Trigger control is the single biggest reason shooters fail to hit the target. You can have perfect stance, grip and sight alignment, and still miss if you jerk the trigger. I see this in almost every one of my students. Even I tend to jerk the trigger sometimes, especially when under extreme pressure to do well. And I know better! The key to mastering trigger control begins with understanding exactly what “jerking the trigger” really means.
Now, I’ve talked about this before. More than once. So for me to bring it up again should resonate that it really is that important. This time, however, I’m going to try and explain it a little differently.
I recently attended a 4 day women’s shooting conference where we learned why it is so hard for many women to be consistently successful on the range. Even women in law enforcement struggle! The key to teaching women how to shoot proficiently lies in the methods used, and we must explain everything in detail. This isn’t a bad thing actually! So let’s learn how to master trigger control! In detail!
Trigger Control: Jerking The Trigger
The definition of a “trigger jerk” is a pull that disrupts the gun’s aiming point. Unfortunately, this usually happens milliseconds before the trigger is pressed. Which ultimately sends the bullet far away from the intended target. Many shooters also close their eyes at this point as well, which doesn’t help matters. So how do we stop jerking the trigger?
First of all, it is very confusing when some people tell you to pull the trigger, some tell you to squeeze it, and others say to press it. While the word choice here may seem mundane, it isn’t! Squeezing and pulling imply some use of force, which further implies that your entire hand is involved in the process. No, no no! The term press is correct. Press to me means pressing an elevator button or camera button or something. And certainly pressing is not done by force. Only the finger is doing the pressing!
Imagine holding your firearm and only moving your index finger while pressing the trigger. The entirety of the rest of your hands should not be moving at all. Now I know that there will be some shaking, because no one can hold a pistol completely still. But as long as the movement is kept within the desired target area you will still have precision with your shots.
Practice this skill with dry fire training. With no “boom,” you will be less likely to jerk. Pay close attention to every step of the process. Place a coin on the end of your firearm if you are still struggling! Learn to press the trigger without letting the coin fall!
Trigger Control: Finger Placement On The Trigger
Another reason you may be jerking the trigger is incorrect finger placement. Take a look at the picture above. Your index finger has 3 joints, and you should not be pressing the trigger with any of them! You should be pressing the trigger with only the pad of the top third of your finger. Furthermore, the trigger should be in the center of that front finger pad. I have actually drawn a line with a marker on my students fingers to remind them of this.
Keep in mind that changing finger placement will also change your grip. And your grip will change with different firearms! This has been a very difficult concept for me to get through to many ladies! But after letting them shoot “their way” and then “my way,” most agree and then adapt. Some, however, stay hard headed and continue to fail.
I am going to use two of my pistols as examples to explain this even more. My favorite gun that I own is my full size Smith & Wesson M&P 2.0 9mm. For comparison, I will use my much smaller Sig P365 9mm. These guns are very different in size. When I first got the Sig, I couldn’t hit the side of a barn with it. My problem? Finger placement on the trigger! I was so used to the way I held the S&W that I just assumed I was to hold the Sig exactly the same way. Wrong!
Trigger Control: Errors Due To Incorrect Finger Placement
I have always been a fan of big guns. Stepping into the world of micro pistols has been quite an eye opening experience! Consequently, holding the Sig the same way as the Smith & Wesson was disastrous for me. All of my shots were going right. I really thought something was wrong with the gun! What was really wrong, however, was that in trying to keep the same grip I was used to with the larger guns was causing me to pull (not press) the trigger with the top joint of my index finger instead of the pad. If you are ever told that you have “too much finger on the trigger,” this is what that means. Too much of your trigger finger is inside of the trigger guard of the firearm. The results include shots to the right due to “pulling” the firearm to the right!
On the other hand, if you are shooting a larger gun than you are used to, the opposite can happen. To little finger on the trigger causes shots to go left. This is because you are pulling the firearm in that direction as compensation for not enough finger on the trigger. I encourage you to intentionally try both “too much” and “too little” finger on the trigger during your next dry fire practice. Watch the muzzle as you fire. I think you will be very surprised to see what happens!
Trigger Control: Slapping The Trigger
The sweet spot is the place where your trigger finger not only rests comfortably, but also allows you to both gain speed and maintain accuracy. All while never taking your finger off the trigger between shots. If you have been told to “stop slapping the trigger,” pay attention! “Slapping the trigger” means letting your finger fly off of it after each shot, which sends the trigger back to its factory position, before pressing it again. This habit usually begins when someone tells you to “shoot faster.”
Men. They mean well but have absolutely no idea how to explain shooting concepts to women. When I took a class with the famous Rob Pincus, he kept telling me to shoot faster. Not only did I not understand what he meant, there was no way I was going to ask him in front of all of the people there. So I did what I thought he meant and pulled (not pressed) the trigger as fast as I could. Needless to say, I did even worse than I already was doing, got called out again and was completely humiliated. That day was horrible. If you have ever thought about giving up shooting because you just can’t get the hang of it, read this. We all have bad days, and that is a story about my worst day.
Trigger Control: How To Shoot Faster
But I digress! Shooting faster while maintaining accuracy is vital to your survival in a life and death scenario! You should be striving for both speed and accuracy, and the key to success lies with trigger control. Once you can consistently hit the target where you are aiming, you need to step up your speed.
To shoot faster, you need to be able to press the trigger, keep the trigger pressed while the gun fires, and then only let the trigger out enough to re engage the sear before you fire again. With most guns, you will hear or feel a little “click” as it catches. Your finger never leaves the trigger between shots:
- Hold the trigger back while re aligning the sights
- Release slowly until you hear/feel it reset
- Press again to fire
Trigger Control: Final Thoughts
I hope this post was able to better explain trigger control to you. I truly believe that mastering this skill is the single most important factor in finding success on the range. Grip and stance are important too, but vary from person to person. If you can gain full control over your trigger while keeping your sights aligned you will be successful! As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Happy shooting!