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Lastly, I reached out to my friend Clint Smith, of Thunder Ranch fame. When asked what the trigger pull weight of a 1911 should be, he responded succinctly, “4 pounds, clean break.”

Hand Loaded Self-Defense Ammunition

Although most well-educated armed citizens have over time come to understand the arguments against using hand loaded ammunition for self defense, the question still comes up from time to time. In over half of the firearms-related cases on which I have worked as an expert, I ended up doing some type of ballistic testing involving either a recoil/ejection pattern test or a gunshot residue/stippling test.

The protocols for these tests are outlined in shooting incident reconstruction textbooks, all of which indicate that the very same type of ammunition must be used to render the tests credible. If I am the expert witness on a case that requires ballistic testing, I hope that the ammunition needed is readily available. If you are using your own hand loads, any testing I might do would be suspect, because even if you supplied hand loads from the same batch as that of the subject ammunition, the question could be raised as to legitimacy of that testing. A skilled reloader could even fashion a hand load to show the same stippling pattern as that discovered as evidence at the scene, but fired from a different distance.

Consequently, it is very important for the paid expert of an innocent defendant in a criminal prosecution to be able to perform ballistic tests with the same ammunition as was used in the shooting. This is the real argument against using hand loads for self defense.


How can members of the Network prevent falling prey to the misleading and distracting accusations a prosecutor may make about their defense gun or ammunition? To summarize–

1) On a production gun (not a custom gun), leave the trigger pull weight alone.

If you want a lighter trigger, get a different gun, but don’t lighten the trigger below the factory settings. Smoothing the trigger pull and eliminating over travel should be fine, as long as you don’t lighten the pull weight.

2) If using a high-end custom pistol, a 4-pound trigger pull weight is the industry standard, and anything lighter could be argued as unreasonable. For folks like Scott, why not set up another Wilson Combat 1911 pistol with a 4- to 5-pound trigger and use that one for self-defense, and the other for the range? What a great excuse to buy another gun!

3) If you modify your gun it is best to have that modification performed by a competent gunsmith, one who will be willing to go to court and testify why he performed the modification. You had better be personally prepared to logically explain why that modification was done, too.

4) Never deactivate a safety device on a gun you use for self defense. If you just cannot live with whatever safety device you want to deactivate, then simply change to a different weapon type that does not have that feature.

5) Use only factory ammunition for self defense and buy it in sufficient quantity that if exemplars are needed for testing, they are available.

6) Leave the cute, custom paint jobs, engraving and cartoon logos off your serious self-defense guns. The place for those affectations is at the range, not in the courtroom.

In closing, when pondering any question about self-defense equipment, use your God-given common sense. When I was in a position to command law enforcement officers, I would tell them, “If whatever you are thinking of doing is possibly a bad idea, then it probably is a bad idea. Don’t do it.”

To apply that logic to self-defense gun modifications, I’d say, “If you have to ask whether a modification or alteration to your pistol will hurt you in court, it probably will.”

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