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TRAINING TIP TUESDAY: TRIGGER CONTROL

 Professional Training

Training Tip Tuesday: trigger control

When most of us think about shooting a rifle or pistol, we instinctively picture, or somehow imagine the trigger being pulled. If we take a step back and think for a moment about all of the other tasks that are being done simultaneously, it seems odd that we would fixate solely on this one.

It’s admittedly important. This is the lever that initiates the firing of the gun, after all.

It’s also laden with error.

In our opinion, there is no single physical interaction with a rifle or pistol that invites more failure into the process. If you “anticipate the shot” (and we all have), this is the culprit behind the moment that you “leave the shot.” It’s the mechanical process that tells you when the round will go off. This is a distinction (however slight) that needs to be made. The trigger is not just taking orders, it’s giving them.

If we are paying attention… the trigger will tell us just where we are in our progress toward firing the gun, and that is largely a bad thing. It’s bad because it makes us aware that the recoil impulse is about to happen. We understand the nature of the energy that will flow back through the gun into our hand and so we do our best to counter it. It’s as natural as preparing our faces for the slap that we see coming.

In the preparation for this recoil response, we do a few things that adversely affect our shot. First and foremost, we stop aiming the gun. Think about it for just a moment; in order to miss a target, the gun has to be aimed at something else. When we miss, it’s almost always because we stop telling the gun where we would like the bullet to hit. Sometimes it’s a fraction of a second before the round leaves the barrel… but that’s enough.

 

When most of us think about shooting a rifle or pistol, we instinctively picture, or somehow imagine the trigger being pulled. If we take a step back and think for a moment about all of the other tasks that are being done simultaneously, it seems odd that we would fixate solely on this one.  It’s admittedly important. This is the lever that initiates the firing of the gun, after all. It’s also laden with error.  In our opinion, there is no single physical interaction with a rifle or pistol that invites more failure into the process. If you “anticipate the shot” (and we all have), this is the culprit behind the moment that you “leave the shot.” It’s the mechanical process that tells you when the round will go off. This is a distinction (however slight) that needs to be made. The trigger is not just taking orders, it’s giving them. If we are paying attention… the trigger will tell us just where we are in our progress toward firing the gun, and that is largely a bad thing. It’s bad because it makes us aware that the recoil impulse is about to happen. We understand the nature of the energy that will flow back through the gun into our hand and so we do our best to counter it. It’s as natural as preparing our faces for the slap that we see coming.  In the preparation for this recoil response, we do a few things that adversely affect our shot. First and foremost, we stop aiming the gun. Think about it for just a moment; in order to miss a target, the gun has to be aimed at something else. When we miss, it’s almost always because we stop telling the gun where we would like the bullet to hit. Sometimes it’s a fraction of a second before the round leaves the barrel… but that’s enough.

We stop aiming the gun because we start concentrating on the trigger. It’s very difficult to bifurcate the competing tasks of: concentrating on the nuances of dot on target (or worse, aligning iron sights) and the last 1/8 of an inch of trigger before the gun goes bang. Most of us would always abandon the fine work with our eyes, for the manual work with our fingers.

 

But we have to.

 

If you thought this article was going to be about the intricacies of finger placement or trigger weight, sorry to disappoint you. We are here to tell you that once the trigger is safely engaged in the shot, you are better off forgetting it altogether (to a reasonable extent).

 

Once you touch the trigger and take the pre-travel “out,” the shot is well on its way. Now comes the most important task the shooter has: we have to aim the gun until (and just after) the shot breaks. If we don’t, it doesn’t make any sense to wonder why we are missing.

 

So, what’s the answer? Fortunately, it isn’t difficult: We just have to convince ourselves that our “job” is aiming the gun. “Shooting” the gun is essentially a process that we own and are responsible for but is multifaceted and involves many other small tasks…the trigger being among them.  

 

Our chief responsibility after the decision to shoot has been made is to ensure the bullet hits where we want it to. This task is not served by the trigger per se.

 

Our best bet is to know our trigger enough to forget it (not in the safety sense). A good shooter will learn to ignore the information coming from the trigger in lieu of the all-important information coming from the aiming system.

 

In essence, tell the trigger what you want it to do and then keep it moving (unless the decision to shoot has changed). Your job as the shooter isn’t to shoot… it’s to aim.

 

Until next time, Train smart.


Author Bio

Duane “Buck” Buckner

After spending 25 years in the USCG, Duane “Buck” Buckner is now the U.S. Director of Training for Aimpoint. The Aimpoint Training Division conducts training courses for military and law enforcement agencies up to the Federal level as well as for the prepared civilian. Buck is widely known for his emphasis on brain psychology as it relates to combat and survival.

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Posted by Duane Buckner, Aimpoint US Director of Training on Sep 27th 2022