Alright everyone, buckle your seatbelts for this article, because we are going on a ride. If you’ve been around gun forums for any amount of time, you’ve probably read this line: “you shouldn’t carry a customized gun because if you have to use it for self defense, it’ll get taken away and/or the prosecutor will use it as evidence to put you in jail.”
There’s a lot to unpack here. The first thing we want to look at, is the correct part of that old gun forum trope: you shouldn’t carry a customized gun because if you have to use it, it might/will get taken by the police. This much is true in the sense that if you’re forced to defend yourself, your gun might be taken by the police as evidence. But here’s the thing – that’s just a risk that all of us who carry guns run. I like the gun I’m carrying right now, and if I didn’t like it I wouldn’t carry it. I’ve also customized it to make it easier to shoot well, because I believe in maximizing my advantages. If I lost it to an evidence room for a while, oh well, I’ve got spares. Even if you have to carry something other than your $2,000 custom blaster, you’ll be alright.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, lets talk about the real meat of this conversation. There’s an argument that you shouldn’t carry a customized gun because an overzealous prosecutor could use your “modifications” as evidence that you were just out looking to kill someone. Let’s begin at the very start of deconstructing this: if you’re in a situation where a prosecutor is involved, you’re having an extremely unlikely day. The best way to avoid having your gun used against you as evidence by a prosecutor is avoid having a prosecutor involved at all.
There are ways to do this, but the easiest is simple: avoidance. Don’t go looking for trouble. For civilian CCW, your permit is not a Batman badge. You win 100% of fights that don’t happen, so if you can simply avoid a situation, do that. I know it’s not glamorous advice, but it’s the real world. There’s no sense whatsoever in getting involved in a dangerous situation you don’t need to be involved in.
Now let’s assume that you can’t avoid it, and for whatever reason you end up getting arrested after your self defense shooting. You used your modified gun, so what are they going to use against you? Your trigger job? Your red dot sights? Your stippling? Nope. Your attorney will be able to get expert witnesses who can explain that those modifications are designed to make the more personalized so that if, God forbid, you should use it, you’ll be able to stop the fight faster without endangering innocent bystanders.
Now, the kind of stuff that absolutely would get used against you in court, and in fact has, is if you put things on your gun that…express certain ideals. A punisher skull mashed up with a Spartan helmet that says “blood before retreat” may look super rad, but it’s probably not something I’d want on my carry gun. The last thing I want to see is a jury looking at the slide cover plate of my gun that I’ve had custom laser engraved to say “f*** peace” while I’m sitting there trying to defend my self-defense shooting.
There’s a place for stuff like that, and if you like Punisher skulls and Spartan helmets don’t think I’m mocking you. But that stuff is for range guns and safe queens, not guns you might need to defend your life some day. It all comes down to articulation. If you can look at a modification, like a good action job, and say to a jury “I modified this gun to make it more efficient to use for its intended purpose of self-defense and to enhance the safety of bystanders”, then you’re probably fine.
But if you find yourself staring at your gun that has “Urban Killer” engraved on the slide in court, you might be in trouble.