View Full Version : Modifications to defensive firearms
I recently read an article on upgrades for Glock pistols. The author recommended misc. upgrades such as aftermarket triggers, trigger jobs, swapping out disconnectors, extended magazine release buttons, sights, and reduced power recoil springs, among others. My question is which, if any, of these modifications would be acceptable to a defensive handgun? Essentially, what can I (or a gunsmith) modify on a pistol that could not reasonalby be held against me (legally or through civil litigation) if I were forced to use that pistol to defend myself?
Bowtie, "acceptable modifications" have to be looked at from two directions: tactical concerns and court concerns. Non-spec recoil springs, etc. may impact reliability in a defense gun, where they wouldn't be a concern in a dedicated target pistol; oversize magazine releases may speed reload time in a USPSA match, but also make the gun more vulnerable to unintended magazine release during daily concealed carry.
On the court side, given that NEGLIGENCE is the key ingredient to a manslaughter or reckless endangerment conviction in criminal court, or to a tort finding against you in a civil court lawsuit, I've learned to avoid trigger pulls of lighter than manufacturers' specifications, and deactivated safety devices. The latter plays into opposing counsel's hands: "Ladies and gentlemen, the defendant is so arrogant that he thought he knew more about gun design than the gun's manufacturer, and so reckless that he DEACTIVATED THE SAFETY DEVICE ON A LETHAL WEAPON!"
Lighter than spec trigger pulls -- colloquially, "hair triggers" -- are widely associated with unintentional/accidental/negligent discharges. This being GlockTalk, let's look at the Glock pistol. For more than 20 years, Glock has emphatically stated that the 3.5 (now designated 4.5) pound pull is NOT to be used in duty/defense guns. When the 3.5/4.5 lb. connector is mated with the NY-I model, however, pull weight comes up into the 6 pound range and is currently factory approved.
I've seen opposing counsel try to paint night sights, lasers, etc. as indicators of malice and Rambo fantasies on the part of the user. We shoot that down by explaining that anything that improves the shooter's ability to hit in poor light and under stress, concommitantly reduces the likelihood of a wild shot that could strike an innocent bystander and thus shows high responsibility as opposed to negligence on the part of the user. Unfortunately, this argument won't fly in support of a lightened trigger pull because in light of the common law principle of the doctrine of competing harms, the well-known tendency of light triggers to discharge prematurely outweighs the very limited improvement in hit potential that they offer.
This issue won't just come up in genuine accidental shootings. It's a common ploy for "the other side" to paint an intentional, justified shooting as accidental and negligent, because they know that at law, there is no such thing as a "justified accident."
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