But, mine was a stock gun, and I’ve never really owned a proper race gun. So, I decided that I could take a chance on a handgun I paid $400 for (not to mention it being a bit of a mutt with a Springfield-marked frame), and decided to do some modifications to it to bring it up to competition standards. It was an adventure, and I have some tips to share.
The first thing I wanted to change were the sights. I am not a big fan of black on black sights, and wanted to get adjustable fiber optic sights on there. I ordered LPA sights for the BUL M5 cut from the same place I got the magazines from. They didn’t have the BUL M-5 fiber optic sight, so I got the Hi-Viz fiber optic front sight with Kimber cut. Since I’m a wuss, I had my local gunsmith do the install.
First problem: the LPA sights need a cut on the back of the slide so they can go on flush. This is a fairly well-documented cut, but you need a gunsmith with the right equipment to do it. Mine did it with a mill, and while it wasn’t a perfect job (a bit too much radiusing on the sides), he did get it done pretty cheaply. If I ever get the slide refinished, I might have the smith try to weld-fill the extra material.
ETA 4/11/2022: The second problem, in the end, was that the Hi-Viz sight was way, way too high and my LPA sight could simply not go high enough to compensate. I was such a terrible pistol shooter at the time I originally wrote this that I didn’t understand what was going on. I ordered the Dawson Kimber-cut fiber optic front sight at the lowest height possible (which I think was like .125). This ended up working great, but required substantial filing to make it work.
The finished product, on the other hand, works really well. Fiber optic sights might be less appropriate on a home defense gun than tritium sights, but they are great for pretty much any other usage. The LPA sights are also stupidly easy to tweak – they did a real nice job on these.
Next up: magazine well. Mag wells are awesome, so I ordered the huge 1.5″ magwell from my supplier on the premise that biggest is best. It goes on reasonably easy – you just pop the mainspring housing pin, slide on the magwell, and then put in a new, longer pin. It is a 100% reversible process.
In usage, it’s pretty nice, with a caveat. You really cannot miss a reload with it, unless you don’t push the magazine in hard enough to lock in. It also forces your hand upwards, which promotes a better grip on the gun. The downside is that the factory extended base magazines don’t work with it – they hit the bottom of the magwell too soon and don’t get high enough to lock in. I was lucky enough to have a couple Arredondo bases and another thin base, all of which worked fine.
Finally, I knew I wanted a compensator. A new barrel was more than I wanted to pay for, so a bushing comp was my only option. I have heard varying opinions about the effectiveness of bushing comps. Here’s why I decided it was worthwhile:
- There has been legitimate, serious testing that indicates that they really do provide benefits for higher-pressure calibers like 9mm and .38 Super. You need a relatively sophisticated design that includes chambers and baffles, but 40-50% recoil reduction seems worthwhile to me.
- The “reason” that most bushing comp critics give for their ineffectiveness seems incorrect (“the barrel blocks the comp holes!”). The bullet exits the muzzle long before the slide unlocks. The gas isn’t sealed behind the bullet as tightly as it would be in a barrel-mounted comp (larger OD), but the physics seems to work, just not as efficiently.
I wound up with an EFK Fire Dragon comp, since it didn’t seem to be as finicky about the guide rod as the Wilson Multi-Comp. It mounted right on, no fitting required, but felt tight compared to the factory bushing (which I assume is a good thing). The stainless steel doesn’t quite match the hard chrome finish, but the contrast is subtle.
All put together, you get a gun that’s not quite a top quality contender, but definitely good enough for casual matches and the like. The cost wasn’t too bad, either – only about $250 when you include the cost of milling and installing the sights.