Skip to main content

Should You Modify Your Carry Gun?

Should You Modify Your Carry Gun?

glock_modificationsThe old "9mm vs .45" controversy is pretty much dead these days, but there are still a few subjects that will get those of us in the gun community into heated arguments. Many of the most heated disagreements include whether citizens should modify their carry guns.

While there are a number of ways to modify a handgun, when this topic comes up, more than 90 percent of the people involved are referring to modifying the trigger pull and/or (to a much lesser extent) deactivating the safeties on a carry gun.

There are two schools of thought on this subject, with a very clear distinction in their views. They can be summarized as follows:

1. No, never.


2. Sure.


For decades, gun magazines have been filled with articles stating that carry guns should have trigger pulls over "X" pounds, X usually (but not always) being 4 pounds (lbs.). Why? Because some gun writer decades ago decreed that any trigger pulls under 4 lbs are not suitable for a carry gun. Why 4? Why not 5, or 5.23, or 6.79 lbs? When does a trigger pull become "too light?" What's a "light" trigger pull? "Light" has no specific definition. Factory guns can be found with trigger pulls ranging anywhere from well under 4 to over 12 pounds. Factory trigger pulls on identical models from the same manufacturer can even vary wildly.

I've got some news for you — if you can't keep your finger off the trigger, no trigger pull is right for you because you're unsafe. Presumably, some "experts" argue against lighter triggers on carry guns because it will leave the defendant open in court to charges that he or she was carrying a gun with a "hair trigger," that the gun was "unsafe," or that he or she made the trigger pull lighter because of some less-than-wholesome impulse ("He wanted to kill someone!"). To my knowledge, over at least the past three decades, I am aware of only one court case where the weight of the trigger pull was a factor in the trial.

But how many private citizens defending themselves with firearms (or even cops) would be better served with lighter, crisper trigger pulls on their carry guns?

About two years ago, two NYPD officers fired a reported 16 rounds at a homicidal suspect outside the Empire State Building, hitting him — as well as nine bystanders. Considering how many bystanders were hit, it appears most of the officers' rounds weren't hitting the suspect. NYPD officers are required to use Glocks equipped with nightmarishly heavy "New York Plus" triggers, which make it tough for even experts to shoot that pistol well. Would lighter triggers on their Glocks have allowed them to shoot more accurately? We'll never know, but I find it hard to believe they could do worse. Hit percentages in armed encounters involving private citizens are higher than in those involving law enforcement officers. Is that because the citizens aren't burdened with department-mandated, boat-anchor trigger pulls? Again, we'll never know.


I don't blame the officers, I blame their commanders who send them out ill-equipped to do a dangerous job. NYPD officers have to qualify twice a year with their handguns, which is about average for police departments. Think about it — how skilled of a driver would you be if you only got behind the wheel of a car twice a year?

I suspect that is why many people argue against trigger jobs on carry guns. They know just how many people carrying guns have only the minimal training required. Does that mean everyone carrying a gun should be handicapped with a long, heavy trigger? Apparently some experts think so, but not all do.

Col. Jeff Cooper personifies the opposite point of view. This is what he had to say about the best trigger pull weight on a 1911 destined for carry: "Three pounds, crisp, is the word." A 3-lb. trigger on a carry gun would give a lot of gunwriters and trainers used to dealing with people who have no grasp of basic safe gun handling skills explosive brain aneurysms, but light trigger pulls aren't inherently unsafe. Some shooters are. I don't think people with the proper skills need to be handicapped because the world is full of idiots, and some of those idiots carry guns.


And if modifying the trigger pull on your carry gun opens you up to legal attack, theoretically, any alteration you make to that gun will as well. This means if you changed the sights, springs, had a gunsmith install a new barrel or even just switched the grips on your gun, you have "modified" it and could be in trouble €¦ if you follow that line of thinking to its logical conclusion.

I am not a lawyer. I've been a uniformed and plainclothes police officer and a private investigator, and have carried a gun every day for the past twenty years, so take my opinion for what it's worth. Where do I stand on the issue?

None of my carry guns have ever had stock factory trigger pulls.

My response to that line of courtroom legal attack, if it ever occurs, will be that everything I've done to my gun has allowed me to shoot it better — both faster and more accurately, which means I will have a higher chance of stopping a bad guy before he can do worse. Cars have adjustable seats and tilt-wheel steering for a reason: One size does not fit all. Truthfully, you're open to legal attack even if you've left your pistol as it came from the factory, so why not make sure you can hit what you're aiming at, at speed and under stress?

The largest concern in any shooting will be whether or not your rounds went where you wanted them to go? If they did, then any attack on the gun you used by the other lawyer will be merely a distraction and hopefully seen as specious by the judge and jury. Even if your carry gun has a one-pound "hair trigger," if the three shots you fired at your carjacker hit him in the dead center of his chest, any argument a lawyer makes about your trigger pull will just seem silly to the jury.

However, if you didn't hit what you were aiming at, or accidentally pulled the trigger when diving for cover, shooting an innocent bystander or yourself, then you've got all sorts of trouble.

Removing a safety from a firearm, on the other hand, just sounds bad no matter what side of the argument you're on. The most common example of this is deactivating the grip safety on a 1911. I know why it's done — my hand is flat enough that I personally have issues reliably depressing the grip safety on some 1911s. If you do ever deactivate a safety on your carry gun, you need to be able to clearly and simply explain why doing so made the gun safer/better. That will be an uphill battle for you in court no matter what.

Some gunsmiths will gladly testify to the safety and quality of their work in a courtroom; some not so much. Whether you hire it out or do the work yourself (and know your limitations), no one should ever carry and depend on a pistol that's had work done to it until it's been fired enough to prove its reliability.

My philosophy has always been to carry a gun that best allows me to hit what I'm aiming at under stress. Winning the gunfight has always been more important to me than any potential court case that may come afterward. Carry a gun that you can shoot as fast and accurately as your skill allows, and practice, practice, practice.

4. Even stippling the grip on your pistol counts as a modification, and usually voids the manufacturer's warranty to boot. But the advantage it provides in gripping is undeniable.
3. Replacing any part on your gun, whether that means parts of the trigger group or just sights, technically counts as modifying it. If you do modify your carry gun you should be able to articulate why — saying for instance that it enables you to shoot the pistol more accurately.
2. Many 1911s straight from the factory have lighter trigger pulls than the 'expert ' mandated 4 pound minimum. Does that make them inherently unsafe?
1. There is intense debate as to whether you should ever modify your carry gun. Arguments against it say that altering your carry gun could open you up to attack in any legal proceedings that follow.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Performance Center M&P Shield M2.0

Performance Center M&P Shield M2.0

From Smith & Wesson, the M&P Shield M2.0 is a great option for a carry gun with optics option.

Ruger Security 9 Compact

Ruger Security 9 Compact

This handgun lives up to what Ruger wanted to build: a solid, dependable, easy-racking carry/home defense pistol at a better-than-reasonable price.

KelTec P17 22LR Pistol – Feature Packed, Accurate & Fun to Shoot

KelTec P17 22LR Pistol – Feature Packed, Accurate & Fun to Shoot

If you're in the market for a 17-round, compact .22LR pistol that's feature packed, then the P17 is definitely an option for you. At less than 14 ounces fully loaded, and barely longer than a dollar bill, the P17 is concealable for pretty much anyone. The threaded barrel, Picatinny-style accessory rail, ambidextrous safety, ambidextrous magazine release and three (3) 16rd magazines come standard. That's a lot of value added in such a small package.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The new Ruger-57 looks to put a charge into the 5.7x28mm pistol market—and you know you want one.Ruger 57 Pistol Review Reviews

Ruger 57 Pistol Review

James Tarr - June 05, 2020

The new Ruger-57 looks to put a charge into the 5.7x28mm pistol market—and you know you want...

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo with these 10 low-priced pistols.10 Cheap Guns Under $250 Compact

10 Cheap Guns Under $250

Evan Brune - September 24, 2015

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo...

The Ruger SR1911 is offered in two versions, an all-stainless in .45 ACP (model # 6762) and a two-tone aluminum-framed model in 9mm (model # 6758). This review by James Tarr will focus on the 9mm.Ruger SR1911 Officer-Style 9mm Review 1911

Ruger SR1911 Officer-Style 9mm Review

James Tarr - May 01, 2019

The Ruger SR1911 is offered in two versions, an all-stainless in .45 ACP (model # 6762) and a...

While some modifications require an experienced gunsmith, the average shooter can install most parts in just minutes.
Instead, the curtain-rod engineer with a8 Popular Drop-In Glock Mods Accessories

8 Popular Drop-In Glock Mods

Dusty Gibson - July 17, 2013

While some modifications require an experienced gunsmith, the average shooter can install most...

See More Trending Articles

More Concealed Carry



Over the last decade, the number of individuals obtaining a concealed carry permit has6 Essential Elements of Concealed Carry Concealed Carry

6 Essential Elements of Concealed Carry

Brad Fitzpatrick - August 26, 2016

Over the last decade, the number of individuals obtaining a concealed carry permit has

Concealed carry belts come in all styles and designs. Find the rig that's right for you with these great belts for concealed carry.9 Great Concealed Carry Belts Concealed Carry

9 Great Concealed Carry Belts

Brad Fitzpatrick - March 25, 2014

Concealed carry belts come in all styles and designs. Find the rig that's right for you with...

Getting your gun back into its holster is an important skill.How to Safely Holster Your Firearm Concealed Carry

How to Safely Holster Your Firearm

Richard Nance - May 25, 2018

Getting your gun back into its holster is an important skill.

Richard Nance covers the finer points when it comes to Appendix carry in this Tactical Tip.Tactical Tip: Appendix Carry Advantages Concealed Carry

Tactical Tip: Appendix Carry Advantages

Richard Nance - January 12, 2018

Richard Nance covers the finer points when it comes to Appendix carry in this Tactical Tip.

See More Concealed Carry

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Handguns App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Handguns subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now