistakes. This is where many people go wrong. Be sure to take breaks if you become tired or frustrated. 

Whether it’s different materials or fitment tolerance, some parts just don’t work well together. This may not show up when you assemble the firearm. However, issues will quickly become apparent at the range. It may take several range sessions for the issue to emerge, but the kinks will need to be ironed out. I remember people having issues with metal Glock 43X magazines from Shield Arms wearing into the Glock OEM polymer magazine release. After swapping to a steel magazine release, the issue was resolved. 

Glock 17 with Light at Range
Sometimes it’s best to keep it simple.

Legal

Many people are weary of the legal concerns of building a firearm for personal protection. I am not an attorney, but I will say this is probably not an issue in a justified shooting, and would only become an issue if the shoot is deemed bad. If that were the case, you are in more hot water than the type of firearm you were carrying. 

The main area where this could come up is if you experienced a negligent discharge. If you were the one who installed the trigger or worked on the springs that caused an issue, you increase your liability. This goes for those who perform too much trigger work on a factory firearm as well. Of course, if you injure people or property with a negligent discharge, you may be held accountable.

I would also steer away from adding any crazy verbiage inciting aggression to slide backplates or custom cerakoting. This could mess with a prosecutor’s — or the public’s — opinion regarding your motivations. You don’t want to look like you’ve been itching for something to happen with a “Smile and wait for the flash!” decal. 

SIG WC P320 at Range
The SIG P320 platform is a perfect candidate for heavy customization.

Guns to Build

As I mentioned before, the main firearms you can easily build are Glock or SIG P320 types. The simplicity and lower cost of polymer-frame, striker-fired pistols make them a good candidate for customization. The dependability and simplicity of the Glock have made it one of the most popular choices. The chassis system of the P320 quickly brought it to the same level. SIG even sells the individual fire control unit for these purposes. 

Companies such as Polymer 80 offer build kits with everything you need to build a firearm (completely from home) with a dremel and drill. Advances in 3D printing technology have aided greatly in this. Now, with the right materials, you can fabricate an entire frame from the comfort of your home. 

For a home defense or a truck gun, AR-15 rifles and tactical PCCs offer similar aftermarket support. There’s no shortage of options for customizing the AR platform. 

I recommend researching your aftermarket parts before purchasing. You may find industry trends warning you from one brand or another. Quality parts may cost a little more, but the improved durability and reliability should be worth it, especially for a defensive firearm. 

You will make mistakes and probably end up with a box of parts that didn’t work out the way you’d hoped. This is all part of the process and should be enjoyed. It’s a learning experience that will ultimately make you a more well-rounded shooter and firearms enthusiast. 

Glock P89 on Box
The Glock is a common platform for aftermarket upgrades and customizations.

Final Thoughts

It’s up to you whether you trust a firearm you’ve built for self-defense. Only you know your skill level. If done incorrectly, it will likely never be as reliable as a quality, professionally-produced firearm from a trusted manufacturer. However, if you take your time and do your research, it allows you to get exactly what you want and may even create a personal connection to the piece.

Be sure to test your build at the range and make sure it runs with your desired defensive ammo. Every time you change a part, take another trip to the range to confirm function. And remember, no amount of aftermarket parts and custom work can make up for your shooting fundamentals, so don’t neglect your training! 

Have you ever built your own firearm? What are your thoughts on building a gun for concealed carry or self-defense? Share your thoughts in the Comment section.

About the Author:

Alex Cole

Alex is a younger firearms enthusiast who’s been shooting since he was a kid. He loves consuming all information related to guns and is constantly trying to enhance his knowledge, understanding, and use of firearms. Not a day goes by where he doesn’t do something firearms-related and he tries to visit the range at least a couple of times a month to maintain and improve his shooting skills.

His primary focus is on handguns, but he loves all types of firearms. He enjoys disassembling and reassembling firearms to see how they work and installs most of the upgrades to his firearms himself, taking it as a chance to learn. He’s not only interested in modern handguns and rifles, he appreciates the classics for both historical value and real-world use.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (4)

  1. Only thing I modified on one of my sidearms is installed an Apex spring kit in my S&W SD40VE. Kept the hinged trigger, just swapped the springs. That was years ago and it’s fired a few thousand rounds since with no light strikes or any other issues. It eats and fires whatever it’s fed. Aluminum, steel, brass, HP, FMJ. It doesn’t care. All it did was take the trigger pull down to 5.5lbs. With the long pull, 5.5lbs is perfectly acceptable to me for a carry. As far as building a carry sidearm from a kit, haven’t done that yet as most of what I’ve seen are Glock copies. I have no issue in the way Glocks field strip or function but screw whatever it is they try to call “ergonomics”. No such thing with a Glock. They feel like crap in the hand and don’t point naturally for any normal human. If there was something more akin to an S&W style/angle I’d probably consider building a compact one. As far as (to quote Colonel K) G-G-Ghoooost Guns… I can neither confirm nor deny that an AR style carbine may have built years ago using a JMT Gen 2 polymer lower. I can also neither confirm nor deny that it may have been lost in a boating accident. 🤷🏼‍♂️ From my understanding, Dan and his brother (the guys who own JMT) have stopped making the poly lowers. Washington State regulators and such other nonsense were becoming a headache for them. Not 100% sure if they’ve resumed manufacturing the 80% lowers or not. But IF you can get your hands on a JMT 80 Gen 2 or Carbon 50, do so. They’re top notch quality as far as the 80% world goes. They do still make their Saber drop in triggers though which are pretty dang good. Solid, reliable, and at least half of what stuff like Timney. They were right around $100 last time I looked. Hard to beat.

  2. I don’t recall ever building a g-g-ghost gun, but years ago I cleaned out a defunct gun shop and among the remains was a stripped Walther P-1 frame with a few other components. Over the next twenty years I came across enough parts to resurrect the pistol, and to my delight it actually worked.

  3. I built a couple of ARs and two or three Glock G19s and a G20/21 clones. That was before the DPRC (Democratic Peoples Republic of California) passed their insane home built rules. My builds are dead on perfect and I would trust them for an EDC piece anytime. But, again, good old California won’t give you a CCW to any gun not on their approved list! So all I get to do with my builds is range time.

  4. I built several P80s over a few years. Initially, when prices were better, it was an easy way to build glock clones cheaply. I liked that I could mess with stippling and not really worry. I could use them as “truck guns” again, because they were cheap and dead nuts reliable. These days… IDK. You aren’t gonna save any money, that’s for sure.
    But for an EDC I dont like to customize much. I am definitely in the camp of not messing with triggers. Maybe a different barrel, and sights. That’s about it.
    My P80 guns these days are used as test guns for new loads. Or handing out to the neighbor kids if aliens attack. 😁

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