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Why You Should Think Twice About Modifying Your Concealed Carry Gun

Updated: Jun 23, 2022

Posted: October 14, 2019

Think Twice About Any Handgun Mods on Your Duty and CWFL (CCW) Pistol

Something that you might want to think twice about is modifying your concealed carry gun. While you might get some better shooting out of it, it could become a liability. Gun stuff is fun, and making things better is cool especially if you're the DIY sort. Any hobby is enhanced by the little upgrades that people like to make, but what people forget about concealed carry is that you WILL be held responsible for what you do. Bear in mind this isn't legal advice, just a discussion. If you need qualified legal advice, consult with a licensed, practicing attorney in your area. If you're involved in a self-defense shooting, you will not be feted as a hero. You will not be given a parade, garlands of roses, or a Roman Triumph. You might, in fact, be branded a villain, a killer, a matter how seemingly iron-clad your claim of self-defense might be.

Part of that is could be due to the gun itself.

Common handgun mods usually - though not always - address three key aspects of handguns. They are:

  • The Trigger

  • The Sights

  • The Appearance

Modifications can be used against you by a prosecutor or plaintiff's attorney in court. Now, we all know that the goal of reducing trigger pull weight and improving the sights is to improve your handgun shooting. Adding decoration is just something you do because you like it. However, a prosecutor or plaintiff's attorney might interpret it differently. Rest assured, if you have to use your gun in self-defense, your pistol will likely have to be surrendered into evidence. The state will analyze it, part of which will be testing the trigger pull weight and examining it for any other alterations from factory specifications. Depending on the nature of the modification, it can open the door to major liabilities in certain circumstances. Let's talk about that in a bit more depth.

Trigger Pull Weight And Intention

Trigger pull weight can actually matter in the right scenario. In many self-defense cases, it's had absolutely no bearing at all, but there have been some in which it did. Mas Ayoob's take on the matter in Personal Defense World lays out a few cases in which trigger pull weight was a factor. In four of the five cases, a lighter trigger pull was indicated as a contributing factor to a negligent or otherwise unintentional discharge of a firearm. The remaining cases, New York vs. Frank Magliato, the defendant was involved in a shooting, wherein he cocked his Colt Detective Special in a tense standoff with other people. He had his finger on the trigger, and the gun discharged, killing a man. Magliato claimed that the light trigger was to blame, but the court found that the act of cocking the revolver signified intent to shoot and/or to kill. He was convicted of murder, which was reduced to manslaughter on appeal. Two of the four cases involved revolvers. In one case, Crown V. Gossett - from Canada, where cases are prosecuted by The Crown instead of the state - concerned a policeman who was trained to cock his service revolver before firing. He cocked the revolver, which he unintentionally fired due to the light trigger pull. Gossett was initially convicted of manslaughter, but was exonerated on appeal. The other - Florida v Luis Alvarez - involved similar circumstances though the return spring of Officer Alvarez's had been shortened to lighten the trigger pull, a common revolver modification. Alvarez was acquitted.; Two more cases involving less-than-intentional discharges and lightened Glock triggers. While neither case resulted in criminal conviction, it did result in substantial payouts in civil court. In every instance, a lighter trigger pull contributed to the incident. When adrenaline dumps in your system, your strength levels up significantly but your fine motor control - meaning the capacity for precise movements - declines. A light, short trigger can easily be touched off by the involuntary contraction of the hand and therefore trigger finger under stress. To my knowledge, no self-defense case has hinged on the sights, so we'll leave that alone. Instead, let's move on to decorations.

Save The Punisher Logo For The Comics

Another common gun modification is the aesthetics. Graphics, stylistic handgun grips, and so on are a large and thriving business. Guns can be functional art, no doubt about it; whether it's lustrous bluing and finely-grained walnut or a Glock festooned with the cool logo of the owner's choosing. Yes, they can be art...but that "art" can send the wrong message. In other words, leave those "Punisher" grips for the comic books or a range gun. You aren't "The Punisher," and if you actually read the comic books, you'd know that you wouldn't want to be him either.

In 2016, Officer Philip Brailsford of the Mesa, Ariz. metro police department was involved in a shooting incident. A guest at a hotel, where a party was occurring, displayed an air rifle. Other hotel guests called the police, believing it was real. Brailsford, along with six other officers, arrived at the hotel and confronted the man who had been seen with the rifle, one Daniel Shaver. They went to arrest Shaver, who attempted to comply by laying on the ground. He was told to crawl to the officers. While he tried to belly crawl, his shorts slipped down and Shaver tried to pull them back up. Brailsford shot him five times with his AR-15, which he owned personally and used as a patrol rifle. Shaver was unarmed and died at the scene. It was discovered, according to AZ Central, that Brailsford had etched "You're F*****" into the dust cover of his rifle. He was fired from the Mesa PD, and was later acquitted of manslaughter. The jury deemed it plausible that Brailsford believed Shaver was reaching for a weapon.

The etching, it should be noted, was suppressed during Brailsford's criminal trial. The case is currently being litigated in civil court, which could cost the city of Mesa more than $100 million. The civil case is still in the discovery phase as of the time of this writing, per the Courthouse News Service, so time will tell if it's suppressed from the civil trial. The etching was, however, cited as a key reason Brailsford was fired from his employment with the Mesa PD. Granted, this isn't to inculpate or exculpate Brailsford. That's the court's job. Know also that Shaver left behind a fiance and an 8-year-old daughter. He was not armed with a gun. This is to say that he had what seemed to be a very aggressive message etched onto his gun. In the court of public opinion - and if you are a defendant in such a case, it may well be a factor - it doesn't look good. At ALL. And make no mistake: how much the jury believes your story, and how likable they find you, WILL be part of a trial if you ever find yourself having to defend yourself in a court of law after doing so in your home or on the street. Therefore, it behooves you to keep the optics on your side. What helps with that? A weapon that is otherwise ordinary.

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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