Can gun mods hurt you in court?

This is a discussion on Can gun mods hurt you in court? within the Defensive Carry Guns forums, part of the Defensive Carry Discussions category; I bought my Beretta 92G Vertec from Langdon Tactical Technologies before Ernst went to work for S&W. I had him put in his "carry" trigger ...

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Thread: Can gun mods hurt you in court?

  1. #1
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    Can gun mods hurt you in court?

    I bought my Beretta 92G Vertec from Langdon Tactical Technologies before Ernst went to work for S&W. I had him put in his "carry" trigger package consisting of a limited overtravel trigger, smoothed action and slightly lightened. It's a dream to shoot, but the DA trigger is still around 8 pounds and the SA around 4.5 pounds.

    I sent my Sig 226R to Sigarms and had them do a carry trigger job consisting of smoothing and lightening trigger is around 8# DA, 4.5# SA.

    I sent my XD Bitone to Springfield armory for their carry package consisting of lightening the trigger, decreasing overtravel and of course smoothing it. Trigger pull is about 4.5#

    But many feel that any trigger action mods expose one to unecessary legal risks should the modified gun be used in a justified shooting.

    I know we aren't attorney's but we still know things, so what do you guys think about trigger mods on carry guns?

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    Member Array Erich's Avatar
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    I am an attorney. I've been a prosecutor and am now an appellate criminal defense lawyer. I've never worked seriously in the civil arena.

    Sure, anything can turn out to be a liability in court. A lot of juries have idiots on them, and a lot of civil lawyers are jerks who will bring suit on behalf of wrong-minded people without really thinking things through. No one can tell anyone how things will turn out in court.

    I have had trigger work done on some of my guns, though, and my explanation would be, "This work was done in order to make my gun safer by making it more fit for accurate shooting, so that I wouldn't hit anything that I wasn't intending to hit. I had this trigger work done so that I could be more safe - I think all gun owners should be similarly responsible in ensuring their weapons function with precision."

    Anyway, I've been doing this for over a dozen years (and I've worked on dozens and dozens of shooting cases, certainly over 100 - although not all of these were fatals), and I've never seen it come up in the criminal arena.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Erich
    I am an attorney. I've been a prosecutor and am now an appellate criminal defense lawyer. I've never worked seriously in the civil arena.

    Sure, anything can turn out to be a liability in court. A lot of juries have idiots on them, and a lot of civil lawyers are jerks who will bring suit on behalf of wrong-minded people without really thinking things through. No one can tell anyone how things will turn out in court.

    I have had trigger work done on some of my guns, though, and my explanation would be, "This work was done in order to make my gun safer by making it more fit for accurate shooting, so that I wouldn't hit anything that I wasn't intending to hit. I had this trigger work done so that I could be more safe - I think all gun owners should be similarly responsible in ensuring their weapons function with precision."

    Anyway, I've been doing this for over a dozen years (and I've worked on dozens and dozens of shooting cases, certainly over 100 - although not all of these were fatals), and I've never seen it come up in the criminal arena.

    Thats pretty much what i have heard plus as long as mods are for better shootabilty and for safety beavertail grip or extended thumbsafety you should be ok


    Where youll get into trouble is Pinning the grip safety on a 1911 or something like that where your disableing it

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    VIP Member Array Rob72's Avatar
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    "Do-it-yourself" would be much more of an issue, than factory specc'd, or professional smith alterations (with receipts!).

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    My take on it is that perception is reality. A lot of potential jurors are either afraid of or just plain dislike big black scary-looking guns. I don't want to give these folks the perception that I'm a maniac looking to carve another notch in the grips of my custom compensated, lasermax, surelight, forend grip, holo sight G17 with the bayonet lug welded on the extended barrel and a 30 rd mag full of black talons. Just me here, but that's not the kind of fodder I want to give to a bleeding heart looking to make a political statement at my expense. I'll also leave my "born to kill" t-shirt at home on court day.

    So an unnecessarily long answer to a great question... I'm comfortable with the trigger/action jobs on some of my pistols, but too far beyond that and I think you open yourself up for possible grief.


    [on edit] I don't actually have a gun like this, or even a G19. Just a worst-case "for instance..." If you do have one, please post a pic, because I'm dying to see that sucker!! dh
    Last edited by duckhunter; October 14th, 2005 at 10:03 AM.
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    VIP Member Array Bud White's Avatar
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    Trigger Jobs and Night Sights if you prefer them i ment to add to the other post.. I think the Bayonet mount might not be a good thing

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    Frequently two ways to review some mods - ours, the ''makes it shoot better'' and theirs - ''but it's been made unsafe''!!

    One of the more contentious mods is possibly the mag safety being removed from a BHP - but in fact as Erich's most useful post says - most mods can readily be explained by actually making the gun safer to use.

    It's all a question of perspective.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erich
    I am an attorney. I've been a prosecutor and am now an appellate criminal defense lawyer. I've never worked seriously in the civil arena.

    Sure, anything can turn out to be a liability in court. A lot of juries have idiots on them, and a lot of civil lawyers are jerks who will bring suit on behalf of wrong-minded people without really thinking things through. No one can tell anyone how things will turn out in court.

    I have had trigger work done on some of my guns, though, and my explanation would be, "This work was done in order to make my gun safer by making it more fit for accurate shooting, so that I wouldn't hit anything that I wasn't intending to hit. I had this trigger work done so that I could be more safe - I think all gun owners should be similarly responsible in ensuring their weapons function with precision."

    Anyway, I've been doing this for over a dozen years (and I've worked on dozens and dozens of shooting cases, certainly over 100 - although not all of these were fatals), and I've never seen it come up in the criminal arena.
    Erich,
    Two things, "...anything can turn out to be a liability in court." How true. And, "I've never seen it come up in the criminal arena.", however most concerns about mods are not in the criminal court but in civil suits.

    Then, "This work was done in order to make my gun safer by making it more fit for accurate shooting, so that I wouldn't hit anything that I wasn't intending to hit. I had this trigger work done so that I could be more safe - I think all gun owners should be similarly responsible in ensuring their weapons function with precision."

    If I were an attorney needing to refute this, I think I would ask why you need this but police agencies all over the nation use this gun without these mods. If it's good enough and safe enough for them how come you need to be different? And, if these are such good mods, how come the factory doesn't make them that way to start with?

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    Member Array TonySoprano's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erich
    I am an attorney. I've been a prosecutor and am now an appellate criminal defense lawyer. I've never worked seriously in the civil arena.

    Sure, anything can turn out to be a liability in court. A lot of juries have idiots on them, and a lot of civil lawyers are jerks who will bring suit on behalf of wrong-minded people without really thinking things through. No one can tell anyone how things will turn out in court.

    I have had trigger work done on some of my guns, though, and my explanation would be, "This work was done in order to make my gun safer by making it more fit for accurate shooting, so that I wouldn't hit anything that I wasn't intending to hit. I had this trigger work done so that I could be more safe - I think all gun owners should be similarly responsible in ensuring their weapons function with precision."

    Anyway, I've been doing this for over a dozen years (and I've worked on dozens and dozens of shooting cases, certainly over 100 - although not all of these were fatals), and I've never seen it come up in the criminal arena.
    I have seen some of this come up in civil court as far as criminal court I haven't seen it. But this was back in the 80s and early 90s. When I was going thru civil court action my actions were question alot and training that I had done and gone thru were brought up. As far as gun mods the only thing that was brought up was "did I cock the hammer before I pulled the trigger" & " what was the trigger pull weight on my gun" The others lawyer was trying to use the hair trigger issue but my lawyer was slick when he had the jury actully fell and pull the trigger.The jury made several comments that it was had to pull the trigger on my gun. My pull weights were 12LB double action and 4LBs single action on a Model 57 4" 41 Mag. Long story short I won in that case and the judge dismissed the case. Just a note the other party had sued me the weapon mfg,ammo mfg and holster mfg and the department I worked for and the state and also the training schools I had been to include the military training I had. In todays world alot of people and lawyers think a civil siut is their way for early retirement.
    As far as mods on my guns go today is very simple sights, trigger(smooth and not lightened) dehorning thats it and I use ammo that is used on local police departments.Most use S&W 40 but I use 9mm but same brand and bullet style.

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    Member Array Erich's Avatar
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    Tangle,

    I'm sure we can all think of answers to your hypothetical Qs by a plaintiff's lawyer. I don't have time to post mine and then to keep coming back to post responses to follow-up arguments, though. I'm sure you'll figure it out.

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    Also depends on what part of the country you're in for both civil and criminal actions. Here in FL (Praise be to the legislature and JEB) it just became law that if the shooting is justifiable according to grand jury standards, there can be no indictment or any action by deceased perps estate to recover damages. I hope this becomes a national standard. In other parts of the country where gun ownership is high these types of actions are less likely to succeed. One of the members of my IDPA club is an experienced circuit court judge. We were shooting the bull after a match and I brought up the fact that I've switched to Sigs or H&K's for their DA actions on the first shot since I'm certain that my 1911 with the overtravel stop is going to feel feather light to some ignorant jury member. He replied that there were many ways to overcome that perception. You could have your attorney bring in a four pound bag of sugar and ask each jury member to move it just with their forefinger. That's the amount of pressure that must be exerted on a four pound trigger pull to achieve the shot. I think the overriding concerns expressed here as to disabling safety mechanisms are what leads to civil actions especially. A misread of circumstances or a misapplication of law (acting when you thought you were IAW the law when actually under the circumstances, you were not) are often the reasons for criminal charges. Cops have different (usually more restrictive) rules than those that apply to civilians in self defense situations, so you can't use that as a standard of measure. I've carried a badge for a living and I've been to law school too, so I've seen both sides. I don't practice law...although in the past I have TAUGHT law studies and so I've had the opportunity to get a lot of input from judges and the rest of the local legal community.
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    ExSoldier762,
    I need to re-confirm this, but I think Tennessee has a law that works that way too, i.e. if you shoot someone in a justified shooting, you can't be sued in civil court.

    But still, we could be traveling in a state that doesn't have such a law.

    And, so your thought is, that a "moderate" trigger job that doesn't affect the safety of the gun is most likely gonna be ok?

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    Post Not To Go Ga~Ga Over Massad Ayoob Here

    But, he did write a few Gun Ragazine articles where he named actual court cases were used as examples of court gun modification troubles.
    I think one or two other writers did the same also.
    Massad would travel around & testify in various court cases as an expert witness.

    The jury is still out with me on this subject. All of my defensive carry firearms are basically stock.
    Right now...My "carry ammo" is the also exactly the same as what most of my local Police Depts use. That would be Speer Gold Dot.
    I am probably being overly cautious.

    I said this in the previous thread & I'll say it again. CYBB ~ Cover Your Bum Bum - When you send your pistol off to a custom gunsmith to have trigger work done...Enclose a formal Signed Dated Cover Letter Requesting a SAFE TRIGGER PULL of XXX pounds. Keep a copy for yourself.
    One CAN probably also make the argument that a trigger pull that is TOO HEAVY & or gritty could also be Unsafe.
    That would be if an excessively heavy trigger would cause inaccurate shot placement which could cause a miss & an innocent bystander to possibly be injured.
    Last edited by QKShooter; October 14th, 2005 at 01:00 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by QKShooter
    But, he did write a few Gun Ragazine articles where he named actual court cases were used as examples of court gun modification troubles.
    I think one or two other writers did the same also.
    Massad would travel around & testify in various court cases as an expert witness.

    The jury is still out with me on this subject. All of my defensive carry firearms are basically stock.
    Right now...My "carry ammo" is the also exactly the same as what most of my local Police Depts use. That would be Speer Gold Dot.
    I am probably being overly cautious.
    That's what I'm thinking on the gun mags and "reported" cases where gun mods did cause some trouble.

    We often here "I'd rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6", but I think it's prudent to add that that the 12 that judges us may also bury us - legally speaking.

    I feel pretty safe with my guns that had trigger jobs done by manufacturers; they advertise it as carry trigger jobs to distinguish the trigger work from a competition trigger. Those should be safe.

    My problem is I can't leave stuff alone. Once I saw what they did, I duplicated it some. That could be more of a problem since I did it, but the fact that they offer carry trigger jobs is enough to establish that even the manufacturer realizes their guns could use some work.

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