Guns for Beginners: Too Much Trigger Finger!


The image above is from the recently released Full Metal Coloring: A Book of Down Range ReflectionWhile I’m delighted with the concept, the sample image shows poor technique. The shooter’s using WAY too much trigger finger. 

When you place that much of your finger across the trigger, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll pull the gun to one side (the right side if you’re right-handed). Your shot will land outside of your original point of aim.

Make no mistake: a good trigger pull is critical to accurate shooting — and the most likely weakness for any shooter.

The trick: assume a proper stance, get your sights on target, breathe and squeeze. Your trigger finger is the only part of your body that should move. (Unless you’re moving, which you should be in a defensive gun use.) You should always pull the trigger straight back towards you.

The correct trigger finger placement: the trigger should sit just ahead of — but not on — your trigger finger’s distal joint. That’s the first crease in your finger. Pull straight back and voila!

That said, there are two situations where that might not be possible.

First, if you’ve got really small hands. Your finger may not be long enough to get enough purchase on the trigger. Guess what? You have the wrong gun. There are handguns that enable our smaller-fingered friends. (Dan the man favors a GLOCK 43.) If you have the wrong gun, get another one.

Second, if you’ve got giant hands. In that case, again, you may have the wrong gun. I say “may” because there may not be a handgun capable of properly accommodating your lengthy trigger finger.

If you don’t or can’t change your gun to suit your small finger, or if you can’t find one that enables proper trigger placement for your humongous digit, training is the answer. It’s entirely possible to master a straight pull with too little or too much trigger finger, and highly recommended.


  1. avatar preston says:

    awesome tips! please do more!

    1. avatar BillC says:


    2. avatar J0shua says:

      Its been awhile since I had any formal instruction so I don’t know what the terms de jour are nowdays, but I will say one of the guys who taught me the basics told me to use the term “press” the trigger, not “pull” or “squeeze.” Evidently with a new shooter if you tell them to “pull” the trigger people subconsciously pull the whole gun too much. If u tell a noob to “squeeze” the trigger you get ppl squeezing the grip with their entire hand. Always teach noobs to “press” the trigger.

  2. avatar passthebrass says:

    But how else will she pick her nose without putting the gun down?

  3. avatar Joe R. says:

    Yeah, trigger, but. . .

    Freaky, she’s not looking where she is pointing her weapon, which is a .177 cal.

    Why did they have to make the (ASSUMED: long fingernails, no Adam’s apple) girl do it wrong?

    I know, you’d still hit that, with a crayon.

  4. anyone else see pam from archer in that pic?

    1. avatar Curtis in IL says:

      Name tag on uniform appears to say, “KOLB.”

      She has nice lips, though.

    2. avatar Grant in IN says:

      Yeah, after she became a coke fiend and lost all the weight.

  5. avatar J says:

    Great writing as always Robert. I know this is the conventional method being taught but let’s not forget that there are a lot of shooters out there having success with the distal joint and that it’s taught by one of the best instructors around. There is some very interesting science behind it as well.

  6. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    What the… did Chris Cheng really have that gun stuck in his pocket?

    Yeah, I know. It’s an empty gun and he’s just demonstrating proper grip. But still…
    a) He should set a better example of how to carry a gun, and
    b) There’s no such thing as a safe gun.

  7. avatar Anon in CT says:

    And then there’s those of us with long trigger fingers and short thumbs. My fingers love the large-frame Glocks (20/21/40/41) but I have no hope of dropping the mag without seriously shifting my grip, even with Larry Vickers’ extended mag release.

  8. avatar JohnS says:

    And, revolvers double-action may require more force to operate than can be generated at the pad of the finger.

    “In order to manipulate that heavy action, we need optimal finger placement on the trigger, and that is at the first joint, known in anatomy as the distal interphalangeal joint and usually abbreviated as DIP.

    By centering that joint on the trigger face, we get maximum leverage with minimum effort. The finger doesn’t tire as quickly, and the finger movement is smoother. Using the DIP allows us to manipulate the trigger with as little imparted motion to the gun as possible.”

    The pictured soldier, of course, is using a semi-auto, and is drawn with her finger extended further than the DIP.

    1. avatar JohnS says:

      Sorry, any double-action is what I meant, but the software won’t let me edit.

  9. avatar RC says:

    She’s probably forgotten more about pistol trigger control than most of us know.

    That sample image is of SSG Kimberly Kolb-Eakin who shot service pistol for the AMU where she broke eight national shooting records (four of which still stand according to the NRA). Her trigger control technique clearly works for her.

    In my opinion, a good firearms instructor should be able to teach the “standard” fundamentals well. Likewise, a shooter should be able to employ those fundamentals. But, if the instructor and/or shooter focuses on the “standard” fundamentals over actual performance, they may never reach their full potential.

    I’m sure that an instructor at some point taught her the “standard” fundamentals when it came to trigger control. There’s a chance that her method worked better for her and, thankfully, she used her method to great success.

      1. avatar NineShooter says:

        And in the picture linked above, she looks to be shooting a match .22 conversion unit atop a Beretta M9 frame, which might help explain the finger placement in this particular case.

        The long reach required to activate the Beretta’s DA trigger stroke leaves the shooter with a poor grip/hand position to shoot the subsequent rounds in SA mode. Many people have compromised by optimizing their grip for the DA first shot, and then adapting their finger placement on the trigger (using much more finger than normal, vs shifting the hand position) for the subsequent SA shots.

        Good “find”, BillC.

    1. avatar NineShooter says:

      RC makes a great point, which also explains the importance of why we should be teaching the THEORY of trigger control (making the gun fire without disturbing the sight picture), along with the practice. There is more than one way to accomplish this task, and teaching the basic theory, along with the current conventional method and several alternate methods, is what allows shooters to move forward by trying and discarding or adopting different techniques (or eventually, even creating one of their own).

      No one has ever made a breakthrough by blindly adopting and using old techniques, but it’s even more important to note that “new” does not automatically equal “better”, and I see a lot MORE folks making that mistake nowadays.

  10. avatar JohnF says:

    The drawing is clearly wrong, but it’s a drawing in a coloring book, for heaven’s sake! It’s not meant to illustrate technique.

    I get so sick of gun “experts” who take any pretext to proclaim that there is only one right way to do something. I qualified way into expert level in the military with both revolver and auto and competed National Match on a military team, both .45 and .22. Trigger finger placement is individual and it depends on the gun. Double action is naturally different than single action. Trigger pull weight is a factor. The bottom line is whatever it takes to get a good, smooth squeeze backward with minimal lateral movement. If you look carefully at the pictures of great shooters, you will see variations.

    The idea that if you can’t do finger placement on the trigger some instructor’s way, you should get a different gun is ridiculous. Some people shoot what they are issued. Most people feel that there are other factors to consider when choosing a gun.

    1. avatar Tile floor says:

      Well, the article is a part of the guns for beginners series. The general consensus of firearms instructors seems to corroborate what RF is saying, and it it works for the majority of people, beginners should probably start with “textbook proper” technique and tweak it from there. I don’t have an issue with the article.

  11. avatar peirsonb says:

    Had a guy at the range yesterday (former marine rifle instructor, though I just met and take that kind of thing with a grain of salt) tell me I was pulling because I had too much finger on my AR. I was WELL past the joint, way out to the end. He told me it was still too much, that I should be hooking my finger back toward me and using the very tip (phrasing…).

    It didn’t sound right, and felt even weirder, but I did quit pulling shots.

    I’m willing to try almost any technique once, but I can’t find a single thing on the interwebs supporting that.

    1. avatar W says:

      The goal is a clean release. That can be accomplished with a wide variety of trigger finger positions. Moving a finger position is a “quick fix” for a bad release. But it is not the only fix.

      I shoot with a lot of finger and achieve excellent results. I would be reluctant to change geometry to something awkward when another solution (focusing on a smooth release) does the same thing.

      1. avatar NineShooter says:

        ^ This, this, a thousand times this!

  12. avatar W says:

    Brian Zins tosses the BS flag on trigger finger location.
    “The trigger should be centered in the first crease of the trigger finger.”

    Of course, some will prefer Chris Cheng’s advice to that of Brian Zins.
    After all, wasn’t Cheng the guy who said, “don’t use the Rob Leatham stance.”

  13. avatar Russell says:

    No colonel sanders you are wrong. To say that the finger placement is wrong is critiquing a technique. Like saying weaver is wrong and only isosceles is right. The AMU teaches that technique. Google them and look at the pics of them shooting, they all have their fingers hooked way round the trigger. They teach to put your finger in the well and let it fall naturally. So one instructor has their way and another has theirs. Oh and im pretty sure that their titles and match wins will far exceed any person you claim teaches different. Remember techniques are not law. Trigger control equates to firing the weapon without moving it. As long as you do that it makes no difference where your damn finger is. Oh and their technique will make your trigger feel lighter and easier to pull, and feel more natural.

  14. avatar Gregolas says:

    Excellent graphic seminar ! Very helpful !
    Thanks RF !

  15. avatar Ryan S. says:

    I have big hands, I shoot many guns with the pad of my finger just fine, except for my LCR, which I have fired extensively, and I’ve found that I get the best groups shooting at the joint of my index finger. I never shot it well until I stopped trying to shoot it like my large guns. There just isn’t enough room from the back of the grip to the trigger face for me to pI’ll the trigger strait pad reliably on the pad. Is it bad to conform to the gun? I don’t know.

    1. avatar TXGungal says:

      Finger placement on revolver different than finger placement on semiauto pistol. On a revolver, especially snub nose like Ruger LCR, proper placement is crease of trigger finger ,with full pad contact in order to pull trigger straight back. If you have large hand or long fingers, change out stock to alternate after market grip long thick enough to support pinkie finger. I have 22lr, 9mm and 38 LCR with after market grips. Also it is vital to learn & practice point shooting, self defense has no time for range practice lining up a shot, proper stance.

  16. avatar FormerWaterWalker says:

    I tried to use correct technique. I couldn’t. So I concentrated on gripping the hell outa’ my pistol. And it worked even though I used my finger joint-and really well. I also tried keeping both eyes open-couldn’t handle it.Got blurry and lost focus ’cause I’m old(I don’t wear bifocals yet). I’m well aware of proper technique too…SEE: Jerry Michulek with the electric finger.

  17. avatar Frank in VA says:

    The shooter obviously just had her nails done in glossy FDE and didn’t want to mess up the polish.

  18. avatar formerwaterwalker says:

    Sorry I can’t shoot with the pad. I use the joint with great success- I grip the hell outa’ it. And I tried. I also tried keeping both eyes open-can’t do it due to age. I get blurry and lose focus. No bifocals yet. And I’m aware of proper technique… SEE: Jerry Michulek-the man with the electric finger.

  19. avatar formerwaterwalker says:

    Sorry I can’t shoot with the pad. I use the joint with great success- I grip the hell outa’ it. And I tried. I also tried keeping both eyes open-can’t do it due to age. I get blurry and lose focus. No bifocals yet. And I’m aware of proper technique… SEE: Jerry Michulek-the man with the electric finger.

  20. avatar Roymond says:

    There’s more than just small hands and big hands that make a difference in finger placement: you missed damaged hands.

    Thanks to an injury to my left hand which nearly cost me my thumb, when I shoot left-handed my trigger finger no longer pulls the way it used to, and I’ve had to re-learn technique. The same is true of my right hand, due to a different sort of injury. Additionally, a veteran I know uses a different finger placement now than he used to due to severe arthritis in his fingers.

    Which is to say it’s all very nice to have an ideal theory of finger placement on a trigger, but it has to yield to the practicality of the hand and finger in question.

  21. avatar mark s. says:

    Man ol man am I glad to see this post , I wish it was a regular , particularly on the gun size . It is so important to get the correct size grip for your hand size . I am a fairly large man with exceptionally large hands and there are few smaller pistols that are a correct fit for me and finger placement on the trigger is so vital for consistency . I have worked with countless people on this issue , including my wife(s) and my kids . Your grip must be natural and finger alignment must be natural also , just as this article says and finally the squeeze . Everyone knows here about good triggers and I will agree , a bad trigger can mess with accuracy , particularly on your larger caliber heavier pistols , but a good trigger technique can overcome most any trigger , I will usually get people I work with to practice on out of the box .22 caliber springer air guns , different experience but useful in teaching the importance of feeling between the finger and the trigger . Anyone who has ever worked with a woman when she is first learning to shoot will usually be amazed at their natural shooting accuracy if fitted with the proper grip size , because they hold the weapon so firmly . Anyway , I appreciate the post and agree that those folks who wrap their fingers around the triggers pull the weapon to the left right handers and to the right left handers . It can be overcome of coarse but it isn’t natural . you shouldn’t have to think about it so much . I like larger grips from larger pistols but I hate the weight so I’ve settled into my PMR just fine , I have no trust issues and I have complete trust in 29 rounds of 22 WMR and the weight , well lets just say , nothing can compare .

  22. Hello! This is the Kimberly, the person in the photo. This is my author picture in my newly-released adult coloring book, Full Metal Coloring (for veterans, hunters and shooters). With all due respect, what you see here is my unique trigger finger placement for my unique physical composition for this particular type of competition with this particular gun. I agree that the norm for trigger finger placement is not what you see here. But it definitely worked for me.*

    After LOTS of trial and error, 1,000s of hours of range time, and many discussions with fellow shooters, this technique evolved into a successful one for me. Me alone.

    The KEY to trigger control for me is squeezing the trigger to the rear in a smooth, consistent fashion shot after shot after shot. IMO, follow through (or lack thereof) is responsible for most shots out of the ten ring.

    Again, the technique you see above is NOT for beginners, nor intermediate shooters. I taught scores of soldiers over my 20 year military career and I never told any of them to place their finger where you see mine in this picture. This is a very advanced technique that worked for me.

    BTW, I feel comfortable being criticized publicly for this. I’m not insulted in the least. I LOVE the fact that we are talking about the Fundamentals of Marksmanship. I can totally “geek out” on them. In fact, all I did everyday for over 5 years was practice shooting, journal about shooting, talk about shooting and compete in shooting competitions with the All Army Shooting Team. What a great time of my life!

    *I broke several National records in outdoor pistol competition, many of which still stand today.

    1. avatar NineShooter says:

      Kimberly, thanks for giving us some background on your use of that particular technique. And congratulations on your successes in those very tough discipline(s). I only shot that style of competition a few times, and watched a few state-level matches while working with other shooters, but that was enough to make it clear to me how difficult it would be to get into the top group of those Nationally-ranked competitors — and stay there. You have my total respect.

  23. avatar mark s. says:

    I always say first and foremost is what works for you best is what you should do , sometimes it’s better not to advise someone on a technique at all . Some of the greatest basketball and golf shot makers have had incredibly awkward form and I can recall a few side armed quarterbacks that won a championship along the way , so my first thing that I do when I’m working with a new shooter is let them shoot the firearm naturally and observe for safety and form . I will let a person run 10 -20 full sets at target letting them make their own adjustments between sets while I only observe . I have had numerous instances where they will intuitively make their own correct adjustments at the end of their 20th set and all I need to do is encourage them to keep practicing , maybe offer just a couple tweaks . I always talk the fundamentals before I start a session which includes trigger pull but just like in working with a golf swing , you need to be able to sense a persons natural tendencies and incorporate your knowledge into these if you want someone to enjoy what they are doing enough to continue to do it .
    Just my theories and practices , everyone is different and every gun is a little different and like I said earlier , a personal carry gun should be carefully chosen or conformed to fit your grip and hand size , a natural comfortable grip and finger placement is really important .

  24. Well written.  Thanks for attaching that diagnostic target.  I used my last one and forgot where I found it at.  Now I can print more of them.  ??

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