Trigger Control: Essence of Accuracy

It is simple, but it's not easy!


When trying to think up useful topics to write about, I sometimes run across things that keep popping up again and again, either during training classes, firearms competition or just in general firearms discussions. One such concern is from officers who want to be more accurate with their handguns. They may be successfully qualifying with their pistols, but they want to improve their ability to place rounds where they want at a specific spot on their target, such as head shots, or they just want to tighten up their hits so that they look more like groups than patterns.

I've discussed the fundamentals of marksmanship before, including having a solid stance, strong grip, proper sight alignment and smooth trigger control. When it's all said and done, the two things that matter most are the last two, sight alignment and trigger control. I'll be addressing sight alignment issues in a future column, but this month I want to talk about what I consider the real heart of the matter, trigger control.

Frankly, if you have the correct sight alignment and good trigger control, you can be hanging upside down from a chandelier and still get good hits. A good solid shooting stance can certainly help with controlling your gun during rapid fire, but real accuracy comes from understanding the importance of trigger control. Ray Chapman, the first world champion pistol shooter and founder of the Chapman Academy for firearms training, often said that the techniques for good shooting are simple, but they are not easy. For me, trigger manipulation is a classic example of that statement. Most people have heard that you squeeze the trigger rather than jerk or slap at it, and they figure that is all there is to it. Actual shooting reveals that smoothly manipulating the trigger is easier said than done. There are some surprisingly complex interrelations between your brain and your trigger finger. I see people struggle with accuracy because of this one issue more than any other. As with any physical activity, there is no substitute for trigger time at the range. But, I'd like to try to suggest a few things, as best as I can with the written word, that may help you the next time you are on the firing line.

Get A Firm Grip

A firm grip is like a solid foundation. Grip your pistol as hard as you can, not just with your gun hand, but your support hand as well. This is not so much about recoil control as it is about not causing unwanted movement of your gun when you fire it. When you flex your trigger finger, it should be moving completely independently from the rest of your hand. The human hand is designed mainly to work as a unit, not as independent digits. The way to keep all of your fingers from moving at once is to grip your pistol as hard as you can with everything except your trigger finger. Once the other fingers are contracted as much as possible, they can't move any more. Then your trigger finger can move completely independently from the other four. If you don't do this, your fingers move together sympathetically and you get what is usually referred to as milking the gun. It doesn't take much imagination to see where the term comes from, and that motion is undesirable because it usually causes your shots to go low and inside, meaning to the left for a right-handed shooter. Get a crush grip on the gun, so that only your trigger finger moves.

Trigger Finger Placement

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