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.