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Over at, Tim reckons that many if not most people will screw the proverbial pooch when it comes to maintaining trigger control under stress. “Anyone who has run force-on-force scenarios for a while could probably fill a book with observations of trigger checking. People think they might need to shoot in the very near future and the trigger finger snaps right to the trigger without them even really knowing it’s happening. The possibility of shoot forms in their mind and their body responds to take the shot. I’ve caught myself doing the exact same thingIt’s natural. That’s why you have to train so carefully to stop it from happening.” I’ve done it (in training). How confident are you that you’ll keep your booger finger off the bang switch when you clear leather? That you’ll make sure of your target and what’s beyond it? Keep your gun pointed in a safe direction at all times? How ready are you for a DGU? 

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  1. Have not ever had a DGU so I really couldnt say. Hope to never have a DGU so I could say.

  2. I think a lot of inadvertent trigger-checking comes from HOW we teach people to “keep your finger off the trigger”

    It’s a subtle thing, but keeping your finger OFF of the trigger is pretty vague. In the absence of clear direction as to where the finger should be (when not on the trigger), the finger is just “somewhere” … which morphs pretty quickly under stress into “somewhere NEAR the trigger” … and then it goes where it goes.

    Direction to place the finger somewhere certain … indexed along the frame, on the edge of the ejection port, etc. … with a tactile confirmation, serves to better ingrain good habits.

    • good point. have also gotten tip on how training to confirm hammer position,with thumb, on holster, draw, helps same safety.

    • Ya’ never know ’til ya’ know.

      In the Army and in the academy trigger discipline was never given great emphasis except for how to place pressure for a smooth pull action without jerking the weapon. Straight trigger finger safety either was not addressed or I wasn’t paying close enough attention; I think it was the former, but that was long ago in the early and mid-70’s.

      I had to learn trigger finger safety/discipline the hard way, and with near tragic results. Fortunately there was no discharge, and that lesson learned is emblazoned in my brain, never to be forgotten.

  3. I think I’ll be good until I hear them get close or turn a corner or otherwise get close to shooting. Other than that I’ll be fine.

  4. Hey Mr Dark Sunglasses. Stop at the local FD and they will show you what a wind breaker is. Will help out until the laminated side windows arrive.

  5. OK, I’m going to go ahead and give a big thumbs up to the Iowa police officers in that video. Talk about firearms discipline under stress – those guys are professionals.

    • Actually, it appears around 1:07 that the officer on the right NDs when he switches the gun to his right hand. Prior to that he kept his finger off the trigger.

        • Didn’t notice it either.

          You have to wonder if it would have happened if it wasn’t such a short, light trigger pull (I’m guessing he was carrying a Glock).

      • Check out the cop on the left side of the screen though – he doesn’t even flinch when the gun goes off. He doesn’t overreact or start firing his gun, he just calmly looks to the officer on the right. Balls of steel.

  6. For the record, it’s “booger hook”, not “booger finger”.

    As to the question, I suspect in a high-stress, adrenaline dump, life-or-death DGU situation, a lot of the training and discipline goes by the wayside. Trigger discipline should be one of the easier things to control, if you train yourself to index your trigger finger to some tactile feature of the gun, so you have some subconscious feedback that it’s in the right place. Muzzle discipline and “know your backstop” will likely be the first to go, as all your attention focuses on the threat.

    • You don’t know for sure what you’ll do when confronted with a high risk situation and the adrenaline surges until you actually experience it.

      The best you can do is train yourself by repeated practice, going through the physical motions to develop strong muscle memory to help guide you during your anticipated reaction/tactics to a likely event. That and try to maintain good SA and stay ‘detached’.

      You never know how you will actually react to a high stress confrontation though…until you do. Perception and fear are major drivers of your response, but you’ll be too busy dealing with the threat to realize it until afterwards.

  7. This is one of the best questions/thoughts posted here. Definitely something to think about when training and teaching others. I’ve noticed that when teaching a person totally new to firearms, that their finger immediately goes on the trigger. It’s what they learn from TV, although more recent shows and movies are getting much better about trigger discipline.

    As for me personally? I hope I maintain proper trigger discipline under severe stress, but I also hope I never have to find out. I’m too old and too crippled up and too fat and slow for force on force training, (read: I don’t feel like being shot 47 times with simunitions or paintballs as I hobble to find cover while the tacticool instructor uses me to point out what a great operator he is to the other students)

  8. Proper training, proper training AND the mental fortitude to keep your poise under stress. Some have the mental toughness to remain focused under pressure, some can’t no matter the amount of training. There seemed to be some confusion on the officers part between switching from his sidearm and his baton. A few pages of paperwork for him for the ND.

  9. I plan on not drawing my weapon unless I plan to shoot it. Shortly thereafter, I will be running like Hell, unless there’s other family members that need my help.

  10. This is a really good topic, and I’ve asked and gotten diffferent answers from different and HIGHLY experienced trainers, LEO and MIL, and I think you have to take a different approach for each, because they operate in different regimes, with different ROEs.

    And then, modify that for youself, as a civilian, for your HD or personal protection of yourself, while CCW, outside the home.

    So, I’d like to hear, from those who have thought this thru….and practice it same way, each time…
    when does YOUR booger picker go on the bang switch, off index next to slide…

    As you bring gun up on target? After sight alignment? After shoot/no-shoot? (like pop ups of civilian vs bad goy target…friend or foe? clear background?)

    Where does “imminent” come into it? (ability, opprtunity, jeopardy)

    Before or after the verbal warning? “I have a gun and will shoot you if you come closer”.

    • Add in night lights and lasers, and other hand shooting,
      and which finger turns what, on, when, and you see the potential for confusuin, and a deadly mistake, if you dont…


      Because you will go to muscle memory when your monkey brain takes over…

      • And I’d like to hear from hunters….

        If you are wing-shooting dove, vs hods at night in TX scrub, vs elk across the valley…its a different set of decisions, and when does your finger come off index?

        not a lotta time for “BRASS” in point shooting from the hip when you are confronted at your SUV in the mall parking lot, while out Christma shopping with the wife..

        So your gun habits CAN help, or harm….
        So you gotta get your head in the right game, before you play, right?

        • Your questions got me thinking. Hunting.
          When upland bird shooting, I’ll be walking up to a covey of chukar or pheasant hunting, I’m at a low ready and finger is indexed on the side of the trigger. But I’ve got my quarry in front of me, and miles of range land past that.
          Gotta be quick on chukar. Doubles are a rarity.
          Over a decade of chasing those devils on hills that have a 45 degree angle, chock full of shale and dried cheat grass. I still have not had an AD. I’ve taken plenty of spills too.

        • Thanks Tom great story.
          Reason I mention hunting is I get the feeling there might be some out there going from hunting habits to mor focus on HD. As we get older, or the neighborhood ages, that would be expected, and you wouldn’t want to shoot the new neighbors teenager when he’s stumbled home from his first kegger, and is pounding on the door to get in, or worse, has got in and is falling over the furniture in the living room still too drunk to realise he is in the wrong house….

          Same the other way…I’d guess there are some vets, or the new generations of gun owners who came to guns, wiyhiut learning from a da how to hunt safely.

          And while I’d feel a LOT more safe around a recently trained Marine, than some OFWG hunters I know, there are still places where your trained habits might not work, and shared understandings about how you carry and trigger discipline, on the in-brief, in the pickup truck driving in at oh dark thirty to the blind, or better, the day before whike sighting in, would go a lon way to avoiding tragedies.

          I did some reading after taking my first mandatory Hunter Safety class in CA a few years ago, and found a DFG website showing dry stats on hunting accidents, who shot who…pretty sad when you imagine the tragic family story, 15 yr old boy victim 80 yr old man shooter….crossing fence, etc.

    • When to put finger in trigger guard?
      Having taught leos for a long time, and civvies for a short time, here’s my answer —
      It depends. On highly trained “tactical” shooters (as opposed to “all leos or mil operators”), it’s more likely for a hasty trigger finger to do a trigger slap to ruin a surgical shot (eg: hostage or suicide bomber CNS shot) than it is for a sympathetic trigger squeeze pumping a round into your partner’s leg in front of you. Therefore, such a highly trained professional shooter can afford to carefully finger the trigger on the extension. Such a shooter has practiced doing that hundreds of times, under training stress and in FoF scenarios. But, with all other shooters, the downside of NDs resulting in bad shoots is too high, and those shooters should not finger triggers until front sight is on the threat and they’re ready to fire.

    • “when does YOUR booger picker go on the bang switch, off index next to slide”

      When it needs to. You’ll know.

  11. From my limited experience, the issue was shooting at something before you could see it and have verified that it is hostile or your target. The second one is that in the excitement you forget how close people are to you as you shoot.

    Cheers. This is a great topic.

  12. I was actually there last week. I work as a non uniformed armed security offiicer. I was leaving a photo studio setup in a warehouse in a rather unsavory part of Miami FL-carrying a briefcase containing jewelry. I had a trusted armed partner with me who spotted the unsavory quartet approaching us as we neared my partner’s car. He bobbed his head-I took the cue and we both cleared leather. He clicked his remote and jumped behind the wheel and started the car. I backed into the passengerseat left hand on briefcase right hand holding
    my SR9 having clicked off the safety yet my index finger was on the slide not the trigger as I watched for the next move from the guys. Thankfully once they saw steel arms went up as one yelled out “WTF”. We pulled out of that block went back to the better part of the Magic City-and returned the goods to the jewelry store. Yes, when I put my pistol back in its place-I was perspiring profusely, as was my partner, but we walked away from that experience without having to touch the bang switch. That only came about due to practicing scenarios as much as possible. We had a cool story to share with the store staff when we got back and returned to each of our families. All is well that ends well.

  13. I once had hot brass bounce off a wall and land inside my glasses while I was on the firing line.

    The bad: I started, for a split second, to reach for my face with the hand that was holding the gun. My finger was touching the trigger.

    The good: The barrel was never pointed anywhere but down range. I quickly got enough composure to set the gun down and pull my glasses away from my face with my other hand.

    So, certainly a failure on some safety protocol, but retained at least some training (keeping the gun pointed down range). Certainly a learning experience.

    • Seen people come close to stuff like this at the range if while in the process of shooting they need to move stuff around (outdoors, can be pretty windy). I always set down the firearm if I need to rearrange stuff and weight things so they don’t move around anyway.

  14. I drew my handgun a few weeks ago when a bicyclist tried to break in my driver door window while screaming about how he was going to kill me. My trigger finger went right to the side of the frame, my offhand thumb cocked the trigger instinctively. And I had a nice high grip with my offhand rotated adequately forward.

  15. Under stress, the thinking brain stops working and the animal instinct takes over. The whole purpose of “civilian” training — which includes us and cops — is to create a set of learned responses that will stand us in good stead when the brain stops working.

    It would be much better to train the thinking brain to keep working optimally even when under stress, but that takes so much time and money that only the military can afford it and even then only on a very limited basis for a limited number of top troops.

    A mind is a terrible thing.

    • I agree that under real stress and the “pucker factor” that you really suffer from the adrenaline dump as I came close to a DGU when I had 3 guys contemplating breaking into my house. You have to really force yourself to slow down and think. I think some advice from a Vietnam Vet friend helped on mastering stressful situations with a gun; in that he recommended working on slowing down and forcing yourself to think things through and concentrating on the developing situation before you.

  16. I’ve found that after eight years in the Marines, my finger has an adverse reaction towards going anywhere near the trigger unless I’m about to shoot. Because of using an M16 for so long, I’m more comfortable using weapons that have a manual safety. In my mind, If I have to make the decision to shoot, my thumb instinctively moves down as my finger moves from the frame to the trigger of the weapon. It’s all one motion to me. Back in Iraq, if I was on a patrol and had to shoot, it was a more complex set of movement which went like this.
    1. Begin sweeping muzzle from Alert carry to ready.
    2. As muzzle comes up, sweep annoying eye protection from face (which were fogged up and sweaty) with my support hand.
    3. Bring support hand down to hand guard of weapon.
    4. Thumb pushes down on selector switch and finger seeks out trigger.
    5. engage.

    Now that I’m a civilian and don’t have to worry about sweeping off eye pro, it’s that much faster. It’s amazing what a few years of having senior Marines yelling “HEY BOOT! GET YOUR FINGER OFF THE DAMN TRIGGER” will do. I firmly believe that twenty years from now I’ll probably still not have to worry about it.

  17. Yes.

    Recently a had an encounter with some method up psycho. I was stopped at a left turn in traffic and couldn’t move the car any direction at the time. He was trying to get into my car and screaming “I’m gonna f***ing kill you!” right up to and past the point where I drew my Glock 19 and pointed it at his face (it was the most visible part of his body). I yelled at him to get back but he was so high I don’t even think he noticed the gun in my hand.

    I kept my finger off the trigger the whole time. Part of it was that I was looking for an opportunity to drive away (which is what eventually happened after he did his best to yank my door open) and partially because I knew if my round over penetrated or I missed that there was the possibility of it hitting traffic or a business.

    The day ended without me plugging him, the police were called, and I didn’t have t fire a shot. If you practice the 4 rules enough they’ll become second nature. Keeping a cool head is the real trick though.

  18. Ever pull a driver out of their car after a high speed chase after driving wrong way? It’s an ugly affair. The last “lady” I pulled out was 220-230 pounds. That isn’t to say that I forgive the negligent discharge. There just isn’t a clean and tidy way to remove an uncooperative / combative driver from a car. It’s either a fight, tear gas, taser, patrol dog, etc.

    Our sirens automatically shut off when we put our patrol cars into park. It allows for much better communication, which could have been an issue here. I don’t get why other police agencies set their cars up otherwise – probably because of some fat chief who sits in an air conditioned office all day telling stories of his greatness. Not many with actual street sense manage to promote.

  19. Im 99.999% confident that may finger will stay off the trigger until i need to shoot in a stressful situation, but we are all human and thus prone to make mistakes every once in a while.

  20. The one who did the best was the one off the front left bumper. He was cool the entire time, even when Deputy Fife ND’d (who gave him real bullets?) Would have been great had he shown greater leadership and translated his calm into directions to the other two, though.

    Passenger side guy needs all kinds of remedial training, starting with not ND’ing. He could’ve hit a passenger, the driver, or another officer. With a ricochet or fragmentation, he could have hit himself. Had the other officers not realized who had fired, they might have unloaded on the vehicle occupant(s). He needs to butch up and swing for the fences next time to smash that window, too.

    Even the driver side officer needs extra training. It’s foolish to try to struggle to extricate the driver with only one hand, while the other hand aims his weapon. That just risks his own ND and makes the struggle last longer, which is dangerous for everyone. The other two can point guns, while he grapples with the driver or, better yet, sprays him. Though his finger is properly positioned along the frame, as opposed to across the trigger guard, he does appear to muzzle the passenger side officer throughout.

    • I always wondered if, in this kind of “circle the bad guy” situation, the police have training on not shooting each other. At the beginning of the stop the front bumper officer is pointing his gun at the passenger side officer, and for most of the stop the passenger side officer and driver side officer are pointing guns at each other. When the ND happens, the passenger side officer could easily have shot through the car and hit either one of his partners.

  21. Go play some shooting sport, as in IDPA, USPSA or 3Gun. You will quickly learn via negative reinforcement that the finger is out of the trigger guard until you are shooting. At least, expect to be yelled at by the RO. Do it again, and your match is done and you are going home for the day. Yes, this is not self defense training but you will learn to keep the finger off the trigger.

    • great tip, James. You need a second set of eyes to see your own bad habits sometimes. And getting yelled at is a lot easier than a lifetime of regret for one dumb mistake.

  22. According to the video’s description, the driver had some kind of a medical issue. I realize the officers probably didn’t know this immediately, but this makes the officer’s ND even more irresponsible.

  23. I decided to try trap shooting a year or so ago and to make things right, I got a class from a professional before I bought my first shotgun. The emphasis was “Finger on the trigger” at all times… This really didn’t feel right and it started messing up my general trigger discipline. I started dreading trap shooting because of this as deep inside I started feeling guilty for violating a cardinal law. A month ago I had enough and sold my shotgun, along with my shell catcher, shells, side pouch – in short anything to do with trap shooting… Possibly I should have sought for another professional opinion but I didn’t… Back to rifles & guns I think…

  24. I have done a good job of it so far in stressful situations.

    Rivera, it’s funny you mention the eye pro thing, every time I have some the same thing

  25. I had this same thought the other day. The truth is I don’t know for certain, but I worry I’d go right to trigger checking. Time for some more training…

  26. I’ve actually put the 8 lb NY spring in my EDC Glock because of this concern. If anything ever happens, I’m pretty sure the 8 lbs is going to feel like 8 ounces.

  27. I’m confident. I’ve had a few “false alarms” at night with the instant home alarm setting. I don’t normally home carry but got to a gun within 5 seconds. Finger always off the trigger but shouldered and ready, even with adrenaline and stress. Second nature.

  28. Much as some around here hate to hear it…if your “training” consistst of putting a couple boxes of ammo through your handgun on a square range a few times a month, if that often, you are not preparing for a stressful situation.

    Get out to a dynamic range with a lot of timed drills, with as much stress as can be added by added “features” like yelling, screaming, gunfire around you and then, train, train, train and train some more.

    The only way to “stress proof” yourself (if that is even possible) is to load as much stress into your training as possible.

  29. The officer who ND’d was sort of a victim of multi-tasking here. He drew with his right hand, from a right-handed holster, but then transitioned the gun to his left when he grabbed the baton with his right hand to bash in the window.

    Hard to say, but I’ll bet this kind of scenario isn’t covered in training – but it IS well known that sympathetic muscle activity is likely to cause the muscles in one hand to do what the same ones in the other hand are doing. So, when he choked up on the baton to smash glass, he likely didn’t keep his weak hand trigger finger indexed, and kaboom!

    In this particular case, the answer wasn’t trigger discipline, so much as he probably should have put the pistol away when he decided to draw the baton. Juggling an impact weapon and a pistol at the same time seems a recipe for disaster. The perp was well-covered by the other officers, so Officer Andy (Officer ND, get it?) could have pretty safely holstered his piece and whaled away on the window.

  30. Trigger discipline went out the window with popularity of DA/SA and Glock style triggers. They give a false sense of security that they have enough resistance to prevent you from pulling the trigger unless “you really mean it.” Anybody who learned to shoot with a SA only pistol was taught to keep your finger off the trigger until you “identified your target and [hopefully] what’s beyond it.” You should only be putting finger on the trigger when you intend to fire. I have only drawn my gun once with the the belief that I was going to have to use it. As far as my brain and body were concerned it was real. My finger was where it was supposed to be just as I had been taught more than 40 years ago. Turned out to be a false alarm.

    A lot of people talk training when what they really mean is taking a class. Training is an ongoing and continuous activity. If you think training is merely showing up at Dave Kenik’s place for a couple of days a year then you are fooling yourself. Like a new car leaving the lot your skills begin to depreciate as soon as you walk out of the facility. If you don’t keep current then your skills will quickly run down. Trigger discipline is a skill that can be easily learned and maintained. My suggestion is that even if your primary gun is a Glock buy an inexpensive 1911 and practice not shooting with it.

    • practice “not shooting” with it…best tip yet.
      Suggestions on when? Mental drills, scenario, with a couple dry fires, malf checks, before going to bed, you know…checking door loscks, lights, dog door closed, kids tucked in…

      Slice the pue, where is cover, what light switch does what, clearing house once a week,
      or taking the time to stop by a deserted empty parking lot, and practice getting in, and out of the car at the mall. (seems to be pretty common for carjacking, mugging, and how?

      Anyone have luck with the Laserlyte or other targets that give feedback?

      I agree, trainiing is perishable. Fun as it was I cant remember half of what I learned at the couple of different combat shotgun courses, and need to find a place to go once a month to actually shoot and scoot, wiyhout it being a formal IDPA deal.

    • “Anybody who learned to shoot with a SA only pistol was taught to keep your finger off the trigger until you “identified your target and [hopefully] what’s beyond it.” You should only be putting finger on the trigger when you intend to fire”

      Captain Obvious to the rescue.

      • This from a guy who practices draw, shoot, replace repeat. A sure formula for a ND or blue on blue engagement. I guess it’s not so obvious to the Reverend after all.

        • You don’t have the slightest clue about what “I practice.” You are just embarassing yourself with your pretentiously obvious advice.

          Your assertion that “trigger discipline” went out the window with DA/SA pistols and Glocks is nothing short of stupid.

  31. Here’s a new technique inspired by TTAG terminology: Just place a booger on the bang switch and your booger hook won’t even want to touch it. Yuck! Better yet, forever eliminate these gawdawful terms from the English language and keep your finger off the trigger in the meantime.

  32. There has to be a need to draw before my hand ever goes to my firearm. At that stage, I imagine I would be:

    1. Reacting to a threat (ie. some sort of deadly weapon)
    2. In fear for my life
    3. In fear for someone else’s life
    4. Focusing on the weapon and the threat’s intent and opportunity to cause harm to myself or others

    Sure, it’s a little simplistic and bordering on the “if my gun is coming out, it’s coming out shooting” mentality, but that makes a little more sense than taking my gun out prematurely and then having a whole bunch of other problems to deal with if I didn’t think it through before I drew.

    By the time I decide to clear kydex, my decision tree better be pretty simple:

    A) The threat has presented itself and is attacking which means I’m coming out shooting / evading to survive the attack or follow up attacks (in which case my finger will be on the trigger) and I’ll be performing a fire-from-retention action until the threat is no longer a threat, at which point I’ll be going through all the other motions (seeking cover, assessing for more threats, calling 911, checking myself or holes, etc.)


    B) The threat is imminent but I have an opportunity to preemptively stop an attack before it starts. In this case, my action will be issuing verbal commands and my finger will (hopefully) not be on the trigger.

    Scenario A assumes I’m already being attacked and in fear for my life. In which case, I’m coming out shooting. A lot of mental decisions have been made before my decision to draw my firearm (including the need and justification to shoot). Self-explanatory.

    Scenario B assumes I’m ahead of the curve and am presenting my firearm to (hopefully) stop / dissuade an imminent attack.

    I really doubt I’ll be in some sort “search” scenario with my firearm out and looking for a threat. That’s inserting myself into a bad bad situation — something I’ll likely want to avoid altogether. I believe that’s what SWAT and the police are paid and training to do — so leave that to them. If I have to do that sort of action myself, well that’s a very unique set of circumstances.

    Granted, I’m a single guy, no kids, no one to really to protect (aside from friends or family), but we don’t typically spend time with stupid people doing stupid things in stupid places, so the scenario where I will have my firearm out and assessing or clearing an area for any threats is slim to none.

    Sure, like most people on here, I try to be aware of my surroundings, and that’s about all I can do.

    What may be more important than obsessing about booger finger problems is everything that led up to you drawing your firearm in the first place. If you are having to make complex decisions after your firearm is out, you’re in a pretty bad situation. At which point, I hope you’ve had training and godspeed.

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