Thoughts from Class 1 – Trigger control

The last BP2/DPS1 class I helped with at KR Training generated a bunch of thoughts in my head. I thought I’d make a small series out of it.

Trigger Control

When it comes to elements of a good shooting platform, there’s talk of grip, stance, breathing, sight alignment, trigger control. Yes, all of these things can matter, but as Karl is fond of pointing out it’s really the last two that matter most.

Sights matter… maybe. I say that because how much sights matter can depend upon what you need to see in order to hit the target. For the beginner, it’s best to just say “line up the sights” and have them get everything square. But as you progress you’ll come to realize that it isn’t so cut and dry. For instance, needing to hit the side of a barn at 3 yards may not need much sight alignment at all. Trying to hit a 6″ plate at 25 yards is going to need fair lot more of a perfect sight picture. If you want to know more, check out Brian Enos’ book Practical Shooting, Beyond Fundamentals.

Trigger control is the other key part of the equation, and in the last class you could see a lot of issues with it.

What you need to do with trigger control is to move the trigger in a manner that does not alter your sight alignment before the bullet exits the barrel. Easier said than done. Trigger control certainly matters on long guns, but given their size/weight-ratio vs. how much force you exert on that trigger pull, it’s a lot harder to disturb the alignment of a long gun than a handgun. Then when you have a light handgun with a long heavy trigger pull, it just makes matters worse. Ever wonder why the top handgunners with their fancy open race guns use 1911-style guns with very light triggers? It’s all about doing what it takes to make that trigger press as minimal as possible so as to mechanically eliminate as much chance for disturbing the alignment as possible.

The way to start on trigger control is to move slowly. And slow means slow! When you press that trigger, slowly count to three. You want to get that “break” on 3 (or thereabouts… it’s not so vital, it’s just about ensuring you slow down and don’t rush it). All too often there is 1…… 2.3. Resist the urge to do that. Some call it the “surprise break”, that you know the gun is about to go off but you aren’t 100% sure of the exact microsecond in time when it will… just let it go. If you don’t, what happens? You flinch, you jerk the trigger, which moves the gun, and the hole in the target is in a place you weren’t aiming for.

One consideration to make. There was one gentleman in class that was constantly hitting to the left, even with improved trigger control. From what it looked like, he had too much finger on the trigger. He had large hands with thick fingers, so what happened was when his finger was on the trigger the top edge of his trigger finger was coming in contact with the gun’s frame and pushing it to the left. You may need to look for issues like that. Consider how much finger you are putting on the trigger. A good place to start is the middle of the pad of your index finger, then adjust from there: maybe closer to the tip of your finger, maybe closer to the distal joint.


There are a few drills useful for helping with sight alignment.

In dry fire, you know there won’t be any sort of loud bang. So, in all of your dry fire practice, watch your front sight and strive for it to move as little as possible during that trigger press. One exaggeration is to use the Wall Drill, where you dry fire with your muzzle perhaps an inch away from a white wall (i.e. any surface that gives high and clear contrast between your sights and the background). When you dry fire in the Wall Drill, any movement of your front sight will be sorely evident. Strive to keep things smooth.

Remember: slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

In live fire, the good old Ball & Dummy drill is great. You need to buy some dummy rounds (snap caps, etc.). Mix some dummy rounds into your magazine. If you have a partner, have them load your magazine. If it’s just you, I found putting a little tray of live ammo mixed with dummy rounds on the bench in front of me, then I just avoid looking at things while I reload the magazine (hey, if you peek you’re only cheating yourself). Load the gun, then shoot. When you hit those dummy rounds, if you’re slapping the trigger it will be sorely evident as you watch that front sight get pushed down.

If you are using a revolver, ball & dummy is pretty easy to do. Load the cylinder full. Fire one round. Without looking too much at what’s going on, open the cylinder, spin it, close it. Fire. Repeat until all shots have been fired. You can even vary it slightly. For instance, shoot once, spin cylinder. Shoot twice. Spin cylinder. Shoot twice. Spin. And so on, until all shots have been fired. This can apply for semi-autos as well, in that it doesn’t always have to be single shots… sometimes a string of multiple shots is good because you might get that first shot perfect but it’s the follow-up that you blow.

Another suggestion for live fire is to shoot groups. Set up a paper plate at 25 yards (or even 15 if that’s as far as you can go). Shoot slow fire groups (i.e. maybe one shot per 5 seconds or so? this is not a time exercise). Shoot at least 5-10 rounds into that group before stopping. Take your time, strive to make the group as small as possible. Many suggest to do this drill as the first thing you do in live fire practice AND the last thing you do.

I’m no guru with trigger control. I myself need work. I use these drills myself to work on my trigger control.

One thought on “Thoughts from Class 1 – Trigger control

  1. Pingback: Shooting fun! « Firearms and More in Texas!

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