By Chris Sajnog
Trigger control needs to be maintained throughout the firing sequence, and this can be especially difficult with a pistol. The two main reasons pistols are harder to shoot than rifles are the shorter sight radius and the trigger-to-weapon-weight ratio. Any time your trigger weight is more than the weight of the weapon, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
This is why “race guns” are heavy with light triggers, and the guns most of us shoot are the opposite. So what works for someone with a competition gun shooting paper targets, may not work down range with your issued sidearm.
Another thing you must keep in mind is that not all hands, fingers or firearms are built the same, so you can’t expect the same grips or finger placement to work for everyone. The most important thing is being able to pull the trigger while maintaining correct sight alignment. In the end it doesn’t matter how you do it as long as you get it done and can do it quickly and consistently. Anyone who tells you something different is likely more concerned with doing it their way than putting effective fire down range.
One thing I learned years ago was that you need to apply consistent pressure to the trigger until the shot breaks. This seemed to work most of the time, but there were times when my wobble would get bigger and my shot would break outside of center mass. I realized the problem was the rule I was following; that I had to keep pulling the trigger.
I relate it to driving a car that suddenly spins out of control. Would you keep your foot on the gas and hope for the best, or would you let off the gas until you regained control of your car? When you’re shooting, you need to think of your trigger like the gas pedal of your car. If it’s getting out of control, let off the gas.
Factors Affecting Trigger Control
Effective trigger control starts with establishing a good grip. I’m not going to rehash The Second Habit of Effective Shooters, so please go back and read that before you continue. If you don’t have time, here’s the Reader’s Digest version.
Get high up on the tang with your firing arm straight behind the gun to control recoil, and then wrap your fingers around the grip. Wherever your finger hits the trigger is the best place for you to put your finger on the trigger of that gun.
Shooting is all about being relaxed, and you can’t be relaxed when your hand is contorted around the gun in an effort to put the tip of your finger where it works for someone else. Finally, make sure you press the trigger straight to the rear so you don’t pull your shots. If what you’re doing now works, don’t change it. But if it’s not, give this a try. Remember, use what works, not what I or anyone else tells you.
Of course you want your grip to be as high up on the grip as possible, but have you ever thought about where your finger is vertically along the face of the trigger? The trigger is a lever, just like any other and you need to adjust your finger up or down on the lever to achieve a mechanical advantage. Lowering your finger just a little bit may give you just enough leverage to achieve a smooth pull without disturbing the sights.
To fire an effective shot, the pressure on the trigger needs to be smooth and even. This does not mean slow! You can pull the trigger as fast as you want as long as it’s smooth. Smooth is fast, but slow is just, slow. Speed in shooting comes from getting the gun out of the holster, mounted and your sights aligned on target quickly. If you work on doing these things fast, you can use the extra time for sight refinement and smooth trigger manipulation.
I see a lot of guys on the range who take their time getting their gun on target and then start mashing the trigger in an attempt to “shoot fast.” Remember to make up time anywhere else than your trigger squeeze.
Slapping The Trigger Like It Owes You Money
Since we’re on the topic of triggers, let’s stay there. Your trigger finger should never leave the face of the trigger during the shooting sequence. I put my finger on the trigger as soon as I can safely do so after identifying my target and the decision to shoot has been made. Normally this is right after my gun is out of the holster and rotated to point at my target. If I need to shoot from the hip, I’m ready. If not I’ll continue up to fully mount the weapon.
My finger will begin moving as soon as my eyes see what they need to see to take the shot. I don’t pull the trigger with my finger; I pull it with my eyes (feel free to send witty comments). As soon as the shot breaks, I pause with the trigger to the rear, normally as the muzzle is coming up. I then let the trigger out only until I feel the sear reset.
By this time my muzzle has settled and I have pressure back on the trigger ready to shoot again if needed. This is my follow-through, which I will cover further in the final article in the series. Only after I have decided I no longer need to deliver exceptional customer service do I take my finger off the trigger.
I hope these shooting tips help make you a better shooter, but like I said in the beginning, I can’t teach you how to shoot. You need to invest the time in dry-fire training and getting out to the range and learn the skills no article can provide.
Chris Sajnog, a Master Training Specialist in the Navy, was hand-selected to write the US Navy SEAL Sniper Manual. He’s the author of two bestselling books, How to Shoot Like a Navy SEAL and Navy SEAL Shooting, and the owner of Center Mass Group, LLC a 100% Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business in San Diego, CA. Chief Sajnog, now offers his unique training online at https://chrissajnog.com.