Not too long ago, I was working with a group of USCCA Instructor candidates, watching them as they endeavored to pass their shooting qualification. My teammate noticed that one of the students had an image of the Punisher on the base plates of her magazines. Of course, to those who enjoy firearms (and perhaps a bit of gun collecting), this would not be a big deal. What firearms enthusiast or competitive shooter doesn’t enjoy some modification or personalization? It’s kind of a natural progression to go from out-of-the-box to customized, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Whether it’s the addition of an aftermarket Crimson Trace laser or an American flag Cerakote finish, owners can gain a lot of extra usefulness and enjoyment from a firearm that’s been modified beyond its original configuration. But these customized magazines happened to go with her everyday carry gun. Her self-defense gun. And that’s where things can get a bit tricky.
I’m far from an expert on legal issues, but in a litigious society filled with anti-gun nuttery, a firearm that’s been modified can mean trouble, especially if the owner has modified the action (changed the trigger so it’s smoother or lighter). To an eager prosecutor, that can translate to a gun owner who’s looking for a fight, hoping to shoot someone and wanting to kill. Of course, we in the gun community know that’s not true in the slightest. But it is something to consider. While a mass-produced firearm follows designs and specifications that can be replicated and supported, an altered firearm could potentially be labeled “unsafe,” “dangerous” or even “more lethal.”
If you are ever involved in a self-defense shooting, your gun will be seized as evidence. Firearms experts will study the ammunition used and will inspect the gun (along with magazines and accessories) to make sure it functions properly, the safeties work and the trigger pull meets factory specifications. Any distinctive features or anomalies, possibly caused by modifications, will be noted. So … how would it look if your carry gun had a purple Holoflake glitter finish … or had the Punisher (a fictional vigilante who employs murder, kidnapping, extortion, coercion and violence in his campaign against crime) emblazoned on the magazines? Would a jury look favorably on that? At this point, you may be wishing your gun was bland, basic, boring and black.
Undoubtedly, whether or not you modify your concealed carry handgun is a very personal decision. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t change the grip on a firearm to fit their hands. But if you can’t articulate exactly why you put that whiz-bang trigger in your Glock 19, then don’t put it in. However, if you can explain it and justify it, go ahead and have it professionally installed by a competent gunsmith (with verifiable credentials) if you don’t have an armorer certification. And be able to explain why the original plastic sights were exchanged for better ones or why that Surefire X300 is on there. If the modifications were done to increase accuracy and reliability, then you’re increasing the safety of yourself and others …which is why we carry a self-defense gun in the first place.
All in all, always be cautious and consider leaving your self-defense gun and magazines exactly the way they came out of the box. When it comes to everyday carry, you don’t want your firearm to look unique, function differently or grab attention. Always keep safety at the forefront. Save those bells and whistles for the competition gun! And when in doubt, just remember to think: bland, basic, boring and black.
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