Reflexive Trigger Snapping: Stop It!

I’m sure there is plenty of blame or culpability to go around on this subject, but from my experience, the U.S. Military is one of the worst offenders. Reflexive trigger snapping, as in pressing the trigger when there is no desire to actually fire...

Training for the ND

Regardless of your training experience, your acceptance or rejection of the spring wear myth, reflexively snapping the trigger when you DO NOT intend to fire the gun is a fantastic way to practice for the eventual negligent discharge.  No, I’m not talking about deliberate and purposeful dry-practice.  We are talking about the guys and gals who let the gun hang loose and just reflexively snap the trigger.

The human body and mind are wonderful things.  With proper training and dedicated practice, humans can perform amazing physical feats.   However, repeat a bad habit enough times and it becomes so ingrained that you do it without thinking.

Think of the power outage.  How many of you, during a power outage, have walked into a room and reflexively flipped the light switch on the wall?  You know the electricity is out, but you reach out and flip the switch as you enter the room without even thinking.   We all laugh at ourselves when we do this because it’s silly.   You’ve performed that action thousands of times and don’t even think about it.

Now, consider reflexive trigger snapping.  If your habit is to snap the trigger on the gun every time you’ve cleared or unloaded it you are teaching yourself to activate the trigger without thinking.  Of all the actions you perform with a firearm, pressing the trigger must be the most deliberate and purposeful, not thoughtless or reflexive.    

Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but if you are in the habit of thoughtlessly snapping the trigger, eventually it’s going to jump up and bite you in the butt.  A moment of inattention, the reversal of the unloading steps, coming in from an eight hour shift that turned into a twelve hour shift… all these are recipes for an ND.  Combine the trigger snap habit with a tired mind and you are almost guaranteed to put a round somewhere it’s not supposed to be.

On a personal note, I was trained to reflexively drop the hammer on an empty chamber, particularly with the M1911A1.  It took additional training and a dedicated effort to stop doing what I was taught at a young age.  If you are a reflexive trigger snapper, that doesn’t make you a bad person.  However, now that you have come to this point in the article I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice: STOP IT.

Editor’s Addition:

I don’t normally add to a columnist’s piece but personal experience compels me to do so. When I was an MP our barracks had a clearing barrel out front because the armory was in the basement and no loaded weapons were to be brought in.  When you finished your duty shift, you cleared your 1911 at the clearing barrel out front and then went in to turn in your weapon and magazines.  Because we were under orders to carry our weapons with an empty chamber, clearing your weapon meant ejecting the magazine, cycling the slide, pointing the weapon at the clearing barrel and pulling the trigger.  CLICK… and then go turn it in.

After a long midnight shift, with a tired mind and months (if not years) of habitual clearing, one soldier skipped a rather important step: he failed to eject the magazine.  So when he cycled the slide, pointed the weapon at the barrel and pulled the trigger, he got BANG instead of CLICK.  His partner looked over, saw the magazine still inserted and said, “Hey!  What did you forget to do?”  Thinking as best he could with his now scared and tired mind, the soldier realized he’d forgotten to eject the magazine before cycling the slide, so he corrected himself and removed the magazine.  Then he pointed the weapon at the clearing barrel and pulled the trigger again.  Obviously he got BANG again (because the slide had cycled and chambered a round after the first shot) instead of CLICK.

  • Enhance your experience.

    Thank you for your regular readership of and visits to To continue viewing content on this site, please take a few moments to fill out the form below and register on this website.

    Registration is required to help ensure your access to featured content, and to maintain control of access to content that may be sensitive in nature to law enforcement.