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Should You Modify Your Carry Gun’s Trigger?

That thing on the back of this Glock 27 is the Glock E-Trainer. Check it out here.

I'm often asked by my students what I think about modifying the trigger pull of their carry gun. Most of the time, owners do not wish to increase the weight of the trigger pull on their firearm, and they seek to lighten it. For this reason, when referring to trigger modification, we will be addressing reducing the weight of the trigger pull from what is set by the manufacturer.

For example, lets say your firearm comes from the factory requiring 5.5 pounds of force on the trigger to fire a cartridge. Reducing the weight of the trigger pull to 3.5 pounds of force would make it easier to pull the trigger.

How Can You Modify a Trigger?

One way is to buy an aftermarket ‘drop in' trigger group, which replaces the factory trigger mechanism. Some of the benefits of these aftermarket triggers are that they change the shape of the trigger shoe (the part your finger actually rests on). The change in shape can help with finger placement and leverage as you pull the trigger.

Aftermarket triggers often have polished parts that smooth out the trigger pull, remove some of the gritty feel, and produce a crisper trigger break. Some of these products actually use OEM parts, and simply change the feel of the trigger, i.e. pre-travel, reset, break, etc.

There are also drop-in products that reduce or increase the pull weight of the trigger.

A second way to modify the trigger is to mill, grind, file, or otherwise physically modify the original trigger group components of the firearm to reduce the trigger weight. While competition shooters are often more likely to do this to their firearm, some of these modifications are being made to everyday carry guns, or competition guns are being used to perform dual roles.

This should only be performed by a highly trained gunsmith, and even then, can be very dangerous. Any modification to the tolerances of the firearm’s components could cause it to malfunction, wear and fail prematurely, or even fire when not intended.  For this reason, it is STRONGLY suggested that this type of modification not be done to your EDC firearm.


One can also change the way a trigger feels by changing trigger spring weights. But doing this can affect how hard the primer is struck causing reliability issues. Unless you have a reason to change them or know what you're doing, it's best no stick to stock weights for these components.

Here are some factors to consider:

Reducing the weight of the trigger can help with accuracy. You may not hit your target because as you squeeze the trigger, you also push/pull the gun off target. We want to be as accurate as possible but we need to understand that a deadly force or self-defense shooting is not a marksmanship competition. In that, I mean we want to target our threat and balance speed with the ability to ensure all of our bullets strike our target area on our threat. This may mean not all shots go through the 10X ring.

This type of accuracy is often referred to as combat accuracy or accuracy that puts effective hits on a human-sized target. For this reason, the micro accuracy hoped to be gained from reducing the weight of the trigger pull is unnecessary in the vast majority of deadly force encounters. I'll mention some things to consider later in the article, in reference to trigger pull weight.

As I mentioned above, there are absolutely real benefits that can be gained by changing your factory trigger, and they don't all revolve around the reduction of trigger pull weight.  These are trigger modifications that smooth out the trigger's feel and movement, or help in centering your finger on the trigger (a flat trigger shoe can help with this).  These modifications can in many cases, result in an astoundingly better feel to the trigger without actually changing the weight.

I have been pleased with the results that come from polished internals and a reshaped trigger shoe design. Before polishing trigger components, look for a drop-in trigger group. As long as you follow the installation directions and get it from a quality company, you're likely not to have any issue. But remember, any time you change a component of the gun, you run the risk of inducing a problem. So do some research on the reliability of the product before you purchase or install it.  And, don't forget to safety test it before carrying it for self-defense.



Reducing The Trigger Pull Weight Makes me a Better Shooter, Well so Does Training:

The last point I would make is that most anyone who does not have some sort of physical disability has enough strength to pull a 5.5lb trigger, and the difference in a 5.5lb to 3 or 3.5 lb is not producing such an overwhelming benefit as to offset the potential problems it could cause. Instead of reducing the pull weight of your trigger, get out to the range and train with the gear you have. Learn how your gear functions and you will become a far more efficient shooter with practice, than just changing out gear.

It's important to note that many companies who produce aftermarket triggers or connectors that reduce pull weight will sell them with an advisement stating the trigger is designed for competition use only. In other words, these companies transfer the liability to you, and if questioned in court, will indicate that they never intended their product to be used in a self-defense pistol.

Be Able To Back-Up Your Decisions:

Make sure you can articulate why you needed to make the modification to your firearm. Being able to explain exactly why the modification makes the gun safer for you to use, and thus ultimately safer to the general public can help the jury understand why what you did was responsible and not reckless.

If you are intent on modifying your trigger, please do it the right way and replace the trigger group with an aftermarket product. This way, if you find that it is something that does not feel right, you can change it back. Or have a trained gunsmith do the work so everything functions the way it was designed.

As always, focus on your training and stay safe.

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23 Responses to Should You Modify Your Carry Gun’s Trigger?

  1. Mikial November 28, 2015 at 7:39 pm #

    I had my Glock 21 worked on to give it a 4 pound trigger for USPSA competitions, but it is also my EDC. I like the lighter trigger. With a Glock, the safety mechanism works the same no matter the trigger pull, so the only change is that your shots are quicker and have a somewhat smaller chance for the trigger pull to affect the accuracy and follow-up shots in the event of a life and death situation.

    To me, it was well worth it and has had no impact on the safety of carrying the weapon. I suppose some will say it increases the chance for letting off a shot before you intended to, but I disagree. I was trained and my experience reinforced trigger control and taking your shot when you are ready and not before.

    2 1/2 years doing private security in Iraq, and multiple trips into garden spots like Afghanistan and Beirut have taught me that it ids you who have control of your trigger, and the pull weight is just another tool like the gun itself.

    • Matthew May 2, 2016 at 10:54 am #

      Hi Mikial,
      Thanks for the response. I agree totally with you that the ultimate safety is the user, not anything on the gun. And I thank you for doing private security over seas. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system in the United States and Civil Court System can be very brutal for uses of force against other civilians over here. Ultimately its a decision everyone has to make on their own. But I always believe having more facts is better than not enough, when making a decision that could cause legal or monetary repercussions later on.

  2. John November 29, 2015 at 10:41 am #

    Bullshit. You should modify the trigger if you want to modify the trigger. If you can get faster, more accurate hits without sacrificing safety, and you want to…..then you should. You said, “we need to understand that a deadly force or self defense shooting is not a marksmanship competition” Again, bullshit. Accuracy is critical, and in some hostage rescue situations, accuracy and speed will spell the difference between your loved one living or that loved one dying.

    • Matthew May 2, 2016 at 10:47 am #

      Hi John, thanks for the reply. I definitely agree that accuracy is critical when if comes to shooting a firearm. The distinction I made was between combat accuracy and slow fire, fully sighted marksmanship. There is a HUGE difference between the two. Yes the hostage situation requires much more fine accuracy than 99.9% of typical deadly force encounters. I think if you are training to the point where you feel comfortable taking a brain stem shot on a hostage taker who is holding your loved one, you probably can put in enough work on a factory trigger to become proficient taking that shot. I am by no means the best shooter on the planet, but through routine practice I can shoot hostage drills at 25 yards with a standard glock trigger. Would I take that same shot at 25 yards in a high stress situation, probably not, and not even if I had a modified trigger of .00001 lb. The margin of error on that type of shot is so slim, that you are better off using tactics to close distance and take a better shot with less margin of error.

      You also say if you can modify the trigger without sacrificing safety you should. I agree, the ultimate safety is the users ability with the firearm. However reducing the trigger weight on the gun makes it inherently easier to fire, and on a firearm that is being used for self defense where stress is probably as high as it can get, this is sacrificing safety. It has been proven scientifically that we have a “sympathetic squeeze response” during stressful situation. Even the most seasoned officers and military have experienced this phenomenon. This is just one example of that :

      I definitely appreciate your input and feedback.

  3. Jim November 30, 2015 at 12:21 pm #

    Wow! Way to poison the jury pool there. Everyone should modify their carry weapons to be exactly the best that it can be to work for their individual situation. There is no “one size fits all” firearm out there, and manufacturer specifications are not designed to work optimally for every person. We should not even entertain the idea that weapons are good to go right out of the box, nor should anyone legitimize the thought through articles like this one.

    • Matthew May 2, 2016 at 10:36 am #

      Hi Jim, Thank you for the feedback. You are definitely passionate in your opinion on the topic and that is great. I happen to disagree with you though. I am not sure what brands of firearms you have been purchasing where a modification is needed in order for the firearm to option optimally. Most police departments across the country do not modify their duty guns, and in fact Glock will not modify any of their guns prior to shipping to law enforcement. The gun is designed for law enforcement use from the factory. I would see if you can speak with an experienced self defense/use of force defense attorney and get his/her opinion on reducing trigger weight on a firearm you may use in a deadly force encounter. As far as this article poising the jury pool, I think that has been done over the last 10 years with the push to limit gun ownership. I thank you for your feedback, and opinion. Thanks for reading.

  4. Daniel November 30, 2015 at 10:49 pm #

    Name a single court case where anyone was prosecuted based on the type of ammunition used or modifications on the firearm. If deadly force is appropriate it doesn’t matter if you shot them with a .22 or hit them over the head with a lamp and killed them.

    • Matthew May 1, 2016 at 5:07 pm #

      This may be an interesting case to read.

      • Eric W May 8, 2018 at 5:57 pm #

        This example is from a negligent discharge. Do you have examples where a self-defense case was lost due to a trigger modification?

        • Matthew Maruster May 9, 2018 at 5:10 am #

          Hi Eric,
          If you want a simple answer, it would be no. But rarely are cases won or lost based on a single factor. Every Jury member is not polled after every court decision to ask what the single reason for deciding to convict or acquit. If you ask me, are there cases where the pull-weight of a trigger was brought up and may have influenced a decision? Of course, there are, just ask any attorney who regularly defends clients in self-defense cases, or someone who has testified in many cases on the issue.

          Love them or hate them, If you read their publications or attended seminars from people like Massad Ayoob or Emanual Kapelshon, they explain how prosecutors and defense attorneys retain them to testify as an expert witness on, gun modifications including trigger modifications.

          Your question is reasonable but more of a ‘straw man’ argument, and not unique. Just look at every other comment on this post and any other article taking a similar stance on the topic.

          Could anyone reasonably answer this question? “Can you show me a self-defense case that was won, because the defendant’s argument was, ‘there are no self-defense cases where a trigger modification was the reason for conviction. So for that reason, I must be found not guilty.’ Of course not.

          There is legal precedence of course. There is also conceptual or objective precedence when it comes to the jury. Big money is spent by the prosecution and defense, on jury consultants whose job is to find out how to connect with a juror and play on that emotion. There is a ton of evidence that shows things like modifications (of any sort), the color of the gun, type of the gun, number of shots, the physical appearance/age/sex/race etc. of the defendant, social media posts, etc. etc. played a part in the jurors ultimate decision. These biases are not based on any legal standard, but they exist none the less.

          A couple additional reasonable questions that should follow should be:

          ‘Are there cases that may not have ever gone to court, had it not been for trigger modifications, regardless of the finding?’

          ‘Are there cases whos trial were extended in part, or solely because the defendant had to explain to jurors, why the lighter trigger pull weight made them a better shooter?’

          ‘Are there cases where an expert witness was needed to explain to jurors why the trigger modification was necessary for making the gun safer or making the defendant a better shooter?”

          ‘Are there cases where the number of shots is brought into question and used to determine the reasonableness of force? And an argument could be made that some of the final shots may not have been intentional due to a lighter trigger?’

          ‘Are there civil cases that have been brought to bear on someone after an acquittal in a criminal case, because there is a better chance to reach the legal standard to show the lightened trigger somehow played even a part in causing their client some damage that a court could make you pay for?’

          These are just as reasonable questions one should ask themselves if they carry a firearm for self-defense and intend on making any modifications. Personally, I don’t want to even end up in criminal or civil court, regardless of the outcome. There are plenty of financially destroyed people who were found not guilty. Attorney fees and expert witnesses cost tons of money, that frankly, I don’t have.

          So for those reasons, like I mentioned, I made the personal choice to limit the modifications on my trigger to the shape of the shoe, and not pull weight. Could that modification be a reason to drag me into a courthouse? possibly. I think after a preliminary examination of the evidence, it would be less likely, but I accept that level of risk.

          Hopefully, if you or any of the other readers are involved in a DGU, the initial investigation will be so overwhelmingly in favor of a self-defense claim, that you go home the same night with a pat on the back from the police and their word that no criminal charges will be filed.

          Laws and political aspirations vary from state to state and DA to DA. So what might be the case in Yuma, Arizona, might play out differently in Detroit, Michigan.

          If you or anyone want’s to reduce the trigger pull weight on an EDC go for it. It is not illegal and may make you a better shooter. It may also leave a couple chinks in the armor for an attorney to try and exploit. Beyond that, just be able to justify any modifications, and accept the added risk that comes with them.

          • Michael May 25, 2020 at 10:45 pm #

            I would have to agree, certain modifications are less likely to set you up for failure. In today’s world, you are more likely to be sued, civilly than prosecuted criminally. As firearm owners, we know the risks of just even owning a firearm. Ask yourself this: do I live in a place where people understand good and evil? Or do I live in a place where evil acts are justified by a persons conditions? Rights of citizens are being eroded everyday, by people who think we are “enlightened beings” not “human beings”.

            As far as trigger pull weights are concerned, leave them where the manufacturer has set them…… just for your service or everyday carry weapon. with trend for firearms doing away with thumb safeties or grip safeties, the weight of the trigger pull is the safety. if you have been a child or have children you will recognize the added benefit I’ve having a trigger pull on your everyday carry weapon. this is a weapon that would be easily accessible to you and the defense of yourself or your family, which also means at some point it may become accessible by your loved ones who may not have as much training as you do.

  5. Timothy w McCann March 9, 2018 at 5:53 pm #

    Well being a law enforcement officer for over 17 years and carrying off duty. I have learned through experience testifying as an expert in officer involved shootings they completely dissect your weapon and question all modifications. So I agree just be ready to testify and educate yourself to the fullest regarding carry wrapon modification. Just fyi..

  6. RayS May 8, 2018 at 4:52 pm #

    I could agree on not modifying the trigger pull weight IF stock triggers were decent. All 3 of my Glocks had horrendus triggers – not even close to your 5.5 lb example – more like 8.5. My thoughts are those heavy (“safer”) triggers means more misses, and more down range liability. The correct answer should be – if you do modify it, practice, practice and practice to avoid any negligent discharges.

  7. Mike May 22, 2018 at 7:27 am #

    The only way to avoid being portrayed as a anything but a regular law abiding citizen is to have a stock gun, stock ammo and no modifications of any kind. If involved in a defense shooting the defense will be difficult and costly, there’s no need to make it more difficult.

  8. Patrick August 17, 2018 at 12:05 pm #

    Matthew, I think your original post and responses are very reasonably written. I think it was really compelling to explain there is a difference between the legal/criminal conditions and the civil suit. In the civil suit not only is the burden of proof lower, i.e. the “reasonable person” believes the preponderance of the evidence presented by the plaintiff, but the attorney of the person filing suit has a profit motive. He or she will likely take on the case based on ability to share in the monetary damages awarded. Ipso Facto, that automatically means if you find yourself in civil suit on this type of matter, the attorney believes there is money to be had.

    Said attorney will also have you investigated, understand what your financials are, factor in whether you have general liability insurance, understand whether your insurer would be likely to settle, etc – they are in the business of suing.

    To win more than lose, they are expert in portraying their clients as a victims, and the defendants as aggressors, and as you note, expert in using everything they can as ammunition against the defendant.

    Best case, as a defendant, you will have high legal fees, emotional and financial distress, even if you win. If you lose, best case your insurance company will settle, and you’ll run the risk of losing your homeowners insurance, your house, other real assets. So why give a low life who tried to kill you, or his family for that matter, any thing you don’t have to give them to use against you.

    One thing I feel helps people think through the kinds of scenarios is to think of hyperbolic opposites. Suppose two cases which are both legally justified and suppose in both cases, the person who was compelled to shoot was found innocent. Further suppose the person who was shot survived but was successfully prosecuted. Even in that circumstance, the defendant in the legal case could still be sued.

    In one extreme, suppose the defendant shot a bone stock glock with a 6 pound trigger 3 times.In the other extreme, suppose the defendant shot 10 rounds out of 23 rounds from a race gun with a 2 pound trigger.

    In which case does the plaintiff’s attorney have the greater “arsenal” of points he can exaggerate and inflame a jury?

    While i personally may want to bristle at someone limiting my ability to shoot my carry weapon better by enhancing it, I think some things you have to say are just what they are. De-escalate where you can, walk away where you can, train, train, train, and if you ever have to shoot, shoot. But it just makes sense to have thought about this issue, and to reasonably limit your liability for a law suit. In the same way you would not divulge information to the Police without an attorney, do not offer a future plaintiff things they will use against you.

    My 2 cents. Great comments from all sides on this thread, but I agree with Matthew.

  9. Jeff November 5, 2018 at 3:31 pm #

    Technically, even aftermarket sights can be scrutinized with the same points. Some stock sights are so bad that they have to be replaced. Your thoughts?

    • Matthew Maruster November 7, 2018 at 9:48 am #

      Absolutely. There are no evidentiary rules that prohibit the admisableness of any modifications to the firearm. The standard I use when I am deciding on what modifications I feel like making on my firearm, is: 1) does it change the way the firearm mechanically functions ie. trigger weight, safety function etc. 2) can I explain why the benefit it provides, and does that benefit outweigh the potential drawbacks ie. if all things are equal (fundamentals and situationally), better sights should help with accuracy. Similarly, all things being equal (fundamentally and situationally), does a lighter trigger help someone shoot more accurately? Possibly, but does it help me shoot so much more accurately, that it outweighs the potential negative association of ‘lightened triggers’? For me, the answer to that one is no. 3) And while I have the freedom to inscribe quotes or put pictures on my gun, could those be construed by someone in a negative light, and potentially make me look like I had ill intentions? Things like ‘kill em all and let God sort ’em out’ or punisher skulls and grim reapers just present an appearance that someone may be quick to result to deadly force.

      None of these are rules that you will find in court, and if the incident is so cut and dry and there is terrific evidence and eye witness testimony, it wouldn’t matter if you had something like ‘I want to kill you’ written on your gun. But many times there is not a ton of evidence to corroborate your actions. And in those cases inferences will be made, they have to be made, because the case will be made circumstantially. I don’t want to expose a chink in my armor, for a prosecutor to say ‘we have a lightened trigger or a guy who is going to come across as trigger happy based on social medial posts and inscriptions on his handgun, so let’s take a shot’. Because even if I am not convicted, the financial and mental toal is something I don’t want to suffer.

      Hope this helps.

  10. Sean January 22, 2019 at 4:39 am #

    Lots of mixed responses here. Some good and some, well, not. When people typically think of the term “modding” their gun, which we’ll refer to our edc’s to stay in-subject, we always think trigger. But there are multiple modifications that you can do to make your edc “battle ready.” I would sooner stiple my grips and upgrade my sights before I would modify my trigger. What I believe has not been mentioned yet is the fact that 99.9% of the people that have a concealed carry permit would likely freak out in an actual situation, nullifying said modified fancy expensive trigger. Matthew made a great point with standing and slowly aiming, properly squeezing the trigger, and placing a round on paper is far different than someone attempting to actually kill you or a loved one and you are left with no choice but to end the threat. I am a VERY good shot. I can place a full 19 round magazine in a silver dollar size hole at 10 yards if I practice great weapon and trigger control. But if a real-life situation happened, I would want to make sure I can actually see where my gun is being pointed in a not-so-perfect setting. Hence, upgraded sights. (No, that does not mean an optic specifically. Just a good quality sight that will allow you to aim on your target vs hitting an innocent bystander.) I also like to have my carry pistol stipled to make sure that my shaky hands keep a good purchase on my weapon in said high-stress situation.
    Any good lawyer can prove you to be a death dealer given the right circumstances. But instead of spending money on a fancy trigger, spend it on a good quality local class that will show you how to keep your cool in a high-stress situation. Also, make sure your weapon is SAFE before you make it a bit more dangerous.

  11. Steve February 1, 2019 at 8:52 am #

    Mathew, what about buying a gun from say S&W performance center that has had trigger work done, or internals shaved or filed whatever S&W performance center does? doe this fall into the same category if anyone was to have a gun modified for trigger pull or even do it themselves?

    • Matthew Maruster February 1, 2019 at 9:17 am #

      Hi Steve, Thanks for asking. My opinion (and it’s just that) is that firearms that come from the factory with ‘performance’ enhancements have a lower chance of carrying a negative stigma in the minds of jurors, and would be less likely to be attacked by an overzealous prosecutor. Not to say it couldn’t happen but probably less likely. It is also probably easier to show that it’s use is consistent with how the gun was designed to operate by the manufacturer. I find it would be more precarious to call an aftermarket trigger manufacturer into court to confirm that they made their trigger for defensive concealed carry use, compared to a gun manufacturer that has deeper pockets and possibly stronger witnesses to justify that their enhancements make the gun more ‘shootable’ while maintaining industry standard tolerances.

      The modding trigger debate is contentious because of it really revolves around weighing risk vs reward, so it’s super subjective. Ultimately, if you feel the added benefit of any performance mod is worth the possibility that it could open the door for a prosecutor to take a chance at charging you, absolutely do it. I think it’s fair to point out that all mods do not come with the same level of scrutiny. Upgraded sights come to mind, and compared to a modded trigger or death imagery on the gun. When thinking if a mod is appropriate, I think of how I would explain it to a layperson who may know nothing about guns, is scared of them or hates them.

      That being said, for years, cops carried revolvers and nearly all had a trigger job done to smooth out the trigger. So there is that too lol

      Hope this didn’t make the murky topic any worse lol

  12. nillard May 15, 2019 at 8:27 am #

    if you shoot somebody INTENTIONALLY to DEFEND yourself because you feared for your life, you re good, but if you shot somebody ACCIDENTALLY because of your MODIFIED HANDGUN, you re done.

  13. Thomas Westgren June 4, 2019 at 11:20 am #

    I like how you said that reducing your weapon’s trigger can help more than simply the pull weight necessary to fire. I imagine that after getting your trigger changed you would want to do some pistol training to be sure that you are comfortable with your firearm. That way you won’t be put into an awkward situation because of what you were used to before when trying to use your weapon.

  14. Danny October 9, 2020 at 6:44 am #

    I would bet money that all of those commenting who are so passionately FOR modifying a carry trigger don’t train. Train with your stock gun, there are no cheat codes.

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