The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The Conference Center > Law and Civil Rights

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old October 2, 2011, 08:44 PM   #1
Webleymkv
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 20, 2005
Location: Indiana
Posts: 9,925
Modified weapons for CCW

I've been reading a lot of posts lately suggesting that it is a bad idea to use a gun that has been modified, particularly the disabling or removing of a safety feature like a magazine disconnect or grip safety, because a prosecuting attorney might "have a field day" or "crucify" one in court. While I can certainly see this opening one up to increased liability in the event of an accidental/negligent discharge, I find myself wondering how applicable that may be to a genuine self-defense situation.

My though process is as follows: safety features like grip safeties, internal locking mechanisms, firing pin blocks, and magazine disconnects are all put in place to prevent the gun from firing unintentionally. If one is genuinely defending himself/herself, however, then by definition they fired the gun intentionally and as such safety features which prevent the gun from firing unintentionally would seem irrelevant. Of course, an overly zealous prosecutor or lawyer for the plaintiff might still try to bring the modification up, but unless the other circumstances of the incident were "sketchy" to begin with I'd think that a defense attorney would be able to counter such arguments relatively easily.

I, however, am not an attorney nor do I play one on TV nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so there may be some other factor that I've overlooked. I would be very interested to hear the thoughts of those members who are lawyers or are particularly well-versed on such matters. I'm also not arguing for or against using a modified gun for self-defense, I only own one which has been modified beyond the cosmetic (aftermarket grips or finish) and I do not intend to ever rely on it for self-defense: a Webley Mk. IV revolver from which I removed a rather awkward and unnecessary cross-bolt that was installed by the Importer (Century) for reasons which are still unclear to me.
__________________
Smith, and Wesson, and Me. -H. Callahan
Well waddaya know, one buwwet weft! -E. Fudd
All bad precedents begin as justifiable measures. -J. Caesar
Webleymkv is offline  
Old October 2, 2011, 09:07 PM   #2
maestro pistolero
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 16, 2007
Posts: 2,090
My thoughts on this are that if you claim you accidentally shot someone with a gun that you modified into an unsafe condition, especially if you defeated an external safety feature, you're screwed.

If you have a 2.5 lb target trigger on your carry gun and you claim an accidental discharge, you're screwed.

But if you claim you intentionally shot someone in a clear case of self-defense and you double-tapped them in the upper torso or head, and if the evidence supports your claim, you're probably in pretty good shape legally.

I don't pay much attention to folks who claim that ANY modification on a gun will cause you to lose in court. I am more concerned with having a pistol that I can shoot accurately in the first place, rather than conforming to some imagined legal risk that may never happen.

For me that means a gun with a crisp trigger somewhere around 5 lbs, give or take a half-pound. If I don't make horrible mistakes in the first place, THAT reduces my legal exposure more than anything.

Having a terrible, unusable 12-pound trigger pull thats deemed to be "safe' by the manufacturer's legal team does NOT, in my opinion, reduce my legal exposure, as I am less likely to be able to control my shot placement. It may reduce the manufacturer's legal exposure, but their lawyer doesn't have my best interests in mind.
maestro pistolero is offline  
Old October 2, 2011, 10:24 PM   #3
Webleymkv
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 20, 2005
Location: Indiana
Posts: 9,925
Maestro, we seem to be on the same page. This isn't directed at your post, I've just though a bit about my own and I think I should probably clarify it a bit. I'm not talking about doing something that would significantly increase your odds of having an accident like disabling the thumb safety on a 1911 or reducing the trigger pull of your gun to 8oz. Rather, I'm talking about modifying or removing features that other similar guns had omitted in the first place like a magazine disconnect. Take my Webley for example: very, very few DA revolvers have manual safeties and Webley didn't even put one on this gun to begin with, Century did it after the fact. My chances of having an accident with this gun are no greater than any other DA revolver because almost none have the completely unnecessary feature that I removed in the first place.

My thoughts here are that disabling or removing certain features shouldn't make much difference in genuine case of self-defense because you meant for the gun to go off and that simply practicing safe gun handling will go a lot further than a magazine disconnect or a manual safety on a revolver towards preventing an accidental/negligent discharge.
__________________
Smith, and Wesson, and Me. -H. Callahan
Well waddaya know, one buwwet weft! -E. Fudd
All bad precedents begin as justifiable measures. -J. Caesar
Webleymkv is offline  
Old October 2, 2011, 10:57 PM   #4
MLeake
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 15, 2007
Location: Outside KC, MO
Posts: 10,128
My take on this is that one should be prepared to explain anything one has done to the weapon, in a manner that a non-gun person can understand.

However, unless one is a firearms expert, it's not certain if a judge will allow that explanation to be given. That in mind, it might be a good idea to get the opinions of any firearms instructors and experts you know, since you might need their help getting expert testimony, should the worst case arise.

One thing Mas Ayoob said in class in August about this: "Nobody gets in trouble for having too smooth a trigger; people can get in trouble for having too light a trigger."

I interpret that as meaning, don't modify a weapon in such a way as to make it much more likely to go off when you don't absolutely want it to do so; I agree with that meaning.

My BHP no longer has a magazine disconnect safety; I bought it used, and it didn't have one at that time. But if the previous owner hadn't removed it, I probably would have had it removed when I had some other custom work done on it.

Explanation: Pro - Allows a smoother trigger; Con - the MDS is only really useful when breaking down the gun for cleaning; Mitigating - but even then it's the handler's responsibility to verify an empty chamber.
MLeake is offline  
Old October 3, 2011, 12:00 AM   #5
Frank Ettin
Staff
 
Join Date: November 23, 2005
Location: California - San Francisco
Posts: 6,768
Quote:
Originally Posted by Webleymkv
...I, however, am not an attorney...
On the other hand, I am. And I will not use a gun on which a safety device has been disabled for self defense. Nor will I use a gun on which the trigger has been lighten below what I can have an expert testify is a satisfactory service weight (4 to 5 pounds on a 1911). But I consider some modifications, such as decent sights or a corrosion resistant finish, to be benign.

If I can not find a gun with all safety devices installed by the maker intact and a decent service grade trigger pull that I can competently and effective manage for self defense use, I need a lot more training and practice.

In any case, this topic has been discussed to death, and I have contributed to those discussions. I'm really not terribly interested in continually repeating myself. So check out these threads:

http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/...d.php?t=372759

http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/...d.php?t=366434

http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/...d.php?t=388901

http://www.thefiringline.com/forums/....php?p=3586536

http://thefiringline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=452627

Last edited by Frank Ettin; October 3, 2011 at 12:30 AM.
Frank Ettin is offline  
Old October 3, 2011, 01:54 AM   #6
Webleymkv
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 20, 2005
Location: Indiana
Posts: 9,925
Fiddletown, thank you for the response. After reading through the threads you linked as well as some others you linked in those threads, I can understand your rationale.

If I might pick your brain a bit, what are your thoughts as to the Webley revolver I mentioned earlier? In your opinion, would it make a difference that the "safety device" which I removed was installed not by the original manufacturer of the gun (Webley & Scott) but rather by another company (Century International) decades after the gun was originally produced?
__________________
Smith, and Wesson, and Me. -H. Callahan
Well waddaya know, one buwwet weft! -E. Fudd
All bad precedents begin as justifiable measures. -J. Caesar
Webleymkv is offline  
Old October 3, 2011, 02:30 AM   #7
Jim March
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 14, 1999
Location: Pittsburg, CA, USA
Posts: 7,321
Then there's guns that just plain confuse the heck out of the crime scene investigators. Like, say, a 357 revolver that spits out empty shells as you shoot under pure gas pressure, leaving zero in the way of extractor marks .

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZAGpJr5RsU
__________________
Jim March
Jim March is offline  
Old October 3, 2011, 11:57 AM   #8
Aguila Blanca
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 25, 2008
Location: CONUS
Posts: 6,487
Webley, I don't know for certain but I can think of only one reason why the importer added a cross-bolt safety to the gun: to satisfy the BATFE that it was safe enough to allow its importation. The BATFE has a score sheet they use for evaluating firearms for import -- if the gun doesn't make a minimum score, it can't come in. That's why you see some lower-tier European semi-autos coming in the "target" grips on them -- the target grips earn an extra point or three.

So if you disable or remove the exact device that was added specifically to make the gun minimally "safe enough" to even be in the United States, how do you think that would be portrayed in a courtroom by a prosecutor or plaintiff's attorney who is looking for your hide?

Here's a link to the form: http://www.atf.gov/forms/download/atf-f-5330-5.pdf
I see that for a revolver they don't give points for the safety, but there is a paragraph at the bottom describing a mandatory feature. Doesn't matter how many points the revolver may score otherwise, without the safety device it can't be imported.
Aguila Blanca is offline  
Old October 3, 2011, 12:36 PM   #9
Don P
Senior Member
 
Join Date: December 17, 2005
Location: Florida
Posts: 4,807
Just my 2 schillings worth Mas Ayoob has stated here many times about and links in above posts have been supplied about removing safety features and about reloads for SD. I feel he "IS AN EXPERT" on the subject of my previous sentence. If he states its in bad judgment to do so then there has to be validity to his statements. He is called as an expert witness in police and SD shootings when needed and for all that have replied including myself how many are called on as an expert to testify in criminal proceedings? Most probably NONE
But as the saying goes do what you feel is right. Its your gun and freedom on the line.
__________________
NRA Life Member, NRA Range Safety Officer, IDPA Safety Officer, USPSA NROI Range Officer
As you are, I once was, As I am, You will be.
Don P is offline  
Old October 3, 2011, 06:23 PM   #10
MLeake
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 15, 2007
Location: Outside KC, MO
Posts: 10,128
Don P, I've spoken with Mas in person about this issue.

As far as things like BHP magazine safeties go, there is the possibility that an overzealous prosecutor or unethical tort attorney could try to say, "The defendant has such disregard for safety that he removed a safety device!"

However, there has not, to date, been a case where that has actually happened.

There have been cases where litigants have tried to claim accidental discharge of a cocked DA revolver; Mas told us about one such attempt, where the sear of the gun had been modified in such a way that the gun could not be cocked, and the litigant's expert was made to look like an idiot.

But even after talking with Mas (whom I like and respect), I am just not worried about the disconnect safety.

And if I need an expert, I have Mas and/or Marty Hayes on tap.

Which brings up another point: The Armed Citizen's Legal Defense Network. Marty Hayes runs it. Anybody interested in an aftermath strategy would be well-advised to look into ACLDN.
MLeake is offline  
Old October 3, 2011, 07:31 PM   #11
Webleymkv
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 20, 2005
Location: Indiana
Posts: 9,925
Aguila, I read through the ATF document that you linked and my gun may actually meet the requirements without the added safety as the hammer does recoil back after the trigger is released. The only reason I can think of that it might have been added is because of the drop-test.

I find it a bit odd, however, that my Webley would need a manual safety added in order to be imported but that other revolvers like the M1895 Nagant and numerous Italian SAA clones (which are considered to be safe to carry only in the traditional empty chamber-under-hammer method) are importable without them.

I wonder, actually, if it was not the ATF's drop test that prompted Century to add the safety, but rather some more vigorous test of a restrictive state like California or Maryland. CA's drop test, for example, is from 39.8" as opposed to ATF's 36", requires six "drops" as opposed to ATF's five, requires "drops" in six different positions as opposed to ATF's one, and requires that three test guns pass the test in order to be certified as "safe" and be eligible for sale in CA.

Really though, in this particular case it doesn't matter much as I have no intention of relying on the gun for self-defense. I bought it for a range toy and the history associated with it (plus I've always just thought Webleys were cool). For self-defense, I've got better guns in more substantial calibers that haven't been modified beyond the cosmetic (different grips).
__________________
Smith, and Wesson, and Me. -H. Callahan
Well waddaya know, one buwwet weft! -E. Fudd
All bad precedents begin as justifiable measures. -J. Caesar
Webleymkv is offline  
Old October 3, 2011, 07:42 PM   #12
secret_agent_man
Junior member
 
Join Date: March 25, 2011
Posts: 463
It goes to the intent of the manufacturer that installed the lock on the gun.

The lock was meant to disable the firearm when not in use, and only this.

It goes almost without saying the lock was engineered to be unlocked when in the weapon is in service. This would include
while in carry but not drawn.


Given a trial in which the issue is raised, there will be no better expert witness to testify to the above than the manufacturer itself in order to establish the defendant use the gun as designed, that is, carried in the unlocked position and fired from same.

Since being unlocked is the equivalent of having no lock at all, whether the lock has been removed or one was not factory installed, the fact a gun was unlocked at the time of a shooting is completely immaterial.

Should the defendant be convicted on this point of manifest error, the verdict will eventually be overturned on appeal.

That's comforting, huh?
secret_agent_man is offline  
Old October 3, 2011, 08:30 PM   #13
Aguila Blanca
Senior Member
 
Join Date: September 25, 2008
Location: CONUS
Posts: 6,487
Quote:
Originally Posted by Webleymkv
I find it a bit odd, however, that my Webley would need a manual safety added in order to be imported but that other revolvers like the M1895 Nagant and numerous Italian SAA clones (which are considered to be safe to carry only in the traditional empty chamber-under-hammer method) are importable without them.
Each different firearm has to be run through the numbers. As we said in the Army, "Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades." I'm more familiar with semi-autos, and a few years ago I went through two abortive attempts to import a pistol that nobody brings into this country, and I found that the BATFE's views on what scores on the sheet may not match yours or mine.

As to the Italian SAA clones, mine has a base pin with two notches. When the pin is pushed in to engage the second notch, the aft end extends through the frame and blocks the hammer from making contact with the primer. I've seen some Ubertis that have some kind of hammer block mechanism built right into the hammer (not frame mounted, like a Ruger). They do have to have something, or they can't be brought into the country.

The point, though, is that it's probable that the ONLY reason an importer would go to the trouble of adding a cross-bolt safety would be to satisfy the BATFE, and if the BATFE has decreed that this "feature" is so essential that the gun can't even be imported without it -- IMHO an opposing attorney would have a field day with you over the fact that you removed the very safety device that was required to be installed in order to allow the gun to be imported.

Last edited by Aguila Blanca; October 4, 2011 at 05:33 AM. Reason: typo
Aguila Blanca is offline  
Old October 3, 2011, 09:48 PM   #14
Don P
Senior Member
 
Join Date: December 17, 2005
Location: Florida
Posts: 4,807
Quote:
I am just not worried about the disconnect safety.
I concur. I have eliminated the lock on my S&W 649
__________________
NRA Life Member, NRA Range Safety Officer, IDPA Safety Officer, USPSA NROI Range Officer
As you are, I once was, As I am, You will be.
Don P is offline  
Reply

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 07:17 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2014 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent: thefiringline.com
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.09568 seconds with 7 queries