Software vs Hardware


Regular Member
Following some of the discussions I've seen lately on P&S Facebook, there have been a few questions about what upgrades to weapons should go in and for whom. "Do patrol guys need custom triggers" and similar topics have been discussed. As a trainer, I see most of the needs of the shooter to be filled by more training/practice. ie...Want better accuracy or efficiency? =Spend some time on the range building software. Others propose installing this part or gadget to address those needs. =installing hardware. While I am not opposed to utilizing the best gear for your needs and have my opinions on what hardware I replace for MY needs, is there a trend to push hardware instead of software too soon in shooters?

I completely understand that each shooter is different so let's avoid that statement in responses. I also understand that some shooters do well with better hardware up front to aid in success (kids with a RDS on a .22, for example). However, are we sacrificing basics of necessary software by doing so? I have my "range" guns and my "work" guns and train with them all. I focus on irons before moving to RDS, proper fundamentals before better triggers, and solid manipulations before levers. That is me, though. Where do we as either instructors, or just when evaluating ourselves, do we find that line of considering hardware before software?

R. Moran

Staff member
I think the "Indian vs Arrow" and "hardware solution to software problem" is an overused assertion and get's a bit sanctimonious from some people.

Do you walk around naked? Sleep on the bare ground? Hunt and kill your food with nothing but your teeth and fingers? Fight adversaries the same way?

If not, you are using hardware to solve software solutions.

Does a Gorilla give shit, or does he pick up a rock to bust open a coconut?

The guy who taught me to shoot a handgun was a former bullseye shooter and the was a military armorer.. I started on an original Springfield Armory 1911A1, back when they only had the one model in the blue and white cardboard box. He shot it once, strong hand only and drilled out the X ring of a B8 at about 15yds....he put it down and told me I needed a trigger job. Having just watched that, I asked him "why?"...shouldn't I just learn to shoot it like that, then get the trigger job? And I would be that much better?...he looked at me like I had a dick growing out of my head. He explained the fallacy of that, and the wasted training time, and how it can actually be harmful to good training, as it teaches bad habits.

There is an article written by a bullseye smith, and from what I've read many if not most are in agreement with him. It's the fallacy of learning to shoot with a lesser gun, and when you can out shoot it, then upgrade...basically, how will you ever know if you are still improving? How will you know if bad shots or groups are you or the gun?

I have never seen it stated that using an upgraded trigger or a red dot sight, somehow absolves you of properly applying the fundamentals. In fact, properly applying them with quality kit, will be more rewarding. You will see better results sooner, and the individual has no excuses to blame his poor performance on.

If you are stuck with crap because it's issued to you, or you can not afford it....that is one thing. But suffering thru with a crappy trigger seems foolish to me.

I've noticed an awful lot of reverse elitism on the internet over the years.


Regular Member
Very good point. Now let's look at, for instance, current military members that have spent their entire service shooting with ACOGs and EoTechs to help them achieve the necessary qualification standards. However, from your experience spending the last several years addressing this issue, those same servicemembers who qualify "expert" with optics can't shoot a 1" group at 25 with irons to get their BZO, let alone make minimum standards with irons. I've also seen it on the civilian side with many students who can't pass simple DoS quals with irons but pass with optics. Hardware replaced software and success was not achievable without that hardware. They were dependent on gadgets rather than skill. Your bullseye shooter shot your gun well because of software, not because of the parts, as even you pointed out. Yes, upgrades make some things easier, but when should we be introducing them without causing dependency?

Yes, I wear clothes (when required) and carry guns for defense rather than using my teeth. I also practice H2H skills, as well as making a fire without a lighter, and sleep on the ground in my improvised lean-to at times as I know that machines fail, lighters get wet, and cozy beds get destroyed. So again, where do we start considering hardware to improve performance without sacrificing skill?

R. Moran

Staff member
To clarify, the comment about elitism and sanctimony were not aimed at you, 2/75....though your derogatory use of the word "gadget" gives me some concern;)

The Bullseye shooter....Ron's military career spanned shooting hajis in Lebanon in the 50's to pulling bodies from the burning aircraft at Desert one...and about 5 or so purple hearts. The fact that he could shoot a basic 1911 with crappy sights and trigger so well does not bode well of that gun, but of a the training he received hooting match guns. It took him a awhile to shoot those 5 rounds into the X's his comments afterward that are telling....after all that experience shooting...match guns, combat guns, and building them, he saw no training value in learning to shoot low quality trigger.

I do not know where the idea that shooting with an Aimpoint and a Geisslie trigger do not require skill. The application of the fundamentals.
Why do Soldiers not shoot well with irons but qualify expert with a RDS? I don't know, I didn't train them, attend the training they attended, I have not observed them shoot, etc. I am not inside their brain.
Were they ever properly trained in the use of aperture sights? How to actually zero them? Not the Spc4 mafia inside scoop way?
I was taught to shoot a rifle on a small bore rifle team using various target grade .22lr rifles to include Anschutz rifles. I was able to shoot a M16A1 in basic just fine. I was taught to shoot a pistol by Ron, with a tuned up 1911....later I was able to shoot stock M9/92's & Glocks with + connectors , just fine...and I did almost all my training with a tuned 1911.
I have seen shooters who were taught to shoot with a stock M16/A2 or the + connector Glock....and after years I have not seen them improve much at all if any....certainly nothing consistent.

What I personally think happens, is shooters maybe taught the fundamentals, of which there are variations....they can repeat them....but have they ever really been taught how to apply them, and how they interact with each other?
So now Joe who has been shooting an EoTech for years, is given a gun with he has to worry about sight alignment more...and so he starts to forget about trigger press, he has never been taught about a wobble zone and how to accept he's not sure of it with his irons...and probably doing visual gymnastics trying to shift his focus back and forth....then he sub-consciously says fuck it, and yanks the trigger.
Maybe there eyesight just sucks.

In short, I think much of it is all in his head.....or he was never really taught the fundamentals in the first place...not properly at least...and that has nothing to do with what sights or trigger he has.

We have seen this same type of argument over and over...this is what got us stuck with things like the trapdoor, magazine cutoffs in the Krag and '03, and the M14.

God made us with an advanced brain and thumbs, not claws, muscles, thick skins or shells, sharp eye sight or smell, or flight....we use those things to over come the natural abilities of the others. So, yea you can start a fire with out a match.....shouldn't you just wait for lightening to strike?

Certainly a middle ground must be struck, as we vet and mature new reliable are Aimpoints these days? What about a SSF trigger?

When Jonny Jihad get's filled in by an American GI, does he get mad because Joe didn't learn to shoot the correct way? or know how to use irons?

It is said the the Germans during WW2 had a low opinion of the American GI, because of our liberal use of close air support and indirect fire.....ok, but who won?


Regular Member
I think of this discussion sort of like driving a car with a standard transmission vs. an automatic. The automatic transmission is a hardware solution to a software problem, and frees the driver's brain to concentrate on other, more important tasks (like texting).

While I generally agree with the idea of progressive firearms training, and that knowing how to shoot with iron sights is one of the "fundamentals", when talking about trying to get masses of people trained (cops, military) to a standard I think the argument is a bit more complex than firearms accessories. Why isn't firearms training at the top of the priority list? Why aren't standards tougher? Not "do you need a better trigger or not".

For your run of the mill Marine (and I assume Army dude), do they really need to know how to drive a stick shift all that well? If all they've ever known is an automatic transmission, and all their vehicles and the vehicles they are likely to come into contact with are automatic transmissions, how much time should be devoted to training and maintaining proficiency on the standard transmission? Is it a good skill to have? Of course, because shit happens and the one day they need to drive a stick shift, it would be nice to have at least a basic understanding to muddle through it. If that happens we probably aren't concerned with things like the life of the clutch, because it's an in extremis situation.

That being said, I'm a gear queer and if I can spend $200 to put a nicer trigger in my AR that makes my job easier, why wouldn't I? Who says being dependent on gadgets is a bad thing, if those gadgets are of sufficient quality (i.e. Aimpoint, Geissle)? I don't eat carrots all day every day to try and learn to see in the dark, because my Surefire gadget does that task for me.

I'm curious to see in the future if optics advance to the point where people just run two of those, and zero irons, because irons are hard. (There's already people doing this, as I'm sure you know).

I'm also curious if anyone has actually collected HARD, REAL data on optic failure in the wild. We hear all the time "well if your optic fails..." but how often have quality optics actually failed in real world use (not counting user error like battery replacement). Would be interesting to find out, and if BUIS were deployed and if they saved the day. I'm guessing the instances of that would be pretty low, but honestly don't know.

Cool topic, getting the gears turning.

R. Moran

Staff member
I am unaware of any fundamental of marksmanship that is qualified "with iron sights" or crappy trigger. You either know and apply them or you don't.

I was under the impression that the .mil went to automatic transmissions, not because it was easier to drive, but because it was easier to talk on a radio, return fire and drive.....something born out in Somalia.

How far back in the past are we supposed to reach when we teach & qualify tasks that "might have to be performed"? Standard transmissions?(I think the auto is more standard today), how about turn bolt rifles? Muzzle loaders?
I understand, and don't whole heartily disagree with the need to have well rounded shooters that can perform with lesser gear.

I just think we need to be careful when we start throwing around worn out cliches about Hardware/Software Indian/Arrow, etc.
That kind of thinking has stood in the way of advancements, with real advantages many times in the past.
For some of us these "gadgets" become crutches from necessity..... not so much in the form of triggers, but optics and scopes most definitely. As I've progressed BCG's to bi-focals, shooting with irons at anything further then handgun ranges became a chore.

I won't get into point shooting nonsense, but within 30 yds I can hit a man sized target looking over a rifle threw the rear peep and place minute of coffee can groups in the engine room, but the front post is as present in my FOV as it would be threw a scope, just fuzz on the target from the pin base, which makes the 500 meter
shots I made threw irons as a young Marine impossible.

It's made me bite the bullet and eat allot of crow. Heck, a few of my pistols even sport optics now with notable improvements in speed and accuracy when shooting paper...... for a while pride had me shooting only steel, because after the first barrage of students the daily paint would be spalled off, and as long as it rings your happy!

When we talk about how necessary the things you can bolt on to a service rifle or even pistol are, and "hardware vs. software" you have to remember that some things depending on the shooter are necessary.

I have plenty of training, military and self sought afterwards. The software is present and constantly updated, I just needed to upload some hardware upgrades to compensate ;-)