Hang around the gun community a bit and you’ll hear plenty of folks dolling out advice.
But one of the most pervasive bits of info passed on from concealed carrier to concealed carrier is that tricking your gun out could lead to trouble down the road.
Let’s say, you’ve carried a concealed weapon for years and trained with it consistently throughout that time — you’ve even entered some handgun competitions where you needed some modifications.
Soon, you’ve tweaked your gun with a lighter trigger, under-the-barrel mounted laser, and even threw in a Punisher skull logo for good measure. (I mean the Netflix series wasn’t terrible…)
But one night, you must defend your life with that gun. Now you’ve landed in court. Will talks of your gun mods enter the opposing counsel’s argument?
Can modifying your weapon lead to future court issues?
Well lucky for you, I’m here to help answer that question. I’ve gathered a team of experts to get to the bottom of whether tricking out your Gat can land you in hot legal water.
So, keep reading to see what I dug up…
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The Hunt for Answers: The Courtroom
To navigate these legal waters, I contacted Paul Yen.
You might recognize him as a writer here at Pew Pew Tactical. He’s our resident lawyer and all-around legal expert.
Specifically, I wanted to know whether tricking out your weapon could lead the accustation of “looking for a fight.”
While Paul certainly didn’t offer any legal advice, he did shed light on where gun owners could run into some trouble.
“While those of us familiar with firearms may not think much of customizations like extended mags or lighter triggers, or even just cool visual customizations on our guns, in a jury trial, the average juror may not necessarily be as familiar with firearms. And any customizations could be seen as an additional ‘scary’ feature to make the firearm even more deadly.”
In other words, you could potentially get stuck with a juror that might view your firearm as an “incredibly dangerous weapon.”
That said, Yen clarified that certain features don’t automatically increase or decrease the amount of legal risk a CCW holder would face in a potential trial.
So we can’t dismiss the notion that your customized weapon could be used against you — especially in anti-gun areas.
Asking the Boots on the Ground
While Yen provided a glimpse into what a gun owner could face in the courtroom, I also wanted to talk to a firearm trainer and former law enforcement officer.
So, I contacted T4 Tactics. Here, Marko Galbreath, one of the premier active shooter response trainers and firearms instructors in the country, makes his home.
Marko worked for 22 years as an investigator in Daytona Beach, Florida. His roles included SWAT team member, Hostage Negotiations Team Commander, and Special Investigations Unit Supervisor where he investigated violent crime and homicide.
I asked Galbreath, with his experience in the police force, had he seen a customized weapon come up in the following court case?
He’d never seen it be an issue once.
Further, he added that many good reasons exist to modify a firearm. He cited countless times he’s taken clients out to the range, only to find that they aren’t strong enough to repeatedly engage the stock trigger on the weapon they purchased.
In such a case, the shooter has to modify their trigger pull or owning a gun proves a moot point!
If you find yourself in a stressful situation, potentially in low-light conditions, you want to make sure you identify and hit the target, nothing more.
Consequently, you could almost view these additions as a safety feature.
That said, Galbreath said not every mod is the best idea.
A potential problem he saw? A “Born to kill” etching on the gun. That, you might want to stay away from.
The Final Word: US Law Shield
By this point, I felt that I had something of an answer, but nothing concrete. I wanted a definitive, “No, under no circumstances is that an issue,” Or something like that.
But I suppose guarantees don’t always exist, particularly when talking about court cases. (Something Yen mentioned when I spoke to him.)
And a court case is very likely to happen after you use your gun in self-defense.
Ambler defends American gun owners against these types of court attacks on a consistent basis. In short, if anyone can shed light on this topic, he can.
According to Ambler, any attorney will use every possible thing they can against you in court. It’s just what they do.
So consider that before you start throwing mods around like confetti.
As a result, he doesn’t believe any type of purely cosmetic change to your firearm is a wise decision.
For clarification, that doesn’t mean ditching your cool Cerakote paint job. But rather, adding symbolism or language to the firearm could come up in court.
Ambler said he was aware of one case in Nevada where the defendant had the words “you’re f*****” inscribed on the inside of the dust cover of the weapon — popping open after the gun fired.
However, the defense attorney successfully convinced the judge that those details were not relevant to the case, So, the opposing attorney wasn’t able to bring up that information in court.
However, that’s not to say that a judge where you live would do the same. Every judge, district, and juror is different.
As far as practical gun modifications go, Ambler said those wouldn’t likely be much of an issue in court.
Red dots, lasers, triggers, and flashlights could all easily be argued as increased safety measures while in a state of duress.
What About Suppressors?
If there’s one gun modification that is likely to cause problems in court, I figured it had to be suppressors.
Could a jury be led to believe that a suppressor makes you the bad guy?
Ambler agreed that, yes, a suppressor could cause troubles in the courtroom.
Unless you had very explicit documentation prior to the self-defense situation — such as in the form of a doctor’s note — that stated you had very sensitive hearing that would be severely damaged by not using a suppressor, you could very easily end up in something of a hot legal mess.
He said that a lot of jury members have a preconceived notion due to Hollywood that suppressors are used by spies, bad guys, and the like.
The lack of information leads to a perspective you don’t want when someone decides your fate.
So, in short, best leave those packed away for range days and not on your CCW.
So, can a custom, tricked out pistol carry the potential of legal trouble in a self-defense shooting? I think we can conclusively say that it depends.
But the most practical piece of advice I received was this — attorneys will use everything against you they can.
So, keep that in mind when making changes to your gun.
Red dots, flashlights, triggers, extended magazines, lasers, and the like are absolutely fine, though. Rock on with those upgrades!
Can Customizing Your CCW Get You in Legal Trouble? is written by Aden Tate for www.pewpewtactical.com