HACKENSACK, N.J. (AP) _ Soul singer Wilson Pickett testified at his weapons possession trial Tuesday that he did not know his shotgun was loaded when he carried it to the scene of an argument three years ago.

''I knew it was a dangerous area and I didn't want to go without some protection,'' Pickett said. ''I didn't check to see if the gun was loaded.''

He was arrested July 16, 1984, and charged with knowingly possessing a loaded shotgun. It is illegal for a person to transport a loaded shotgun in a car, according to the Bergen County prosecutor's office.

Assistant Prosecutor Robert Byrne said in closing arguments of the one-day trial that Pickett drove to the Oval Bar in Englewood in his Stutz Bearcat automobile and got in an argument with another man.

Pickett testified Warren Arrington hit him several times through the window of his car after the singer asked Arrington to take his hands off the car.

Pickett said he got out of the car and had a fist fight with Arrington but left the scene after he saw someone give Arrington a knife.

He drove back to the bar because a companion had asked him for a ride to it. Pickett testified he grabbed the shotgun out of his bedroom, where his girlfriend kept it for protection.

Byrne argued in his summation, ''What purpose would it be to grab an unloaded shotgun if it was being used for protection?''

Superior Court Judge James Madden instructed the jury, which is expected to begin deliberations Wednesday.

If found guilty, Pickett, 46, could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and fined $7,500.