Training or Gear – A Sobering Perspective

Normally, I am firmly in the libertarian camp of “live and let live” when it comes to how someone wants to spend their money. However, a graphic that I stumbled across on social media, provided a rather interesting perspective that I thought should be shared.

Specifically, it showed the cost of a custom built Glock 19 (a project I happen to be knee-deep into), adding in all the various tacticool goodies and their relative cost of ammunition that one gives up to acquire the total tacti-cool weapon. The trade-off? Just over 9,523 rounds of ammunition.

I’m not quite re-thinking the formal position, but it does shed some light on the opportunity cost of pursuing the best (or cool) equipment if one does not have the basic shooting skills down pat – a set of skills that 9,500+ rounds would have easily beaten into an individual assuming they have a good coach or are willing to do some self-diagnostics.

Divorcing myself from the implications, it is also a funny graphic, as I have often ran across those who look really good shooting versus knowing how to shoot. At the local 3-gun match last month, a fellow competitor was asking why I didn’t use a formal competition belt rig (I use a duty belt and mount gear directly to it) only for me to smoke him on time in the match (don’t worry, I got my comeuppance in the form a DQ last weekend).

What say our dear readers? Go straight for the toys or stick it out at stock weapons and shoot? Or, is there a balance between the two?


David contacted us to let us know the original post was from T.REX and can be found here. Thanks, David!

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • wheelieg

    I think there is a balance. I also believe it depends on the purpose of the gun. A duty or pd gun may not need all the bells and whistles of a comp gun, but it likely needs to be gone over to ensure reliable and smooth operation. An open division gun will have it all and rightfully will need it to level the field with those at the top. But for most of us, hanging out somewhere in the middle, I think it’s a question of fitting the gun to yourself with optics or sights you can see, and smooth operation that doesn’t impede your performance. Just my .02

  • John L.

    Buying ammo is as easy as buying gear.

    It’s making the time to train, and train well, that’s the hard part. It’s not just putting rounds downrange, you need to cultivate the ability to step outside your self and look objectively at what you are doing, and how well it’s working. For many people this is very hard to do. So you may need to buy the time of a good trainer too – that cost isn’t in the graphic – and most of all you need to be able to admit that you’re not perfect.

    (And then you have to clean the gun.)

    • gordon

      Even if you are motivated, many of us only have ranges (in range) with so many rules that the are not terribly useful. I pay $600/year to have access to an outdoor range club 20 miles away. It is useful because some of its ranges their are not run by a range office. I can set up my chronometer, gel, car windshield, whatever. There you can also fire from the draw and while moving. I only make it to that place about 10 times a year because of rain, snow, heat, and I am an on call courier. I don’t think I go through more than 1200rnds per year. If I only had access to highly regulated ranges I doubt I’d go more than 4 or 5 times a year and shoot more than 100 rnds each time.

      • Agree OneHundredPct


      • notalima

        Same here. I pay membership for a range with private (or semi-private) outdoor lanes with high berms. Several 25s, and several 100s (and nice covered concrete shooting benches as well). You can draw, move, bring your own obstacles, steel, etc. We have organized 3-Gun, practical pistol, Wheelgun group, cowboy, and a number of other groups so getting additional trigger time with other folks to help push your training is nice.

        It is a bit of a drive to get to, but during the cooler months I’m out there 3 out of 4 Saturdays. Less during the summer months, and then usually right at sunrise, or night shoots (which is nice since we have lights on the lanes, or can use NVG if you have it)

      • Xanderbach

        I’m in AZ, with millions of acres of BLM land, and 80 acres of my own. I could pop shots into a ham sandwich while running and screaming at it if I wanted to. Admittedly, last time I was at the local shooting hole (like a swimming hole, but louder) a couple of jackasses were basically doing just that. I heard the hiss of a bullet fly past me (they shot a rock) so I hunkered down behind my truck’s engine block until they were done shooting, then strolled over to let them know what was going on. They were kind enough not to shoot anymore rocks.
        In other words, carry a tourniquet, just in case. I also seem to have gone off topic…

        • Porty1119

          Tourniquet? I’d honestly wear plates if encountering that most dangerous type of jackass was a possibility.

          • Xanderbach

            I’m tempted, but they’re so rare. Once out of hundreds of times at the range. I do have a plate carrier, but haven’t bought plates for it yet.

          • billyoblivion

            You really need the TQ regardless–plates don’t cover the femoral artery and it might be a “innocent” bystander that got shot (if they shoot each other or themselves improvise a TQ out of whatever they happen to be wearing or have in their pockets. Give Darwin a chance).

        • gordon

          I have purchased secluded land abutting a national forest in WY. It is just taking me a bit of time to actually move there. I should get shitloads more practice there. I do carry a significant wound oriented first aid kit and the Ranger first aid guide.

    • El Duderino

      Too true. I see a lot of people burning up ammo at the range just to shoot. No emphasis on improvement at all. They look at their buckshot-pattern body target at 7-10 yards full of 9mm or .40 holes and beam proudly while taking cellphone pictures to share on Facehole.

      Only perfect practice makes perfect.

    • billyoblivion

      It’s a Glock you don’t “have” to clean it.

    • gunsandrockets

      Trigger time with purpose, rather than noise generation.

  • Major Tom

    Ammo first, then the toys. First learn HOW to shoot and how your gun shoots. Then when you become proficient at that you start looking into the toys.

    Especially since all the toys in the Universe won’t help you if the gun sucks or is broken.

    • Harry’s Holsters

      Agreed but for most of the people buying these time is more of an issue than ammo. The only place where I see 20 year olds that own 1 handgun and make 40-50k a year owning these is instagram. Most of the guys I know that actually own them are middle age with high incomes and a busy schedule.

    • CupAJoe

      As a handloader, my ammo is my “toy” ?. Recipes and ingredients. The guns are just my oven.

  • Harry’s Holsters

    The people that I know with these setups are often busy professionals with spouses and a couple kids. They it’s a not a question of money but a question of time. They want the cool setup and it takes a couple hours to order it and go by their FFL and pick it up. They are already shooting as much as time allows. Shooting is a pretty cheap hobby when you compare it to things like motorcross, dirt bikes, ATVs, Motorcycles, motorhome camping, remotes control planes, boats, wakeboarding, snow skiing, flying, and even hunting. I know some guys that never leave their county and spend 50k a year on hunting even though they already own the land.

    For someone like myself money isn’t that loose but time isn’t either. I’m able to hit up 3-5 training events a year that are within a 5 hour drive and then maybe shoot another 10-15 times but many of those times it’s just a box or two of ammo due to time constraints. I don’t have the time to shoot 10k rounds of ammo. Dry fire is key for me.

    • Major Tom

      In my case I don’t have that much spare time and my money doesn’t stretch anywhere near as far as I’d like but I’d rather shoot 10k rounds of live fire than buy a 1000 dollar optic or set of accessories. Especially since the nearest range to me that is not a gun club and is open to the public (outside open land such as BLM areas like the San Isabel National Forest) is at least an hour’s drive from me. Well the one I know of anyways.

      But here’s the kicker. I don’t have to fork over 1000 dollars in ammo to become proficient with a pistol or a Mosin-Nagant or a shotgun or whatever by the time I decide “Hey, you know what I would like now? A red dot.” At that point buying the sight is just gravy on top of already knowing how to shoot that firearm proficiently. Because good marksmanship skills in my opinion are far more preferable than good optics.

      • gordon

        “Because good marksmanship skills in my opinion are far more preferable than good optics.” – more so if your eyes function well. Some us have a lot of trouble with irons on a pistol. My eyes no longer focus close or change focus quickly. A red dot on a rifle also makes both eyes open shooting much easier. For me, in both cases, they make up for their training opportunity cost. Both red dots together cost about that $1k and my shooting was nearly instantly better.

  • Varix

    Ammo must come first. The only thing I could think of spending on before ammo would your preferred sights. We all know glock sights are just so awful for so many people.

  • SmithTech22

    For me and my budget it has always been about practicality. I don’t own anything fancy or heavily modified. I keep enough extra ammo to be able to practice with every week and shoot mostly .22 because its cheap. I’m a pretty good target shooter usually shooting high 80’s at 50 feet and a decent action shooter. I’ve been practicing drawing and shooting on the move more lately still with a .22. Maybe in a few years with more practice and maybe a little bit more money I’ll treat myself to something nice like a Dan Wesson or Wilson Combat.

  • Dave Y

    if it were truly “perfection”, there wouldn’t be any need to modify it.

    • The_Automator

      There isn’t. They work great (often better than modified guns) right out of the box.

    • Harry’s Holsters

      No gun is perfection in the way glock means it. I think they used perfection as their tag line just so people would talk about it and give the company more attention allowing them to sell more product.

  • Lee

    Most people dont have the talent and skills necessary to see a significant improvement in their game by opting for a $2000 glock over a slightly modified glock in the $700-$850 range.

    Im sure there are some youtube celebs and trainers who excel with high end glocks, but those guys also get ammo sponsors and shooting is their life. They have the necessary skills to notice a difference in quality between the different handguns.

    For 99% of the population, the money is better spent on ammo and a structured training routine.

    • Hinermad

      This pretty well sums up my position. I figure if I’m not good enough to recognize where my current equipment is lacking, I’m not good enough to get the most out of better equipment.

  • DanGoodShot

    Just like everything else in life, its all about balance. What you can afford and what you need. Only you know that.

    • Harry’s Holsters

      You don’t buy a rolex or omega because you want to tell time.

  • Ray

    Stick to stock for the most part. I’m realistic enough to know my shooting issues are software and not hardware. If you can’t place well in Production division, it’s you, not the gun.

  • I say shoot the best/most customized/fanciest firearms and sport the finest accessories. That way you cannot blame anyone but yourself for your proficiency or lack thereof.

    • Ray

      Haven’t you met the guy at the range whose top rack equipment always has something wrong with it? It’s the $7k gun that has problems, or the ammo, or his new belt setup. It’s never him.

      • No, but I have met the proverbial guy at the range that didn’t understand how his expensive rifle *functioned* ! Either way, quality kit makes the owner responsible whether or not he’ll admit it.

  • Bill

    I view it in the same light as cars, bicycles and motorcycles. Buying a McLaren when you can’t drive a Camry or a Focus to it’s full potential only means you wreck at a higher speed and greater cost. Until you’ve built a base level of fitness a $500 bicycle will “perform” as well as a $5,000 one.

    Other than sights and grips, I almost never have work done or add on doo-dads to my guns. Of course, they are working guns – if I competed I would probably add stuff as my skill level required, which would be a long, long time from now.

  • THE_manBEAR

    Think we’re all missing the point here … It’s not about affording one or the other, it’s about buying both – whether you can afford them or not – and how to hide it all from your wife!!!

    • Harry’s Holsters

      I like the way you think!

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    Each Shooter and each gun has a respective Margin of Error (henceforth abbreviated MOE). When you add the two together you get your total MOE or what is often referred to as precision and can be measured in Minutes of Angle (MOA). Effective training decreases the shooter’s MOE and effective weapon upgrades decrease the firearms MOE. Decreasing either MOE will decrease the overall MOE.

    Typically, with novice shooters, the shooter’s MOE will make the gun’s MOE seem trivial and no matter what upgrades you put on the gun you still wont be able to hit the broad side of a barn without training. After a certain amount of effective training the shooter’s MOE will approach that of the firearm. At that point its time to weigh how much some additional training will improve your overall MOE against how much a certain upgrade will improve it and what each will cost in terms of money AND time.

    Some people have tons of money and no time and for them buying a $2000 Glock instead of a $500 Glock isnt an issue but getting to the range is. And while there is no replacement for some training, if you want to buy parts instead of shoot to improve your overall MOE I see no problem with it as long as you understand what youre getting for your time and money.

    • Guygasm

      Good points. A shooter’s MOE with stationary stance and target may approach their firearms MOE with practice. It is a different discussion entirely with a varied stance/movement/target/adrenaline. A much smaller percentage of shooters will have their MOE approach their firearm’s MOE in more realistic scenarios.

      • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

        I can agree with you there. The only upgrades I would consider to also make a comparable improvement in MOE in realistic settings are ones where the shooter interfaces with the firearm like the Trigger, Sights/Optics, sling, etc. The only situations which other upgrades like match grade barrels, free float & bedding jobs, and the like make a difference are situations which you can (in a relative manner) prepare for are things like during competition, hunting, sniping (for the very few that is actually relevant to), and other situations in which you can prepare for and plan out your shots beforehand

        • Guygasm


    • Pretty much my observations.

      A lot of people think they’re pretty good shooters right up until they shoot their first match, and then find out just how much they suck compared to people really dedicated to learning how to shoot really well.

      You can buy some stuff that will help shave fractions of seconds, but you’ll still suck if you don’t practice properly and regularly. Sorry, not sorry.

      • Ray

        And it’s not just having learned to shoot well. IIRC, Max Michel mentioned the top tier competitors of action shooting all present, shoot, and reload at about the same speed. The real difference is how they transition from target-to-target, and move in a course of fire.

  • A Fascist Corgi

    The solution is to become wealthy so that you can afford to do both.

    • DIR911911 .

      isn’t getting rich against the rules of fascism?

  • De Facto

    If you’re a normal person, just stick it out at stock weapons and shoot. When you can demonstrate that you’re operating at your peak of performance and that the quality of the weapon itself is the only thing holding you back, consider upgrading it.

    If you are a member in good standing of the “No such concern as money” club, get out there and buy the fanciest, most reliable and awesome weapons your money can buy while you still can.

    • Cymond

      I met a competitive shower who claimed that he went from a D to a B when he switched to CZ.

      I personally can say that i shot my STI Spartan far better than my Glock 34 or XD-M, but traded it because of reliability and … reasons.

  • Get your toys. Keep your toys. Build em slow. Shoot em lots.

  • JumpIf NotZero

    “Training or Gear” article…. Doesn’t even mention training.

    Ammo is not training. Ammo is practice. How is it you think you’re supposed to know what to practice? I enjoy that people don’t know the difference and think that just feeding the berm / making the earth heavier will magically make them better shooters.

    • DIR911911 .

      technically the earth is already supporting the weight of the shooter and his ammo so nothing actually gets heavier 🙂

      • JumpIf NotZero

        Thought about that, but there is that moment when it’s in the air under it’s own momentum. But fair enough, we’ll go with making the berm heavier. And my point still stands.

  • DIR911911 .

    sounds like the old saying “fear the man who only has one gun”

    • Elijah Decker

      I have a bunch of the same kind of gun (collection of AKs from different countries of origin), does that count?

  • Cal S.

    I’d rather buy the ammo. Of course, I don’t compete, so that saves me a lot of money anyhow.

  • DetroitMan

    I could spend thousands of dollars on Nike and Adidas gear, but I will never play football in the NFL. It baffles me why people think they can buy shooting performance with high priced gear. I have seen plenty of terrible shooters on the line with high end rifles wearing high end optics. They are happy when they can keep all the rounds on paper – at 50 yards with 10x magnification.

    At the end of the day, it’s your money and your time to spend. Do what makes you happy. But it’s entirely possible that the manufacturers are marketing their products to you as superior performance, and that the average gun rag is in collusion with their advertisers on this. If you really want to shoot well, you need to invest some time and money in practice and training. Of course training is also marketed, so it’s buyer beware. A final thought: the military and law enforcement agencies invest in training for their members that ultimately costs more than the most expensive guns. There is a reason for that.

    • Harry’s Holsters

      They are marketing them as superior performance and most of them to offer that. But you also get major diminishing returns on your money. Most of these people aren’t buying to shoot better. You don’t buy a rolex or omega because you want to tell time.

      It’s all in what some people are looking for. Most would rather have a physical object than a skill. And when is the last time your shooting abilities made you any serious money or even saved your life as a civilian. I dry fire a ton and am on the road to taking 3-5 training courses a year. I’ll have taken a total of 4 in 2016.

  • Joseph Goins

    For pistols? Stock (except Glock sights, those things suck) plus holster.
    For rifles? Stock plus cheap optic, light, sling, BUIS.

    Not to get into a political argument, but the likely president for the next four years will probably go after online (thus cheaper) ammo and gunpowder (handloads). If you (a hypothetical new shooter) have the ammo and the base components of the firearms (frames and receivers), you can add all of the fancy stuff after you get the ammo. There is nothing wrong with a M&P15 (front sight post and non-free floated barrel) with Vortex Strikefire II for learning the basics and getting grounded on marksmanship. When you learn those things, then you can still add quality optics, aftermarket barrels, handguards, and stipple jobs after you learn what you need from more extensive shooting.

  • David Harmon

    There is a direct correlation between trigger time and skill level when it comes to shooting. At least until you reach a point to where shooting becomes second nature, at which point you still can get rusty.

    That whole 10k hours thing…

  • garymac66

    Been there, done that back in the early IPSC days. Trying to keep up with the Jones’s in the arms race is both powerful and insidious . I went back to stock practical guns and bought more ammo.

  • STW

    It’s a need thing. I bought an M&P45 and disliked the stock trigger so much I was looking to sell it. A better, cheaper alternative was to drop in parts from Apex. My eyes aren’t what they used to be so eventually I added higher visibility sights. The gun needed both things so I could use it properly. I probably wouldn’t have done the sights if I, personally, was still stock.

  • Pod

    I have firearms for the common pistol and rifle calibers. Nothing really tricked out, just the basics so I can be familiar with anything I’d be likely to encounter in an SHTF scenario. As I get better, I’ll add things to them if I feel the need. My only ostentation is a suppressor really.

  • JoshCalle

    Meh, almost all stock guns are more or less perfect as far as mechanical accuracy at realistic distances are concerned. I’ve never seen a Glock or M&P or Springfield that hit a foot off of point of aim. Seeing as how I don’t practice nearly enough, I think all the extra goodies would make a negligible difference in my shooting.

  • gunsandrockets

    Dry fire is (relatively) free.

  • USMC03Vet

    Replacing the barrel, trigger, frame, and sights just proves you bought the wrong gun to begin with.

    Wizbangs don’t make the shooter.

  • Robert Kruckman

    Why do think Wilson,Les Baer and all the rest can charge $ 3000. for a 1911? CUSTOM??

    • Joseph Goins

      Because they build ones that work well. Frankenglock by any other name is just a Glock.

  • Drunk Possum

    At first I saw the $2000 dollar price tag and I thought, ‘who would spend that much on a Glock?’ Then I remembered, ‘you did you idiot.’

  • Kjk

    Yea, but you can’t look at your training like you fawn over your sweet gear.

    • JumpIf NotZero

      Says who? I hang my certs on the fridge when I get a new one 🙂

  • anonymous

    “assuming they have a good coach or are willing to do some self-diagnostics.”

    That’s a really big caveat.

    Even I can explain the basics of shooting to a newbie, but I am a lousy teacher, and am in no way qualified to coach (i.e., diagnose and correct somebody’s mistakes).

    How many times have you seen somebody at the range with a newbie — usually a friend or significant other — who is struggling, and offer this helpful piece of advice to their Padawan: “OK, next time try hitting the target”? How many of us have done just that?

    Based on the CCW classes I’ve taken over the decades, even your basic NRA Pistol instructor is not qualified to coach. What’s a new shooter (or even us long-time shooters) to do?

  • Shrike30

    There’s a balance. Aftermarket sights on a Glock are a must (the stock ones are flimsy, and slow to acquire and align) although I’ll admit one of mine has worn sights where the ‘aftermarket’ consisted of painting the rear notch all black and then widening it with a dremel wheel. Shave it back into POA/POI and it’s a workable sight. Everything beyond that I look at and say “but I could do so much more shooting with that money!”

    If you’re really able to notice an improvement in your pistol shooting from an aftermarket barrel or trigger, you’re a better shot than I.

  • Mikey Hemlok

    It all comes down to how much money you have to spend. You budget for equipment upgrades, and you budget for range time. If money is tight, get a decent used or tier 2 (Ruger, say, instead of Glock or Sig) gun, shoot it often but keep looking for opportunities to trade up or make improvements.

    My old Star PD has tens of thousands or rounds through it, and over the years has seen a new barrel, better sights, a trigger job and a new parkerized finish and grips. My old 10/22 rifle has been a favorite plinker for over a decade, and you wouldn’t recognize it from what the plain vanilla stock Ruger I originally bought.

    It’s all part of the pleasure of the guns – the shopping and the shooting and equipment improvements…

  • Yeah but 2k rounds of 9 doesn’t exactly instill that cool guy factor like an RMR. Ya know what I’m sayin’

    • Elijah Decker

      What are you talking about? Nothing is cooler than posing nude with your Glock while laying on 2,000 rounds of loose 9mm.

      Or maybe that’s just me.

  • Cymond

    I don’t buy aftermarket barrels for improved accuracy, I buy them because they make more sense than trying to have my factory barrels threaded.

    Also, sights make a huge impact on how you use the gun. Iron sights, red dots, and magnified optics are all radically different.

  • All the Raindrops

    Speaking strictly about glocks, you can get a set of ameriglo FO sights for $40 and a zev race kit for $25. Those will help you get hits, with the spring/connector kit being less important than the sights.

    Past that, 99.5% of shooters are better off shooting more.

  • SpartacusKhan

    It would certainly be better to start off with something better than a glock (literally anything – anything at all – including a slingshot) in the first place. A tricked-out frankenglock is STILL a glock, after all, no matter how much money you uselessly throw at it. blech. Practicing with it is probably a total waste of time, too – it’ll never have the trigger of a hammer gun, and the ever-changing POI due to the poor slide-to-frame fit isn’t something that can be overcome. Ever.
    Shout out to all my glock buddy out there! (I really did have one, but he moved. True story.)

  • Cmex

    I’d take the ammo and range time — I will never shoot better than my equipment can mechanically manage in accuracy, but I can get pretty darn close!

  • RickOAA .

    While there’s a few guns I have that have became projects, they are mostly guns I use for recreational purposes. For guns that are carried daily, they are stock.

  • AirborneSoldier

    Training and experience trump gear. I still think the best “gear” for most is the old alice system stuff from the Vietnam era. Ive seen too many hardcore 3rd worlders that could outfight the many mall ninjas that emerged post 9-11. You have to know WHY you are select8ng the weapons you use, and the gear that supports that. If you buy all the stuff, youll likely replace or refine it, spending more dough.