Trigger Control

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“Trigger Control”

A Pressing Concern for Instructors & Students

By: Tom Perroni

I have been an Instructor for about 20 years. I have been an Instructor Trainer (Someone who trains Instructors) for about 5 years and I have been a Firearms Instructor Trainer for 4 years.

My father, who was a U.S. Marine Corps small arms Instructor & NRA Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor, taught me anyone can call the line… it takes an Instructor to fix the students problems. He would always say, “Watch the shooter, not the target.” In this way you can see what they are doing wrong and then verify it by looking at the target.

I teach that there are seven fundamentals of handgun shooting, and that each one is important to get accurate hits on a target. Whether we are talking about “Target Accuracy” or “Combat Accuracy” is something I will discuss in a future article. The most important thing in a gunfight is to hit what you aim at. However there is one fundamental that causes the most problems for students and instructors: Trigger Control. The vast majority of the time, a bad shot on an intended target can be directly traced to trigger control, or a lack thereof.

Here are some of the facts that I teach Firearms Instructors about Trigger Control:

  1. It is the most common problem in shooters.
  2. If not done correctly, you will not hit what you aim at.
  3. Has to be done properly, even when hurried.
  4. Trigger jerk and anticipation of recoil will consume 75% of your corrective action as an instructor.
  5. This is the cornerstone of shooting fundamentals.
  6. Once mastered, it must be practiced to the point where it is a subconscious act.
  7. A shooter can practice with dry fire or ball and dummy exercises.
  8. A shooter's target clearly tells the instructor whether proper trigger control is being employed.
  9. Too large a percentage of firearms instructors do not know how to correct this in shooters, or themselves.
  10. The exact same fundamental should be used no matter what weapon system the shooter is utilizing double action (DA), single action (SA), double action only (DAO).
  11. Shooters will find a hundred excuses before they admit they are jerking the trigger or anticipating recoil. Most single action systems allow the shooter to jerk the trigger with minimal sight movement. Up close this is not a problem. To find out about trigger control, shoot from 15 to 25 yards.
  12. A firearms instructor MUST be able to teach the proper method of controlling the trigger.
  13. No matter what terminology you use, the trigger must cause the hammer to fall without disturbing the proper sight alignment!

All too often instructors will tell the student about their trigger control or lack thereof; however no one seems to be able to tell that student how to fix the problem. I will attempt to give you a few tools to fix this problem in your students or yourself.

Let’s begin with the trigger finger’s placement vis-à-vis the trigger. At Perroni’s Tactical Training Academy we teach students who are using a semi-auto pistol that the trigger should cross the finger approximately halfway between the tip of the finger and the first joint, over the swirl of the fingerprint.

Finger Placement The finger is placed so that the trigger is halfway between the tip of the finger and the first joint. “The trigger is squeezed or pressed straight to the rear in a smooth continuous manner without disturbing sight alignment.” You should not be able to predict the instant the gun will fire. Each shot should come as a surprise. Note the trigger finger continually maintains contact with the trigger.

Trigger Squeeze / Press. After attaining proper placement of the finger on the trigger, proper trigger pressure can be applied to the trigger. There are three parts of trigger pressure each time the weapon is fired. They are slack, squeeze / press, and follow through.

All three parts are important to proper trigger control:

  1. Slack: The shooter must first take up the slack at the beginning of the trigger movement by applying slight pressure to the trigger. The trigger will move slightly to the rear until the internal parts of the trigger mechanism come into full contact with each other, and the “softness” in the tip of the finger is eliminated.
  2. Squeeze / Press: The trigger is then in the squeeze / press portion of its movement, which is when the internal parts of the weapon are being disengaged from each other to allow the hammer to fall. The pressure should be a smooth, constant, and even pressure, applied straight to the rear so that the sights are not misaligned at the instant the hammer falls. Once the hammer begins to fall, the follow through portion of trigger control begins.
  3. Follow Through: Follow through is the continued steady pressure applied to the trigger until the trigger reaches its most rearward point of travel. If the shooter does not continue to apply the constant, even pressure during follow through, it is possible that the impact of the round could move on the target, thus spoiling an otherwise good shot.

Trigger Release Once the shot has broken and the trigger is fully to the rear it must be released forward for follow up shots. The most failsafe method is to maintain contact with the trigger and let it move fully forward at the same speed with which you pressed it. The marksman’s trick of letting the trigger return only far enough to reset the sear or "hear the click" This is most evident in Glocks! When shooting fast with a loss of fine motor dexterity the tendency is to not let the trigger forward enough. The result is at best a momentary pause in the firing and at worst a perception that the gun has malfunctioned somehow. We call it "double clutching" the trigger.

There is one Federal Law Enforcement agency so consumed by trigger press that is trains new agents to acquire finger placement on the trigger first then acquire a grip on the handgun. (In Training)

Dry fire practice is the key to achieve proper trigger press and will not damage a modern handgun. However you must press the trigger to the rear without disrupting sight picture and sight alignment.

Point of aim is point of impact. Which means where ever the front sight is when the bullet leaves the barrel is where it will impact on the target.

There is also one other Federal Law Enforcement Agency that has it’s agents repeat front sight, front sight, front sight, front sight until the trigger breaks. This allows them to focus on the front sight to get that surprise break “while using proper trigger control.”

Believe it or not there are more things to talk about when it comes to trigger control but we only have so much room for the article. Want to know more? Come to class, and we’ll talk…..