Legal Risks of Modifying Your Trigger Pull

There are many modifications you can make to your firearm to make shooting and carrying it more efficient and comfortable. One of the most popular is adjustment of the trigger pull weight. But, should you be concerned legally about this modification to your firearm? Maybe yes, but likely no.

The trigger pull weight is the amount of weight in pounds (or the force that represents that much weight) that is required to be exerted on a trigger by the user’s finger in order to discharge the firearm. The greater the trigger pull weight, the more force is needed to make the weapon fire. Since trigger pull weight is a product of a mechanical process involving springs, the trigger pull weight can be manipulated to be lighter or heavier to better suit the owner.

There is no agreed upon standard trigger pull weight across the numerous available firearms one may own. There are as many opinions on what constitutes an ideal trigger pull as there are gun owners.

Our purpose here is not to take a position on what the perfect trigger pull weight is for your situation, but to tell you about what the law might have to say if you modify the trigger pull weight on your gun.

Modified Trigger Pull Weight and Intentional Discharges:

If you have intentionally fired your gun, the trigger pull weight is most likely legally irrelevant. When you discharge a firearm, the fact that it operated with a very light or a heavy trigger pull will likely be of little consequence to any resulting legal matters because if you intentionally shot someone or something, the key legal issue will be whether or not you were justified in the shooting, with trigger pull weight being an afterthought.

For example, if you were in fear for your life as an intruder was smashing down your door, and you intentionally shot your assailant, whether you had to press four pounds on the trigger or ten pounds on the trigger is likely to be less important than whether your use of force was justified. Remember, if you intentionally discharge your firearm, the law will primarily look at whether your use of force was justified and other factors such as trigger pull weight will be much less important.

With all the recent proposed and/or passed firearms legislations across the country, be sure to consult your local laws and ordinances related to this issue.

Modified Trigger Pull Weight and Non-Intentional Discharge:

What if the gun went off and you did not intend to pull the trigger? In a situation of a non-intended discharge, the issue of trigger pull weight could be relevant.

Suppose you are confronting an attacker and you have drawn your weapon but have not fired. The attacker, upon seeing your firearm and hearing your clear verbal warning to STOP, decides to immediately surrender, put his hands up and get on the ground. Just as the adrenaline is easing you hear a surprise BANG and feel the recoil of your own gun in your hand. You may not have meant for the gun to go off, but you just had a non-intended discharge.

In a situation involving a non-intended discharge, the law will likely impose a negligent or reckless standard to evaluate the conduct of the person discharging the firearm. Therefore the circumstances surrounding why the gun discharged will be evaluated. This could hypothetically include the trigger pull weight of your gun. However, the inquiry in most non-intended discharges will likely be decided on a more fundamental issue than the technical issue of trigger pull weight.

Before the issue of trigger pull weight may come into play, the first question in the legal analysis could be: “Why was the person’s finger on the trigger before he or she intended to discharge the weapon?” It is a fundamental cornerstone to what is considered proper firearms handling that you keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire, a fact a district attorney will likely bring up.

A very persuasive argument could go like this: “If your finger was not on the trigger, the gun would not have fired.” Therefore, the first act of reckless or negligent behavior would have been putting your finger on the trigger before you wanted the gun to fire. Then, the analysis could potentially shift to the trigger pull weight of the gun. This scenario is not beyond possibility.

What trigger pull weight should I use on my gun?

Our best advice is to be reasonable. As we said before, there is no ideal trigger pull weight for every gun. For example, a 90-year-old woman suffering from arthritis in her hands may find a nine-pound trigger pull weight impossible, while a 23-year-old starting linebacker may find it to be just right. Just remember, when the adrenaline is flowing, that “hair trigger” may cause you to fire your gun before you are ready if you do not regularly train with your firearm.

When modifying the trigger pull weight of your firearm, also keep in mind its intended use. It may not be best to put a one-pound trigger pull on your carry weapon, and likewise it may not be a great idea to use a ten-pound trigger pull, making it so hard to press you can’t effectively hit the target without regular training.

In the end, the issue of trigger modification should be an informed one. Be sure to consult a gunsmith and/or the firearm manufacturer along with your local laws before making any modifications to your firearm. By adjusting the trigger pull weight, you are making your tool more useful for its intended purpose. Regardless of what you decide is the ideal trigger pull weight for you and your gun, be sure to practice. Know your gun like your life depends on it, because someday it might.

But what about any civil implications of trigger pull modification?  Hear from Texas and U.S. Law Shield President Kirk Evans on the issue:

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