By Tom Givens, The Shooting Channel
As an aspiring handgun shooter, you will soon learn that one of the hardest things to learn for new shooters, yet one of the most important skills, is trigger control. The shooter must learn to keep the sights on the target while smoothly moving the trigger to the rear until the gun discharges. Even in high speed defensive shooting, this process occurs, although the time it takes to complete the process is compressed. With a handgun, yanking and cranking on the trigger is the root cause of almost all misses, if the gun was even roughly aligned on the target when the decision to fire was made.
The rifle is easier to implement correct trigger control due to the “press to weight” ratio.
Larry Vickers, retired Special Operations soldier, former Delta operator, and world class firearms instructor once said, “Why is the rifle so much easier to shoot than a pistol? Easy. The rifle weighs more than its trigger pull, while the handgun weighs less than the weight of the trigger pull.” That is a truly brilliant summation of the whole problem. If you have an eight pound rifle with a two pound trigger, it’s easy to shoot it well. Unfortunately, we often have a two pound pistol with an eight pound trigger pull, hence the difficulty. Thus, proper trigger technique becomes vital.
First let’s look at the different phases of trigger operation. Manipulation of the semiautomatic pistol’s trigger actually consists of four separate and distinct phases, and each impacts our accuracy. These phases, in sequence, are:
The finger “pad” should ideally contact the center of the trigger without touching any other part of the handgun.
CONTACT: The “pad”, or fingerprint, of the shooter’s index finger should contact the center of the face of the trigger. The trigger finger should not touch the frame of the gun. Ideally, the only place the trigger finger should contact the pistol is on the face of the trigger. (That’s why we call it a trigger finger!)
SLACK: Semi-auto pistols have “slack” or “pre-engagement travel” built into the action. This is a bit of rearward movement in the trigger, prior to the actual trigger pull. The shooter can feel a distinct difference in the amount of finger pressure needed to take up the slack as opposed to that pressure needed to fire the piece. Some designs have significantly more slack than do others. As the gun is brought to bear on the target, the slack is taken up, so that the trigger finger feels the resistance of the trigger pull. As the gun goes on target, the trigger finger contacts the trigger and re- moves the “slack”. When the gun goes on the target, the trigger finger goes on the trigger.
The author demonstrating sight alignment. Being able to bring the handgun back on target is directly connected to proper trigger control.
PRESS: Beware of semantics. The words you use form images in your subconscious, and this drives your actions. For instance, if you think “squeeze” the trigger, you will likely squeeze your entire hand while moving the trigger. We call this “milking the trigger”. This results in low misses. As the lower fingers tighten their grip, the barrel is pulled downward as the gun fires. Instead, we want to “press” the trigger, with steady rearward pressure. We hold the gun with our hand; we fire the gun with our trigger finger. The student must learn to use the trigger finger independently, while maintaining a constant, consistent, unchanging grip on the pistol with the rest of the hand. When enough pressure to the trigger is applied to disengage the sear, the gun fires.
It may help to think of the trigger as the pistol’s “gas pedal”. Using the analogy of a car, which all shooters are familiar with, the magazine is the gas tank, the front sight is the green light, and the
Bringing the handgun back on target after pressing the “gas-pedal” in rapid fire.
trigger is the accelerator. When you see the green light, you apply steady, increasing pressure to the accelerator until the bullet takes off smoothly. If you stomp the gas pedal, the car takes off jerkily and under less control. Same with the bullet. It won’t matter if the sights are on the target if you smash the trigger and knock the sights off the target as the gun fires.
RE-SET: Once the gun fires, the shooter must maintain contact with the trigger. Many newbies will have the tendency to take their finger completely off the trigger the instant the gun fires, and this must be corrected. As soon as the shooter sees the front sight begin to lift, that bullet has exited the barrel and is in flight.
The shooter can no longer do anything to affect that shot, so he should forget it and start concentrating on the next shot! The first step is to relax the trigger finger’s pressure just enough to let the trigger return forward to its re-set point. That is normally a really short distance, and there is usually an audible and tactile “click” when the trigger re-sets. There is no need to let the trigger go any further forward than that. Once the trigger is re-set, the shooter can begin working on the de- livery of the next shot.
Revolvers require a full forward reset or you can “short-stroke” the chamber, thus not lining up for the next shot.
Double-action revolver triggers do not have slack in them, otherwise the process is the same. It is important with the revolver to move the trigger all the way to the rear to fire the gun, then let it roll back all the way out before starting on the next trigger pull. The revolver trigger must go all the way for- ward or you can skip a chamber or even lock up the action, a process called “short stroking”. The double- action trigger should be pressed all the way through in one smooth motion.
All one needs to do to play a concerto on a piano is to hit the right keys, in the right order, at the right time. It’s a simple process, but it takes practice. All one needs to do to hit anything with a pistol is to keep the sights aligned on the intended point of impact while you work the trigger smoothly to the rear.
Again, a simple concept, but it takes practice.
Thanks to our friends at TheShootingChannel.com for this post. You can visit them by clicking here. Visit their Facebook page by clicking here. Tom can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or at RangeMaster.com.