View Full Version : safe from BG's but what about suits?

April 27, 2006, 01:42 AM
Ok so just recently i decided to alter my old duck hunting gun (870) a wee bit to make it more applicable for home defense. only adjustments are a new 18.5inch barrel, and a better recoil pad. Once i had it all put together i liked it alot and found it was fun to go out and plink with even and feel confident with it for its intended purposes. However I cant help but think about the legal implications of defending my home and loved ones with it should the need arise. Its by no means very "tactical", still has the wooden stock and forend, no side saddle, pistol grip, or heat shield or anything like that, but still its a meaner lookin little tool now than it was before. The thought of some lawyer holding it in front of a jury spewing out words like "murder" "assault" and "altered with the intent to shred human flesh" just makes me cringe. I hear speculation about this here and there on the forums but wonder if anyone has any real stories or knowledge of people being convicted / sent away for using such a weapon to deffend themselves. any feedback apprecaited as always.


April 27, 2006, 07:29 AM
You're way too paranoid - it hasn't happened yet and it's not going to happen to you. The gun you describe isn't even close to the threshold most over-paranoid people have for "too tactical" home defense weapons. If you are that worried, perhaps you should trade you shotgun in for some pepper spray or something :rolleyes:

Keep it, shoot it, sleep easy at night.

April 27, 2006, 08:27 AM
shoot, then immediatly put wooden, classic furniture back on it, then call the police :p

April 27, 2006, 09:40 AM
Of course you're kidding, but it should be noted that altering the scene in ANY way, shape, or form is 1,000 times worse in the eyes of a prosecutor and jury than using an effective but scary-looking weapon, even if it would otherwise be irrelevant, because it shows a *guilty mind*; a way from which a jury could far more powerfully and fairly infer an intent to murder. Moreover, it is quite easy most of the time to prove ways in which people have altered scenes (crime scenes, if you're ultimately found guilty), using simple forensic science.

Don't worry about how powerful/effective/tacticool your weapon is - what you should worry about are your state's laws, exactly how they are worded, and following them (i.e. are you in IMMINENT danger?; does the attacker have a weapon, or do you reasonably believe that they do?; is your fear for your life or safety reasonable under all the circumstances / would others similarly situated feel threatened of life & limb?; Does your state allow you to defend others, or just yourself and immediate family members, or just yourself?, Does your state have a castle doctrine law or 'make-my-day' law? Are you in fact inside your home at the time? etc.). You see, the tacticoolness of your weapon is not an element of the crime you could be charged of murder or assault with deadly weapon; nor is it relevant to your defense of self-defense.

Second, besides the FACTS of the case and your state's specific laws and whether you TRAIN youself mentally and physically to only use deadly force in situations when your facts are within your state's laws, the next thing to consider is the political bent & beliefs of YOUR county's District Attorney. Some are far more pro-self-defense than others, and whether or not they levy a charge in the first place makes a world of difference, right or wrong. Very very low on the list is the tacticoolness of your gun. Yes, the jury COULD consider this fact, but it is ONLY relevant if they believe that you intended to murder, not in self-defense. It is NOT a relevant fact (or at least shouldn't be, in the jury instructions) in the far more common scenario, where the jury believes that YOU BELIEVED that you were in danger, but they don't agree necessarily that YOUR BELIEF was (1) reasonable, and/or (2) of *imminent* threat. In that situation, the type of weapon has nothing to do with the reasonable-ness of your fear, or the imminence of the danger to you. What facts WOULD matter in this far more common scenario is other things such as how dark or light, how close or far away to you is the attacker, how large or small or mean or scary-looking or lack thereof is the attacker - whether the attacker is facing you or not - whether the attacker is raising his hands with a weapon in such a way as to indicate immediate hostility or attack - whether the attacker in fact had a weapon, and which weapon, and if not, whether your belief that he did in fact have a weapon was reasonable or not under all the circumstances, etc., etc. Bottom line, weapon accessories or caliber choices is 99% much ado about nothing, IMO. FWIW, I am a lawyer, but not in the criminal defense area.

Having said all that - that's the criminal defense side of things (your freedom) - but you said suits (your money), so if you look at the civil side, then yes, it's a slightly bit more of a concern, only because the burden of proof is lower, but not much more. The defense of self defense is the same in the civil trial, and all of the same facts are equally relevant in exactly the same ways in a wrongful death case. But, having said that, if you have a lot of money/assets to protect, and are in such a high-crime place that an intrusion and use of your weapon is likely, then you just might want to err on the safe side and use a wood & blued steel 28" rem 870 or a winchester .30-30 levergun, provided you are proficient enough with it to feel comfortable using it in self defense.

April 27, 2006, 11:27 AM
You're absoulutly right that it would make you seem guilty even if there was no crime. And you're right I was kiddin.

I agree with the idea that if the letter of the law doesnt say its illegal, then you should not end up being in trouble because of the weapon used (hunting double bbl vs Pistol gripped 10 inch bbl 870 (with AOW stamp))

April 27, 2006, 12:59 PM
FirstFreedom, I always wanted to know the opinions of Professionals in the Legal field when it comes to this stuff. Thanks for the enlightening feedback.:)

April 27, 2006, 01:50 PM
Provided the gun itself is deemed legal where you live, the legitimacy and need for USE of lethal force will be what is under scrutiny, not the method which it was carried out (provided the method were reasonable e.g. if you shoot in the back that may be unreasonable, but that also depends).

Assuming this is your garden variety self defense situation where you legitimately felt threatened for your life by an armed assailant and you shot him only to stop the threat and stopped shooting once the threat were stopped, I suspect there would be almost no prosecutors who would prosecute the lawful defense of yourself/family/home with any legal weapon. It would be a waste of his time and resources and not be viewed well by the public. Prosecutors like to win cases and that would in all likelyhood be a losing case.

I think your choice for a home defense weapon is quite practical and one of the best guns available to civilians. I don't want to turn this into a "which gun is better" forum, but I think that most people would agree that a shotgun is one of the top picks for a home defense gun due to its reliability, great stopping power, accuracy, versatility, ease of use, and low cost.

Don H
April 27, 2006, 03:14 PM
Paint it pink and apply Care Bears stickers. Then let's see some lawyer holding it in front of a jury spewing out words like "murder" "assault" and "altered with the intent to shred human flesh" with a straight face!

April 27, 2006, 03:37 PM
Well, i have an 870 with a pistol grip and 18 inc barrel.

if you live in louisiana like i do, you need not worry. iuf somoene is in your home with the intent to commmit a felonly or harm you, then you are legaly allowed to kill them, simple as that.

and as far as with the intent to shred human flesh or what have you, what about a handgun, a small cal handgun is not used for hunting, so isnt every handgun made with the intent to kill someone?

April 27, 2006, 05:06 PM
thanks for the responses, i suspected i was worryin more than i needed to (as i tend to do), but was just curious to see what others had to say about it. thanks much again. :). Don H great idea with the paint and stickers that gave me a laugh :P.

April 27, 2006, 05:50 PM
I really think that idea of getting prosecuted because of what your gun looks like or if you hand loaded your own ammo...whatever is just an urban legend I have never heard of anything like that happening in a court. Like others said, what matters is if you have broken the law or not. Not how customized your gun is.
Just know the laws in your state, hell even here in CA people have the right to use deadly force if one believe they are in danger of bodily harm from another.

April 29, 2006, 04:44 PM
I have a Remington 870 with a SpecOps stock on it. I bought the stock solely for the reduction in recoil. I actually prefer the more traditional look, and almost bought the CompStock, which looks like a normal stock. Only reason I went with the SpecOps is because I can adjust the length of the stock if I need to, and it absorbs more recoil than the CompStock. Plus, there was only a $10 difference in price, so I figured I couldn't lose. It does look WAY meaner now, but so what? It's still legal.

On a side note, while I agree the shotgun is a great gun for self defence, mine is in the gun cabinet unloaded. When something goes bump in the noght, I'd rather go for one of my many handguns. Anyone who has ever heard a shotgun go off in an enclosed spot knows the blast will virtually deafen you, and the flash can also blind you momentarily. If you miss with the first shot, you're in trouble. The one time I was in the room when one went off (cop I was with was attempting to unload the gun and had a negligent discharge into the ceiling), I was deaf for several hours. Handguns are better on the ears, and followups shots are much easier (not counting .357's).

April 30, 2006, 09:48 AM
if its going to maybe save your life someday..why would it matter what it looked like?if it works for your needs and you can safly use it..

the whole issue with being PC these days is that the sheeple do whatever they do to fit an agenda...could be any gun.as long as its legal,I wouldnt bother.

I keep an old beat up 870 here for HD, it has the 7 shot evil magazine extension and swapped out the follower,trigger housing and bolt with ex police guns that have plating to insure extra good reliability. so its even less PC to some sheeple.not worried a bit.

April 30, 2006, 11:04 AM
Man....look at all the Louisiana folk on here!

May 1, 2006, 12:21 AM
I'm going to disagree with what my fellow lawyers said here, but then again I live in CA so YMMV. When the DA holds the weapon you used to shoot an intruder in front of the grand jury, or in front of the jury, you don't want the thing to look at all "evil"... because juries do vote with their emotions a whooole lot of the time. And if it's all "tac'ed out" you're going to look like somebody who 1) is a gun nut 2) was itching to use his 'way cool' gun on somebody and/or 3) had way too much time on his hands.

I always advise people that your HD guns should NOT look like something that the bad guy in the latest action movie carries. It should look like you intended to use it for hunting, and the more little mallards and old wooden stocks etc. you can put on the thing the better. Failing that it should look as nondescript as possible. It should look like something the average middle class older person in your community would own, if he or she would own anything at all. I can guarantee that NOBODY on your jury will own a "tactical" shotgun nor will understand why anybody would ever want to.

All of this goes double for the civil case where your gun will make its appearance as well.

silicon wolverine
May 1, 2006, 01:38 AM
In South Dakota we dont have to worry as much as you guys do. There has been 32 shootings in self defence in the last 25 years here. 1 went as far as trial and that was because the guy doign the shooting was drunk. 99%of them ended with the DA refusing to charge the shooter. I live in a great state where if someone is threatening you, you can fight back without fear of proescution.


May 1, 2006, 03:12 AM
Wow, gettin some good responses on this, thanks to everyone whos replied :). good to hear different voices on the subject. Well ive decided that it looks inocent enough with just the shorter barrel, i have no plans to put any heat shields, pistol grips, side saddles, or anything of the like on it. and considering its still sporting the original wooden stock and forend i think its inoccent looking enough (especially here, North Dakota). I will however be moving soon, most likely to Kentucky, where id assume I would be equally safe legally with such a gun. The girlfriend is from Cali tho, and longs to return one day so Im especially gratefull for your input Doggieman being as your from there. The thought of a man being convicted for protecting his family sickens me... but i know its possible in the world today. Thanks again for the feedback thus far.

P.S. to Doggieman if your still reading this, do you think that a gun as UN-tactical as the one ive described would seem all that evil in the courtroom, There is a chance ill end up in California someday, which is kind of the reason I posted this in the first place, to get the opinion of a knowledgable person from a more liberal area, thanks again.


silicon wolverine
May 1, 2006, 04:58 AM
Pardon me for asking but why would you ever move to Kalifornia from the dakotas?


May 1, 2006, 11:54 AM
Im from the west coast originally Wolverine, your absolutely right tho, this is a great place to live, especially as far as your 2nd amendment rights are concerned. Im ready for a change of scenery tho, and the job market for my chosen occupation is more promising elsewhere.

May 1, 2006, 03:09 PM
welcome to CA if you do come. It's a nice, though expensive, place to live. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else, though I do admit that the gun laws blow.

As far as your situation goes, I don't want you to think that there's some sort of high likelihood that you're going to go to trial for shooting somebody. Probably because the chances of you having to shoot are very low, and the chances then that charges would be pressed or you'd find yourself in a civil suit afterward are even lower.

But there's always the chance, and it just makes sense to me that you'd want to use something as "innocent" looking as possible if you're gonna kill someone and then have a DA scrutinizing whether he can put you away or not. Why give him any help at all?

Your gun sounds fine, the wooden stocks are perfect I wouldn't change them. A jury/grand jury won't be knowledgeable enough to tell the difference in uses between a short barrel and long.

If you have a burning desire to have a tactical shotgun then why don't you get a new one, tac it out, take pictures of it, show it to your friends, make it black and dangerous looking with pointy objects sticking out from it and shells clipped to it, and then stick it in the safe and when the burglar breaks in grab your old trusty hunting gun to blow him away.

May 1, 2006, 05:31 PM
I dont know about all this "in the eyes of the prosecutor" stuff but if your not chasing someone and in immediate danger your fine. I know in texas if its after dark anyone on your property (including massive ranches) can be legally killed/shot if they are even preceived as a threat or carrying of your property. Also forgot to add 99% of self defense situations on your property here at least dont go to court they come in take pictures clean up the mess sometimes they confiscate the weapon other times they dont.

May 1, 2006, 06:19 PM
Thanks Doggieman for the reply. I may someday decide to get myself a tacticool shotgun, and its a good point, just cause i have one doesnt mean thats gotta be my home defense weapon. Tho, a coach gun from stoeger is prolly my next shotgun as far as "just for fun" :D. I've even considered getting one of those for my home deffense gun, maybe a possibility someday.

May 3, 2006, 06:25 PM
Having 28" of barrel between me and the bad guys is a nice feeling in itself.

I've always wondered on the following point.

If someone is in my house and worth shooting. ie they pose a clear threat to me / my family. Is it ok to shoot them twice? I've always felt that if its worth it to shoot them once its probably a good idea to do it a second time in quick order, not stopping to evaluate the damage of the first round.

Maybe one of the lawyers could comment on it?

May 3, 2006, 06:53 PM
I bought an 18 1/2" bbl. to replace my 28" bbl. to be ready for a close quarters situation. I suppose I could use it, then put the 28" back on before I called 911........then, maybe the du#b [email protected] will know who the bad guy is.

May 3, 2006, 08:38 PM
I'll post a story about a friend of a friend who killed an intruder in his place awhile back on the tactics forum.

May 7, 2006, 03:01 PM
If someone is in my house and worth shooting. ie they pose a clear threat to me / my family. Is it ok to shoot them twice? I've always felt that if its worth it to shoot them once its probably a good idea to do it a second time in quick order, not stopping to evaluate the damage of the first round.

Not a lawyer but I've been doing this awhile. In general, most SD law states you can use force until the threat is gone. There's no magic "one shot and assess". In general, if you are justified in shooting once, you are justified in shooting twice or three times. Whatever it takes. Circumstances and your training (you are training right?) will dictate the number of rounds needed.

Once the threat is down and not moving it is, however, considered bad form to reload and continue shooting. Especially if you have to go to the store to buy the ammo. ;)

Death from Afar
May 7, 2006, 10:37 PM
Doggies- wonderful post. How do syntethic - with no tacticool bits- fair?