The Dark Side of Gun Mods: Can Carrying a Modified Gun Be Used Against You in Court?

Can modifying your gun land you in hot water with the legal system? You see this discussion in online forums all the time. Half the participants want you to believe that any gun modification will cause prosecutors to paint you as a trigger-happy lunatic. The other half seem to think that any reasonable modification can be explained to the jury.

Modified Guns at Trial

If you’re in a self-defense shooting that goes to trial, the prosecutor will more than likely want to have your gun examined by a technical expert. This expert will generally examine the gun to make sure it’s functioning correctly, test fire it, and take specifications from it, often including the weight of the trigger pull.

Remember, most prosecuting attorneys’ goal is to win, and if that means introducing evidence to make you sound like a cold-blooded killer, they will.

What if your carry gun had a significantly modified trigger? “He carried this gun with a hair-trigger to make it easier to kill.” Legally, if deadly force is justified, it doesn’t matter whether the trigger pull is 1 pound or 20 pounds … even though the other side may argue differently.

In the George Zimmerman trial, the prosecuting attorney alleged that Zimmerman carried his gun “with a round in the chamber, in the ready to fire position.” Sure, you know that’s how most firearms are designed to be carried. Now imagine the prosecutor is telling a jury about your modified everyday carry gun. Do you trust the jury to understand why it was modified?

We tend to focus on trigger modifications because those are the most common modifications people make to their pistols. For years, light trigger pulls have been demonized in fictional media and eschewed by law enforcement administrators.

In 1987, the New York Times published an article on the new revolvers that were issued to the NYPD. What made these revolvers significant is they were double action only, per NYPD’s specifications. Unlike most commercial revolvers, these guns couldn’t be cocked for a lighter trigger pull.

That culture continued at NYPD with the adoption of the (in)famous Glock “NY+” trigger system, which took a perfectly serviceable Glock 5-pound trigger pull and ruined it by making the pull approximately 12 pounds. It doesn’t require a stretch of the imagination to see a prosecutor point at your gun with its modified 3.5-pound trigger and say, “Police don’t have triggers that light; why should the defendant?”

Don’t Forget About Civil Suits

You don’t have to be a criminal defendant to worry that your modification will be used against you. In 1973 in California, a gun owner was sued for negligence when his carry pistol discharged during a motor vehicle incident.

According to documents, the defendant, Wayne Partridge had modified his S&W .357 Magnum so that the gun would have a “hair trigger action.” The gun discharged when driving over a bumpy road and injured a third party. At trial, Partridge was found to be negligent due to his modifying of the gun.

It’s Not About You

At trial, it doesn’t matter why your carry gun was modified. What matters is why the jury believes it was modified. That’s why a competent self-defense attorney is so important.

U.S. LawShield Independent Program attorneys are all well-versed in the area of self-defense. They have the legal knowledge and technical understanding to help a jury understand why your modified firearm isn’t a liability.

For more information on how to protect yourself, join U.S. LawShield today!

About the author: U.S. LawShield Our organization traces its roots to 2009, when a group of pioneering lawyers became fed up with the hostility and abuse in the legal system directed towards responsible gun owners. They saw innocent people suffering the terrible consequences of someone else’s choice to commit crime. And to make matters worse, those people were tied up in the legal system, struggling to defend themselves. Innocent people were experiencing financial duress, bankruptcy—or worst of all, going to jail.The Second Amendment states “…the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” And yet, every day, our founders saw innocent, responsible gun owners experiencing mistreatment in the legal system—as if they were the ones that had done something wrong. To fight these injustices, our founders chose to stand up for the rights of the American people and become a champion for good and the voice of justice. That’s when the idea for our company was born: the first concealed weapon legal defense program to truly provide Legal Defense for Self-Defense.Our business was born in Texas and continues today from our headquarters in Houston, Texas. For many years, we provided our program to law-abiding residents of Texas and was known as Texas LawShield®. Demand for services existed well-beyond the state of Texas and our team expanded to other states. Along the way, we took on the name U.S. LawShield®.Today, we are serving members in the majority of states. While we are honored that our focus and mission have really resonated with so many people – literally attracting hundreds of thousands across the country, we will never forget what brought us together, why we exist to serve members and we will always stay close to our Texas roots. It is said the people of Texas have some unique customs and traditions like independence, self-reliance, a can-do spirit, and a big heart (caring for one another). We work to convey this in all we do for our members.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • RSConsulting March 26, 2021, 9:04 am

    Yeah – as with other commenters – thought I was going to learn something (new). Sadly mistaken.

    Yes – a prosecutor may try to do anything in their power to paint you as “evil gun carrier”. And in a “questionable self defense shoot”, modifications might be mentioned – but can be just as easily dispelled.

    ALL my carry pistols are “modified” with Trijicon sights – the kind with the white circles around the tritium tubes. I can see the sights in mid/low light because of a low-contrast-sensitivity issue created by getting LASIC done years ago (I’ll suffer that, versus the 20/15 vision I still have 15 years later). That and having the same sights on every carry, means my “sight picture” is the same, regardless of what I grab off the rack on any given day.

    Triggers are modified on most of my carries, not to make them MORE DEADLY, but MORE ACCURATE (thereby reducing the risk of MISSING a threat and hitting an innocent). The guy who modded his trigger to the point where the revolver dropped the hammer on its own SHOULD BE SUED – as should whoever did the work – for carrying AN UNSAFE GUN. Any gun that leaves MY BENCH is safety tested 6 ways to sunday.

    I don’t buy “shooting insurance”, because I have a number of criminal attorneys as friends, that are also “gun people”, that would handle a case for me (including ones that have WON DISMISSALS on “pre-emptive SYG cases”). A GOOD SHOOT is always going to be a GOOD SHOOT. That’s why Florida changed its laws – to prevent overzealous prosecutors from bankrupting law-abiding-citizens who were exercising their right to self-defense. More often than not, a “questionable shoot”, turns out to be BAD ONE. And under Florida Law – a GOOD SHOOT, is a BAR TO CIVIL SUIT – as in, you cannot sue the person that shot you, for shooting you, IF YOU DESERVED TO BE SHOT.

    As bad as Florida can be in some places, we are second only to TX for our gun rights enshrined in STATUTE. May GOD bless and keep Gov. Ron DeSantis, Florida and PLEASE SAVE OUR REPUBLIC.

    Rick

  • Chris Mallory March 26, 2021, 8:47 am

    “In 1973 in California, a gun owner was sued for negligence when his carry pistol discharged during a motor vehicle incident”

    Why not tell the whole story? This idiot was driving around with two other people, shooting rabbits while in a moving vehicle. While trying to keep a rabbit in the headlights, holding the pistol either in his lap or on top of the steering wheel the revolver discharged hitting the woman sitting next to him. For the “hair trigger” to have fire, the idiot almost had to have had his finger on the trigger. I don’t see a rough vehicle ride providing the needed motion to cock a hammer on it’s own. The moron broke at least two of the 4 Gun Safety Rules. He was at fault no matter how light his trigger was.

  • Chief March 26, 2021, 8:39 am

    The title should have been, Can Carrying a Modified Gun Be Effectively Used Against You in Court? And then, there should have been an actual answer rather than the dribble provided. Disappointing. When I saw the article, I thought I was actually going to learn something…

  • Alan March 26, 2021, 7:22 am

    If you don’t make any mods the argument goes away. Then the only argument is did the dirtbag need to be shot or not

  • Jim Parker March 26, 2021, 6:35 am

    Technically, a modified gun should not be used to smear the gun owner before the court. Either in criminal cases or civil cases.

    In civil cases the plaintiff’s lawyer can use the modified gun as a way to present its owner as a gun nut. Even something as silly as custom pistol grips or an upgrade to a gun’s optics or magazine capacity .

  • KCsmith March 26, 2021, 6:23 am

    Is this ridiculous myth still being touted by anybody other than a company selling prepaid legal?
    Nope, didn’t think so.
    What a load of crap.

    • OzarkMuleskinner March 26, 2021, 8:47 am

      KCsmith – The author of this article provided real-world examples of overzealous, politically motivated prosecutors and ambulance-chasing personal injury lawyers effectively using weapon modifications, even cosmetic enhancements to sully otherwise innocent defendants. Massad Ayob (apologies to Mr. Ayob if I misspelled his name) and other recognized experts in the field of self defense litigation also provide numerous examples of unscrupulous attorneys and jurists misleading juries to conclusions which resulted in convictions, jail time and ruinous civil lawsuit decisions for hapless and otherwise innocent defendants.

      I understand and share your outrage that our legal system can be perverted to produce unjust results for victims ensnared in its web. But that is the world we live in and to ignore it out of some misplaced sense of moral certitude can be a recipe for disaster to those who accept your characterization of such real dangers as a “myth”.

      Lady Justice may be blindly impartial but misguided juries and activist judges bring their own prejudices and partialities to the justice process. To ignore that reality, insisting that truth will ultimately win out, is a naive position which could cost defendants their life savings, if they win, or their freedom in prison.

      The “Innocence Project” provides hundreds of examples of “innocent” men and women languishing in prison, even on death row. As amateurs in the legal processes, I believe it is prudently wise for law-abiding gun owners to heed the advice of experts in the legal field and restrict our use of modified triggers and “Punisher” skulls to ‘race guns’ in carefully and safely administered competitive events.

      My EDC guns however, will be well-maintained and pristinely stock, the best and most reliable I can afford. I simply refuse to make it easier for prosecutors to make an “example of me” or give personal injury lawyers a fancy new car at my expense, due to extraneous, possibly legally entrapping modifications on my firearm. I wish you well if you choose otherwise.

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