There is a lot of talk these days about our everyday carry pistols, and what we should or should not do with them. Some time back the renowned Massad Ayoob advised that your carry gun should be purchased new from a dealer and never altered in any way. His reasoning was that anything you did to improve your gun would be used against you in court, should you ever be forced to fire that gun in self-defense. In other words, if I add a laser to my gun then I am making it more deadly so, the DA could say, obviously I am a crazed gun nut out looking for someone to kill. This sounds reasonable and in fact a DA could say that so there are a huge number of people that adhere to this “no alterations” policy like it is life.
Now full disclosure, my carry gun is so altered at this point if I happen to walk past Mas in a crowd he might actually have a seizure or stroke. That said here are my thoughts. First, while indeed a DA can use anything he wants to go after you, not once in any case where a handgun has been used has this actually been done by said DA. In all the years since this idea was put out there it has actually only been used once and that was against a police officer. He had not improved his weapon but had bought a dust cover for his rifle with the words “Your F ed” inscribed on it. I must agree with Mas that punisher symbols, F U, lightning bolt SS, or swastikas on your firearm could paint you in a bad light in a courtroom setting. However the fact is that despite the DAs use of this inflammatory statement, the officer was acquitted. Your first concern about how you are going to look in court should be to make sure that you truly only use that gun as a last resort to save a life! If you do that, then no matter what you have on your gun, it will be very hard to even charge you with a crime.
Next let’s talk about real alterations. I have taken an out of the box Sig P228. I replaced the slide with the slide from a P229 elite. I milled that slide and added a red dot site and then I added suppressor sights to co-witness. I installed a Sig factory short reset trigger and to that I added a flatter adjustable trigger. This did not alter the pull weight of the trigger but allows for adjustment of over travel. Why did I do all this?
Way back in that day I had a group of about six friends and we all road dirt bikes. I loved it and road hard but when we were on a track I was a pretty solid fourth or fifth place rider. I finally decided it was time for a new bike. As it happened Yamaha had spent the last several years working on a new swing arm mono shock system and this was the year that they finally got it perfected. I bought that bike. The very next time my friends and I were at the track, I was suddenly a second or even first place rider. Nothing else had changed. My friends and I still had the same skills. Plain and simple my new equipment allowed me to speed up in places that my friends had to slow down. If I let any one of them ride my bike they immediately moved to the front of the pack just like I had. That was a lesson I never forgot. All other things being equal technology and advanced equipment win.
Now what does that mean? Have I used technology to make my gun more deadly? Depends on your definition of “more deadly”. It still fires the same projectile at the same speed as before. What I have done is made it more likely that I can hit the target that I am aiming at. My claim here is that I have actually made my gun safer. I am less likely to fire a stray round hitting something or someone I did not intend to hit. My sight actually lets me see my target clearer and better and my trigger gives me far more control over my gun as I am less likely to jerk it off line.
As a practical point I carry a firearm precisely because it is the most effective tool at stopping an attacker. If I wanted to carry a less lethal tool then I could carry a Taser, pepper spray, or a number of other less lethal and far less effective tools. So the argument that I have made it more deadly is kind of moot. Did I mention that you should only use your firearm in a legitimate bid to save the life of others or yourself. Yes the DA can claim that I have made it a hair trigger, or added a death ray, but first did I actually use the gun as the only means to save lives and second, should it come to that, my lawyer gets to answer those foolish claims in a reasonable and logical manor.
What this comes down to is I want the best chance I have should I ever need to defend myself or others against a bad guy, crazy guy, or terrorist guy. Yes it is new and more gear. Should we not use smart phones because flip phones were easier? Should we still be riding horses because cars are dangerous? I know guys that drive new corvettes, and get a new IPhone every year but don’t want a red dot because something could go wrong with it. Yes something could go wrong with it just like your IPhone but the convenience makes it worth the risk. Just like that half of a second faster makes my red dot worth it. The fact that I am now focused on my target and not my front sight. The fact that I can now reach out to ranges that with iron sights were beyond me to engage that terrorist or active shooter all make it worth it.
I contend that altering your gun in a responsible manor opens you up to no more liability than simply carrying it in the first place.