Being a professional gunwriter for the past 30-plus years has afforded me the pleasure – and occasional displeasure – of dealing with a huge number of companies in and around the gun industry. I’m not saying the companies on this list are the only good gun-related businesses – they’re not. I will say that if you see a company on this list, I know from firsthand experience it provides very well-done parts and/or services, and is staffed by knowledgeable, friendly, helpful, competent people you can trust.
The state of the art in compact electronic red dot battle sights.
The best Glock magazine extensions on the market. I use their +6 extension, for 23 rounds of 9mm in a Glock 17 magazine (well, 22 actually, I don’t top off, to give the springs a bit of relief) on my carry spare mags.
High quality Glock work and parts from Glockenmeister Bobby Carver.
BAR-STO PRECISION MACHINE
After decades in business, Bar-Sto remains the standard against which all others are judged when it comes to aftermarket autopistol barrels. This tells us something.
BLACK HILLS AMMUNITION
An ammo company literally owned by a sniper – a fact expressed in their product’s reliability and accuracy. And yes, Jeff Hoffman, president of Black Hills, does use Black Hills ammo when working as a sniper with his local police department’s SWAT team. Though Black Hills also produces factory new ammo, they are perhaps best known for their line of quality handloads combining performance with affordability.
THE indispensible source for gun parts, and anything gun-related.
The best backpack hydration systems, bar none.
CASPIAN ARMS LTD.
Aftermarket slides and frames for 1911 custom builds. I’ve had several guns built up with Caspian slides and frames, and I can’t say enough good things about them.
CHOATE MACHINE & TOOL
Shotgun magazine extensions that work.
CLARK CUSTOM GUNS, INC.
The legendary custom house. Justly famous for their work on 1911s and Ruger 10-22s, they also have an excellent line of aftermarket parts for same.
Electronic red dot sights, compact and lightweight for “full-sized” units. Extremely popular on competition guns though they also have utility on fighting rifles.
The company’s motto is “The World’s Finest Reloading Machines” – and it’s true. Dillon owns the market on reloading machines because their stuff really is that much better than anything else. Their industry-leading “No BS Lifetime Warranty” means just what it sounds like. If ANYTHING breaks or wears out on your Dillon reloading machine, EVER, they will replace it, free of charge.
ED BROWN PRODUCTS
A well-known and highly respected 1911 custom house, Ed Brown’s company also has a comprehensive line of very high quality aftermarket 1911 parts.
If it’s a holster design, Galco probably makes an example of it. Probably best-known for their pioneering Original Jackass Rig shoulder holster system – so well-designed it’s literally the only shoulder holster I can wear comfortably. Also Galco’s Ankle Lite and Ankle Glove designs are the only ankle rigs I can wear comfortably.
HODGDON POWDER CO.
Excellent gunpowders for handloading. I won a state IDPA championship with ammo loaded with Hodgon’s Titegroup in .45 ACP.
HORNADY MANUFACTURING COMPANY
Consistency and accuracy-wise, across the line probably the best ammunition I’ve ever tested.
INTERNATIONAL DEFENSIVE PISTOL ASSOCIATION (IDPA)
A shooting sport built around the idea of using street appropriate guns, drawn from concealment, while running through street appropriate self-defense scenarios.
INTEGRATED SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT, INC. (ISMI)
Very high quality aftermarket gun springs. The best aftermarket Glock recoil springs, bar none. I use ISMI recoil springs exclusively in my own Glocks.
The IonBond aftermarket gun finish is thin, black, essentially rustproof, and tough. What more do you want?
JAGER PRODUCTS, INC.
If you think the Glock Gen-4/5 double recoil spring system in a Glock 17 or 34 sucks – and many people do – and would rather replace it with a single guide rod system running a single spring (I suggest the ISMI 13-pounder in a Glock 17 or 34 9mm), Jager Products can hook you up.
A company dedicated to serious rifle work and parts, especially for the AR-15. Their scope mounts for AR-15s are the best around.
If you want lead bullets, this is the company. Laser-Cast bullets are harder than the hinges of Hell. After firing almost 5,000 rounds of Laser-Cast 200-grain lead semi-wadcutters through my Wilson 1911 without cleaning, when I finally broke the gun down and checked the barrel, not only was there no leading, the bore was so bright and clean it looked polished.
LES BAER CUSTOM
Extremely well-respected 1911 custom house. Les Baer’s Premier II is probably the best value for the buck in custom 1911 land.
A leader in aftermarket parts for AR-15s. If you own an AR-15, you probably own at least one Magpul 30-round magazine – and if you don’t, you should.
For reactive steel targets, Mike Gibson Manufacturing is the place to go.
NUMRICH GUN PARTS CORPORATION
An excellent resource, especially for oddball, hard-to-find, obscure gun parts.
PEARCE GRIP, INC.
If you own a “baby Glock” Model 26 or 27, you need a Pearce pinky extension on the magazine in the gun. It makes an immense difference in handling qualities. According to Lane Pearce, the late and much-liked-by-me owner of Pearce Grip, Gaston Glock told him the Pearce grip extension for baby Glocks is the only aftermarket Glock part he actually likes.
The best machine pistol rest on the planet.
Best known for their police duty gear, though they do competition and concealment stuff, as well.
SMITH & ALEXANDER, INC.
Alan Smith designed the integral 1911 magazine funnel that’s a part of the mainspring housing – and was smart enough to patent it. Unless you want to go for a spendy Heinie funnel installation, the S&A is still the best thing available.
Makers of the very first clip style folding knives that affixed accessibly to a pants pocket, and allowed easy one-handed opening and closing, and still the most popular maker of same.
A “factory custom” 1911 house. Best-known for guns built on their pioneering modular, high capacity 1911 frame, though they also produce single stacks. STI turns out some good stuff (I am especially impressed with their VIP 9mm), and their prices tend to somewhat undersell the competition.
John Matthews’ company was the pioneer in powerful mini-flashlights. Their stuff is not cheap in any sense of the word, but you get what you pay for. It may sound like a cliché, but SureFire truly does build every light like your life depends on it. If you want a flashlight to clip to your defense gun that absolutely must work under hard use, it needs to be a SureFire. No other company’s product even comes close.
The pioneer in tritium night sights for guns, and still the leader decades later.
TRIPP RESEARCH, INC.
Virgil Tripp does excellent 1911 work, and has a similarly excellent line of aftermarket parts of his own design. His CobraMag 1911 magazines are especially noteworthy.
WARREN TACTICAL SERIES, INC.
Scott Warren is a USPSA Grand Master and IDPA Master who has won the IDPA Nationals in the past. And I don’t mean he just won his division – though he did – he had the single best score at the entire match. He was also the head firearms instructor for the FBI Hostage Rescue Team. His fixed sights, especially for Glocks, are state of the art for visibility under fast use. The Warren Tactical Series-Sevigny Competition sight system is what I have on my carry Glock 19.
WIDENER’S RELOADING & SHOOTING SUPPLY
Primarily an ammunition company, though they also sell reloading supplies (bullets, powder, primers, casings) and reloading accessories. Known for having very fast shipping; depending on the time of day you place your order, it may well go out the same day. Although you can get American-made ammunition from them, they are especially strong in quality foreign-made stuff: PMC, Tula, Wolf and the like. This is a place you should know about if you’re looking for ammo in something like 7.62×39.
Bill Wilson is the Henry Ford of custom 1911 smiths. Decades ago he figured out how to turn out a custom 1911 on an assembly line basis, and even today Wilson Combat produces some of the most highly respected custom 1911s, period. I won my IDPA state championship with the same Wilson Defensive Combat Pistol I carried every day for six solid years. Wilson magazines remain state of the art. As the president of my IDPA club put it, “People like equipment that works. Therefore people like Wilson magazines.”
Music wire springs for just about any gun worth having. Their variable power 13-pounder is all I use in my personal full-size 1911 .45s.
The XS dot and big dot sight systems, designed by my friend Ashley Emerson, adapt the sights used on African big game rifles to handguns. As Ashley puts it, “This is what you want on your gun when something big and dangerous, with lots of teeth and claws, suddenly jumps out at close range and tries to kill you. Hey, that sounds a lot like self-defense, doesn’t it?”