What Causes Poor Trigger Technique?

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posted on June 15, 2019
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Why is pulling the trigger so difficult sometimes? It seems as if it should be so simple—just a small bend in the finger—but it’s deceptive. A proper trigger pull is consistent, in a precise direction, accurately applied and perceivedas well as fast.

Correct and incorrect trigger finger movement
When the trigger finger is moved correctly, the movement occurs at the first joint and the direction of movement is almost a straight line. With incorrect movement of the trigger finger, several muscles and finger joints are moved. Pressure is applied to the side of the trigger, and is not in a straight line.


Note: If you haven’t already, be sure to read the previous article by Marcus Raab on how to master control of your trigger.

Here is a checklist of items to help you evaluate your grip. If done correctly, these will help alleviate the main causes of poor trigger technique.

  • Forearm and trigger hand form a straight line.
  • The stock is held firmly by the thumb and the other three fingers.
  • The hand is replaced in the same position for every shot.
  • The trigger finger contacts the trigger just beyond the last joint and never touches the stock.
  • The pressure applied to the trigger is parallel to the barrel in both the horizontal and vertical planes.
  • The combined position of the arm, hand and trigger finger feels comfortable and solid.
  • The unloaded gun does not move while pulling the trigger a few times in quick succession.

Lateral pressure on the trigger
Lateral pressure on the trigger produces pulled shots. In this instance, the trigger on the left should be adjusted to the rear. On the right, the finger is in contact with only the edge of the trigger, which will result in lateral and inconsistent pressure—and often a missed shot.

Check each item carefully and adjust the trigger, your position or your grip as necessary. Don’t be satisfied until you are correct.

When to adjust your trigger?
Using the tip of the finger can lead to lateral pressure on the trigger, which throws off the shot. As a correction, the trigger should be adjusted to a position farther forward.

Keep It Up
Just like any other moving part, the trigger can suffer from wear. In such a precise mechanism, tiny amounts of wear can cause major problems.

You should check frequently that the trigger is functioning the way you want it to. Ask yourself:

  • Is the trigger affixed to the action tightly?
  • Is the trigger lever adjusted to suit the shooter?
  • Are you comfortable with the first-stage length of travel?
  • Is the first stage smooth and consistent over the distance?
  • Does it return to the starting position when pressure is reduced? Make sure there is no catching or sticking at the end of the first stage.
  • Is the shot released instantly when the resistance of the second stage is overcome? A way to do this is to cock the unloaded gun, rest it on a solid surface and watch the trigger movement as you pull it. Another way is to hold the gun in a stable position, and with your eyes shut, test the feel of the trigger. You should be able to quickly check that the trigger is in order or determine if it needs adjustment.

Straight, curved and hooked triggers
With a straight trigger (left), loosening the screw allows it to be moved forward or backward, if necessary. With a lightly curved trigger (center), the shooter’s finger can contact the trigger either high or low according to preference. Higher contact will increase the resistance. A hooked trigger (right) gives the shooter only one finger-placement option—which prevents undesirable errors.

This article was originally published in the October 2004 issue of Shooting Sports USALead photo by Forrest MacCormack. Illustrations by Tom Rickwalder.

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