Very often, I am asked by my students about my opinion on the pros and cons of modifying the trigger pull of their carry gun. Owners do not typically increase the weight of the trigger pull on their firearm. For this reason when referring to trigger modification, we will be addressing reducing the weight of the trigger pull from what is set by the manufacturer. For example, your firearm comes from the factory requiring 5.5 pounds of force on the trigger to fire a cartridge. Reducing the weight of the trigger pull to 3.5 pounds of force would make it easier to pull the trigger. I give you my opinion based on an intimate understanding of the factors involved in a high stress, deadly force shooting, and the legal process (criminal and civil) that will follow. This topic can quickly expand into many areas of gun modification, so for this reason, I want to address handguns carried for personal defense. It does not matter whether you carry your firearm concealed or openly. The facts associated with modifying the trigger on your carry gun remain the same.
First, there are a few ways to modify the trigger on your firearm. One way is to buy an aftermarket trigger group. This product will replace the factory trigger mechanism with one designed to be easier to pull. There are many manufacturers of these aftermarket trigger groups and they are available for many different types of guns. A second way to modify the trigger is to mill, grind, file or otherwise physically modify the original trigger group components of the firearm, to reduce the trigger weight. This should only be performed by a highly trained gunsmith and even then, can be very dangerous. Any modification to the tolerances of the firearm’s components could cause it to malfunction, wear and fail prematurely, or even fire when not intended. For this reason, it is STRONGLY suggested that this type of modification not be done to your firearm.
Here are some factors to consider:
Reducing the weight of the trigger can help with accuracy. Typically, shooters do not hit their target because as they squeeze the trigger, they affect their aim and push/pull their sight alignment. While accuracy is a critical part of the equation, and we want to be as accurate as humanly possible, we need to understand that a deadly force or self defense shooting is not a marksmanship competition. In that, I mean we are not trying to shoot all of our bullets through the same hole. We instead want to target our threat and balance speed with the ability to ensure all of our bullets strike our target area on our threat. For this reason, the micro accuracy hoped to be gained from reducing the weight of the trigger pull is unnecessary.
Everything you do, say, have done or have said in the past related to your character and firearms (accurately or not) will be presented in your criminal and/or civil trial. This means that in addition to your possible “kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out” social media posts, the type of ammunition and your firearm will be scrutinized. Every incident is different, and sometimes one bullet may be sufficient to stop the threat, while another time, nothing short of every round you are carrying will stop the threat. The number of cartridges fired can be one of many critical pieces of evidence used in proving if you were using deadly force in self defense or not. This is even presented more strongly in a civil case where only a ‘more likely than not’ decision needs to be reached. Reducing the weight of your trigger pull can present a kernel of doubt into the minds of the jury and have them guessing if the follow up shots were really necessary, or if they were a result of your modified trigger and the stress of the incident. Let me be clear, every shot may have been justified, however, gambling that every juror understands the nuances and factors associated with a self defense/use of deadly force incident is not worth it in my estimation.
Imagine sitting in court and having this picture presented: Defendant posted on social media “kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out” and modified the trigger of his firearm to make it easier to shoot and kill people. He/she obviously was looking for a chance to use deadly force and didn’t care about stopping the threat. He/she just wanted to shoot and kill someone.
Let me reiterate that you may be completely justified in your use of force, including the number of bullets fired, but any amount of doubt that could be introduced to the jurors’ minds, especially ones who may be anti-gun or don’t understand self defense, could end up hurting you.
For these reasons, I recommend not modifying the trigger on your carry gun. The factory specifications are more than acceptable for balancing accuracy, safety and speed. If you don’t like the factory trigger on a firearm you are looking to purchase as your carry gun, there are many other options that may feel adequate without modification. If you are intent on modifying your trigger, please do it the right way and replace the trigger group with an aftermarket product. This way, if you find that it is too light, you can change it back. As always, focus on your training and stay safe.