September 2013 - Pg 6-Gun Mods
A carry gun should be all business, not an art project.
What’s the bottom line on gun modifications? Make them sparingly and for a specific purpose that is easily explainable. Other modifications pose such problems as to seriously jeopardize your plea of self defense.
Reduced Weight Trigger Pull
Modifications to trigger pull weight on your defensive firearm deserves detailed discussion. Earlier in the month I received the following e-mail from a Network member, Charles in South Carolina, asking–
“I’ve read all the advice against making any modifications to triggers on self-defense weapons but it seems to caution against making the trigger lighter. Does this include ‘combat action trigger’ or duty/carry modifications performed by the manufacturer? The trigger pull on a striker fired weapon remains at 4.5 pounds but the reset and slack are significantly reduced to improve accuracy (reduce user induced deviation in sight alignment through less trigger movement).”
I don’t believe modifying the trigger without reducing the trigger pull weight will create an issue, because firearms examiners will likely just measure the trigger pull weight, not the quality of the trigger. If it is lighter than factory standard, an issue may arise.
I recently spoke by phone with another Network member, Scott in Nevada, who took exception to my recommendation that a defensive firearm’s trigger pull weight be at least 5 pounds. He owns a Wilson Combat 1911 with a 3-pound trigger. He is committed to carrying that firearm on a daily basis, and trains a lot with it. After a phone conversation, he e-mailed:
“Marty’s (and the entire industry’s) standard is rapidly moving towards being archaic, or ‘old-school.’ Before too long, inevitably, ACLDN will be called by one of its members with that dreaded phone call for help, and your team will be faced with what will on the surface, appear to be an issue, or what you might consider, a problem…that being, your customer just might be a guy like myself.
“So please, consider my words carefully. Please do some research into this and I’m certain you will find that I speak the truth. Times are changing. I think the courts are way behind the curve here and that mentality would do well to reconsider. Thank you for taking time to chat with me earlier today. I enjoyed every minute of it.”
I want to respond with facts:
The weight of the trigger pull will be established by the state’s firearms examiner and included in his or her report. If the trigger pull weight is appreciably less than standard, as would be true in Scott’s case but not Charles’, the prosecutor can choose to make an issue of it just as they can with the other modifications discussed earlier. Any of these issues can feed accusations of recklessness or negligence.
Assuming that the defendant can testify that he purposely aimed the gun at the deceased and purposely pulled the trigger, the weight of the trigger should not matter without a claim of negligence, accident or inadvertent discharge of the firearm. In the real world, though, the prosecution can argue that it was negligent for you to have such a light trigger in your self-defense gun. The prosecution can forward the theory that you negligently discharged the weapon into the body of the deceased without cause to do so, and because of your negligence, you are criminally liable for his death. If the jury buys this argument, you go to prison for manslaughter.
The very same argument would then be used in a civil suit against you for negligence. The level of proof to win a negligence suit is merely a preponderance of the evidence. This single detail, two pounds difference in trigger pull weight in your self-defense firearm can tip the scales of justice ever so slightly against you. You lose the civil suit, despite the testimony of expensive expert witnesses, despite your claims of innocence. And dear Network members, even though we help you fight that unmeritorious lawsuit, we cannot help you pay the damages. That is on your shoulders alone.
When Scott and I were discussing trigger pull weight, I asked him a simple question.