Does a trigger job add to legal problems in a justifiable shooting?


August 7, 2004, 08:12 PM
If one wants to get a trigger job done on their home-defense weapon (in this case, a Sig) -- nothing overly exaggerated, just a *factory-completed* job in line with their the company's own standards and procedures -- does one overly complicate the legal waters in the event the gun is used in a justifiable defense shooting in the home?

I've been toying with the idea of getting a trigger job done due to a stiff DA pull on my P220, but heard or read somewhere (Ayoob?) -- and more than once -- that the practice of having this done to your home defense weapon opens you up to negative ramifictions because a prosecutor *could* claim to the jury (if it got that far) that the weapon was customized to make it "easier" to kill.

True...or urban legend? Obviously, anything's possible when it comes to courtroom antics...but does this seem like a likely tactic a prosecutor would/could take?

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August 7, 2004, 08:17 PM
It might, it might not.

I've never seen a case hinge on a trigger job, but I have heard of stranger things being the turning point in a case. I don't have confirmation, but I recall reading that in one case the prosecution tried to make a big deal about the fact that a citizen had modified his BHP by removing the mag safety. The kicker was that the BHP wasn't even the gun involved in the shooting.

I suppose it depends a lot on where you are, the circumstances of the shooting, and just how light the trigger ends up being.

August 7, 2004, 08:22 PM
I don't think that DA would even know if you had a trigger job done to a gun, unless you told them. I have never heard of a prosecutor taking apart a gun for a case, where the trigger was pulled and it fired the way it was suppose to. The only time that I could see it causing a problem would be if you put a Hell Fire on it.

August 7, 2004, 08:31 PM
You have to differentiate between the "criminal trouble" and the "civil trouble". IMO, if its a "good shooting", it may not matter in a criminal case. But, you can bet your last dollar (which you may lose anyway) that a civil attorney will be quick to point that out......probably calling it a "hair trigger" since there will be nobody on the jury that knows anything about guns. You will probably be portrayed as a modern gunslinger.

August 7, 2004, 08:36 PM

I have spoken to more than one criminal defense attorney about the subject, and here are the results.

Things that internet people will say that will ***k you over in a self defense situation:

Trigger pull
ammo choice
brand of ammo
use of a highcap magazine
use of skateboard tape/grip modifications
choice of caliber
number of safeties
hammer down: good / hammer cocked: bad

Bad news, its all false.


Weapon choice has little to do with it, just dont use an AR15 with an ACOG, Knights RAS, et al. The use of a decent non-evil looking firearm and distance of the bad guy have more to do with it.

August 7, 2004, 09:10 PM
Kruzr nailed it.

Almost certainly not in a criminal trial. Civil trials are another matter entirely--they'll bring up anything they can think of.

buy guns
August 7, 2004, 09:20 PM
its your gun, if they dont like you customizing it then screw them.

thats like giving a porsche owner a bigger fine for speeding than a civic owner just because porsches are made to go fast :rolleyes:.

Linux&Gun Guy
August 7, 2004, 09:40 PM
thumbtack - check your pm box

Standing Wolf
August 7, 2004, 10:01 PM
I don't own a carry gun whose trigger hasn't been improved to one degree or another. If my life may depend on a gun, I want to be rock-solid sure it's 100% dependable and as accurate as possible.

August 7, 2004, 10:05 PM
thats like giving a porsche owner a bigger fine for speeding than a civic owner just because porsches are made to go fast I recall reading a study that showed sports cars are pulled over more often than non-sports cars because they are more noticeable, not because they speed more. IIRC, the same study showed that red cars tended to get stopped more than any other color.

Same principle.

August 7, 2004, 10:17 PM
Unless you or an incompetent gunsmith bubba'd the trigger into making it slamfire full-auto, I wouldn't worry at all.

Even if this were an issue, wouldn't you rather have a better trigger and survive the gunfight to deal with legal problems rather have a crappy trigger and end up dead?

August 7, 2004, 10:46 PM

>>Trigger pull
ammo choice
brand of ammo
use of a highcap magazine
use of skateboard tape/grip modifications
choice of caliber
number of safeties
hammer down: good / hammer cocked: bad<<

Just IMHO plus what I've heard over the 37 years I've been involved in LE and carrying....

Ammo choice, brand, and caliber _should_ be something like what the local PD is carrying. Juries don't really understand any of this anyway, but if you can show that your ammunition choice is less than or equal to what the local PD is using, that should cover you. Wadcutters or SWC should come across as "target" ammo, and "more accurate", an attempt to be very careful of what you hit, and to limit penetration to avoid hitting the wrong target. DO NOT use "Super Felon Blaster III" or something like that.

I don't see anything wrong with carrying a .40 or .45 if the local PD is using 9mm's, particularly the .45, but you may need to show that the choice was made because it's a better way to _stop_ an assailant. Jurors may not understand any of this except which one is bigger, though. Just make sure your lawyer does....

Number of safeties is probably irrelevant as long as what you've got is what the manufacturer supplied. IOW, don't remove the magazine disconnector, grip safety, etc.

HiCap mags are also irrelevant if the manufacturer provides them with the weapon. Aftermarket mags might be a problem in this sense.

Grip modifications should be approached as "to improve safe handling", and should be OK as long as it doesn't look like a zip gun. Commercial aftermarket grips, in particular, should be OK. IANAL, and all that, but this is kind of neutral as long as it doesn't diminish safety.

IMHO, the hammer down/cocked issue is a grey one. SA's are just a lump of metal (& plastic) when not cocked, but a shark could accuse you of "looking for trouble" anyway. Establishing that the only way the weapon is useful is when cocked may be tricky, but I know a lawyer who could do it. DA0's and DA/SA, if fired double action, shouldn't be a problem.

(Not that the lawyer's couldn't screw you over because of holster wear....)

The key to trigger pull changes has to be _safety_. "This improves my control of the weapon", rather than any sort of "makes it easier to shoot somebody." Your lawyer should be good enough to deal with this. Just smoothing the thing out shouldn't bother anything. Trigger pull should be left approximately where the factory set it, or at least not reduced below whatever the factory calls it's minimum for that gun.

(I've got a Commander that's something like 15#. The former owner was a diabetic and had neuropathy issues. He _had_ to know what the trigger was doing, and for him, that heavy trigger resulted in safe control. When I get a chance, it'll get put back to stock. While you could now call it "difficult to discharge", I have control issues with it and a shark could make something out of that. Taking it back to stock (8#?) shouldn't be an issue.)

The problem here is that in the absence of protection from civil liability, _anything_ can be used against you, including running away should the bad guy damage somebody else.... It is, however, and IMHO, best to keep the obvious red flags down.

August 7, 2004, 11:00 PM
"Even if this were an issue, wouldn't you rather have a better trigger and survive the gunfight to deal with legal problems rather have a crappy trigger and end up dead?"
Agreed, but since a trigger job in this pistol is certainly more of a choice/option than a neccesity, I have to wonder about the value-gained vs. the risk potential for problems later on, the "hair trigger" issue as alluded to earlier. It's probably true that it's more of a potential issue in civil than criminal (though even there, the potentiality seems apparent), but I'd rather not lose my life savings nor my freedom over what is essentially a selective/optional fix -- one that will make my range time more enjoyable and, yes, my first DA pull on the gun more accomodating and accurate for defense purposes.

Interesting there isn't a more clearcut consensus on this issue that would seem to touch on a great number of gun owners...

2nd Amendment
August 7, 2004, 11:04 PM
Since it seems all you are really talking about is cleaning the trigger action up a little who would notice if you don't mention it? As you said, we're not talking about a "hair trigger" here, just smoothing things out. Seems unlikely to be any issue at all, even in a civil case.

August 7, 2004, 11:09 PM
One thing I have heard specific cases of people getting in trouble is by disconnecting or bypassing safeties the gun was designed with. Civil lawyers in particular like this one because they can convince a jury the shooting was due to negligence or accidental.

Paul "Fitz" Jones
August 8, 2004, 08:17 PM
Defense attorneys will use any excuse or non standard item to try andmake you look bad. I knew several defense attorneys that bad things happened to. Jumping out a hospital window, not shutting up in a holdup got one murdered and another gay one was shot in his front yard by his gay client.


El Rojo
August 9, 2004, 12:14 AM
In your own home, I don't think it is going to matter one way or another.

"I heard the intruder and the only gun I have is my competition Sig."


"I just grabbed the nearest weapon which happened to be my competition Sig."

In your house, don't worry about it. You have a right to defend yourself with whatever you have available. If the only thing I have is my Remington 700 VS in .308 that I use for varmints and 1000 yard matches, I will use it. If the other lawyer asks, "Did you modify the trigger?" "Yes I did." "Did you modify the trigger with the intent of shooting my client?" "No I did not." Big deal. If you have a slight trigger job done on your Sig, no big deal. I would think it is more important for you to have a firearm that you feel confident with and that you can shoot your best with. If you have to shoot someone with it, then so be it. If a civil case goes the other way because of it, then you probably did more things wrong than this. Why worry about it?

Now if you have a CCW and you carry, it might be a little different. They might be able to portray you as a guy who was out looking for it. Personally, I wouldn't worry about it. If having a tirgger job or using reloads is what throws the civil case the other direction, so be it. If we are talking criminal charges, you shouldn't have shot in the first place.

I think there is only so much worrying you can do about these subjects until it becomes absolutely rediculous. I say urban legend. Now go get your trigger job. :D

cracked butt
August 9, 2004, 02:55 AM
(sarcasm on)Better not sharpen any of your knives either. If you were to use a knife that was modified fromthe factory sharpness the defense lawyer will claim that you turned an ordinary knife into a ninja death weapon(/sarcasm off)

August 9, 2004, 11:00 AM
Thanks, El Rojo...that was the best, most reasonsed response yet (but thanks to the others, too:) ) -- I like the way you think...puts the whole thing in perspective. Appreciate it.

Now to get that trigger job (and, no, it's not a carry weapon)...

August 9, 2004, 11:31 AM
What I remember from my FAS II class is something like this:

If you're justified using lethal force, it doesn't matter what tool you use to stop your assailant.

But, like the other kids say, if I use a double sided axe, civil court will be a kick in the pants...

Right in the front.


August 9, 2004, 11:53 AM
Legally it has no relevance. Even the doom and gloom people point to civil suits as where such things come into play, as in a legal court, the only relevant question is "was the use of deadly force justified."

On the civil side, well, here in Minnesota you cannot be sued in civil court for an act of self-defense that was legally justified. Period. We may have sucky "duty to retreat" laws, but we cannot be sued for the legal use of deadly force.

Then again, legal advice on the internet is worth what you pay for it: nothing.

August 9, 2004, 11:56 AM
if you can show that your ammunition choice is less than or equal to what the local PD is using, that should cover you.
Irrelevant, my dear Watson :p

There is no less to greater (good to bad) continuim with ammo. Sure, there is in our minds, but not in the mind of the attorney hired by the family of the late POS. Whatever YOU USED is the absolute most deadly terrifying ammo ever seen by man, even el cheapo 38 sp round nosed lead target ammo.

OTOH, I would LOVE to see someone try to bring a civil suit like this in Montana. If it wasn't dismissed by the judge, the jury would probably have to be restrained from physically assaulting the plaintiffs :D

August 9, 2004, 03:05 PM
Besides you only had the gunsmith do mantainance on the gun to make sure that it operated in a safe and proper manner.

August 10, 2004, 02:14 PM

There is no exeption that I know of for "exessive leathal force"

If a claim is made that it was an accident then MAYBE a 2.2 ounce trigger might be brought up in a CIVIL case.

Thats my view.

August 10, 2004, 07:29 PM
We're talking a "good shoot" here right? Then any mods you do to the gun won't make a dang bit of difference in whether or not you face charges. A good shoot is a good shoot. If the gun is discharged accidently or negligently then the mods you do probably will make a difference.

E.g. You catch a BG (with multiple rape convictions) in your daughter's bedroom naked and blow his head off. The gun you used has a 1/2 pound trigger pull. No charges will be filed unless they also would have been filed had you beaten him to death with a block of silly putty, or slashed his throat with a butter knife.

If, on the other hand, you find yourself needing to use your SD pistol and in the process of drawing it it fires prematurely because of that ultra light pull and the bullet hits and kills an innocent bystander. That'll send you off to the pokey for at least something like negligent homicide, if not murder.

Now, civil court is another monster altogether. One would think that if the shooting was entirely justified that the civil suit should be thrown out with extreme prejudice. But, often times it is not. But in the case that you find yourself staring down a lawsuit if you hire the best lawyer money can buy they can make you look like the knight in shining armor saving a damsel in distress. And make the perp look like Jeffery Dahmer. If you can't afford that good of an attorney then the perps family probably won't get that much out of you anyway even if you do lose.

August 10, 2004, 07:58 PM


August 10, 2004, 10:07 PM
DA/Prosecuter probably won't even notice as long as your trigger job isn't too extreme. It's like having your car tuned up.

If they do find out, (what, did you tell them?) it was done by a competent gunsmith for the reliable and accurate operation of the weapon.

Why that ammo? Well, it's marketed as 'self defense', and operates accurately and reliably in my particular weapon.

9/.40/.45: They're all common calibers, not noted for extremes in respect. If you use a .45 your lawyer can point out that your a traditionalist. 9mm is the most common defense caliber, being used by many police departments and the military. .40 is like an average of the two, and used by departments that have logged trouble with the 9mm's 'stopping power'. 10mm? It's all I had?

Now, you might get in trouble if you were running around with a .454 or .500, but what are you thinking if you're running around with them?

The biggest part of the case will be your actions and the fact that you had a weapon, rather than the details of the weapon.

August 10, 2004, 10:43 PM
We may have wandered off, or perhaps I'm restating the obvious, but....

If it's a clean shoot - if there's no criminal prosecution - then it really doesn't matter what you did, or how you did it, or what sort of weapon, it's condition, ammunition, etc., was used.

However, in many areas, you'll find yourself in Civil Court as the relatives of the BG turn up to tell everybody how good a boy he was, etc.

You then run into the problems of rabidly anti-gun (or just criminally uninformed) media, Judges and Juries who have no idea, and hungry sharks who don't care about the truth as long as they get paid.

The point, then, is to NOT give them any "ammunition" by which to hang you.

The good news is that if nobody can make something out of a half-pound trigger, unless you've got one of those ugly assault pistols, ammunition type and caliber may be the only real issues. I think we've covered that well elsewhere in this thread.

The bad news is that Juries tend to be made up of people who didn't have the "pull" to get out of Jury Duty....

(Some years back some gang-bangers shot up a house hereabouts, killing a little boy. The local rag screamed "high powered assault rifle". It was a .22.... Semi-auto.... .22LR.... Wrong house, too.... Trying to prevent that is like trying to stop hijackings by banning travel agents.... It's the criminals, stupid.)

(Tallpine: The idea is to then be able to put Officer so-and-so on the stand and let him tell the Jury that he's carrying stuff that's a lot worse. That's why you try to stay "reasonable" on your ammunition choice. If the local PD likes .32ACP, we're screwed, of course, but some kind of 9mm HP seems to be the minimum these days. All we have to do is appear "reasonable", but sometimes it's good to be able to slap the shark upside the head.)

August 11, 2004, 11:32 AM
Unless your trigger job is extreme and causes accidental discharges or (illegal) fully-automatic fire, in my non-laywer's opinion it's no more of a problem than ANY other characteristic of your gun or ammo.

ANYTHING can be twisted by an unethical attorney.

Use handloaded ammo . . . and you're brewing up deadly loads to KILL.

Use factory hollowpoints . . . and you're using DUM-DUM ammo, banned by the Geneva Convention. (Actually the Hague Accords, but who cares?)

Use FMJ . . . and you're a "military wannabe."

Use the same gun or ammo local cops use, and you're a "cop wannabe."

Use a standard gun, and you're "trying to kill on the cheap."

Use a modified gun, and "ORDINARY guns aren't GOOD enough to KILL for you?"

Practice a lot, and it's "Why didn't you shoot the knife/gun/club out of his hand?" or "You really practice to KILL a lot, don't you?"

Don't practice, and "You're not really competent to use deadly force, are you?"

etc. etc. etc.

Best defense is to first, avoid using deadly force if possible. Second, if that doesn't work, make doggoned sure you're only in a GOOD shoot. Third, SHUT UP until you speak to your attorney. Fourth . . . make sure your attorney is a GOOD attorney.

August 11, 2004, 12:18 PM
All good advice -- thanks, everyone. You've managed to put what I instinctly felt what an unreasonable concern into a reasonble light; appreciate the feedback. I think I'll run another 1000 or 2000 rounds through it (it's got around 800 now, I believe) and see if I can't smooth the trigger out a bit that way. If it's still not up to my satisfaction, I'll go with the trigger job and have no qualms about doing so.

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