Horizontal gene transfer can have profound effects on bacterial evolution by allowing individuals to rapidly acquire adaptive traits that shape their strategies for competition. One strategy for intermicrobial antagonism often used by Proteobacteria is the genetically-encoded contact-dependent Type VI secretion system (T6SS); a weapon used to kill heteroclonal neighbors by direct injection of toxic effectors. Here, we experimentally demonstrate that Vibrio cholerae can acquire new T6SS effector genes via horizontal transfer and utilize them to kill neighboring cells. Replacement of one or more parental alleles with novel effectors allows the recombinant strain to dramatically outcompete its parent. Through spatially-explicit simulation modeling, we show that the HGT is risky: transformation brings a cell into conflict with its former clonemates, but can be adaptive when superior T6SS alleles are acquired. More generally, we find that these costs and benefits are not symmetric, and that high rates of HGT can act as hedge against competitors with unpredictable T6SS efficacy. We conclude that antagonism and horizontal transfer drive successive rounds of weapons-optimization and selective sweeps, dynamically shaping the composition of microbial communities.