Lets start with this: why would a person want to install a trigger that requires less input force to fire the gun? Because it makes the gun easier to shoot. Why is this bad on a gun that could be used in a self-defense situation? Because it makes the gun easier to shoot. As in, easier to shoot unintentionally, while under stress, confronting an unidentified individual in your house, in the middle of the night, only seconds after you were startled out of paralyzing R.E.M. sleep. It’s also easier to shoot when rapidly drawing from its holster, your finger finding the trigger while the gun is still pointed at your foot. And it’s easier to shoot when trying to cram it back into that same holster, hands trembling from adrenaline, your dexterity on par with that of a banana slug, due to vaso-constriction… You get the idea.
Guns are designed by engineers and lawyers. Just like cars. If a gun leaves their factory in an unsafe configuration, it is the company that will be held liable for any accidents, injuries, or deaths that result. If they market a gun that meets the industry standards for safety, for its intended use, and YOU alter it from this configuration in a way that undermines this standard, it is YOU that will be culpable for YOUR recklessness. After all, intentionally compromising the safety systems of any powerful device can only be described as reckless.
But a good shoot is a good shoot isn’t it? What does it matter if my pistol fired because a mouse ran out from under the fridge and farted. I was facing an armed attacker, in my kitchen, who clearly communicated his intent to carve me up like a turkey? In short, there is no such thing as a Justifiable Accident.
Flash back to the early 80’s and New York City. Frank Magliato vs. People of New York. Frank was facing a goon armed with a 24 inch police baton, charging him from across the street, and shouting that he intended to kill him. Mr. Magliato then drew his legally-carried .38 caliber revolver, cocked the hammer in an attempt to intimidate his attacker, (Just as he had been taught by movies and TV) and, at a distance of between 30 and 40 feet, shot the man between the eyes, killing him instantly.
Good shoot right? One problem. Mr. Magliato testified at his own trial that the gun fired by accident. He willfully created a hair-trigger condition in his gun. He got 15 to Life, though that was later reduced.
Well Duh! you say. He deliberately cocked the hammer and accidentally pressed the trigger, but my gun doesn’t have a hammer, and I, knowing better, would NEVER put my finger on the trigger until I was intending to fire. Furthermore, I am incapable of making a mistake, even for a moment, under very stressful conditions, because I have NEVER made a mistake in my life. Try testifying to that under oath.
A mediocre prosecutor would have no difficulty convincing a jury that anyone can make a mistake. Combine that with the fact that you deliberately increased the accident potential of your gun by installing a lighter-than-spec trigger and BAM! You’re cooked! They don’t get extra points for murder convictions.
Negligence + Death = Manslaughter, and that is good enough for a promotion. See also Crown vs. Allen Gossett, and Florida vs. Luis Alvarez. Both Cops. Both accused of intentionally cocking their revolvers. One for sure was not cocked and the other, due to poor holster design, may have become cocked on its own. Both narrowly avoided prison.
Let’s recap. You bought a factory- spec gun. You installed a competition-only “Assassin” trigger in it, faced deadly danger, and shots were fired. Maybe it is clear cut self defense. The cops pat you on the back and you sleep in your own bed. But maybe it’s not so clear cut.
Maybe witnesses give conflicting statements about what happened. Maybe your roommate casually mentions to the investigating officers that they “Shoulda seen the look on your face, you turned white as a ghost and started shaking”. You tell the cops that you didn’t remember pulling the trigger.
Although all these things are commonplace in a shooting scenario, if it is found that your gun has a hair trigger, suddenly a very different picture is being painted. One which does not end with a pat on the back and your favorite sheets.
Now, imagine the opposite scenario. You purchased a factory-spec gun, and then enhanced its safety by increasing the pull weight of its trigger, just as many police departments have done. The aforementioned event unfolds. Your gun is found to have the NY-1 trigger in it, and everyone knows that the purpose of that alteration is to ‘prevent’ unintentional discharges. This is backed up by data from NYPD.
To paraphrase Mas Ayoob, “If it’s good enough for the people who get paid to protect me and my family, then it ought to be good enough for ME to protect myself and my family.” Say hello to the cool side of the pillow.
You can rely on the whole “I keep my finger off the trigger” thing if you want. It’s hard to do that when you can’t feel your finger at all because most of your blood has been re-routed to major muscle groups and vital organs. And let’s face facts here, its likely that you will lose control of a couple other bodily functions as well, even though we have all been training on those skills from a very young age.
Don’t bother arguing that the light trigger makes it less likely that you will miss and hit an innocent person. You can’t buy skills; you must earn them like everyone else does. There are thousands of competition shooters out there that excel with stock guns. I typically shoot a conventional DA/SA auto whose initial pull is a long 10 lbs. Even with my average skills, the first heavy shot is just another hole in a usually well-clustered group on the target. (Usually…….)
Speaking of that particular DA/SA pistol, it has a single action trigger of around 5 pounds with a significant take up. No one would ever consider carrying this pistol cocked as it would be an accident waiting to happen. How is it that some people can sleep at night with a pistol that is ALWAYS a spongy 3.5 pounds? Maybe their mice don’t suffer from chronic flatulence.
[Travis Leibold is a Firearms Instructor living in Phoenix, AZ.]