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Thread: Does modifying the trigger really cause legal problems?

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    Does modifying the trigger really cause legal problems?

    I'm just wondering if modifying the trigger on a carry weapon can cause extra legal problems. I have an M&P 9c that I really like. The trigger is fairly good but it could be better. I would especially like to have a shorter more defined reset. It sounds like either Bowie (not to far from me) or an Apex sear would be good options. My concern is that this will be a carry piece. Do you guys know if there have actually been cases where this kind of thing caused extra problems for a defendant? How may departments really have guys inspecting the weapons involved in a shooting that can tell if it is the original sear?

    I've heard the argument that with adrenaline trigger pull doesn't matter. But, it still seems that I would be more accurate with a better trigger pull. Wouldn't that be better? I'm responsible for where my bullets go regardless of how the gun is set up. Seems to me that they best options might be to have a good trigger and then keep my finger off the trigger till I'm ready to shoot. Any thoughts?

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    I couldn't tell you if it's ever made a difference in a case, but if you're worried about it you can spend a bit more and have a performance center sear put in by S&W. Having any changes done by the manufacturer would probably look better if something like that came under scrutiny.

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    I've always wondered this myself. I can't see how it would matter to the person on the receiving end of the discharge. Either you've shot them or you haven't. To my way of thinking, if that mattered then wouldn't if you used a 12 gauge versus a .22lr matter too?

    M_P

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    Quote Originally Posted by timbo813 View Post
    I'm just wondering if modifying the trigger on a carry weapon can cause extra legal problems. I have an M&P 9c that I really like. The trigger is fairly good but it could be better. I would especially like to have a shorter more defined reset. It sounds like either Bowie (not to far from me) or an Apex sear would be good options. My concern is that this will be a carry piece. Do you guys know if there have actually been cases where this kind of thing caused extra problems for a defendant? How may departments really have guys inspecting the weapons involved in a shooting that can tell if it is the original sear?

    I've heard the argument that with adrenaline trigger pull doesn't matter. But, it still seems that I would be more accurate with a better trigger pull. Wouldn't that be better? I'm responsible for where my bullets go regardless of how the gun is set up. Seems to me that they best options might be to have a good trigger and then keep my finger off the trigger till I'm ready to shoot. Any thoughts?
    Really it shouldnt matter too much. when it comes to legal pyrotechnics, its all about how you articulate things. IE: you can say "wanted to make sure if i had an off trigger pull (assuming everything else is fine...grip, stance, sight pic, etc.) i wouldnt yank any shots and hit an innocent bystander"

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    Quote Originally Posted by timbo813 View Post
    keep my finger off the trigger till I'm ready to shoot.
    Yeah; this is a pretty important part of the whole "I dont want to get sued/hung out to dry for shooting someone that didnt need to be shot" thing.

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    A lot of it depends on how anti-gun/anti-self defense your jurisdiction is. It may never come up in Oklahoma, but you can bet it might in Mass or Cali.

    At normal SD ranges your trigger pull quality will be irrelevant. The odds of needing a precision shot in a SD scenario are pretty slim. Of the trigger preferences for a SD gun, a smooth consistent pull is far more important than pull weight or reset. I'd consider long and hard whether you're looking for better groups on paper, rather than a real SD need before having the geometry of your trigger system altered.

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    Quote Originally Posted by glocktogo View Post
    I'd consider long and hard whether you're looking for better groups on paper, rather than a real SD need before having the geometry of your trigger system altered.
    Good point. I will admit that I partly just want better groups on paper. Having changed the sear on other guns I've always been surprised how much better I could shoot them with a lighter pull. I also know that with practice I could improve my groups with the existing trigger.

    But, a shorter reset would allow for quicker follow up shots that could be helpful in self defense. I am considering the Apex sear with or without a heavier spring that would get me back close to stock pull weight. I'm sure Bowie could also shorten the reset without dropping the pull weight to much.

    I'm just wondering what if any legal ramifications there really are.

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    I am not a lawyer, and I have spent the sum of one afternoon looking up self- defense shootings looking for instances of pistol modifications, or using re-loads for self defence having any bearing on the out-comes in these cases.

    It seems it's either a justified shoot or it is not a justified shoot. No doubt aggressive prosecuters have pulled out all the stops in some cases, it just doesn't seem to come up in the limited research I have done.

    I certainly wouldn't dis-engage a grip safety on a defensive pistol, but enhancing a trigger to improve accuracy seems to be small potatoes. I would, as someone mentioned, have it done by the manufacturer.

    I have heard the M&P triggers smooth out pretty nicely with shooting and dry fire practice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by moyler View Post
    a justified shoot or it is not a justified shoot. No doubt aggressive prosecuters have pulled out all the stops in some cases, it just doesn't seem to come up in the limited research I have done.
    exactly.. the only time it's going to be an issue is in the event that you've shot when you shouldn't have shot. the detectives investigating the shoot aren't going to look at modifications on the weapon to help them decide if th shoot was righteous- they're going to look at the circumstances surrounded the decision to fire.

    if they decide, or the grand jury decides (depending on where you are), that it wasn't a righteous shoot, then of course the prosecuter is going to pull any and all tricks available to him to convince a jury you're a bloodthirsty animal who jacks off to snuff porn.

    make the pistol the best pistol it can be. but you really should quit the snuff porn.

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    The criminal case is one aspect but the civil case afterwards should be a consideration. We're fortunate here in Oklahoma that if your shoot is justified, the suspect or their family are barred by state law from filing a civil suit. That may not be the case in your jurisdiction. Remember that OJ was acquitted in the criminal case but found liable in the civil case.

    I'd think the issue of a modified trigger might be more likely in a civil case where the burden of proof is a preponderance of evidence rather than beyond a reasonable doubt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by timbo813 View Post
    I'm just wondering if modifying the trigger on a carry weapon can cause extra legal problems.
    To this date I have yet to see any evidence that a good shoot has been turned into a bad shoot because of trigger pull.

    If the corpse with your bullets in his chest was shot because he was coming at you with a bloody machette he just used to cleave open the skull of poor old Widow Johnson next door, it's highly unlikely that anyone will give a damn what you shot him with.

    If, on the other hand, you have a moment of stupidity and launch a round into poor Widow Johnson's noggin and claim it was an accident, well...your 1/2 pound trigger modification on your BabySlayer 9000 automatic rifle/handgun with the skull logo and the big bayonet might well become an issue.

    I've heard the argument that with adrenaline trigger pull doesn't matter.
    I wouldn't go that far. Under the stress of a gunfight the trigger isn't likely to feel as heavy as it does when you're shooting on a square range. The physics of the trigger won't change, however, so a ridiculously heavy trigger will encourage trigger snatch, which causes misses.

    But, it still seems that I would be more accurate with a better trigger pull.
    A nice crisp trigger can indeed aid in accuracy...but real accuracy is the result of proper trigger manipulation and not anticipating the gun going boom. The stock M&P trigger (once it breaks in a bit) is plenty good from an accuracy perspective.

    Wouldn't that be better? I'm responsible for where my bullets go regardless of how the gun is set up.
    Ah, grasshoppa....you have attained enlightenment. Ultimately what matters is where your bullets end up. If they ended up in a person who had the means to harm you, the opportunity to harm you, and manifested intent to harm you then your troubles resulting from that shoot (even using the BabySlayer 9000) will be on the very low end of the scale of suck. If your bullets end up in poor Widow Johnson's brain stem, the fact that you were using a bone stock weapon exactly like the PD in your area uses probably won't be much help.

    EDIT --

    COULD a lawyer potentially make an issue of the highly modified death machine you were carrying when you mercilessly gunned down poor little Billy who was only approaching you at the ATM with a Hi-Point because he was really a good boy just having a bit of trouble in his life before you wantonly ended it? Sure. He could try.

    Would he succeed? Anything is possible. Juries can sometimes be stupid. Hopefully if it gets to that point, however, you have hired a lawyer who has an IQ north of 60 that can deal with those sorts of issues easily.

    I personally carry a firearm with a modified trigger almost every day. I have never had cause to shoot anyone with it. If tomorrow I'm forced to do so, the trigger will be the least of my worries. My trigger is modified, yes...but it's within the same weight range as the trigger on most police firearms. If some detective with a baby Glock on his hip wants to get all inquisitive about the 4.5-5 pound trigger on my M&P I can probably derail that stuff pretty fast by pointing out the 5.5 pound trigger on his weapon.
    Last edited by John_Wayne777; 01-20-10 at 13:44.

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    As for the legal side of things I can't help much.

    But damn you John_Wayne777, this is the second keyboard of mine you've ruined in as many months. You truly have a way with words.

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    If you don't open your damn mouth about it, they will never know. Same way with a 1911 grip safety. Most crime labs don't have the time or inclination to check extensively beyond "Does the bullet in Dirtbag A match Gun A?"

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    If you had an ND then like JW said, yes.

    One other area might be if you were employed by an agency that provided you with a firearm and prohibited by regulation that you could not modify the firearm in any manor. In this case you may have civil jeopardy. It is a similar thing with ammo.

    I do not see nor have I heard of an instance where someone was prosecuted simply because the shooter had a legally modified firearm.

    Urban legend sends these tales whirling.
    Last edited by Sidewinder6; 01-21-10 at 13:57.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder6 View Post
    If you had an ND then perhaps.

    One other area might be if you were employed by an agency that provided you with a firearm and prohibited by regulation that you could not modify the firearm in any manor. In this case you may have civil jeopardy. It is a similar thing with ammo.

    I do not see nor have I heard of an instance where someone was prosecuted simply because the shooter had a legally modified firearm.

    Urban legend sends these tales whirling.
    I agree, ND is where this is an issue. Of course, if you have a ND you're negligent by definition regardless of your trigger pull, so ultimately it doesn't even matter in that context, either.

    Agency policies/rules do not establish and are not even probative of the legal standard of care, and are usually not admissible in any case. If you violate policy you may get disciplined by the agency or they may throw you to the sharks in other ways, but it doesn't mean you were negligent within the tort law realm.

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    I can envision a twisted perspective where it would compound your civil jeopardy and we surely must agree there are a good many twisted lawyers out there cruising for clients.

    But I only wanted to provide a perspective how the 'legend' may have wormed its way out into the use of force discussions.

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    People have made careers off of fear mongering on this, and similar, topics.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NCPatrolAR View Post
    People have made careers off of fear mongering on this, and similar, topics.
    Exactly. Plus 1 or whatever.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sidewinder6 View Post
    But I only wanted to provide a perspective how the 'legend' may have wormed its way out into the use of force discussions.
    Ayoob was the one who got people worried about laibility for various things. But this line of thought was seized upon by a breed that I have christened 'gunstore liability lawyers' who twisted and exaggerated the 'looks bad in court argument' in ways that Ayoob himself had never intended.

    Keep in mind that when Ayoob first raised that argument, most police officers were armed with revolvers and probably were not even issued hollowpoints. Fast forward three decades later and most of them have some form of high capacity semi-auto revolver with hollowpoints, and may have an AR in their cruiser which is now known as a 'patrol rifle.' There are more companies that make ARs in the US today than any other longarm.

    I've seen people claim online such absurdities like using anything more than a double barrel shotgun with birdshot for home defense will look bad in court, and that a using a pump action shotgun with an extended mag for home defense could be seen as premeditated murder. There needs to be a moron smiley for those people.

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    Unfortunately just because you think you were involved in a "good" shoot doesn't mean that an adversarial attorney general will agree with you. Unfortunately some attorney generals are motivated politically or by nefarious career inflating sentiments and you can wind up as the accused despite the fact that you think you were involved in a "good shoot". Or perhaps the evidence in the case may not be clear enough to clearly indicate the fact that you acted in good faith and with propriety. But for whatever reason, if the attorney general decides to prosecute, guess what, you are a defendant that is being tried for being in a "bad shoot", pure and simple.

    Once you are unlucky enough to be indicted and on trial, then you better believe that the prosecutor will use whatever crass act of subversion and sabotage against you that they can get their hands on, from the way your gun looks, to the trigger on your gun, to the caliber, to the bullets you use, to the video games you play, to the movies in your movie collection.

    I would think a good defense lawyer and expert witness could demolish most if not all dubious arguments against you, but I think people are being extremely optimistic if they think that things like this would not enter into the prosecution's calculus of strategy against you.
    Formerly known as "Son of Vlad Tepes"

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    i was bored and screwing around once when Lexis and Westlaw were free for me (read, when I was in law school) and tried to search for incidents like these...


    couldn't find any....


    i do think that the level of fear-mongering far outweighs the actual real world occurrence...

    either your use of the affirmative defense of defense of yourself or another is justified or it isn't...
    VA Arms Co employee

    Make it totally clear that this gun has a right end and a wrong end. Make it totally clear to anyone standing at the wrong end that things are going badly for them. If that means sticking all sort of spikes and prongs and blackened bits all over it then so be it. This is not a gun for hanging over the fireplace or sticking in the umbrella stand, it is a gun for going out and making people miserable with.

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