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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.]

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  1. Thank you for that. Reading all the gunstore counter BS about trigger jobs on this and other fora, I was starting to feel rather alone. There was a time when this was Firearms 101: Never put a trigger job on a service (as in carry) weapon. Match use only. Period.

    The trigger job is not only less safe for all the reasons you describe so well; it renders the firearm less reliable. What happens when the force throughput of the firing action is reduced? Does its free operation vs. friction, stiction, inertia, etc become more positive or less? That’s fine for a match weapon that is meticulously maintained and tuned and where misfires are not life threatening. In service use, it’s not such a good tradeoff.

    In the defense scenario, the trick trigger job is irrelevant to accuracy anyway. The shooter will be jacked up half out of his mind on fear and adrenalin, and his trigger force will be many times what it ever was on the range.

    Thanks again for the thoughtful and sensible piece.

    • A trigger job does not necessarily mean lightening the springs to reduce pull weight. It may just mean that the surfaces were polished to reduce creep and grittiness. The trigger on a J frame sucks out of the box, and I read an account of an S&W rep suggesting dry firing it 500-1000 times to smooth it out.

      • Smoothing a trigger is generally viewed as OK. But it is the lightening of the pull and or reducing the length of pull that can be troublesome.

  2. Great post!

    Another issue relating to triggers and negligent discharges if subconscious trigger confirmation. The following is pulled from a chapter in my book, Armed Response:

    I came across details of a law enforcement study that demonstrated that under high levels of stress, the trigger finger often subconsciously travels to the trigger to ‘confirm its position.’ Lt. Dave Spaulding, of the Montgomery County, Ohio Sheriffs Office, observed that 632 out of 674 officers tested periodically placed their fingers in the trigger guard during FATS (video simulation) training. This is astounding — 94% of the trained police officers tested placed their finger on the trigger under stress! This number included many highly-skilled and motivated officers. The officers that he observed doing these “trigger searches” had no memory of doing so.

    Lt. Spaulding’s research confirms that high levels of stress affect the shooter’s subconscious actions.

    David Kenik
    Armed Response

    • That’s a pretty damning number–and pretty damning evidence too. However, just to plays devils advocate, how much of that was “ok shoot–wait, don’t shoot” going on in the thought process? [I’m not sure what the video simulation is doing, but hopefully it’s attempting to be more stressful than real life–a place to make all the mistakes, so the mistakes don’t happen elsewhere.]

      Also, is this an indication that the standard Glock 5.5 (6?) pound trigger really ought to be swapped out for the 9lb NY trigger? [I think I have those weights right.] If light is bad, and medium is better–what about intentionally making it heavy?

      Musings about this makes me wonder about training with ammunition that recoils harder in a gun with a harder trigger pull–a few rounds of trying to shoot that well and suddenly everything else seems easier to shoot well.

      • I don’t know what you mean by ” shoot–wait, don’t shoot” but it is NEVER proper to have your finger on the trigger unless shooting.

        The video shows a crime scenario from the shooter’s perspective in which the shooter uses voice commands, takes cover and shoots as necessary.

        Many experts do promote the NY trigger, Ayoob included if I remember. Some, however, find it too heavy therefore decreasing accuracy. Considering DA revolvers are heavier than that, it should not be a problem for most. The NY trigger is advantageous in that regard if you can shoot it well.

        • I meant “shoot–oh, don’t shoot” as in, and I’m trying to envision what the video training is going to look like here–picture flashes on the screen, looks like a bad guy, get ready–oh ok it’s not a bad guy so don’t shoot. But in the process of going through that chain of thought, finger moved to trigger, as that was the initial decision–it’s legit to shoot. It takes time to decide to shoot, then it takes time to cancel that decision, either from newly obtained information or better processing of existing information.

  3. Citation Needed: Please actually show us a court case where a civilian, in circumstances that would otherwise be pronounced as justifiable homicide, were convicted of manslaughter/murder simply because of modifications made to their weapons.

    I’m guessing you can’t.

    The trick is the first part of the question – *in circumstances that would otherwise be pronounced as justifiable homicide*

    Let’s face it, Mr Magliato would have been convicted regardless of the condition of his hammer for a multitude of reasons. First, in the early 1980s, the Tueller test was in it’s infancy and just starting to be discussed (1984 was when the first drill was published, long before a court had heard about it). Mr Magliato’s attacker was also wielding a baton; a weapon that is very difficult for non-switched-on types to view as worthy of lethal force. Finally, Mr Magliato didn’t keep his mouth shut at the scene and gave the NY prosecutor’s office all the evidence they needed to call the event manslaughter.

    His revolver’s hammer was the least of Mr Magliato’s problems.

    I’m not going to take a serious stab at questioning Mr Myoob’s intent or intelligence, but I am going to play skeptic. Theoretical situations where someone is crucified by a court for using a particularly “deadly” weapon or a modified weapon all require a laundry list of “Maybe…” and “If…” statements. The FACT is that there is almost zero case law of a case hinging on the defendant’s weapon being the deciding factor in a conviction. How about we play a more accurate devil’s advocate?

    IF you seriously screw the pooch and shoot someone who is not directly presenting the means, motive and opportunity to cause you death or great bodily injury AND IF you don’t shut your trap and start running your biscuit to the police on the scene about what a mistake you made and how sorry you are AND IF you live in a district where the DA is willing to take the risk that the public will still perceive you as the good guy shooting a scumbag AND IF your lawyer sucks… You MIGHT find the kind of trigger on your weapon is a single factor (amongst many) in your eventual conviction.

    I seriously wonder why some people bother owning a firearm if all they are going to do is fret about the myriad of imagined ways the scenario could go wrong. One need not be cavalier in their attitude, but one not fetishize risk.

    Here is a better strategy: Go take some force on force training. Pay for a little stress inoculation. Go take some hand-to-hand combative classes and get knocked around till you get properly switched on. Learn how to slow down in stressful situations and keep your head on the swivel and your brain working. Don’t make your first adrenaline rush be the first time you find yourself facing down a bad guy. Hit the gym a little and get your cardio up. Not only will all these things help you not be a fuck up when things go pear shaped, but you’ll feel better, look better, live way longer and make superior love to your significant other.

  4. When you mention “Mr Myoob’s intent or intelligence” you are referring to “Ayoob” as in “Massad Ayoob” and are disparaging one of the best, if not the best, use of force experts in the country, especially for private citizens. His lessons should be well heeded.

    You owe a great debt of gratitude to him for his work learning about and teaching private citizens the legality of the use of lethal force. He started doing this when no one else is the country was.

    The primary problem in carrying a lighten trigger is that it increases the possibility of a negligent discharge. The lighter the trigger, the more likely it is to go off when touched without intent to fire (see my post above on subconscious trigger confirmation) There are thousands of ND every year, and they call all be directed to having the finger on the trigger when it should not be.

    The fact that you “modified your gun, against factory recommendations, to make it easier to kill” will likely be brought up against you in court by the prosecutor. Yes, the argument can be beaten by a good defense lawyer, but it is one more argument to fight against, will cost you additional money , and very importantly, not all jurors may be swayed by your defense and others may still have lingering doubts–neither of which help.

    Your cries for a citation or case law is common on the gun forums where anonymous posters blather about subjects unbeknown to them. Far better to get training from known experts.

    David Kenik
    Armed Response

  5. Disparage? Aside from the typo, I did note that I was not about to question Mr Ayoob’s intent or intelligence. I absolutely respect the man. That doesn’t mean something he says should go unquestioned or unchallenged.

    As to this argument about modified triggers being dangerous vis-a-vis NDs, I call bunk. You cite one study that leaves one with more questions than answers: For all these errant fingers inside trigger guards, how many simulated NDs occurred? What trigger weights are we talking about on the simulation weapons? What about length of travel?

    Or the bigger picture; is there any data that shows us a relative comparison of NDs that happen with Glocks versus 1911s? Do we have ANY data that presents a threshold of what makes for “too light” a trigger?

    No. All we have is myth, unchallenged conventional wisdom and hokum. We draw broad assumptions from random and unintegrated data points, and tell these things to people as facts.

    The fact is, gun owners are far better off spending their time training than they are fretting. No, having a qualified gunsmith perform a smoothing action job on your weapon’s trigger is NOT going to send you to jail. Just the same as installing a NY spring in your Glock will magically keep you OUT of jail.

    This is not a new debate. TTAG just threw a big, stinking pile of One Sided onto the column of truth. You are right that anonymous posters (you ignore my real name) ask about case law. How about instead of disparaging them and trumpeting the siren call of your first teacher, you actually explain to us how case law on the matter is somehow irrelevant?

    Or better let, let Mr Ayoob directly address the matter. For all the years I’ve seen this question rage in flame wars across the internet, I’ve never actually seen him directly address it…

    And I will add; not a single trigger on any weapon I own is modified. However, there is a HUGE range in trigger pulls. From 4lbs on my Les Baer to 9 pounds on a Sig P250 I have sitting around. By the logic presented by the article, why would we not tell people to keep the nice custom 1911 at home?

    • I DO tell people to leave the 1911 at home. I do not favor any type of single action triggers for personal defense. I carried 1911s for years until I understood the potential issues with their trigger systems.

      As John Farnam states: “The 1911 is the best gun there is to shoot someone with. It is the worst gun out there not to shoot someone with.”

  6. For those of you that wonder exactly how Massad Ayoob would answer this question (not to mention how he would address specific challenges to his knowledge and experience) AND any case law used for examples, Massad will be joining us on TTAG, LIVE on Thursday evening, 8PM Eastern, 5PM Pacific. You will be able to address your concerns and questions there.

    I’d suggest though, that you take a respectful attitude. The Rabbi’s right on target – we all owe a huge debt to Massad for the work he’s done in the area of civilian personal defense. The guy knows his stuff. And to impune his experience, encyclopedic knowledge, intelligence and point of view is both rude and ignorant.

  7. I’ve been reading TTAG for a few months and I’ve found most of the discussions interesting and informative. However, Mr. Kozak and Mr. Kenik, did you actually read GKoenig’s post before responding? He wasn’t disrespectful or disparaging at all. He makes salient points and contributes to the discussion in a constructive way. I’m sure everyone who is familiar with Massad Ayoob respects him immensely, but that doesn’t mean he’s infalible. Asking questions gives us an opportunity to get to the truth (about guns!). It is not unreasonable to ask for actual evidence and legal examples rather than anecdotes and opinions, however qualified the expert may be. Maybe everyone should take a deep breath and relax a little so we can actually have a constructive conversation about the issue and not a one sided beat down.

    • Eric:

      I did read GKoenig’s post. And I don’t have a problem with him disagreeing with ANYthing he reads here. (If I did, I’d be petitioning RF to ban Magoo and MikeB, I suppose.) And I agree with your point that we shouldn’t treat anyone as infallible. I don’t think my answer was in any way a “beat down.” But while I find it perfectly fine to disagree with Massad, when you say something like “I’m not going to take a serious stab at questioning Mr Myoob’s intent or intelligence, but I am going to play skeptic,” I take issue with it. Here’s why: The word “but” in a sentence has the effect of contradicting everything that comes before it. “I’d say your a better marksman, but…” “It’s obvious you know what you’re talking about, but…” It’s even worse when you couch it in the way GKoenig did – and is fairly disingenuous. His use of the word “but” in his sentence essentially says “I AM going to question Mr. Ayoob’s intent or intelligence.” He could have chosen to say “I take issue with what Ayoob says.” That’s fine. He could even say “Even though Ayoob is a recognized authority on this subjet, I disagree with his position and here’s why…” But when he claimed he was not going to take a “serious stab” at Ayoob’s “intent” (implying what? That Massad is in the pocket of Big Guns or has some nefarious purpose?) or his “intelligence” (why even bring that up? Unless, of course, you want to sew the seeds of doubt in the mind of the reader), he was using time-honored debate techniques to attempt to de-legitimize his opponent (Ayoob). In fact, I’d argue that DKoenig is very skilled at debate. But I wouldn’t go so far as to call him a “master debator.” (See how that works? I didn’t call DKoenig a name…or did I?)

      We’re all about the open exchange of ideas here at TTAG. But we also like to keep the tone of the debate flame-free. And when someone chooses to use debate techniques to attack the position of a person many feel is not just an expert in the field, but a really good guy as well, I have to take issue with that.

      • Brad,

        Thank you for responding. I think maybe you are overanalyzing his word choice. By saying one is skeptical it does not mean one thinks poorly of Massad Ayoob. A intelligent and well intentioned individual can still make mistakes in his reasoning and I for one would like to understand this topic better.

        I sensed a lot more hostility towards GKoenig than coming from him. Perhaps I misunderstood the responses to his post, perhaps Mr. Koenig was being sneaky and I didn’t pick up on it. Perhaps he could have chosen his words better. Neither possibility negates the fact he made salient points. I’m genuinely interested in the discussion.

        It is through questioning that we gain better understanding. I don’t think playing the role of the skeptic is disrespectful.

        • I’m with Brad for the same reasons as I also took his words with less than a respective tone. I apologize if I misread the intent.

  8. I have the trigger I want because it works best for me. Worrying about what some idiot prosecutor might say at trial is a waste of time. Here’s a news flash for you. He’s going to say it anyway.
    1. Don’t point a gun at someone who doesn’t need shooting
    2. keep your damn finger off the trigger until you want to shoot.
    3. stop blaming the gun (or the trigger job) for bad gun handling.
    4. Shut the f%&* and wait until you have your lawyer present before talking to the cops.

    • Shut the f%&* and wait until you have your lawyer present before talking to the cops.

      Bears repeating. You can do anything you want to the triggers of your guns but you are scuh-rude if you forget this talking point.

  9. An intelligent post and a dynamic discussion! I am doing trigger jobs on all my guns to smooth out the pull and to overcome the dreadful MA trigger. MA requires an ultra-heavy trigger as a child safety feature. The MA pull is about twice the factory spec and I’m trying to return the triggers to spec. Unless I’m robbed by a clever five year who can cut open my safes with an acetylene torch, I think I’m in good shape. Also, I prefer two-stage triggers on hunting rifles and a bit of take-up on handgun triggers. The takeup can be the difference between no-shot and a ND. I won’t put a match trigger on my defensive guns.

  10. I must agree with Eric – after reading (and rereading) GKoenig’s comments, I didn’t perceive them as ignorant or disrespectful, and I doubt Mas would either. It also wasn’t the first time I’ve seen “Myoob” (or Masoob) before when referring to Mr. Ayoob. Mas has certainly been a huge player in civilian-lethal force issues and his experience reigns high, so I don’t think we need to protect him from criticism. He certainly can walk-the-walk, even when those around him can barely talk-the-talk. However, what defines and expert and who says that those experts (and their opinions) should never be questioned? Not very long ago, it was the expert opinion of Edison – the inventor of the light bulb – that all household electricity could be supplied with DC current. Sure, he had some money on the line, but he had to have some convictions that DC was the way to go. How about “point shooting”? For half of a century, the U.S. Army taught point-shooting as the most effective way of shooting a pistol, regardless of situation. I don’t know of a single firearms expert teaching the point-shooting technique today.

    GKoenig was simply asking for data or some other tangible evidence to prove that modifying a pistol will get you thrown in the slammer after a defensive shooting. There has been little evidence on both sides of the argument that can prove one over the other. As GKoenig pointed out, a heavy (NY Glock Trigger for example) trigger will not get the jury to let someone off of the hook because they had a “safe gun”, but were otherwise negligent. Evidence is circumstantial, complementary, and additive. There are very few single data points that will change a data set. I agree (as did Magoo) with the article in that defensive pistols don’t need to be modified to be effective, especially in SHTF mode. I’m sure all of us have seen enough people group terribly with pistols having fantastic triggers, and have seen an equal number of people group nicely with J-frame revolvers. Before we take stabs at each other for supposedly taking stabs at “experts”, we need to remember that an expert opinion is just that – an opinion.

    • Patrick,

      Glad I’m not alone. If someone gets defensive when you ask them how they arrived at their conclusion it usually means their position isn’t well thought out or backed up with facts. Furthermore, as you point out, even experts change their position over time. I just want to know the thought process behind it.

      I trust my doctor, but if he recommends a treatment I’m going to research it and compile a list of questions before submitting myself to it. If I come across a better treatment or a different diagnosis I’m going to bring it up to him and hear his thoughts. It’s not disrespectful to do so.

    • “have seen an equal number of people group nicely with J-frame revolvers.”

      I like and sometimes carry a J-frame, but most shooters can’t get all five on paper with it at 21 feet, even with a laser.

  11. I seem to recall that there is at least one case that Mr. Ayoob cites that involved the good guy getting into a heck of a lot of legal trouble. I just can’t remember if it was handloaded ammunition or a trigger job or both (in separate cases).

    My impression is thet Mr. Ayoob focuses a lot on strategies that leave the defender facing the fewest legal hurdles. Remember, even if you prevail in court (sometimes more than once) you’re still going to need to pay for your attorney etc.

    As for the 1911 and defensive carry, I do carry one (when I legally can) I also know that Mr. Ayoob will carry one. However, I also have 25 years and over 150,000 documented rounds of practice and training with the platform. If a new shooter comes to me for advice I do not recommend a 1911 to them. There are plenty of guns that are just as good and cost a lot less. (I advise they spend the extra money on training and practice instead)

    As for the subject of trigger work, I agree with Mr. Liebold and Mr. Ayoob. Smoother is fine, lighter is not, smoother and heavier is better.

  12. Admittadly, I cannot reference a case of an otherwise perfect shoot where a modified trigger was solely responsible for an armed citizen going to prison. One must also take into consideration what will happen in a civil trial. Far less culpability is required for a sympathetic jury to award your now-paralyzed burgler the keys to your house.

    However, that is only one part of the issue here. A lighter trigger makes it that much easier to unintentionally fire your weapon. Phenomenon such as Interlimb Response, and Startle Reflex cannot be ignored. Nor can the aformentioned study that ‘The Rabbi” brought to us about fingers, on their own, touching triggers under the stress of video simulations.(Thanks, I have been meaning to dig that one up) If you need more proof just YouTube “Cop Accidentally Shoots….”. This is not a rip on Cops, rather, it points out that even people who have recieved a fair amount of training can still make mistakes.

    Why have so many departments like NYPD and their force of 80,000(?) mandated DAO Glocks, or Smiths, or SIGs, and or heavier pull weights? The simple fact is that it saves lives and reduces liability. Do any departments mandate easier triggers?

    “It works best for me”: If by that you mean that it makes it easier for you to shoot, then yes it works best for that. There are a heck of a lot of things we do with guns that don’t involve shooting them. Administrative handleing, Drawing, Holstering, taking an intruder at gunpoint, moving around the house gathering your family, are all actions that must be accounted for. None of these are enhanced by having a gun in your hand that takes 3.5 lbs to fire.

    Consider also that a light trigger is easier for a small child to manipulate, if, somehow they get their hands on it.

    Do what you wish, I merely offer a few things to consider.
    Thanks for all the responses!

  13. First and foremost, I want to circle back and say that I meant absolutely no disrespect to Mr Ayoob. I’ve never taken his classes, but I have taken his classes; such is the impact of his work that even the Multnomah County assistant district attorney who teaches handgun classes essentially says that the bulk of the legal portion of his instruction is lifted from Mr Ayoob. I find most everything he says to be absolutely accurate, based in reason and just plane good thinking. I apologize if I came off as incredulous in my earlier posts.

    It is because of this respect that I find this guidance on weapon modification (and, to a lesser extent, weapon selection) somewhat baffling. And it is, at this point, where I must confess something – I’ve never actually heard any contemporary statements about this subject from the man himself. His followers like to argue about it on the internet (as previously noted), but I have yet to see anything from Mr Ayoob addressing the subject written anywhere near recently.

    The arguments about trigger weight being connected to neglegant discharges sounds, on the face of it, compelling BUT (and I am using this “but” to negate the previous clause) there is no data connecting the two. So we have one study, where cops in a video simulator (a video game!) fingered their triggers when they should not have. Again, how many simulated NDs happened? What was the trigger weight and pull length on those simulated weapons? If we gave them simulated weapons, would the number of NDs have gone down?

    Let us get down to the brass tacks on this question- Is there a trigger weight and length of pull combination that can effectively prevent a Startle Reflex or Interlimb Response negligent discharge for operators who have inadvertently placed their finger on the trigger? Are these reactions so instinctual and powerful that even a 9lbs DAO trigger wouldn’t make a lick of difference? Does the type and weight of the trigger make any difference at all?

    This is an important question that brings us back to Mr Ayoob’s position that triggers should go unmodified. If I take my P250’s 9 pound trigger down to the same weight as a factory Glock (5.5lbs), how could I be liable in any way? I modified my trigger to be the same weight as the trigger in 70% of the firearms in police holsters. Taking my Glock trigger down to… what, 2lbs? Is this crossing a line where someone could say I was irresponsible?

    These, to me, are interesting questions worthy of debate, discussion and research.

  14. “This is an important question that brings us back to Mr Ayoob’s position that triggers should go unmodified. If I take my P250′s 9 pound trigger down to the same weight as a factory Glock (5.5lbs), how could I be liable in any way?”

    I’d put the liability of it aside for a moment and examine the advisability of it. First, “trigger pull” is not solely a matter of operator ease or preference. Since the Sig and the Glock employ two remarkably dissimilar trigger and safety actions, there is no reason to assume that with identical force applied at the trigger, each will function identically — or even dependably. We tend to think of trigger pull in terms of what the shooter wants. What about what the gun requires?

    It’s entirely possible to modify a DA revolver so that its trigger pull is as light as a match-tuned 1911A1. But will it operate safely or dependably? Hell, no.

    Then we have the customary means of quantifying “trigger pull” in the field, as in lbs force as measured at the trigger, quoted not in Newtons, grams, or ounces, note, but to the nearest half lb, give or take. Not terribly rigorous, especially when we examine the equipment — traditionally, something on the fish scale theme. Measuring force with a spring? Really? In 2011? And there are lots of other variables, not least of which is the point at which the force is taken on the pendulum trigger. Take one firearm to ten different shops and the measured trigger pull may vary 25 to 50 percent. Take ten examples of the same gun to ten shops and it may vary 50 to 100 percent. Many shops and individuals install kits/parts advertised to produce a “3.5 lb” or “4.5 lb” trigger pull without bothering to measure at all, not that it would mean a lot. What is the actual result? Who can say? In truth, they are not aiming for any specific force level but for a totally subjective trigger feel as desired by the user. We are doing something here, but I wouldn’t call it engineering.

  15. Silliness article.

    If you cannot keep your finger off the trigger until ready (and legally authorized to shoot) at an known target then lock the darn thing up and don’t take it out until you get more training.

    Smoothing or even lightening a trigger will not (necessarily) make it any more unreliable nor unsafe, certainly the example of lightening (and polishing) a Glock trigger will still leave it heavier than a single action semi such as a 1911.

    Now of course, anything can be done to excess or unsafely, such as creating a ‘drop fireable’ or ‘hair trigger’ that is clearly unsafe, but blanket prohibition advice is just silly.

  16. Thank you very much for the lively and thoughtful discussion on whether one should use a lightened trigger in a defensive situation. I personally have always believed that a light trigger, whether in a rifle or pistol, always produced more consistent and accurate results for me when shooting in the field and/or range. One thing my father drilled into me growing up is to never put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to pull it. My Glock 17 and 34 both have about a 2.5 lb trigger pull weight and I absolutely love them and feel confident in my ability to put rounds where I want them to go consistently, however, I’ve never been in a stress-induced, life-threatening situation where I had to pull my weapon, so I have no idea how I might react under these circumstances. Most of my experience is at the range, or in the field, and though my blood does get pumping when I see a coyote crest a hill, or a buck in my sights, I suspect that I would probably react differently in the employment of my weapon to someone invading my house or coming at me intending bodily harm. Let me put it this way… I’ve never had a cougar or bear rush me… if so, perhaps I could speak to how I might handle myself. My brain tells me I would handle myself fine… but I won’t know until I’m in that situation.

    I have to say that I have switched my stance regarding carrying a lightened trigger system in a self-defense/carry weapon after reading this discussion, listening the podcast that Travis kindly provided, and doing a couple hours of research online regarding the legal ramifications of carrying a lightened trigger on a weapon. For myself, I would rather be able to tell a jury that I had a heavier than factory trigger on my weapon, than give the opposing counsel any purchase in their attempts to suggest I negligently or accidently discharged my weapon. Juries are not just made up of gun enthusiasts, NRA members, and competitive shooters. Some of the people determining one’s fate in these situations may be anti-gun activists, non-gun owners, or just someone who has no experience or knowledge of firearms. Even if acquitted, these cases tend to be lengthy and costly. I am at the end of a protracted custody action with my “X” and I can tell you that it has nearly bankrupted our family over an issue which both my lawyer and my “X”s lawyer has deemed as laughable. I suspect there would be nothing to laugh about if I had to pull the trigger in a defensive situation where someone lost their life or was wounded. Even criminals (or their family members) who think they can score financially or get off the hook for their bad behavior are going to employ an attorney whose primary objective will be to paint me as the one who made a mistake. As such… I plan to purchase a NY1 or NY2 trigger kit for both of my Glocks. At the end of the day, if “I” pull the trigger in a defensive situation, I want there to be no doubt that I did so with forethought and intent.

    Great work guys…. Thanks for all the points of views you provided.


    • One additional element to consider is that all manufacturers have warranty policies on their guns. HOWEVER, that warranty is voided the second any mods are made to that firearm. Glock armorers (have been one since the mid 1980’s when they first came in the country) are, IF FACTORY trained/certified, NOT allowed to use any third party parts or to use any Glock factory COMPETITION parts in non-competition guns, i.e. putting that 3.5 connector for a Glock 34 in a 17 or 19! It does come down to the personal integrity of the smith.

  17. Only in America can the lawyers and para-lawyers convince us that making our guns HARDER to shoot accurately will somehow protect us. You want to see what a ‘New York’ trigger does? Look at NYPD; the only civilians they haven’t shot yet are the ones afraid to leave their house.

    Ultimately, the goal is to hit the bad guy, while not hitting any good guys. Doing whatever will assist in that is job one, because if you don’t live through the fight, your lawyer won’t have to defend you anyway.

  18. This topic always makes me laugh. The entire argument against modifying your trigger is based solely on theoretical situations, with no case law whatsoever. What’s worse: a good aftermarket trigger that helps you shoot the bad guy center mass, or a 10 lb trigger that helps you miss the bad guy and kill an innocent person? I’m sure the jury will not mind the innocent person being murdered since you were responsibly using a 10 lb trigger. How about we all just follow the fundamental laws of firearms, mixed with some good training, and we will all be fine.

  19. If you’re going to talk about Frank Magliato, it’s better suited for an article about why you shouldn’t:

    1. Follow people who hit your car, then get out of your car to confront them angrily.
    2. Leave the scene of the argument to go home, get your gun, and return to the scene, shouting profanities and preemptively drawing your gun.
    3. Flea the scene after the shooting and hide out for six days.
    4. Claiming accident to prosecutors and police even when the outcome is as you intended.

    While, yes, the trigger thing ultimately played into his conviction, it’s all the other details that put him in the position and the trial seat to begin with. Do you have any examples of people who aren’t stretching the notion of justified self-defense to the breaking point who are then crucified for a trigger job?

  20. I have since retired from the gun business, but still do some gun smithing for the shop. During my 50+ years I would only do trigger jobs that lightened the pull for competition guns EXCEPT for some very specific cases. All involved revolvers, usually of the “J” frame type and for a VERY specific user!!! Many older folks do NOT have the grip strength to work a slide on a semi auto so they revert to the trustworthy DA revolver. But, as is sometimes the case, they also lack the trigger finger strength for accurate DA fire on a FACTORY spec gun. In ONLY these cases, would I do a “kit job” where I would replace the hammer and rebound springs with Brownell’s/Wolff brand springs. I would always test fire to assure proper reliability and that the owner could also operate the revolver effectively! In the few cases where one of the customers were actually involved in a shooting, the trigger pull never came up.

  21. There is no reason not to modify your carry weapons in any way that improves their accuracy and usability. There is little or no evidence of prosecutions or torts succeeding on the basis that the weapon’s trigger pull was smoothed or lightened. These modifications are so ubiquitous in today’s environment that it would be difficult to argue a negligent discharge, particularly if the other parameters of a lawful shoot are satisfied. In fight-or-flight, a 2 pound trigger doesn’t feel any different than a 10 pound trigger, but for the more likely use case–range time, target shooting, or plinking–the lighter trigger is a huge advantage. And if you aren’t shooting your carry weapons except in combat, you aren’t likely to be very effective in combat.

    You can invent all sorts of hypotheticals where a hostile jury convicts you because you had a trigger kit installed. I’d be more worried about a lot of the skull and cross bone, zombie, etc. decorations that imply you are a video-game junky who thinks humans are avatars in a first-person shooter game.

  22. I had the unfortunate circumstance of having to use a firearm in a SD scenario. It had a 3.5 connector and some polish work. The fire arm was taken and sent to forensics for months. Court came and went and nothing was said about it. What matters is whether or not your justified in using deadly force. Doesn’t matter if your using a carrot or modified glock. If your drawing a weapon you should already be justified in using it.


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