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  #1  
Old 03-17-2020, 02:08 PM
yowsaboss yowsaboss is offline
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Trigger modifications and liability

I've read in a number of credible places, Massad Ayoob for one, that you're opening yourself up for liability if you modify a handgun, especially the trigger, and later that gun is used in a defensive shooting. I've "enhanced" the trigger group on just about every handgun I own, either with a simple polish, some light honing, or changing out springs. I"ve done some or all of the that with nearly all my handguns, with the exception of a couple of high end 1911s that have triggers that are already perfect.

For the above to be true, it would mean that any firearm involved in a shooting and taken into evidence would need to be disassembled and forensically examined by someone who really knew their guns. I have a hard time imagining that every LEA has the resources or the expertise to do this, maybe with the exception of a very large department/ DA's office.

I'm thinking that unless a gun had an extremely light trigger that attracted attention, this isn't going to happen in most jurisdictions.

Do any of you, especially LE types or attorneys, have DIRECT knowledge that this does in fact happen, that you're putting yourself in legal jeopardy by playing gunsmith?
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  #2  
Old 03-17-2020, 02:44 PM
megafiddle megafiddle is offline
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The argument I've heard, is that you may be sued by the "victim's" family for accidently shooting him through your own negligence.

It does require enough uncertainty about what really happened, i.e. whether you were really justified in shooting. The plaintiff will claim that that you fired by accident, due to the very light trigger pull on your gun.

It wouldn't necessarily have to be a modified gun; it could be a target gun with light trigger. Their point would be that you were negligent in using any such gun. Also, it wouldn't have to be disassembled for examination. The plaintiff's expert will testify that the measured trigger pull is far less than the stock triggers on guns typically carried for self defense.

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  #3  
Old 03-17-2020, 02:50 PM
magazineman magazineman is offline
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It would only be an issue if your light trigger caused an unintentional shooting, or if you used your light trigger as a legal defense in the courtroom.

If it's a regular defense shooting, meaning you fully intended to shoot the criminal, the trigger weight doesn't matter.

This topic has been discussed way too much already. Plenty of talk on this is available in the forum archives.
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  #4  
Old 03-17-2020, 03:20 PM
yowsaboss yowsaboss is offline
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And this is what always seemed contradictory to me. If you intended to shoot, what difference would it make whether the trigger was 3.5lb or 7lb as far as civil or criminal liability? Sure, if a friend is using your modified gun with a 3lb trigger, has an AD and hurts someone, I can see it. On the other hand, while a heavier trigger makes an AD less likely, by and large a lighter trigger makes it easier to be more accurate, and thus safer.
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  #5  
Old 03-17-2020, 03:22 PM
drail drail is offline
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I would not worry about it simply because any prosecuting attorney could produce some "expert" who will tell the court that a 10 lb. trigger is extremely light (and the jury will believe them because they're an "expert" - you know just like the "experts" at every gun store you've ever been in). Most attorneys have no idea what they're talking about but are are VERY good at making juries believe they do. Once they get you in a courtroom they can pretty much make up anything they want and most juries are dumb enough to believe almost anything.

Last edited by drail; 03-17-2020 at 03:24 PM.
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  #6  
Old 03-17-2020, 04:57 PM
glider glider is offline
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I've heard the same argument applied to handloads.
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  #7  
Old 03-17-2020, 05:07 PM
magazineman magazineman is offline
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If your handload blew up a gun injuring someone, yes, it's a legal problem. Otherwise, no.

And drail --------- No, most juries are NOT dumb. Only the ones that screw up badly enough that you hear about the results.

But hey, go ahead & buy into that George Carlin jury bit if you want to.
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  #8  
Old 03-17-2020, 07:50 PM
Plaidad Plaidad is offline
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Magazineman -
I have served on jury duty several times. It has been my observation that many people seem to lose much of their common sense when they file into the jury room.
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  #9  
Old 03-17-2020, 08:01 PM
Sistema1927 Sistema1927 is offline
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A good shoot is a good shoot. If you had legal justification in shooting, then it doesn't really matter what your trigger pull was.

If you didn't have justification, then you are in trouble even if your trigger weighs in at 20 lbs.

If your "trigger job" results in negligence, leading to damage, injury, or death, then you are doubly in trouble.

But, once again, if it was a good shoot, then don't sweat the hardware. It would be more important to make sure that the software (your brain) is fully functional.
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  #10  
Old 03-17-2020, 08:41 PM
jjfitch jjfitch is online now
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Yup!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sistema1927 View Post
A good shoot is a good shoot. If you had legal justification in shooting, then it doesn't really matter what your trigger pull was.

If you didn't have justification, then you are in trouble even if your trigger weighs in at 20 lbs.

If your "trigger job" results in negligence, leading to damage, injury, or death, then you are doubly in trouble.

But, once again, if it was a good shoot, then don't sweat the hardware. It would be more important to make sure that the software (your brain) is fully functional.
As a deputy I served as back-up for the regular court deputy when assigned to "court duty" on numerous cases.

What I observed doesn't relate directly to a case beyond what you have stated, in general.

Part of the issue is the cost of defending yourself. A good attorney will cost $800 an hour! If involved in a SD incident you want the $1,000 an hour guy!

In my department anytime a firearm was held in evidence it was function tested for safeties and triggers were measured. In some cases the firearm was fired and fired cases were examined as well as bullets and firing pin "signatures".

That being said I saw a couple of cases where the attorneys argued for hours about ammo, safeties and triggers. It was laughable to anyone with common firearms knowledge and a little common sense. I don't recall the specifics of the case but one lasted most of one day arguing over a firearm used in a shooting.

That was a waste of time since it didn't affect the outcome of the case. At $800-$1,000 an hour!

All the best,
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Gun Control: Acquire target, align sights, press trigger, only after you have identified your target and what is beyond it and made the decision to shoot!

Last edited by jjfitch; 03-17-2020 at 08:44 PM.
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  #11  
Old 03-17-2020, 09:09 PM
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RickB RickB is offline
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Everything you say or do will be questioned.
Anyone could argue that the "hair trigger" was dangerous, but how could it matter if the shooting was not accidental?
"All of my guns have the trigger action tuned for perfect function, and the pull weight allows for the best possible accuracy, reducing the danger to anyone or anything that is not the intended target."
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  #12  
Old 03-17-2020, 09:24 PM
magazineman magazineman is offline
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RickB is correct. An attorney can try to make hay out of ANYTHING. But if it's not germane to the case it won't go anywhere. Trigger weight would only affect cases such as accidental shootings where it could be relevant.

Meaning, don't worry about it. However, holding a perp at gunpoint with your finger on a lightened trigger is a really bad idea.

Also, when the lead's flying in a fight you probably want your gun to fire only when aimed / pointed correctly. And it WILL likely be the most nerve-racking & terrifying few seconds of your life. I just don't think a target-weight trigger is a good idea for that anyhow.
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  #13  
Old 03-17-2020, 09:43 PM
USMM guy USMM guy is online now
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As has been clearly stated.

This subject has been beat to death many times here on the forum. Other venues as well.

The general consensus pretty much comes down to. Either you have a clean shoot or you have a questionable shoot. Either way, if you have a prosecuting attorney trying to make a name for themselves. Even in a clean shoot they can and oftentimes will attempt to make an issue about anything. Including but not limited to the color of the shirt that you were wearing on the day of the shooting. To whether or not you had a disagreement with your wife the night before. Anything that they can bring up in an attempt to portray you as a bad guy to the jury is not out of bounds. Guns, ammo, gun modifications, they are just a few.

Thus as has also been stated here. If you do ever find yourself in front of a jury for a shooting that you were involved in. Good shoot, questionable shoot, or otherwise. You best have the finest legal representation that you can possibly provide yourself with. Also a really good reason not to get all warm and fuzzy feeling about having some kind of better call Saul character willing to put himself on your speed dial for a small monthly fee.
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  #14  
Old 03-17-2020, 09:50 PM
magazineman magazineman is offline
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And it's good to have a friend like Better Call Saul's MIKE.
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  #15  
Old 03-17-2020, 09:54 PM
megafiddle megafiddle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by magazineman View Post
...
However, holding a perp at gunpoint with your finger on a lightened trigger is a really bad idea.
...
And why is that a bad idea?

Because if there's any question that you were unjustified in shooting, the light trigger will be used as evidence that it was negligent.

-
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  #16  
Old 03-17-2020, 11:16 PM
USMM guy USMM guy is online now
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That would be Mike Erhmantrout.

Quote:
Originally Posted by magazineman View Post
And it's good to have a friend like Better Call Saul's MIKE.

That is my cousin. He is known as the one that all the chicks swooned over for his good looks.
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  #17  
Old 03-18-2020, 01:46 PM
magazineman magazineman is offline
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megafiddle---------------- THIS is the reason that holding a perp at gunpoint with your finger on a lightened trigger is a bad idea:

You may accidentally shoot him. Nervous finger on dainty trigger -------BAD!!

And if you DO shoot someone accidentally while detaining him the light trigger SHOULD be used as evidence. Hopefully to convict you.

Because when you are holding someone, who is complying, at gunpoint, they are essentially in your care. You must take basic precautions with their safety, as weird as that sounds.

Example: you cannot prone out a suspect on the tracks when a train is coming. Like it or not, your prisoner is your responsibility now.

And nervously holding a perp, with your finger on a 2 lb trigger is neither safe nor responsible. If that gat goes off accidentally in that situation, you ARE negligent.
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  #18  
Old 03-18-2020, 02:28 PM
megafiddle megafiddle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by magazineman View Post
megafiddle---------------- THIS is the reason that holding a perp at gunpoint with your finger on a lightened trigger is a bad idea:

You may accidentally shoot him. Nervous finger on dainty trigger -------BAD!!

...
That was my point (sorry I wasn't clearer).

It can not only cause an accidental shooting, it can be used to argue that the shooting was negligent rather than justified.

-
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  #19  
Old 03-18-2020, 02:43 PM
yowsaboss yowsaboss is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by magazineman View Post
And nervously holding a perp, with your finger on a 2 lb trigger is neither safe nor responsible. If that gat goes off accidentally in that situation, you ARE negligent.
To be clear, in this case I've reduced a 7.5 trigger to a 5.5 trigger. I have a < 2lb trigger on a .22 target pistol, and I'd never want anything approaching that on a SD gun!
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  #20  
Old 03-18-2020, 02:46 PM
Sistema1927 Sistema1927 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by USMM guy View Post
That is my cousin. He is known as the one that all the chicks swooned over for his good looks.
Mike wasn't looking too pretty in the latest episode, "Dedicado a Max.
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  #21  
Old 03-18-2020, 03:18 PM
magazineman magazineman is offline
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Yes, I don't think many, if any, knowledgeable experts recommend an especially light trigger on a defense gun. It's just not safe.

But again, I would not consider this a legal hazard unless you accidentally shot someone because of your ill-advised light trigger weight.

And if so, that negligence deserves repercussions----- criminal, civil or both.

The legal term is "foreseeable" Yes, capping someone accidentally IS foreseeable with Olympic Target Pistol trigger weights.

Hey, I LOVE my H&R USRA pistol. But it sure ain't a CCW piece.
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  #22  
Old 03-18-2020, 07:05 PM
JayhawkNavy02 JayhawkNavy02 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jjfitch View Post
As a deputy I served as back-up for the regular court deputy when assigned to "court duty" on numerous cases.

What I observed doesn't relate directly to a case beyond what you have stated, in general.

Part of the issue is the cost of defending yourself. A good attorney will cost $800 an hour! If involved in a SD incident you want the $1,000 an hour guy!

In my department anytime a firearm was held in evidence it was function tested for safeties and triggers were measured. In some cases the firearm was fired and fired cases were examined as well as bullets and firing pin "signatures".

That being said I saw a couple of cases where the attorneys argued for hours about ammo, safeties and triggers. It was laughable to anyone with common firearms knowledge and a little common sense. I don't recall the specifics of the case but one lasted most of one day arguing over a firearm used in a shooting.

That was a waste of time since it didn't affect the outcome of the case. At $800-$1,000 an hour!
This!

IMO, your modifications and the ammunition you choose do not negate the right of self defense. However, in court "all things will be considered”. The videos and articles make that clear and fundamentally it’s about each person and their acceptable level of risk. I value the opinion of legal counsel who is actively involved in cases and professionally trained vice an unknown author without direct legal experience. Major driver of why most articles I posted (hopefully) were from a legal source. Take a look, watch the videos (there are some dissenting opinions) and see if there is a consistent (mostly) trend/perspective.

Great article by Larry Vickers who has some pretty decent street credit and a lot of combat experience.
https://www.vickerstactical.com/trig...ll-weight.html

"As a general rule, a serious use pistol should have a trigger no lighter than 4 pounds and ideally no more than 6 pounds. In addition a trigger below 4 lbs can easily lead to accidental discharges under conditions of stress. Remember fine motor skills degrade rapidly, and not only does the shooter's ability to shoot accurately suffer, but because of this a 4 lb trigger will feel like a 2 lb trigger when you are truly in fear for your life. Add into this sweaty hands, rain and/or cold, and possibly gloves, and you begin to see why finely tuned match triggers of 3 lbs or less have no place on a serious fighting tool."

Larry Vickers

Videos from Legal Sources

https://youtu.be/OfDY_yqS3oY

https://youtu.be/uM3s3SqtPEo

https://youtu.be/DStlpH33XOA

https://youtu.be/OmYbV_7xGL4

Consolidated post from lawyer(s):

Information relating to what happens in these cases doesn't make it into the easily accessible legal record, which is why listening to Lawyers that go to court is valuable. Many cases do not make their way into casebooks, because they aren't published or they are resolved. The reason why there isn't a plethora of published cases is multifaceted. There are so many criminal cases handled and disposed of that it would be impossible to catalog every single one. Additionally, in most every single one there is nothing significant or new on legal grounds that make them worthy of publishing. Also consider that you and I might be concerned with a limited aspect of a single element in the case when in the larger picture, it's not as significant to the parties and therefore the only way the public will be aware is by word of mouth.

Next reason. In an unmeritorious prosecution, the strategy is to charge Manslaughter on a negligent discharge theory instead of murder with an intentional shooting theory, because a prosecutor knows the former is a slam-dunk compared to the latter. To win a Murder conviction, the prosecutor has to convince the jury that a decent citizen like them turned into a cold-blooded executioner. That’s a tough sell. For a Manslaughter conviction, all he has to do is convince them that, just like any other human being, you the defendant were reckless and negligent in just one instance.

In a civil lawsuit, the plaintiff’s counsel knows that if he portrays you as deliberately shooting his poor, misguided burglar client, he’ll miss the deep pockets he’s after. That’s because any homeowner’s liability insurance policy expressly excludes a willful tort, i.e., a deliberate harmful act committed by the policyholder. It will only pay for negligence. Thus, the unmeritorious argument that you accidentally shot the man you were holding at gunpoint, due to a hair trigger.

Last for visibility it will typically need to be appealed, which is less than 1 percent of cases.


https://blog.cheaperthandirt.com/tri...aiting-happen/

https://lawofselfdefense.com/can-mod...you-convicted/

https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/blo...ensive-pistol/

http://modernserviceweapons.com/?p=6896

https://armedcitizensnetwork.org/gun-modifications

http://monderno.com/monderno/the-tru...rigger-weight/

https://www.concealedcarry.com/safet...our-carry-gun/

https://blog.cheaperthandirt.com/tri...aiting-happen/

Exception to Legal Sources - Massad Article Referenced Above

https://www.personaldefenseworld.com...-hair-trigger/
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Last edited by JayhawkNavy02; 03-19-2020 at 01:25 AM.
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  #23  
Old 03-21-2020, 11:13 AM
Oldsalt65 Oldsalt65 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by magazineman View Post
megafiddle---------------- THIS is the reason that holding a perp at gunpoint with your finger on a lightened trigger is a bad idea:

You may accidentally shoot him. Nervous finger on dainty trigger -------BAD!!

And if you DO shoot someone accidentally while detaining him the light trigger SHOULD be used as evidence. Hopefully to convict you.

Because when you are holding someone, who is complying, at gunpoint, they are essentially in your care. You must take basic precautions with their safety, as weird as that sounds.

Example: you cannot prone out a suspect on the tracks when a train is coming. Like it or not, your prisoner is your responsibility now.

And nervously holding a perp, with your finger on a 2 lb trigger is neither safe nor responsible. If that gat goes off accidentally in that situation, you ARE negligent.
2 pound trigger, 2.5 pound trigger, 4 pound trigger, 7 pound trigger, 10 pound trigger..........

Your finger doesn’t belong “on the trigger” regardless of the weight of pull, while “holding a perp” or at any other time.

That finger remains positioned outside of the trigger guard at all times and under all conditions until you’ve decided to fire the pistol, whether at man or beast or paper target.
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  #24  
Old 03-21-2020, 02:11 PM
magazineman magazineman is offline
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We all know that, Oldsalt.

But crap happens, especially in crazily stressful situations.

BTW, when I first got my USRA pistol I had an unintentional discharge (no prob, I was already on target) but it was from simply placing my finger on the trigger. It's THAT light.
The trigger is fantastic, of course, but I learned really quick just how light it is!
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  #25  
Old 03-21-2020, 02:14 PM
magazineman magazineman is offline
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Also, you will notice how I specifically said "finger on trigger" in my earlier posts.

I did that to differentiate between that and the proper Finger-Off-Trigger method.
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