Gun Modifications and Gun Safety
Those of us who appreciate guns are frequently tempted to modify our firearms. There is a huge industry dealing in after-market gun accessories, and many of us have customized and modified our guns to suit our wants and needs, and to produce a better gun than what we received from the retailer.
Speaking from a legal standpoint, a healthy dose of caution is always recommended. If the owner of a modified gun gets involved in a shooting- even for provable legitimate defensive reasons, any modification is likely to come under scrutiny in court. Keeping that in mind, we’ve put together a few pointers from our experts on the do’s and don’ts of modifying a firearm. According to National Shooting Sports Foundation president 70% of the American public favored handgun bans, in 1959. Today that stat. has reversed.
A simple general rule is: If the modification renders the gun safer, there should be no legal problem with it. But everyone who modifies their weapons should be prepared to clearly articulate in exactly what ways the modifications they make to the gun make it safer to own and to use.
Col. Jeff Cooper famously typifies the opposite perspective when he said, “Three pounds, crisp, that’s the word.”
The following are examples of modifications that are defensible from the important legal standpoint of making a weapon demonstrably safer.
- Added texture to a grip area to increase control and reduce slip
- Added glowing sights for more precise aim
- Added ambidextrous control features for off-hand use after injury
To put it simply, anything that makes the weapon easier to control, anything that reduces the risk of accidental discharge or stray fire, and anything that reduces the chance of over-penetration is legal and should be easily defensible in a courtroom and enhance one’s appearance as a responsible gun owner.
Modifications that run contrary to these standards should be avoided. You should never perform any modification that runs contrary to the manufacturer’s intended safety profile of the weapon. A good way to think about whether a modification is safe or dangerous is to compare it to the staple weapon of 1980s movie villains- the Uzi. An Uzi is a high capacity, rapid fire weapon of extremely low accuracy- at least as we frequently imagine them. They are meant to do indiscriminate damage- to intimidate and obliterate the target. As a rule of thumb, if your modification is a move toward the Uzi- it’s a move in the wrong direction.
Imagine going to court and having to explain to the prosecutor why you chose to remove the safety from a pistol, or why you reduced the trigger pull resistance from 5 to 3lbs. Nothing could undo the damage such a confession would do to your case, and if you denied it- it wouldn’t take much to prove that you did, in fact, intentionally reduce the safety factor of the weapon.
From a legal standpoint, there’s little reason for concern over the many custom finish and paint options available for today’s firearms. If your firearm has a custom finish on it, you may argue in court that modern finishes and coatings prevent corrosion, that they help to keep the gun properly lubricated. You would go on to say that this was done to prevent wear on the-the gun, thus, the weapon is more likely to remain in a safe working condition and less likely to discharge accidentally.
Many lawmakers and people in the legal system do not have a good understanding of firearms and will respond emotionally if the gun looks scary. Consider the wide banning of the butterfly knife, which is in reality far less dangerous than say- a bowie knife. Applying a camouflage paint job or camouflage items to your gun may help to convince a judge that your gun is meant for hunting, not for murder. An all-black finish almost always will frighten a judge, jury, and prosecutor. These considerations are extremely subjective, however. The best advice regarding the effect your finish will have in court is, avoid scary-looking paint patterns and finishes.
A favorite of gun enthusiasts, and the stalking horse of those who fear firearms. The AR-15 is a shooting aficionado's favorite gun. Should you be involved in a self-defense shooting using an AR-15, you will be judged much more harshly than if you used a simple 9mm pistol. Here are some important Do’s and Don’t for modifying an AR-15.
1. Optical Sites
Place your optical sight as far forward on the gun as possible – the farther from your face the sight is the more of your target you will see and the less housing will obstruct your view.
Mount optics toward the back so that your iron sights cannot be properly fitted.
2. Iron Sights
Have iron sights available in case your optical site fails. Optics can easily break or lose power. Always have iron sights on hand.
Place iron sights far forward on the rail. The more distance there is between your sights the better your visualization radius will be.
3. Vertical Grips
Attach your vertical grips toward the front of your AR-15.
Attach vertical grips toward the back. The only purpose for mounting this gun accessory toward the back would be to clear buildings. Good luck explaining in court why your gear is optimized for clearing buildings.
Mount your flashlight close to the muzzle as possible. The farther your light is from your face the less of a shadow it will cast. Camouflage flashlights are best for legal purposes- otherwise, you’re in danger- again- of looking like an irresponsible shooter.
Mount flashlights far back or remove it. Do not use your flashlight as a canvas for intimidating images or threatening text. Your flashlight is a safety item, it is there to ensure you do not fire on unintended targets.
In summation, knowing that just being a gun owner can get decent citizens into trouble should be enough to encourage gun owners to use the highest standard of safety and responsibility. Please take great care when selecting modifications for your firearms. For more information on the safe modification of your firearms feel free to contact us or browse our blog for more detailed information.