Trigger control—it’s one of the fundamentals of shooting we constantly strive to improve. Even the best shooters in the world continuously work on their trigger control to shoot smaller, tighter groups on targets at various distances. That’s target shooting, but what about real life? What happens when the target doesn’t have an X-ring with scoring zones and your life is in jeopardy?
Practice prepares us. Fighter pilots learn evasive maneuvers in the sky to simulate battle conditions. Police officers take offensive and defensive driving courses to prepare for a high-speed chase. Those of us who carry a firearm for personal protection train shooting fundamentals to ensure we can hit our target under stress.
The shooting fundamental of trigger control, by definition, is simple. It’s the smooth engagement of the trigger straight to the rear without disruption of the sights. Yet, it is often taken for granted. Ironically, poor trigger control can occur after the first few shots, leaving an inexperienced shooter frustrated. After all, they hit the center of their target, at first. The more they shoot, the more they are affected by sound and recoil. As they shoot more, they take for granted how they press the trigger. The results on target are a string of shots low and left for right-handed shooters and low and right for those with a dominant left hand.
Practicing trigger control has huge benefits, especially when curing a flinch. The results are significant for those who struggle with shot anticipation, the kind that’s so drastic that hits suffer or worse, fail to hit the designated target altogether. Working on our trigger control is how we teach ourselves proper timing and the coordination of a shot. Add to the mix classic ball and dummy drills, placing a penny on the slide while engaging the trigger and consistent dry fire, these are positive ways we teach how to watch the sights while practicing good trigger control technique.
The more we train, learning the specifics of the trigger, the more confident and proficient we become. For those who train with a single firearm, the results of persistent practice in both live and dry fire can make a huge difference, especially when a shooter is working to improve their shot-to-shot speed. The more trigger time we get, the more intimately familiar we become with the way our trigger works. We learn how much slack there is at the front of the press. We begin to feel the intricacies of how it feels through the break, whether it’s crisp or rolls, as well as how much pressure we need to apply. After the shot we explore the release and how far the trigger reset is in order to find the shortest distance needed to engage the trigger for a follow up shot.
For those who own multiple firearms the learning continues. The subtleties of where a trigger hinges, how it is shaped and how much trigger finger is required to garner the best results lead us to a whole new understanding. Well-rounded shooters learn that each trigger is different and that they may need to modify techniques in order to be successful on different platforms. Working the reset on a striker-fired pistol like the Smith & Wesson M&P for the fastest possible follow up with the shortest movement is not a technique to use with your J-frame. Failing to let out the trigger completely on a revolver can lead to an eventual and potentially disastrous fail.
Perhaps the best part about improving trigger control is that you can always level up. Mastery of trigger control for those who understand it is a perpetual goal. After all, a shot group can become smaller and the time between shots faster. We have so many learning opportunities and firearm platforms to explore. There can always be progress and that progress can very well make all the difference when it matters most.
Jeff Houston offers the first of five drills in NRA Carry Guard's second rendition of commuter drills.
Jeff Houston offers the second of five drills in NRA Carry Guard's second rendition of commuter drills.