Want better trigger control?

When I was initially assigned to hold familiarization sessions for the M9 (Beretta Model 92) for the military, my classes consisted of dozens of 4-hour time blocks populated by the senior command of a division, a couple separate brigades and other personnel assigned this tool. During my civilian assignments in law enforcement, I had been sent to several range instructor courses. I don’t exactly remember where or when I first learned sear reset drills, but I certainly can’t take credit for the drills here.

I used a common sear reset drill (sometimes called trigger reset drills) as an efficient method to teach trigger control to a lot of students in a short time. I had a lot of students, and their pay grades were in a different solar system than mine. The training had to be productive and meaningful ... or else.

Using dry fire techniques like the sear reset drill, my team was able to train hundreds of deploying soldiers to standard, providing them with a tool from which to safely practice on their own, and saving my job.

Dry firing techniques are effective for reducing errors like flinch, and much can be assessed of a shooter by a little observed dry firing, especially using shooter-coach methods of training where shooters break into groups of two and assist each other through the instruction.

Sear reset is defined as the mechanical point from which the firearm has fired a previous shot, and a pull of the trigger can launch another round, even though the gun’s trigger has not been allowed to go all the way forward. Mechanically, the sear—a latch that keeps the hammer or striker of a gun from flying forward to strike the firing pin—engages after a shot is fired, the slide goes forward and the shooter lets off the trigger.

Some expert trainers with a lot more experience than me preach that trigger control is the first skill to master, after which all other shooting skills fall into place. It goes beyond the scope of this article how the sear (and sometimes the disconnector) causes this to work, except that it does; and most modern handguns, including striker fired and single action guns, exhibit sear reset.

If one were to experiment with any modern handgun, one would find that the point at which the gun can fire and the amount the trigger can travel forward after firing are two different points on the travel of the trigger.

The purpose of the sear reset drill is for a shooter to press the trigger smoothly and learn to feel the trigger, taking full advantage of the gun’s mechanics. That is, practice teaches the shooter to never let the trigger go all the way forward, and maintain steady contact and tension, always poised for the next shot.

Years ago, it was not considered good practice to dry fire one’s firearm. Some firing pins were a bit brittle and the metal on metal shock without the cushion of the bullet primer was thought to depreciate or shatter some firing pins. Other gun designs relied on the cartridge primer to prevent the over-travel of the firing pin, which often used the shoulder of the pin as a stop. Thus, excessive dry firing on some guns would elongate the firing pin channel, crack the pin or cause excessive wear in guns not designed for dry firing.

Some manufacturers like Glock give very little information about dry firing their products. I understand that they currently recommend against dry firing, but have not seen an official statement either way, except when I attended their armorer schools in the ’90s where it was not considered sacrilegious at the time. Beretta recommends using dummy cartridges for dry firing to protect the inner workings. I’m ok with that.

I have a second generation Glock 22, my duty gun for 10 years of my career. I began an active campaign of dry firing this gun shortly after it was first born, and still abuse it with nonexistent cartridges. I have replaced parts on it long before they wore out, simply because Glock parts are still cheap and I do not leave anything to chance.

The owner’s manual for Ruger’s SR-Series of handguns (and other Ruger products) states that dry firing is safe and even “useful,” provided the user inserts an empty magazine for the task. The SR-Series handguns include the SR9, SR9C, SR40 and SR40C. I’ve had a chance to try these guns out on the range and I found them to be inherently ergonomic, especially as a duty gun. The fact that they recognize their owners will be dry firing their guns should not be lost on the law enforcement user.

SIG-SAUER states that it is safe to dry fire their handguns, but not their rimfires. Actually, it is not usually a good idea to dry fire any rimfire. SIG-SAUER recommends using snap caps for extended dry firing sessions, similar to Glock’s counsel. I like the Triple K Brand (get them at Brownell’s) for this purpose, but my personal preference is to use Blade Tech’s training barrel. This doesn’t do the same thing as a snap cap, but the barrel can be used for other things like gun retention and gross manipulations, for which the snap caps are not designed. The sear reset drill described here should only be performed with a training barrel, or a device like the SureStrike Laser Training Bullet.

As a rule, never dry fire any partially assembled gun, period. With some guns a few dry fires on a frame without a slide will turn it into expensive metal sculpture, rendering it unsafe. The bottom line about dry firing: If you carry a duty gun designed to handle high pressure cartridges on a regular basis, for the purpose of law enforcement use, under conditions which some may consider abuse, expecting the gun to perform in the direst of circumstances, why would you not expect it to hold up under a moderate amount of dry firing? If that doesn’t work for you, one can never go wrong with a new Ruger. I recommend the SR40/SR40C for on-duty and backup.

The SureStrike Laser Training Bullet is probably the most ideal dry fire training device on the market because it allows complete manipulation of the firearm and still provides the firing pin cushion for safe practice. The SureStrike Dry Fire Training System consists of the Laser Training Bullet, which contains a threaded end that attaches to an aluminum pipe that goes inside the gun barrel. At the muzzle, a threaded cap is attached, showing everyone that the gun is now inert. When one pulls the trigger, the firing pin strikes a switch on the Laser Training Bullet where the primer would ordinarily reside. This activates a momentary switch, which projects a laser dot onto the target. The dot can be seen on most paper targets at close range, or one can use the provided reflective targets for a dramatic effect. Since the entire assembly remains in the barrel, one can do holster work, practice slicing the pie and the sear reset drills described here.

The sear reset drill is one of many methods for inexpensive, productive training. It can be used for briefing training or deliberate practice sessions to maintain a level of competency anytime, anywhere.


Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer and retired military small arms trainer. He teaches criminal justice at Hartnell College in Salinas, Calif. He has a BS in criminal justice and an MS in online teaching and learning. Bertomen has taught shooting techniques for over a decade. He enjoys competing in shooting sports, running and cycling events. He welcomes comments at lbertomen@letonline.com.