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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Smooth Trigger Pull

In most of my introductory classes, I tell my students that one of the biggest faults I see with my Intermediate and Advanced students is with the trigger pull.  If someone has a problem consistently putting lead on the target, their trigger pull is the place I start with first.

Most people jerk the trigger.  Depending upon where their finger is placed on the trigger (it should be centered on the middle of the pad of the trigger finger), this jerking could result in a left of-, right of- or below-center shot.

First off, I tell them they don't want to pull the trigger, they want to squeeze it - gentle as can be.  Be surprised when the gun fires, as the NRA teaches.  Think about bringing the trigger straight back to the rear of the trigger guard.

If the problem persists, I'll do Snap Cap drills where I put a fake cartridge in their magazine (or cylinder).  When they come to that round and they jerk down on the trigger, they are usually able to easily see how much it moves the muzzle.  Since they won't know which round will fire, I tell them they have no reason to flinch.  I'll usually put them through the drill a few times, and the problem will be fixed.

It all comes down to practice, though.  If they only get to the range once each month, they often forget these little tips.  I always will give them "homework" for whatever flaw they're trying to address.  One of the very best drills I recommend is to buy an airsoft gun, and practice on an indoor home "range".  You can get replicas for most common manufacturers for under $20 for a spring-loaded model, and about triple that for a gas-fed model.  [ALWAYS be sure you're wearing eye protection, as the little plastic BBs will often find their way back toward your face!]

I instruct them to "zero in" their gun using the benchrest position at 7 yards.  Generally speaking, the sights are not quite as accurate for these plastic replicas - but they're close enough.

I will then have them do trigger squeeze drills using the little plastic BBs.  Trigger squeeze flaws are very apparent!  You can get in a lot of practice for very little money.

Using the airsoft guns allows you to do almost any close-distance shooting drill, other than rapid shooting (since you don't get any recoil with the airsoft guns, you can't get a true representation of your technique).   Trigger squeeze, gun presentation, weak-hand shooting, one-hand shooting, aiming, rapid target acquisition, and with some of the better models, drawing from your holster.

I have a little range set up in my garage that I use quite often.  Without a doubt, it has improved my rapid target acquisition skills, and my aim in general.  My wife would likely say I use the range TOO often, as I never seem to be able to find all of the missing BBs when I clean up!

Accept The Challenge

Trigger Control and Aim are the two most common reasons for inaccurate shots (followed by over-gripping).  Of the two, trigger control can be much more easily corrected with some practice. 

For an instructor, it's also much more quickly diagnosed, as we can't see the sight picture from inside the head of the student!  If it's an aiming issue, we have to go through all of the physical flaws first!

Practice doing a painfully slow trigger squeezes, just to exaggerate the, "surprise me" aspect of the gun firing.  Give an inexpensive airsoft gun a try.  You WILL see improved results on the range and in self-defense situations.

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Copyright 2010 Bison Risk Management Associates. All rights reserved. You are encouraged to repost this information so long as it is credited to Bison Risk Management Associates.


Lucas @SurvivalCache said...

As someone who is currently working on my trigger pull, and pistol shooting in general I think this is great advice.

Chief, when people are having problems like this do ever totally take down and rebuild their grip rather than just trigger pull?

A few weeks ago I read this article about Brian Enos and Rob Leatham, two of the best pistol shooters in the world, and I tried the straight thumbs grip. It really transformed my shooting.

Shy Wolf said...

Trigger pull! Wish I had a nickel for every time I pulled it wrong- even after a hundred years experience.
It became very obvious once at a meet and I was having some loading problems... and dropped the muzzle about two inches while pulling the trigger and nothing happened... back to the basics we go... can't forget them.
And now I'm working on rapid target acquisition. Again. :(

Chief Instructor said...

Lucas, in my initial session with an Intermediate or Advanced student, I have them fire 10 or 12 shots so I can see where they are, accuracy-wise. During the first half dozen shots, I'm watching them and their presentation, not where the shots are landing. I'll jot down notes for what I see as flaws, THEN I'll look at the target.

Someone may have a million technical flaws, but when you put them all together, they are driving nails. I don't mess with that!

I think of the pro golfer, Jim Furyk. His swing looks like a disaster waiting to happen, but he makes millions every year with his unorthodox approach.

I'll break down whatever needs fixing!

In my introductory class, I teach what looks to be the straight thumb grip. Layering the thumbs on the weak side of the gun. I teach that the majority of the pressure on the grip is coming from a "nut cracker" approach to the grip panels. Equal pressure from both sides with the palms.

I have never taught the crossed-thumb technique, even for revolvers. There is simply too much space between the palms and the grips, IMO, to have a solid, repeatable grip.

Sly, click the image of the "Motivational" picture at the top of the post. It only takes 3 muscles to pull the trigger!

If I have a student who falls back into bad habits, before each shooting string, I'll have them grip the pistol, then take their trigger finger and wiggle it around. This reinforces to them that the only thing that finger is for is to pull the trigger and the rest of the hand has the gun secured quite nicely.

This concept is important for one-handed rapid fire, but I'll leave that for another post... ;-)