One of the most common discussions on gun forums is about the usefulness of accessories. Should shooters use a telescopic sight when irons are available? Are light, laser and wind speed indicators necessary on a home defense carbine. Are battery-operated red dots helpful or just another item to fail at the most inopportune moment? The benefits of each piece of gear are clear: sights provide better practical accuracy, light provide positive target ID, lasers give alternate aiming options (especially when wearing a gas mask), and wind speed indicators help with calculating long-range windage. So what are the down sides? For one, all of these accessories cost money. Good, durable accessories can be expensive. Fortunately, users can amortize their accessories over many years and the benefits of having a good scope can be well worth the few dollars per month in depreciation. Most accessories also add weight. A red dot here and a white light there, plus a side-saddle with ammo and a bayonet, and soon you are looking at pounds rather than ounces of extra weight. You are also looking at new corners that can snag during use. Maintenance is another issue: a plain-jane shotgun can sit in a closet for years and still work, but the laser battery might not last as long (though lithium batteries can last for years on the shelf). Regular rotation of batteries becomes a scheduled task.
The real cost of accessories is not the weight, the money or the maintenance requirements. It’s the training time. If you have a light/laser unit, can you turn it on and have it in the mode you want by feel, without having to think about it? The simple shotguns may be popular for reasons other than cost and a large bore — users generally operate it as point and click device with no elaborate sighting or mode selections. If you have a rifle with elevation-adjustable sights, do you make the changes for range or just aim off to allow for the expected deflection? If your gun has multiple possible modes, your sight has multiple settings, and you have the option to use light, laser, or both, how long before your decision-making slows down. In offensive use, operators can configure these options in advance, but what about the much more likely defensive situation? Should we take the time to learn how to shoot while wearing a gas mask? The time taken to learn that would cut into the basic marksmanship or movement practice. How about using a sight with a busy range finding reticle instead of a simple dot or cross hairs — would the distraction affect of all that extra information ought-weigh the benefit of long-range precision it facilitates? The same question applies to training of new shooters: simple or complex? Do we want the laser to help diagnose issues with sight picture and trigger control, or would plain iron sights be better? Should we teach with scopes that permit observing hits and misses, or with a red dot that’s forgiving of cross-eye dominance, or stay with the old reliable notch and post? Is even using sights an unnecessary complication when a plain barrel and a trusty bayonet were good enough for the illustrious ancestors? What do you think — should we embrace the technical progress or concentrate on the basic katas using un-accessorized sticks?