Jeff Gonzales: Proper Trigger Managment

Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 Compact (courtesy thetruthaboutguns.com)

Most shooting errors are a result of poor to improper trigger management. Each shooter may experience slightly different errors, but they generally fall into three categories: placement, position or movement.

Most modern firearms — not 1911’s — use a trigger based on a lever design. Placing your finger lower on the trigger gives you more leverage. Leverage equals power.

Power makes it easier to move the trigger smoothly through all trigger movement stages. And it minimizes the “stall point” that can occur as you pull the trigger to its breaking point.

Trigger finger placement — which part of your finger you place on the trigger shoe — is critical to trigger management and, thus, accuracy.

Finger on the trigger of the Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 Compact (courtesy thetruthaboutguns.com)

Most shooters place too little of their finger on the trigger. Many position their finger on the trigger shoe so that it sits just before the first distal joint (a.k.a., crease). Placing your finger deeper on the trigger gives you access to more of the power mentioned above.

There’s a potential downside to this advice. Depending on the gun and your hand and finger size, your trigger finger may rub against the side of firearm’s frame. Applying pressure to the frame while pulling the trigger shifts the point of impact.

Mind the gap on the Smith & Wesson M&P M2.0 Compact (courtesy thetruthaboutguns.com)

Position as much of your finger as you can without rubbing the side of the frame. Remember to place your finger on the trigger face. Riding the trigger’s edges may pull the shot one way or the other.

Modern striker fired pistols have three stages; slop, slack and squeeze. The slop is the free travel or take-up. Slack is the incremental movement up to the sear wall. The squeeze is breaking past the sear wall.

Most people think of trigger movement as a single motion. While that may be your goal, it’s best to start by mastering each individually. Slow the movement down and isolate each stage. Feel them real time. Practice them while minimizing sight disruption.

Proper trigger management enables peak accuracy. Everything else is semantics and subject to debate. Moving the trigger without disrupting the sights is not.

comments

  1. avatar spartan357 says:

    opinions vary – this seems like a hot mess

    1. avatar JS says:

      Unless you are a professional competitive shooter, most people should focus on shooting relaxed and hitting the target in front of them. I havent thought about it but Ill bet there are a hundred things you should do “right” when shooting. There that was my opinion….

  2. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Depends on the gun I’m shooting.

    Some have long reach and different trigger shape.

    I shout Snubs with the “power crease” of my finger.

    My Beretta 92 is more the pad. My LCP requires the top so that I don’t hit the frame when pulling.

    Like Rob Leatham says…..pulling the trigger without moving the gun is what matters most.

    1. avatar ropingdown says:

      This. And it isn’t about pulling the trigger without moving the gun, exactly. It’s about holding the pistol so tightly, firmly, that you can actually slap the trigger without moving the gun. This is Leatham’s instruction, and it is also Keith Sanderson’s. He’s shot in the Olympics and received the President’s Hundred tab.

      Leatham’s advice: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=li0rGtXh23I

      –and Sanderson’s; http://weaponsman.com/?p=18416

      1. avatar Ardent says:

        Never read or thought about ‘holding the gun so tight you can slap the trigger without moving the sights’ before.but the way you just stated it ropingdown…I consider myself a pretty good pistol shot, especially, or more so at speed, and thought I’ve surely intentionally or inadvertantly tried every conceivable way a human can grip a pistol, I think what I finally learned over 30 years shooting a lot of pistols is just what you said; gorilla gripping the gun and almost ignoring the trigger/press. Obviously, in bullseye competition, the tremors from over gripping and the result of rapid and un-careful trigger pull would sink you, but when you’re really running the gun hard, seeking essentially combat speed and movement, with high output and crude dirty hits perfectly acceptable, the near full crush grip, and focusing more on front sight and target than trigger has been what really worked for me.

        1. avatar ropingdown says:

          I take no credit for the concept. Leatham and Sanderson taught me these realities, the big difference between true defensive apid fire centerfire pistol shooting and the rest. The videos are short but give the full story. I laughed at Leatham’s title, “Aiming is Pointless.” Now I just reflect on the reality he taught.

          There’s another well-known trainer, Kyle DeFoor, who gave a bit of advice which helped me with the “hold it rock solid” bit. He threw it out as almost an incidental hint, but I tried it and wow: He said “I haven’t heard others say it, but I tuck my gun-side thumb downward, not forward, over the supporting hand, and I lift my supporting hand fingers up high toward the knuckles of the gun hand. It seems to help.” Well, yeah. At least it helped me. My steady grip seemed to double in strength. Just me? Don’t know.

      2. avatar jwtaylor says:

        I thought I was holding the gun tight enough until Bill Wilson told me that after a long string, say 60 rounds total, my forearms should ache and be fatigued. I wasn’t holding it that tight. That was a little over a year ago, and there is no doubt my accuracy has not suffered, and my speed drastically improved after following his advice.

    2. avatar paul says:

      Another way to say it is “crush grip”. This is what Das Ayoob teaches during his MAG series.

  3. avatar TommyJay says:

    “Placing your finger lower on the trigger gives you more leverage. Leverage equals power.”

    Actually, more leverage equals less force, but more travel (of the finger tip). A good point none the less. Power is conserved, and equal on both ends of a lever, roughly.

    I have a Browning BuckMark that I love largely because it is way more accurate than all of my other handguns. I don’t shoot it as well as I should or could without a bench rest, I think because of the trigger shoe. The pull force and break of the trigger is fine, but the shoe is hooked so much that there is only one vertical position available to the finger.

  4. avatar joetast says:

    No matter how much advice I get I still use the ,,,,,,,, aim,,. ,,,,breath,,,,. close-ur-eyes-n-yank it seems finger position makes no difference.

  5. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    ‘Modern striker fired pist ols have three stages; slop, slack and squeeze.’

    Which is why I shoot revolvers and the one semi-auto I have has a DA/SA trig ger. Ever wonder why bolt action rifles have light crisp SA triggers?

    1. avatar ropingdown says:

      –No. I know why most hunting rifles have very light triggers: The deer isn’t charging you from 20 meters, horns down. You get to relax and smoothly squeeze the trigger. You won’t be dead if you squeeze off your first bolt-action shot prematurely.

      Try that when the hood has already slapped off a double-tap? There’s a reason the powers-that-be at Dam Neck require a two-stage trigger for many purposes.

      With due regard for the Gov’s accurate observation!

      1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

        If you’re squeezing shots off prematurely, you’re squeezing too hard.

        Nobody needs ‘proper trig ger management’ in a DGU at 3 yards. Point the weapon, pull the tr igger, repeat if necessary. The beauty of a DA/SA trigg er in either semi-auto or revolver, is that you’ve got the safety of the heavy pull but accurate shots are easily attained by thumbing the hammer back. Likewise a SA revolver is about as safe as you can get, requiring 2 distinct actions to fire the weapon, but accuracy is built into the platform. Striker pist ols take the mushy middle, not quite as crappy as DA, but way crappier than SA. All shots require ‘proper trig ger management’.

        1. avatar ropingdown says:

          Gov, my supplementary comment ONLY applied to bolt action rifles, the items with the very light triggers you referred to.

          I don’t for a second think you’re going Cape Buffalo hunting with a SIG 220.

        2. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          ‘I don’t for a second think you’re going Cape Buffalo hun ting with a SIG 220.’

          Well you obviously haven’t seen my brother-in-law’s psycho girlfelon.

    2. avatar Firewagon says:

      “Slop, etc., etc.” With Glock, and I’m sure others, you don’t have to live with that progression. They are pricey; however, several outfits offer an adjustable trigger replacement that you simply replace the old plastic piece with the new metal one. Slop (except for depressing that trigger safety), slack, and trigger creep gone!

  6. avatar Matt Matteson says:

    My finger lands on a particular spot when I don’t think about it. I will almost certainly put it there if a bad day suddenly gets worse.

    Mr. Gonzalez, the first half of your article seems to propose rocket science done on the fly. Is this really useful beyond first picking or setting up the ergonomics on a fighting handgun?

    I’m not a big believer in point shooting, but I do believe in buying a pistol that points naturally just in case. I get the wisdom of buying a well-chosen sidearm that puts your finger in the right place, but Hickock45 does fairly well given some markedly non-textbook finger placement!

  7. avatar tmm says:

    Generally, I find that agonizing over what I’m doing with the trigger makes me forget what I’m supposed to be doing…aiming the sights. If I just aim through the trigger pull, I typically won’t do anything cute with the trigger and my trigger pull should be relatively smooth and easy. Ignore the stacks, the walls, the breaks, and just pull. I can shoot a PA-63 double action with a fair amount of accuracy if I just pull. The trigger isn’t that heavy if you aren’t slow walking the pull.

  8. avatar Mark Kelly's Diapered Drooling Ventriloquist's Dummy says:

    Why are we even discussing this, from what the Liberal Media/Fake News and Democrats tell me/us our firearms fire all by themselves WITHOUT the aid or interaction of a human.

  9. avatar RocketScientist says:

    I hate articles like this. Isn’t just possible that, I dunno, everyone’s hands are a little different, and the linear combinations of hand-pistol shapes/combinations is virtually infinite? And isn’t it just possible that maybe people from different backgrounds and experiences and training experiences might have already evolved a heavily ingrained and effective approach to pistol shooting? And isn’t it just possible that, as a result, a technique that works great for one person may not work for another, and vice-versa? It’s almost like maybe there isn’t just ONE way to run a pistol. It’s almost like maybe, if you have figured out a way to shoot your pistol in a manner that is the correct combination of accurate and fast for your application, that maybe it doesn’t matter whether some condescending know-it-all on the internet thinks its “correct” or not? And its almost like if you HAVEN’T figured that out for yourself, there’s no guarantee that the ONE APPROVED CORRECT TECHNIQUE presented by that same know-it-all will work for you. It’s almost like maybe the best idea is to get out there and practice shooting a LOT with your specific gun, in situations that best mimic how you’ll be using that particular pistol, until you get to the point where you can perform with it to a satisfactory level. Nah, nevermind, thats crazy talk.

    1. avatar Ardent says:

      Rocketscientist- I tend to call what you’re saying the ‘shoot more, talk less’ school of pistol craft, and it definitely works. There are a lot of people who would do well to talk less, read less, watch fewer videos and actually just go shoot and shoot and shoot.

      There are better and worse starting techniques for each new shooter, but when we are talking about experienced and competent shooters, an awful lot of the ‘expert advice’ is just so much distracting noise.

      Pretty much anything to do with gunnery that doesn’t start with defining what it is the training proposes to accomplish is just crap. What exactly is fast and accurate? Depends a lot on why you’re shooting in the first place.

    2. avatar jwtaylor says:

      In short, yes, that is crazy talk. Unless you’ve had an injury, hands work pretty much the same way. And the gun works the same way in everyone’s hands. Physics don’t change, and physiology changes very little.
      There are proven techniques that improve the speed and accuracy for almost all shooters, really anyone without a physical abnormality. I’ve met, read, and spoken with a lot of the world’s leading shooters, and for quite a while now, they are all doing things pretty much the same as far as standing and shooting, because it works better than anything else. (Things do change, quite a bit, when they start moving.)

  10. avatar Mmmtacos says:

    The M&P trigger design kind of forces your trigger in one position. For me at least I try to make my finger as parallel with the bore as possible. Even if I pull the trigger quick and with force the sights stay in position when I dry fire practice. That with the center pad on the trigger bow mitigates any accuracy issues from the trigger. After that it’s a matter of getting everything else right: sight alignment, grip, arm position, stance, breathing, etc.

  11. avatar Kyle says:

    I’ve never gotten the same advice twice on trigger control.

    I go with the “go to the range and practice with the gun in question till you are hitting what you are aiming at” advice.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      I see a lot of people take that advice, and do little more than make brass and turn money into noise. I’ve seen the exact opposite from new and experienced shooters alike when they follow a prescribed program from a reputable source. They spend less time and money to get better results on the range and in the field. I’ve been shooting for decades, and 6 months into shooting a Mike Seeklander book course jumped me up a full class in the IDPA qualifier, and now I consistently shoot the Wilson 5X5 in under 20 seconds with a variety of guns. These are the results I usually see from people, and some do much better.
      For the last 20 years most of the top competitive shooters have been saving the same things regarding techniques, just describing them in different ways.

  12. avatar mk10108 says:

    Aim same place, Shoot target, if rounds are 12-6, think wrist, if 3-9, its trigger pull. Scatter pattern…all of the above.
    One aspect seen at ranges is body position to the target. Countless times watching folks pull the gun to the target, loading up muscle naturally pulling body away from where they want bullets to strike. I’ve seen arched backs, raised foot, thrust hips forward, and twisted waist. I’ll usually ask if they’re happy with shot placement and if they say no, I’ll reply 8 minutes of instruction, you can shoot an 8 inch circle.

  13. avatar Russ H. says:

    Everybody has an opinion on this and clearly, there are good things and bad things. Work on the good things and practice good practice. The rest of it doesn’t matter if you consistently hit a salad plate at 25 yds with a handgun.

    I cant help but laugh at guys telling their buddy “you need to move your foot half an inch to the left.”

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      “The rest of it doesn’t matter if you consistently hit a salad plate at 25 yds with a handgun.”
      Many of us, myself included, don’t consider that anywhere close to accurate enough. That’s day one at the range for a new shooter.

  14. avatar David Starr says:

    Until the picture loaded, I thought “trigger management” was a story on how to interact with Snowflakes….. oh the fun of a slow internet connection LoL.

  15. avatar Charles O. Slavens says:

    There are times when a shoulder holster is the only choice.
    I live in South Florida where wearing a jacket 9 months out of the
    year is impractical. I could wear a t-shirt, the shoulder holster and
    then an untucked shirt over a shoulder holster. However, leather
    holsters are too bulky and the straps are plainly visible. I’ve
    searched the web and cannot find a quality, fabric shoulder holster.
    Can anyone out there help me with this search?

    Thanks…..

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