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There is a vast array of aftermarket parts for handguns, and some of the most popular concealed carry pistols are also some of the most customizable.
If you have considered installing a custom trigger in your carry pistol, chances are you’ve heard about the numerous touted advantages; lighter trigger pull, higher reliability, faster reset, and so on.
Whether you can install a custom trigger depends merely on whether there are any for your particular model.
But should you? Are there drawbacks to custom triggers in carry guns, and if so, what are they?
What Custom Triggers Do
Custom trigger kits and related parts, such as trigger springs, transfer bars, and upgraded shoes, all exist to fulfill the same general purpose: make pulling the trigger more comfortable, helping your accuracy and consistency in turn.
After all, one of the most crucial elements of shooting is trigger control. A light, crisp, comfortable trigger makes a world of difference compared to a heavy, mushy, inconsistent trigger.
The right trigger may not turn you into a marksman overnight, but it does help.
Competition shooters often modify their guns with lightweight or fully-adjustable triggers to achieve the fastest split times and the most accurate groups.
With that in mind, it’s tempting to believe that installing a custom trigger in your concealed carry gun will help you shoot more accurately in a self-defense situation.
It makes sense, so why not do it?
Trading Safety for Speed
The trigger pull weight is the amount of force needed to pull the trigger and cause the gun to fire.
Although the unit of measurement is foot-pounds-force (ft-lbs), pull weight values are often shortened to “pounds” (lbs), even though it is technically incorrect.
Lighter trigger pull weights require less force to pull all the way, making it easier and faster to fire a shot.
In contrast, a heavier pull weight requires more force, potentially introducing a noticeable delay between the intent to shoot and the moment the gun fires.
A lower trigger pull weight lets a shooter fire faster and more accurately. The shorter delay between intent to shoot and trigger breaking means less time for the sights to fall out of alignment.
However, all modifications done to a firearm come with tradeoffs.
In this case, lowering the trigger pull weight introduces a safety tradeoff and potential reliability issues. If the trigger is easier to break, it’s easier to accidentally or unintentionally fire it as well.
Even if you have perfect trigger finger discipline, the safety risk is still present; if your trigger snags on something, the lighter pull weight makes it easier for the snagging object to cause a negligent discharge.
This concern is paramount with a concealed carrying firearm, particularly if you’re carrying inside the waistband (IWB). Increasing the risk of negligent discharges with a concealed carry firearm endangers your safety and that of others.
Specific carry styles may further amplify the safety issue. For example, with appendix carry (AIWB), your pistol is resting around the 12-o’clock position with the muzzle pointed between your legs or at a major femoral artery.
Although AIWB carry is perfectly safe with the right habits and discipline, combining AIWB carry with a lightweight trigger introduces an unnecessary risk factor.
Additionally, not every custom trigger kit is created equal. Improperly installed or configured trigger kits may render a firearm unreliable. Lowering the reliability of your carry firearm is also an unnecessary and entirely avoidable risk factor.
Typical Trigger Weight Pull Values
The Legal Argument
The vast majority of custom trigger kits, even those marketed as “carry” triggers, often bear a mention which says “FOR COMPETITION USE ONLY.” In doing so, the manufacturers transfer legal liability and consequences of misuse to you.
Even if your custom trigger is not explicitly marked that way, if you end up in court to prove self-defense, the last thing you want is for an aggressive attorney to use your firearm as evidence of the contrary.
In court, the prosecution will use every element at their disposal to extrapolate and demonstrate that your intentions were not innocent.
A verifiably modified trigger can be used as an argument to convince a jury that you are a murderer and not a citizen acting in legitimate self-defense.
You may have heard this argument before with subjects such as exotic carry ammunition (e.g., the infamous G2 R.I.P.) or politically-charged and inflammatory symbols (e.g., “Come and take it,” Punisher skulls, profanity-laden messages); the same general principle applies.
What You Can Do Instead
While a custom trigger kit and a lighter trigger pull weight can help you shoot a particular firearm faster and more accurately, remember that training achieves the same thing.
Custom triggers are oriented towards competition use, existing mainly to help you shave split times and tighten your groups. They will not help you defend yourself more effectively, despite the perceived advantages.
In a self-defense situation, practicing concealed carrying essentials such as draw strokes, trigger control, and sight alignment will be far more useful to you in the long term.
Consider the cost factor; given the current circumstances regarding ammunition prices, consider where you should spend your firearms budget carefully.
A typical custom trigger kit costs up to $200, but it may not help you as much as $200 worth of ammunition would.
If you must modify your carry gun’s trigger, then at the very least, don’t mess with the springs or the trigger pull weight and keep the firearm’s appearance as close to stock as possible.
For example, if you’re looking to modify your trigger shoe, choose a model in the same color as the stock trigger.
Certain modifications may help reduce the “mushiness” of your trigger without changing its pull weight. But stay vigilant. Always test your firearm after replacing parts, and ensure it is as reliable as stock.