Should You Modify Your Concealed Carry Handgun?

Should You Modify Your Concealed Carry Handgun

No, the above is not an acceptable concealed carry handgun modification, but it looks unique. What carry holster would you use? So what are some useful carry handgun modifications? How about the custom New York 1 and New York 2 triggers? Will they make your self-defense gun more accurate? Is there a heavier or lighter press weight when one of these is installed?

What other handgun mechanisms are involved and what do they change? What are the pros and cons? Are the modifications costly and do they require a trained gunsmith to install? Do you really need either one for self-defense purposes? And the big questions: Do they make a handgun SAFE? Are there LEGAL ramifications?

Most of us shooters recognize that while the gun (and its trigger, barrel, springs, sear, safeties, striker-firing pin, key parts, and mechanisms) itself makes an important contribution to our accuracy, it is our proper training, mindset, attention to safety, and time practicing on the range and in scenarios that really make us successful and safe in handling our guns and achieving the performance and results we want for personal protection. It seems a lot of the time we focus on changing our gear and equipment, rather than shooting fundamentals, techniques, tactics, strategies, and safety. For me, modifying my carry gun’s trigger will not automatically make me a better shooter nor makeup for my lack of certain skills. And there may be legal ramifications of modifying my concealed carry gun. But, I am not against properly modifying a handgun if done by a gunsmith and for the right reason. Your very personal and sole decision. Remember, the best safety on any gun is our brain and that most contemporary handguns are probably more accurate out-of-the-box than most of us shooters. Some say that you do not want a trigger with under 4 pounds of press weight for a carry gun. Others say that 5 or 6 pounds is best. Some say give me an 8 or 10 pound press because it will keep me safe. But, if you cannot keep your finger off the bang switch when it is not supposed to be there, then no trigger press weight is good for you because you are unsafe. Consider that a light trigger can lessen the force or pressure that must be applied to the trigger, which results in less movement, less inadvertent shaking, and helps accuracy. But there are numerous factors that influence the accuracy of a gun, like the barrel length, sight radius, action type, distance, ammo, gun design, style, and weight, types of springs and various mechanisms, etc. The 2016 second printing of my book “Concealed Carry & Handgun Essentials” includes a chapter about “Handgun Attributes to Help Improve Accuracy,” which includes information about trigger press weights, travel distance, barrel length, gun weight, action types, sights, etc.

With that said, should we try to get a performance and/or safety edge by modifying the triggers on our guns? This is a very critical decision that could have life or death implications, so very, very carefully consider any gun modification extremely carefully. And be certain and test the gun after modification in a non-threatening stress-free situation in a safe environment, before carrying the modified gun. I usually believe if in doubt DO NOT make the modification, given the built-in quality of most of the contemporary handguns. Ask yourself “Is there a significant benfit to the gun’s effectiveness, performance or functionality for carry?” I do not personally mess with any of the triggers on any of my carry or home defense guns. Safety and proper functioning above any other considerations always.

There are many characteristics of a trigger mechanism that affect a gun’s performance. Things like trigger creep, take-up, travel from reset to break distance, stacking, over-travel, reset, and pull or press weight. It is my layman, non-gunsmith understanding that primarily three mechanical factors work together to provide an actual trigger press weight with a handgun. Any combination of these 3 factors may be changed independently or together for various results. The three factors are:

  1. The Connector
  2. The Firing Pin Spring
  3. The Trigger Spring.

Here are some brief definitions.

3 Factors to Improve Trigger Press

Connector

Briefly, the Connector runs along the gun’s frame from the trigger to the rear of the gun. Various connectors have different angles and can be installed to affect trigger press weight, along with various trigger springs, etc. My layman’s understanding is that it connects the trigger to the trigger bar which depresses the safety plunger so the sear can move out of engagement with the striker and then allow the gun to fire. There are many different factory and aftermarket connectors that affect the trigger press differently, e.g. the 5.5 lb, 4.5 lb, and 3.5 lb connectors to name only a few. My Glock 19 has a 5.5 lb connector. Note the pound rating weight of the connector does not always indicate the trigger weight you will get when you install it, since other parts have a role.

Firing Pin Spring

A firing pin or striker bar usually has a small, rounded part which strikes the primer of a cartridge casing which detonates the priming compound to fire the gun. On a striker-fired gun, like a Glock, M&P, or XD, as the trigger is pressed the safety mechanisms are disengaged and the striker moves rearward, which increases the tension on the firing pin spring. As the striker or firing pin moves forward the firing pin spring relaxes to fire the gun. Most firing pins have a firing pin spring to push them out of contact with the primer. This varies widely, depending upon the gun’s design. Note that a weak firing pin spring can cause a primer misfire, malfunctions, stoppages, and the firearm not to fire. I suggest you NOT modify the firing pin spring.

Trigger Spring

While there are many different trigger spring types, usually a trigger spring is located behind the trigger of a handgun so when the trigger is pressed it will return to its original position once released. There are several different trigger springs, like the NY-1 and NY-2. Each different trigger spring has benefits, key considerations, and limitations for you to possibly modify your gun. Understand them before you make changes! The stock Glock trigger is a 5.5 # C and a standard coil trigger spring for a trigger press weight of about 5 to 5.5 #, but it lightens over time. For several, the standard trigger spring makes the trigger feel very “mushy” but with a somewhat positive reset. Some like what is called the “.25 cent” Trigger Job which accelerates the normal wear for smoothness of the trigger parts.

NY-1 Trigger Spring

NY-1 TS

Understand that according to Wikipedia, the New York-1 Trigger Spring was originally designed to make the Glock trigger feel heavier and like a double action revolver, during the 1994 transition to pistols by the New York Police Department (NYPD.) It has a fatter spring with an olive or brown-colored plastic housing. When installed, it applies more consistent spring tension which leads to a more consistent and less mushy trigger with a very identifiable trigger reset. Remember, there is more to a good trigger than just being light and short. Note that using a NY-1 TS with a 3.5# C will usually increase the trigger press from 5.5# to 8#.

NY-2 Trigger Spring

NY-2 TS

New NYPD officers can choose their duty gun from several 9mm service pistols and all are modified to have a 12-pound NY-2 TP. The NY-2 TS is sometimes called the NY Plus spring.

This NY-2 12# spring with the standard connector results in a very heavy trigger press, near 11 to 12#. The spring costs about $3 and has an orange-colored plastic housing spring, as shown above. 

POSSIBLE MODIFICATIONS

Once you make the important decision about whether or not you (or preferably a gunsmith) should modify your handgun’s trigger mechanism, consider the 3 above factors and their possible combinations. I strongly suggest you do NOT modify your carry gun without first thoroughly understanding how your particular gun works and what the results might be if the changes are made to it. In particular, I do NOT recommend any firing pin spring modifications. Sometimes “drop in” custom parts are not always that simple and your gun may not function properly or be disabled, like the striker block. I am going to use my Glock 19 as an example. There are a number of different factory and aftermarket connector and trigger spring changes I could make to it.

I could change just my factory 5.5 # connector ALONE without any trigger spring change. So I could replace the standard stock connector with a 3.5 # or 4.5# connector. Some friends have said that changing just the connector alone does not significantly change the trigger press, so I run my Glock 19 stock. Some have even said their 3.5# connector made the trigger a little “mushy.” Others have said they have replaced only their stock connector with a 4.5# connector and brought their trigger press to about 4.5#, along with a smoother takeup, cleaner break, and better reset. I do not know, since I have not modified mine. Modifiers caution if you in addition also change the trigger spring and striker safety plunger, you might get a too low trigger press of 3.5#, which I do NOT recommend. Keep in mind that all connectors are not alike and there are many connector vendors, including Glock. So a Ghost 3.5# connector is not necessarily like a Glock 3.5# connector nor like a Rocket 3.5# connector nor like a EVO Elite 3.5# connector nor like a Wolff 3.5#. There are so many possible configurations, fitting and refitting adjustments, filings, and possible problems… which is a reason I do not usually change from my stock configurations for my concealed carry guns.

Another option is to change my connector and my trigger spring BOTH together at the same time. So I could do what the New York State Police have done in their transition from revolvers to pistols and use a NY-1 TS and a non-OEM 3.5# connector. Glock cautions to NOT use the 8# connector with the NY-1 nd NY-2 springs, but only the 3.5# or 5.5# connector. Carefully make your modification decisions to NOT void your warranty or lose your law enforcement job for an unauthorized modification. Check this out for your specific situation. With the NY-1, the trigger press on the Glock 19 usually increases from 5.5# to about an 8# press. Some say they can accept this, since there is also a constant takeup pressure and a quicker trigger reset. The justification is usually because it lessens the chance of a negligent discharge (not called an accident on purpose), demonstrates to the jury or prosecutor that you do not have a very light ‘”hair” trigger, and makes the trigger press much harder than the stock press for overall safety reasons. I have my own opinions about this and believe that with proper training and sufficient practice and trigger discipline, the muscle memory habit can be developed for better control. But, some cannot be disciplined. According to Wikipedia, the New York Police Department uses the NY-2 TS which takes the trigger press to about 12#. No thank you! There are different colors of trigger spring to make the weight of the trigger spring more recognizable, e.g. the orange NY-2 spring with the 12# trigger spring.

Conclusions

It is a very personal decision to be made about whether or not to modify your concealed carry gun. Some say definitely do NOT do it because of the safety concerns, potential problems, and uncertain results, while others say yes it can help accuracy. Some wonder what gun mechanisms should be changed or what multiple mechanisms should be changed at the same time. So, will the modifications of the trigger spring and/or connector make your gun more accurate? Can you count on the modified gun for your personal protection? There is mixed information on these topics and many factors affecting accuracy and safety should be considered. Equipment changes, including trigger modifications, are just one possibility and personal dedication to frequent and proper training and practice could outweigh the equipment concerns. With some trigger changes, there is much probability for malfunctions, stoppages, and functionality problems, so perhaps more attention should be made to practicing the fundamentals, strategies, tactics, techniques, and safety drills with our standard gun. Modifying your gun will not automatically make you a better shooter or more accurate. But, it might help. How you use your gun makes a difference. There is a difference between a gun for competitive shooting and one for personal protection. There are many factors, various possible modifications, and different outcomes. There are legal ramifications to consider, since prosecutors and accusers may claim a modified gun is intended solely for aggressively killing others. Preferences and gun use play important roles in the decision and how or if you should modify your gun. So, decide for yourself, tryout the modifications made (if any) before you carry the gun, and whatever you decide keep SAFETY foremost always!

BE SAFE!

Photos by Author and B. Purkins.

* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.

© 2017 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].

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  • James

    Yup, the best line above was this – “Remember, the best safety on any gun is our brain”

    I can understand the trigger change and how it could give you a solid even feel for your gun. You should never carry any gun you don’t have a real solid feel for. This is why I carry my Glock 36, even if it is a bit large for a carry gun. It is also the same reason I do not carry my wife’s Sig 938. I only take her Sig to the range a few times a year, so the feel and my confidence with it and it’s operation is far less.

    I have not modified my Glock as I like the way it works and I see any true stress conditions as having little effect on how had I will pull the trigger should I slide my finger down to the trigger. This is key ever time I go to the range. I draw my handguns from 75 to 100 times to make sure that when I do my trigger finger is always outside the trigger guard. This is most likely the least practiced thing more most people, but it is key and should happen without thinking about it. Why? To pull your handgun with the finger in the wrong place could find you startled and BANG, you just fired a shot you may not have needed to. This alone could cause the other side to fire back, even if they were not going to.

    How many shots do you fire out of the barn if you draw and know your going to fire? This is a personal thing and may depend on many factors. How far is the target? How many targets pose a threat? How much control over recoil do you have with this weapon? Can you move quickly to cover without turning your back on the target(s)? For me the answer is two. As my Glock is a single stack 45 the recoil is more than some but size makes it less than some super small 9s. How did I come up with two? At the range I ran test with 2 and 3 rounds. After a few hundred rounds it as clear that it was the third shot that failed to be in the black every time. So for me it was 2 shots, recover and get back on target. With my wife’s Sig it was 4 shots. But how many times are you going to need that third and fourth shot? Angain it is a personal thing.

    Ok, Done for now

    James

    • Col Ben

      Hi James! Yes, safety is supreme always. Thanks for your comments here and your email. The SITUATION and its unique variables really dictate your response, like you said. For me, again depending on situational factors, usually two to the upper body, ASSESS the situation, and IF necessary a third to STOP the threat. Some researchers say the average number of shots fired in a deadly-force encounter is 3… in ave. 3 seconds… and at 3 yards or less. So, I want to have a usual protocol that I commit to muscle memory… a typical plan to fire 3 shots (as necessary.) Be prepared JUST IN CASE. Thanks again and BE SAFE!

  • I like double action and a heavier trigger pull on the first round, which is why I carry my Beretta 84F or 96 Brigadier. I’m also a fan of DA revolvers for concealed carry.

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  • White Pride Worldwide

    The best mod is throw it in the trash and buy a Glock.

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