Thoughts on Trigger Control

Correct trigger control must be applied in conjunction with the other fundamentals of shooting. The RATE of trigger control may vary from individual to individual, and will also depend – to a large degree – on the way the shooter grips his/her pistol. (Light grip, tight grip, rapid rate, slow rate, etc.)

Some years ago I was talking to Col. T.D. Smith, who still holds the Centre Fire World Record with an unbelievable 597. When we discussed his “duelling” (Rapid Fire Course) technique he said something like “when I pick up my sights and the pistol glides into the aiming area, I BUMP the trigger off”. I thought I knew what he was talking about, but as I was actually interviewing him and had a tape recorder going – I gasped (naturally) and said: “you do WHAT? BUMP the trigger off?!*”#’^~?! SURELY you mean you squeeze the b... thing?! He then said something to the effect: “We are only arguing about words, and what I am talking about is the RATE of the trigger pull. It may take you a second or two to apply pressure so that the sights remain perfectly aligned while you are adding pressure to the trigger, so you call this “SQUEEZE” while I do the same thing in a couple of tenths of a second – still maintaining perfect sight alignment – so I call it “BUMP” it off. You better not use this word when you are teaching, but it means the same thing, and the important thing is that whatever you do, however slow or fast you do it, it must not affect your perfect sight alignment...” (Well, I guess this is why he is a World Record Holder!)


In any case, it is important that the application of the trigger pressure should be an uninterrupted constantly increasing ”positive” pressure, straight to the rear. This trigger control is THE decisive element in producing an accurate shot. The trigger must be pressed in conjunction with peak visual perception, breath control, steady hold and maximum concentration on the sight alignment.


Throughout all these, the pistol is in constant motion, the degree of motion depending on the stability of a hold, stance, grip and position. Because of this movement, it is difficult to maintain concentration, sight alignment and trigger control, due to the built in instinct of not accepting any movement. Special CONDITIONED REFLEXES must be developed, by the constant, controlled repetition, of all the elements discussed above, and by regular training and dry firing.
There are various aspects that have bearing on mastering trigger control. These include:

i    Reaction time
ii    Stimulation and inhibition process
iii    Coordination
iv    Reflexes
        a)    Conditioned
        b)    Unconditioned
v    Detrimental conditioned reflexes (heeling, jerking, pushing, etc.)


Factors providing for correct trigger control:

a    Independent movement of the trigger finger
b    Grip must remain constant
c    Correct Grip. (Function of the correct grip; to create proper support permitting the trigger finger to move independently, straight back, without causing any movement in the sight alignment
d    Proper placement of finger on trigger (no side pressure).
e    Smooth trigger control, regardless of speed
f    No other parts of the hand must move
g    No movement in the wrist
h    Focus on front sight, alignment maintained while constant trigger pressure is applied
i    Function of “minimum arc” of movement. (Do not attempt to fire before settling in to the minimum arc of movement.)
j    Positive pressure application. This is the act of committing the shooter to complete the firing of the shot once the application of pressure has started. If – however – holding conditions should deteriorate too much while applying pressure, the shot should be “cancelled” (The shooter should stop, relax, re-plan and start again.)
k    Surprise break. (This way no anticipation and muscular tension or reaction can spoil a good sight alignment.


Correct trigger control can be learned. There are various training exercises that will improve coordination and timing, and smooth, independent movement of the trigger finger.

a    Learning and practicing to hold the pistol with as little movement as possible.
b    Trigger finger exercises, learning to move fingers independently from each other, one at a time, without causing other fingers or any other part of the hand to also move.
c    Dry firing on a blank area
d    Dry firing on a target (detrimental conditioned reflexes least stimulated and reinforced)
e    Shooting on a blank (back of) target
f    Early application of trigger pressure.
g    Loading alternative chambers when practicing with revolvers (“Russian roulette”)
h    Mental rehearsal of correct timing and shooting rhythm


Systematic training and dry firing will restore the balance between stimuli and inhibitions and will improve trigger control.
All training sessions should START and FINISH with some dry firing. It is a proven fact that dry firing is necessary for the development of proper coordination.


Incorrectly adjusted triggers can aggravate problems. (Excessive sear creep, or trigger pull weight, or too light a trigger, “collapsing” trigger, incorrectly adjusted backlash, inconsistent action, etc.) Target shooting is a “technical” sport. Learn to clean, maintain and correctly adjust your pistols.