Gun World - - Train -

I’ve tried to de­mys­tify the shoot­ing “stance” and ex­plain the mod­ern high, thumbs-for­ward grip in pre­vi­ous col­umns. Hope­fully, you had the chance to ex­per­i­ment and put these skills into prac­tice.

And now, it seems to make sense to talk about trig­ger press. The most com­mon guns are striker fired, so I’m bas­ing this off of that trig­ger type. Even so, you will likely see how this ap­plies to any trig­ger.

Some call it “trig­ger squeeze”; oth­ers call it “trig­ger press.” Re­gard­less of the term you pre­fer, it is trig­ger con­trol and can be de­fined as “ap­ply­ing steady pres­sure to the trig­ger di­rectly rear­ward in such a fash­ion so as to not dis­turb the sight align­ment or sight pic­ture be­fore and while the round fires.”

Some train­ers in­sist that stu­dents use their trig­ger fin­ger a spe­cific way. Some will tell you to use the tip of your fin­ger, while oth­ers will tell you to use the pad of your fin­ger. They might say, “Don’t let your trig­ger fin­ger rub the side of the gun,” or “Be sure to have a 90-de­gree bend at the sec­ond knuckle.”

The fact is, dif­fer­ent trig­gers have dif­fer­ent weights, and ev­ery­one has dif­fer­ent strength in their hands and fingers.

I sug­gest you reread the def­i­ni­tion of trig­ger press. The best ad­vice: Use what­ever part of your fin­ger in a way that al­lows you to press the trig­ger with­out dis­turb­ing the sights on the gun you are shoot­ing. You might find that you shoot bet­ter; in fact, you’ll likely shoot many guns bet­ter!


Now that we’ve got­ten past the in­evitable ques­tion of what part of your fin­ger to use, let’s get down to busi­ness. Go get your semiauto hand­gun, make sure it’s un­loaded … now, check it again. For dry-fire drills, it’s best to make sure all ammo is out of the room.

Next, rack the slide. Hold your gun in your lap so you can see the weak side of your firearm. With your fin­ger on the trig­ger, slowly press back un­til you feel re­sis­tance. The area from when you first touch the trig­ger un­til you feel the re­sis­tance is some­times called “pre-travel” or “slack.” I re­fer to it as the lat­ter.

Now, if you came through the slack and the gun dry-fired, re­set and rack the slide. You need to start again. Watch your trig­ger


fin­ger as it comes through the slack, and stop when it gets to the re­sis­tance. I call this re­sis­tance the “pres­sure wall.”

You should be able to come through the slack and stop at the pres­sure wall with­out the gun dry-fir­ing. Prac­tice un­til you can get to the point where you can jump from the fin­ger along­side the frame to the pres­sure wall quickly and pos­i­tively. Watch your fin­ger some­times so you can vi­su­al­ize the move­ment; at other times, close your eyes so you can “feel” what’s go­ing on.

About the pres­sure wall: Un­til you press through the pres­sure wall, the gun will not go off. Do the slack take­out process again. When you come to the pres­sure wall, ap­ply steady pres­sure straight back un­til the gun dry-fires. Note how much pres­sure you felt be­fore the gun dry-fired or the trig­ger broke.

Do it again and watch it, then close your eyes and feel it. Rack the slide and re­peat sev­eral times. Al­ways go quickly to the pres­sure wall and then pause to press through it. This is how you be­come in­ti­mate with the way your trig­ger moves to make suc­cess­ful shots.

You now know how much slack you have in your trig­ger be­fore you come to the pres­sure wall and how much pres­sure it takes on the trig­ger un­til the gun goes off. Now, let’s add a two-handed grip. Again, ver­ify—vis­ually and phys­i­cally—that the gun is empty. Try this …

Us­ing a high, thumbs-for­ward grip and point­ing the gun in a safe di­rec­tion, bring it up to your line of sight and close your eyes. Bring the trig­ger fin­ger to meet the trig­ger, take the slack out, feel the pres­sure wall and then, smooth press. You should feel and vi­su­al­ize ev­ery bit of move­ment. Pay at­ten­tion to ev­ery de­tail— from fin­ger con­tact with the trig­ger to com­ing through the slack in the first stage to the pres­sure wall and then the amount of pres­sure you need un­til gun goes off. How much pres­sure does it take to be­gin mov­ing the trig­ger rear­ward? Are there any hitches or sticky or grav­elly move­ments? Can you tell at what point the trig­ger is about to break?


Now, we’ll add sight align­ment. This is best done stand­ing with an un­loaded gun and fac­ing a blank wall—not aim­ing at any tar­get. Ob­tain your proper grip, line up your sights, and keep your eyes on them. Press through your trig­ger. When the gun dry-fired, did the trig­ger press cause the sights to move?

Do it again. This time, come through the slack to the pres­sure wall. From there, press your trig­ger fin­ger straight back rear­ward. I imag­ine I’m press­ing straight back to my chin. You need to do what­ever it takes to keep from in­flu­enc­ing or mov­ing the gun to keep the sights in align­ment while the shot breaks. If you ex­pe­ri­ence any move­ment or dis­tur­bance in the sights, you should change your trig­ger fin­ger place­ment and/or change your grip pres­sure. Re­mem­ber, one size does not fit all. De­pend­ing on the gun and your strength, you might have to ad­just your grip to change your trig­ger fin­ger place­ment. As a trainer us­ing a va­ri­ety of guns, I, my­self, some­times for­get to change to meet a spe­cific gun’s needs. But af­ter a few shots, it comes back to me.


Once you can suc­cess­fully press your trig­ger with­out dis­turb­ing the sights, you should head to the range. Noth­ing changes just be­cause it’s live fire!

Use a tar­get such as a sheet of note­book paper at a rea­son­able dis­tance of 10 feet. Use the cen­ter of the sheet as your aim­ing point. The white back­ground will make it easy to see the sights. As you present the gun and the muz­zle ori­ents to the tar­get, you should come through the slack in the trig­ger (re­mem­ber—the firearm won’t go off un­til you come through the pres­sure wall). At full arm ex­ten­sion with good light align­ment, cen­tered in the paper, you should be ap­ply­ing pres­sure at the pres­sure wall. If you do it like you did at home dur­ing dry-fire, the shot should be close to cen­tered.

As for fol­low-up shots, I don’t teach to pin the trig­ger (which is, af­ter the shot, re­turn­ing the trig­ger only to the point in which it re­sets, then press­ing). Af­ter the shot breaks and you’re in re­coil, let your trig­ger fin­ger fully go for­ward quickly and re­turn to the pres­sure wall as the gun is set­tling back.

Be­gin the press again in the cen­ter of your tar­get. In the be­gin­ning, your fin­ger might ac­tu­ally hit the in­side front of the trig­ger guard. Don’t worry! Even­tu­ally the trig­ger fin­ger will learn its path and not travel nearly as far. Fast re­set, fast re­turn to the pres­sure wall and then slow down enough to press the trig­ger so as not to dis­turb the sights.


Fi­nally, fol­low through. So many times I see stu­dents’ guns back in the hol­sters be­fore I’ve even com­pleted my fol­lowthrough. I don’t un­der­stand the rush. No one has ever won a gun­fight by be­ing the first to hol­ster their firearm. Maybe they don’t un­der­stand the im­por­tance of fol­low-through, es­pe­cially when mak­ing fol­low-up shots.

“Fol­low-through” means main­tain­ing all the fun­da­men­tals through the break of the round. You should be re­tain­ing the sights through the break of the round dur­ing re­coil, then com­ing back to the sight pic­ture and re­turn­ing to the pres­sure wall to make a fol­low-up shot, if needed. If not, when you come off the sights, come off the trig­ger and re­turn to your hol­ster. YOU de­cide whether or not to make the next shot.

If, in prac­tice, you come through that pres­sure wall and crank off a sec­ond round that you didn’t plan on, it’s okay. You were al­ready in the process of shoot­ing, and you’re sure of your tar­get, back­stop and be­yond. The range is the place to learn new things. Make your mis­takes here.

You might have heard the say­ing, “Be­ware the man with one gun; he prob­a­bly knows how to use it.”

That’s what this train­ing is about: be­com­ing in­ti­mate with your gun to best uti­lize it. And re­mem­ber, if you start shoot­ing poorly, an­tic­i­pat­ing, or just los­ing your skill, empty the gun and re­turn to dry-fire un­til you can con­sis­tently press the trig­ger again. Then, reload and re­mind your­self that noth­ing changes just be­cause the gun has bul­lets in it.

YOU run the gun; it doesn’t run YOU! GW

In front of a blank wall, prac­tice press­ing the trig­ger with­out dis­turb­ing the sights.

Dur­ing com­pe­ti­tion, com­ing to the pres­sure wall di­min­ishes the time be­tween fol­low-up shots.

Prac­tice find­ing the pres­sure wall first.

When the author first shot the new Beretta APX, she spent a few min­utes dry­fir­ing so she could get a feel for the trig­ger.

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