No matter how cool we think we are with our gun handling, complacency is a constant and implacable enemy.  A lot of shooters mistakenly think “good trigger pull” is synonymous with “light trigger pull,” and that ain’t necessarily so.

Check out this article by my old friend Ralph Mroz, a very capable self-defense firearms instructor: the links, and the links within the links!

All I have to add is this: on any defensive firearm, a so-called “hair trigger” – lighter than factory specification for “duty” use, or lighter than “common custom and practice” among those who routinely carry such firearms in harm’s way – a big concern is that the ultra-light trigger feeds into wrongful allegation of culpable negligence even when the shot was intentionally fired in self-defense.  A politically-motivated prosecutor or a greed-motivated plaintiff’s lawyer knows that once established, self-defense is “a perfect defense,” but there is no such thing as a “justifiable accident.”  It’s a lot easier for either of them to convince a jury that a good person became careless and did something stupid than to convince them that a good person suddenly turned into Jack the Ripper with a gun instead of a blade.  I’ve seen that dirty trick played many times in what is now over 40 years as an expert witness for the courts in shooting cases. It’s a lot easier to convince a jury that a “hair trigger” gun went off by indefensible accident than a gun with a duty-weight trigger.

PLEASE read Ralph’s article. Please follow all those links.  Reality as opposed to wishful thinking is a hallmark of Ralph Mroz’s work, and this article of his and all his references are important. Thanks to Ralph for writing it, and for mutual friend Grant Cunningham ( ) for bringing it to my attention.


  1. Added to the hair trigger negligence arguments that some lawyers allege are gun owners who foolishly: carry ammunition advertised to kill zombies and thugs, plaster their homes and vehicles with stickers threatening to murder lawbreakers, post the same threats on social media sites, and “customize” their firearms and holsters with similar statements and images. Opportunistic attorneys eat up that stuff.

  2. Well.. it depends on what one considers a ‘hair trigger’. If you constantly practice with, oh say a Kimber Gold Match MK 1 (as I have), and one of your CCW guns is a Kimber Classic Stainless MK 1 (as I have) and that Gold Match’s trigger is lighter than your Classic Stainless, and thus you are well trained to KYFFOTFT (Keep your Freaking Finger off the Freaking Trigger) till you are gonna fire, then that works. Just make sure document it… just in case you have to prove it.

    Yes I pack a Glock 26 with NY1/3.5 Connector many times, and a S&W J Centennial 642 many times, but.. that Kimber .45 gives so much better accuracy at ANY RANGE. And as the White Settlement incident shows.. accuracy is a good thing (as well as speed and alertness.)

    Just make sure you can show you are very competent with your chosen weapons. Engage in IPSC/IDPA, take SD courses, become a martial artist, etc..

    And I say this as a 40+ year martial artist, IDPA/IPSC 30+yes, taken several firearms related course, and I work out weekly!

    • Ditto on the superior 1911 .45 ACP triggers and great accuracy. I learned to shoot on the 1911, and seem to be leaning towards carrying it again as my semi-auto EDC. My 1911 shooting habits are ingrained and try to rear their heads when I practice with other pistol platforms under stress, causing possible undesirable delays. Regarding Ralph’s link concerning shots to the pelvis, the heavy, broad .45 ACP bullets are said to achieve optimal body-turning effects. 9mm not so much. With rifle triggers, I have had good luck as far as safety and accuracy with a 3 1/2 pound pull. 2 1/2 lbs. seem more towards a sniper’s pull weight, and a little light for everyday carry in the timber: Bang!–Oops!!

  3. I agree with the views given by Ralph Mroz (above) and subsequently endorsed by Mas. All of my carry or home defense firearms have unmodified “Factory” triggers.

    I have worked to “tune” some of the triggers on my hunting rifles and on a few handguns that are only used for “range” shooting but no trigger on any firearm that I would use for defensive purposes has been touched.

    The factory triggers on all of my defensive firearms are “good enough” as-is and I would want to be able to honestly say, if I was ever questioned about it by the police or a prosecutor, that the trigger is “Factory Standard”.

    Why open up a possible line for attack? The burden to justify a self-defense case is already heavy enough. Why hand anyone some extra rope that they could use to hang you?

    Anyway, that is the way that I look at it.

  4. Informative read . As you’ve stated in class Mas, reducing ammunition to be possibly used against you/us in court should be job one with regards to what changes we make or have done to our carry guns.

  5. This also agrees with what I’ve read from John Farnam and Jeff Cooper. IIRC, Jeff Cooper said the trigger for a self-defense handgun should be five pounds and the trigger for a rifle should be 2 and 1/2.

  6. In addition to having and carrying ammunition that is advertised in a manner that could be easily interpreted as negative by a prosecutor and jury, I would also consider the advertised catchy name of a few handguns as a possible negative if ever used in a self-defense situation.

  7. Man, talk about the horns of a dilemma.

    On one hand, I’d want absolutely no courtroom drama if it were me in a defensive shooting case. Look, Mr. Prosecutor: I read In The Gravest Extreme, I took tactical and law classes, I practiced regularly and even annotated my targets, I used the same ammo as the local police, my handgun is totally unmodified, I never made any injudicious remarks on Facebook or any other forum. I’ve presented to you and the jury a totally anodyne image of an upstanding citizen who, when faced with a life and death decision, acted precisely as you’d expect an innocent person to act, because it’s more than an image. It’s fact.

    But…Why does it seem that in working to remove as many potential hazards as I can from the courtroom setting, I am giving away something greater? That is, the “tactical” good of presenting as small a target as possible at case-level directly results in a defensive posture at the “strategic” level. We cede one thing after another to the forces arrayed against us (and risk looking guilty just by compromising), until there’s nothing left.

    I would fully expect that prosecutor to try and twist even the good stuff. “Mr. Ayoob’s book is a manual for getting away with murder. Ditto range time and learning the law. You used that ammo because you’re just a wannabe cop, looking for an excuse to…whatever. Your handgun is more dangerous because its factory trigger is rough and stiff, leading to inaccuracy which endangers bystanders: Why didn’t you have it smoothed down?” Etc.

    Maybe it would be a strategic good to defend, successfully, a self-defense shooter who has every flaw imaginable, PC-wise, but who is innocent and righteous where it counts.

    Suppose the hero of the Texas church incident used a 1911 with a pinned grip safety? Suppose he used that old Black Talon ammo, because he believed it was the most effective? Suppose he’s on record at some social forum, laughing at how Jeff Cooper called perpetrators “goblins?” Suppose he modified the trigger, which allowed such an accurate head shot at distance? Then suppose he prevailed in court, criminally and civilly.

    The defense would have cost more and required more than a bit of luck with judge and jury, but wouldn’t it also re-expand (properly) the envelope we operate within? Is such a risk worth the reward? Is it a silly risk or a necessary one?

    • I agree that it is a sad state of affairs when one has to be “defensive” even about the Right of Self-Defense. In an ideal world, that would not be the case. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world. Rather, we are living in a perverse, left-wing, media-culture world that is both sick and extremely dangerous to our freedoms.

      I am not an attorney so I may be wrong on this point. However, I suspect that even a “righteous where it counts” case would only have a limited effect to “re-expand (properly) the envelope”.

      Take the “Hero of the Texas church incident” that you use for an example. Suppose everything to imagine happened and the “Hero” prevailed in court? How far would the positive effects extend?

      Self-defense cases are typically judged under the specific laws of the State in which they occur. So, such a case might be significant in Texas. In other States, especially the left-wing “Blue” States, it would likely not even make a ripple in the law. I strongly suspect that States such as California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, etc. would ignore and dismiss such a case as being “Non-Applicable” to their State.

      American Leftists are experts at using the Law, when it suits them, to attack their political enemies. and ignoring the law when it is against them. Thanks to a left-wing media culture, we no longer have “equal protection (and application) of the Law” in America. It is a mistake to assume that we still do have it.

      • TN_MAN,

        You hit the bull’s eye as usual. One big disadvantage we would have in front of an anti-gun prosecutor would be the fact that we are male. It’s hard to imagine a prosecutor painting a female, or a feeble oldster, or a physically handicapped person as Dirty Harry or Paul Kersey (from the Death Wish movies).

        We can’t change who we are. Justice is not blind.

    • “Suppose the hero of the Texas church incident used a 1911 with a pinned grip safety? Suppose he used that old Black Talon ammo, because he believed it was the most effective? Suppose he’s on record at some social forum, laughing at how Jeff Cooper called perpetrators “goblins?” Suppose he modified the trigger, which allowed such an accurate head shot at distance? Then suppose he prevailed in court, criminally and civilly. ”

      Well, being a Texican, I’ll just say no jury in Texas would convict him. No prosecutor would touch the case. Why? It was such a clean shoot. Now in NY? Massachusetts? California? Lots of luck!

      But he was in Texas.

  8. One reason I don’t carry Glock pistols is the triggers whose listed weights are misleading to the general public. The standard trigger connector weight on Glocks is 5 lbs although in reality it takes 7-8 pounds of pressure to fire one. Even the 3.5 lb connector still requires about 5 pounds of pull to release the striker. I have Glock pistols I keep loaded at home as there are no innocent bystanders who could be accidentally hit and anyone burglarizing my house will not be viewed as a lawyer described victim, unlike if I was out in public. My carry gun, a 1911 type pistol in .45 ACP has a measured trigger pull of 4.5-4.75 lbs and breaks very clean, making precise shots possible. If the name of ammunition is important, then carry something like Federal Critical Defense and Critical Duty, Speer Lawman, or anything with “Defense” or “Match” in it’s name, which connotes legal use and stay away from stuff called Thug Terminator or Gangster Blaster.

  9. Can someone tell me why striker fired pistols like Glocks which have lighter trigger pulls compared to doubke action/single action pistols like Sig Sauer P226 and like do not come with manual safeties?
    I don’t understand this at all.

    • Many if not most users of striker fired pistols do not practice regularly with their guns and will fail to deactivate a manual safety under stressful conditions. A benefit of carrying a pistol with a manual safety nowadays is that if the gun is taken away from the carrier by a bad guy, they will have difficulty firing it quickly, allowing the lawful citizen time to retrieve the pistol, draw a backup piece, or run away. I personally believe all striker fired pistols should have manual safeties and their owners should practice drawing and shooting, or at least dry firing regularly to improve their technique, but I doubt that would ever happen except in a perfect world.

  10. The “Old Desk Sgt’s” advice still holds, “Get a gun, learn how to use it, keep it with you, you will know when to use it.” The only modification I can add to this advice is to use common, unmodified, effective (out of the box) weapon and ammo. The latter is for court.

  11. I give the same advise whenever asked or whenever I think it may be received.
    I follow it up by conveying the outcomes that I read about a women’s introduction to firearms class. Nearly every woman gravitated toward a 380 handgun because of its light trigger pull and low recoil but when given a 9mm with a heavier trigger on a timed shooting drill to induce the adrenaline rush of stress, everyone had improved controls and efficiency with little to no noticable negative effect. In fact it was the heavier trigger that was attributed to the increase of both controls and accuracy.

  12. Good advice overall, and personally the only modification I have ever made to a carry gun has been to change the grips from sticky rubber to real wood. And as someone who started out on double action revolvers, heavy and long trigger pulls do not really bother me, although creepy ones do.

    But this (and recent essays by others) seems to be targeted at the dwindling 1911 crowd–and it seems as if we have come full circle. A generation or two ago the revolver crowd said that auto loaders (1911’s at first, then SA/DA wonder-nines) were too dangerous because of their lighter trigger pulls, a safety (or hammer drop) one had to fiddle with, and besides that they were not as reliable at they could be. Now, in the rear-view mirror looking back, the plastic striker fired crowd is repeating what their grandparents said about the 1911’s and SA/DA guns.

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