Don’t Build a Shitbox: The Path and Prioritizing

August 31, 2015  
Categories: Guns
Pursue Your Passion Rainier Arms banner

Shop Rainier Arms: Support JTF Awesome

Today Dave talks about not making your rifle a box of shit and also quotes a Harry Potter book. 

Don't Build a Shitbox: The Path and Prioritizing.

Rifles to Fight With | Don’t Build a Shitbox

Oh, you’ve seen them…

  • $800 base rifle
  • $150-250 rail system
  • $100-150 buttstock
  • $40 Walmart optic
  • Or my favorite:
  • $500 Glock
  • $300 slide work
  • $100 magwell
  • $0 Shitty plastic OEM sights

(I’ll refrain from showing you some to save some embarrassment on both ends.)

It’s bad enough to see it posted on an internet forum or Facebook, but infinitely worse when seen on a duty rifle.

It’s not that hard to get caught up in wasting money on junk. Think about a dollar amount you’ve spent through your shooting career on useless items. I cringe at the mere thought of how much I’ve blown. This isn’t a post about “weapon snobbery” but a post about priority of upgrades and ultimately saving you money. Does it make sense to take care of aesthetics, secondary enhancements, or force multipliers first? What do you think when you see a beat-to-shit old ghetto ride with $2k rims? This is the same thing. Ultimately, it depends on what you’re going to use it for. If all you’re going to do is make cool pictures for Instagram, disregard this post entirely.

But if you’re actually going to use it…

For a defensive (or offensive) weapon, the most pragmatic way is to follow the path. Depending on role, some steps may change (you’re not likely to use a light or sling on a competition rifle, for example), but here are the broad strokes for the GPR. That is, General Purpose Rifle.

Pursue your passion Rainier Arms banner

The Path

First, you have to start out with a decent weapon. You can’t build a house on sand, and you shouldn’t expect to build a great rifle off of a bargain basement foundation, either. It doesn’t have to be expensive but it shouldn’t be a jumble of Chinese flea market parts. Do your research and save your paper route pennies.

  • Sights: You should first have functional sights. If you don’t have a way to aim, you have an expensive noisemaker instead of a rifle.
  • Light: It’s 2015, so I really shouldn’t have to explain this one. It’s dark roughly half the time, and there’s always the potential for darkness when indoors (and dark corners outdoors).
  • Sling: Well, you gotta carry it. Preferably in a manner in which you can use your hands for administrative tasks or negotiating obstacles.

At this point, you’ve reached your functional baseline. This is your basic no-frills rifle. Scoff if you want, but you can do everything you need to do unless you have specialized purposes. This is where you should start further modifications if desired. But don’t go nuts yet because aesthetics are the last on the list.

The Path

Not perfect, but workable.

Your very next purchase should be a quality Red Dot Sight (RDS) or other optic, depending on your use. A RDS is much better than iron sights for almost everything. They’re better in low light for moving targets, aging eyes, and holdovers. They’re faster and more. It’s so much of a force multiplier that several of my friends put it in the “mandatory” camp. Don’t get me wrong, every rifle that I may actually use sports an optic of some sort. This is why it’s the very next item on the list.





Beyond the optic, every improvement you make will be largely incremental. I’m not saying this in a negative manner–any improvement is still improvement. There are distinct advantages to free-floating forends and better triggers, and improved controls, and I have all of those, too. Just don’t put them first on the list. Allocate your spending accordingly.

Avoid extraneous accouterment. That is, if you like a widget, does it make you better in a quantifiable manner? Grab a shot clock and run some drills. Does it help you shoot better or more consistently? Consider keeping it. If it doesn’t? Banish it to the parts/trade box of shame. Or give it to your douchebag nephew who just discovered guns on Youtube.

Allow my nerdery for a moment in this next analogy: Your rifle should be like the sword of Gryffindor, it should only take it what makes it stronger.

And, of course, there’s more.

Magazines, ammunition, and training are constants. These are the consumables. They are the Watchers. They should always be in the back of your mind. Waiting. Giving you the hard look. And expecting respect and attention. All the time. Recognize and take heed. Anything less is just Instagram.

With handguns it can get more amorphous, but sights are still always first.

By no means am I saying your weapon can’t look subjectively cool—pure functionality is how you end up with Soviet Khrushchyovka apartment blocks. It might give you a place to lay your head, but it’s not going to inspire any poetry. Aside from simply “looking cool”, some upgrades can make you feel like the gun ‘has soul’ or that it’s ‘really yours’. While that isn’t particularly important to many, it may be to you.

Note there are some circumstances where it might make sense to change your buttstock (or forend, or other widget) in lieu of upgrading sights: If you already have the buttstock (or forend, or other widget). Unfortunately (and sometimes fortunately), there are sometimes departmental requirements not to modify any weapon. This can be a bad situation if your brass is ignorant but a good situation if the end user is ignorant. If the end user is ignorant, it only affects one person—if the brass is ignorant, it influences everyone.

Now stop buying shit just to buy shit and go shoot.


Shop Rainier Arms: Support JTF Awesome

Recommended Reading:

Dave Merrill

Dave Merrill

About the Author

About the Author: A combat veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Dave "Mad Duo Merrill" is a former urban warfare and foreign weapons instructor for Coalition fighting men. An occasional competitive shooter, he has a strange Kalashnikov fetish the rest of the minions try to ignore. Merrill, who has superb taste in hats, has been published in a number of places, the most awesome of which is, of course, here at Breach-Bang-Clear. He loves tacos, is kind of a dick and married way, way above his pay grade. You can contact him at Merrill(at) and follow him on Instagram here (@dave_fm).


  1. JESullivan

    If you muff it up, it goes ROCK AND ROLL!! Better let a pro do it..

  2. Eric

    Always overlooked is how much can you clean up a GI trigger yourself? Watch some videos, get the right tools (hone, emery cloth, patience) and you have a decent trigger for $20 and your time. If you muff it up, parts are cheap for GI.

  3. Jamie

    Agreed. Onloy one thing; slings are used for a lot more than just carrying a rifle. They are used for stabilization when making longer shots by both dynamic discipline competitors (3Gun) and High Power style static shooting. For some people they are an essential.

    A bad RDS is worse than no RDS. That said, some really great optics can be had in the 100 to 250 dollar category now so you don’t HAVE to spend Aimpoint or EoTech money.

  4. Timbo

    Spot on. I especially like that you point out that there is a difference between inexpensive and cheap, a fact a goodly number of people seem to overlook.

  5. jason

    I got a S&W M&P-15 Sport with magpul SL furniture, a vertical grip, Fenix light mounted, Primary Arms micro dot, blackhawk single point sling and that’s it.

  6. John Baribault

    Good piece. will refer to in the future. Thanks, as always this was quite entertaining to read as well.

  7. BuZRO

    Amin brotha! the rest it’s some sort of kids story or just pure IDGAF… U know, loosers talk! Good advice!


    THANK YOU! Spot on.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Popular Articles

Official Rules

Can Cooker Trailblazer gif. Reads: Turn up the heat. Trailblazer bundle. Only $80.  Order bundle. back Breach-Bang-Clear

Find what’s in stock, and where, and compare prices. 

⚠️ Some hyperlinks in this article may contain affiliate links. If you use them to make a purchase, we will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. It’s just one way to Back the Bang. #backthebang 

Get Patched In

Wretched Minion Patch