Is Getting a Trigger Job for Your Self-Defense Handgun a Good Idea?
The internet: it’s chock full of people who spew out information like it’s going out of style, whether right or wrong, they’ll spew it out. A huge rumor floating around on the internet, propagated by the fear-mongers, is that if you lighten the trigger pull on your self-defense gun, that you’ll be prosecuted for murder. The folks will have you believe that any modifications you make to your handgun, which makes it a more efficient killing tool, will subject you to the full wrath of a prosecutor.
These fear-mongers include people on chat forums (the internet’s most reliable source of information… umm, not!), local folks at the range, who have undoubtedly been tainted by the chat forums, and even a group of lawyers who have a website “defending armed citizens.” While some are more knowledgeable than others, the first thing to ask one of these fear-mongers is, “show me case-law where someone was prosecuted based solely on modifications made to their firearm.” They’ll give you a blank stare and you can just go about your business. If you pose this question on an internet forum, they just won’t respond, or they’ll change the topic, quickly.
Let’s just break this down: if you are involved in a justifiable use of deadly force while in the process of defending yourself or another, the likelihood of being prosecuted is very low to begin with. Your handgun will likely get seized by law enforcement, but returned after they decide not to prosecute you. If it is clear you were acting in self-defense, they’ll question you and then release you. Following the incident, law enforcement investigators, as well as the local district attorney’s office, will review the case and determine whether to indict you or not. Even if your pistol was modified, if you acted in self-defense and the actions were justified, you shouldn’t have nothing to worry about. Having a trigger job done is not against the law, unless you’re turning your semi-auto into a full-auto. The only time a modification to your firearm would even be brought up is if you were not acting within the confines of the law, and in that case, the modifications are really a moot point, you have bigger problems to worry about.
What About Modifying My Duty-Weapon?
Another interesting thing I see on the internet is how many LEO’s talk about modifications to their duty weapons. I wrote policy for my department, and I can tell you that most departments have a policy forbidding this. Modifications to your duty weapon, although not illegal, will get you in hot water with your department and this most likely includes a department issued back-up weapon. Well, what about your personal back-up weapon? Departmental policies generally regulates caliber and manufacturer at best, but usually won’t dictate modifications to your personally owned firearms, as long as they are “reliable.” But, if your department policy states NO modifications to personally owned back-up weapons, then don’t do it – simple! Abide by your department’s policies. Otherwise, if you use a revolver as a back-up, a trigger job may be a good idea. If it sh*t breaks so bad you’re going for your back-up, you were most likely to be justified in the use of deadly force and nobody is going to question why your back-up has such a smooth trigger; they’ll just be happy you didn’t hit any bystanders.
Practice, Practice, Practice! Then Clean It.
Keep in mind, if you do decide to get a trigger job, make sure you spend time training with it afterwards so you know how the trigger will break and how your firearm shoots. Another important point is making sure you clean your self-defense (or back-up) handgun regularly, especially if it’s a revolver. Revolvers are generally built to fire even when filthy and as-such, they have an unnecessarily heavy trigger return spring. A trigger job should alleviate this, but a lighter trigger-return spring could cause an issue with the trigger reset if the gun is too fouled up; it’s comparable to dropping a big block V8 into your old S-10 pickup truck but not changing the oil. Whether your carry as a professional or civilian, inspect on a weekly basis and clean as needed; guns kept in ankle rigs are notoriously filthy.
Ultimately, only you can make the decision whether to modify the firearm or not. My opinion: on a semi-auto pistol, I wouldn’t modify the factory trigger if it were in the neighborhood of 5 pounds. This isn’t for fear of litigation, but more of a safety concern, as a sub-5 pound trigger could cause a negligent discharge if not careful, or in a highly stressful situation. As for revolvers, I am an advocate of having a spring kit/trigger job, especially if your revolver is above an 8-9 pound double-action pull range. A good, smooth double action trigger pull will help with accuracy and follow-up shots. This is a saying I picked up over the years that can be applied in this situation: I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6. Carry on.