Trigger Reset – Understanding the Process and Practicing the Right Sequence

Walther Creed trigger reset

JWT for TTAG

There are a variety of individual aspects that to shooting a gun which, when practiced and mastered, result in improved handgun accuracy. One of the most misunderstood and sometimes misused is trigger reset.

The Basics

Trigger reset is the part of the trigger return process after firing during which the sear is re-engaged as the trigger is released, allowing for the gun to fire the next round. This allows for a subsequent shot or follow-up shot.

Here’s what that looks like inside the gun:

The biggest mistake I see in my classes is when students are in a hurry to come off the trigger. If the student’s finger tends to come flying off the trigger after a shot, they were more than likely slapping the trigger to begin with. That negatively affects accuracy.

The moment your trigger finger breaks physical contact with the trigger shoe, you will either 1) take a running start again and slap the trigger shoe for the next shot or 2) have to take extra time, no matter how minuscule, to place your finger correctly back on the trigger, apply enough pressure to eliminate the take-up, then apply a little bit more to break the next shot. All of that while disturbing your sight alignment as minimally as possible.

Many shooters think the faster they reset, the faster they can fire the next shot. There is some truth to that, but you can only shoot as fast as your sight alignment dictates, assuming you are a proponent of sighted fire.

It does no good to be in a hurry to reset your trigger if your technique slows you down while you get your sights back on target. I promise that it takes more time to confirm a good sight picture than it does to reset the trigger.

The Right Sequence

I encourage my students to perform the technique in the correct sequence. You should start by first getting the gun back on target, confirm your sight picture, and then reset the trigger. That’s not the sequence many students naturally follow and it takes some training to think through it and practice to become routine.

A consequence of an improper sequence is the urgency to start applying pressure to the trigger. Once the trigger is reset, many students will start applying pressure before the gun is back on target or they have confirmed their sights. They will typically fire the next shot without one (if not both) of these being sorted out first.

Another problem we see is when folks fail to take up the slack in their trigger after the reset. They fail to move the trigger up against the sear wall. Once the trigger is against the sear wall, breaking the shot requires only slight pressure.

I subscribe to the process of elimination type corrective strategy. We identify and eliminate individual deficiencies in your technique. That tends to improve other areas of your technique at the same time for a bigger overall improvement.

It takes work to improve

Keep in mind you have to really engage the brain in this process. Many students are “tired” at the end of our training because they’ve had to think about the process throughout it, frequently for the first time. Thinking and mental engagement are exhausting. Our students tend to sleep well at night.

First off, acknowledge that it takes hard work to improve and achieve proficiency. There is no secret pill that will elevate you to rock star status. You have to put in the hours of blood, sweat and tears to earn the title marksman.

Too many folks look for the easy road. They settle for mediocre, focusing on all the “fun” things. That’s because the fun things are fun. Try to get past what’s fun and get to mastering of the fundamentals. Once you do that, you can truly improve your shooting.

Mental toughness

As I watch students perform I usually go for the low-hanging fruit first, one of the biggest of which is trigger reset. If I can get them to consistently and correctly apply solid trigger reset skills many of the other problems they may be having with accuracy have a good chance of solving themselves.

I can teach a monkey to pull a trigger, but it takes a more superior being to master the art of pulling the trigger more than once and doing it with accuracy. With a little thought about the process and some practice, you can be a superior being, too.

 

Jeff Gonzales is a former US. Navy SEAL and preeminent weapons and tactics instructor. He brings his Naval Special Warfare mindset, operational success and lessons learned unapologetically to the world at large. Currently he is the Director of Training at The Range at Austin. Learn more about his passion and what he does at therangeuastin.com.

comments

  1. avatar napresto says:

    Being very deliberate about the trigger reset (essentially following the advice in this article) really improved my aimed shooting. I have noticed, as I work on becoming fast AND accurate, that I have had to make some adjustments to that very deliberate and somewhat slow technique. I have lately been working on resetting the trigger simultaneous to reaquiring the sight picture so that everything is ready to go as soon as I have a clean picture. It takes some getting used to, but when I do it right, really has a massive impact on how quickly and well I can shoot. Feels more like the so-called “running the gun” than a very deliberate approach for, say, un-timed marksmanship shooting.

    I won’t lie… I could be going about things the wrong way…

    1. avatar ChainsawWieldingManiac says:

      Here’s the dirty secret: the fastest competitive shooters in the world aren’t riding the reset. There is no possible way they could shoot like they do while doing it. What they’re concerned with is seeing that sight picture before pulling the trigger again. How far they let out the trigger is irrelevant as long as they’re not coming off the trigger entirely – and there are some amazing shooters who slap it like that, too.

      Glock convinced a lot of people that riding the reset by feeling that tactile click was good shooting practice. If you’re on the square range not on the clock shooting tiny groups… maybe it is. But otherwise, it’s actually bad technique that will hold you back. I had to learn it the hard way; don’t be like me.

  2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    Huh, I have never heard of holding the trigger all the way back after firing and continuing to hold the trigger there until you reacquire your sight picture and are ready to shoot again. That certainly guarantees that you cannot unintentionally fire a second shot even if you are using a semi-auto pistol with a light trigger and short reset.

    I don’t know how I feel about that technique. I do not seem to have any trouble with speed and accuracy on my semi-auto pistol even though it has a short reset and relatively light (5.5 pound or so) trigger. Even when I am moving and shooting in “shoot, don’t shoot” drills, I do fine with speed and accuracy and have never squeezed-off a shot that I did not intentionally want to fire.

    1. avatar Darkman says:

      I agree. The idea of holding the trigger until reacquiring the sight picture may be fine at the range. For beginners. In the case of a DGU it will cost way to much TIME if a second shot is required. A second of time is an eternity when your life is on the line. That being said I’ve been shooting for so long I don’t remember learning. Everyone has to start somewhere. Keep Your Powder Dry.

      1. avatar Anymouse says:

        The problem I have with this technique is that resetting the trigger after acquiring the sight picture can disturb the sight picture and cause you to acquire it again. Speed is eliminating unnecessary actions. Resetting during recoil is the goal, but it’s a more advanced technique. At the least, reset before trying to steady the sights.

  3. avatar Specialist38 says:

    I find the trigger resets when I let go of it. Then I pull it again to shoot another round.

    But then I learned to shoot with a double action revolver. If you can shoot a DA revolver well, even a Sigma is shootable.

    Since I have and carry both I guess I’m a Fudd.

    1. avatar Joel says:

      I always thought it strange that many of the same people who preach trigger reset also frown on DA/SA trigger systems because you have to learn two different trigger pulls.

      And I agree, once you have mastered shooting a DA revolver quickly, the rest is a walk in the park.

  4. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    I have never tried the author’s deliberate trigger reset technique and I have never heard from anyone who tried it. I am concerned (based strictly on intuition) that it would mess with someone’s “muscle memory”:
    (1) You would be training yourself to one trigger sequence which is only pulling your finger backwards.
    (2) You would be training yourself to a second trigger sequence which is pushing your finger forward and pulling your finger backward (for subsequent shots).

    In my experience, it is not a good idea to try and train your finger to do two different types of trigger function.

    Now, let us add the fact that we should be training that we do not always fire a shot when we draw. In some scenarios, we may decide that drawing and aiming without firing is a wise course of action. In those scenarios we have decided to NOT shoot and NOT shooting requires keeping your finger forward (toward the muzzle). However, after shooting at least once, NOT shooting would require keeping your finger reward (toward back of the handgun). Thus, our brain would have to sometimes keep our finger forward to NOT shoot and other times our brain would have to keep our finger rearward to NOT shoot. I personally think this is a really bad idea. It would be almost inevitable that a person under stress would lose track of whether their finger should be forward or rearward to NOT shoot.

    Am I off-track?

    1. avatar Binder says:

      Your not. In fact I see this all the time with IDPA. Shooters will run their race guns and then do a string with a carry gun and it is ugly. I’m guilty of this and now will ALWAYS run a carry gun for a match at least 1/3 of the time.

      Also, I have seen really good shooters slap the crap out of their trigger. They have learned to isolate finger moment from the grip on the gun, this it a goal that all people who are serious into defense should master.

    2. avatar techs says:

      I see it a little differently, coming from a background of 1911 single action. I’ve not been exposed to a lot of “modern” pistols, just my wife’s M&P 2.0 — so I don’t know about competition shooters, or Glocks, or all of that. The M&P is just a hammerless single action with a two-stage trigger, so I shoot it like one. The long first stage travel is quite soft, with a distinct firm endpoint with the second stage having very little additional travel. The start of the second stage is pretty much the same as the reset point.

      If I have a reason to unholster, anticipating use, the safety comes off, trigger finger indexes outside the trigger guard, and the muzzle is oriented safely — same as 1911. When I perceive a need to imminently apply lethal force (against animate or inanimate targets), the muzzle is oriented to the target, my finger gets on the trigger and takes up the first stage — same as 1911, except on the old pistol the finger just sits because it doesn’t need to go anywhere. At this point my target is in imminent peril with the trigger ready to go, but there may remain just a brief, risky moment while the sights are aligned and shoot or don’t is considered for the final instant — same as 1911. If shoot, then a slight press of the trigger sends a bullet away — same as 1911. If no shoot, finger lets up trigger and returns to index — same as 1911.

      After firing a shot, my finger goes back to where it belongs and I’m ready to continue or stop — reset in both 1911 and M&P is pretty much the same place. With neither pistol does the finger leave the trigger nor travel forward beyond the reset point until the need to shoot ends.

      I don’t think there are really two things to learn. What I get from the article is simply describing how to slow it all down enough to experience after the commotion of a shot that “reset” is actually a place which you can feel and which your finger can learn. Slow pressing the trigger allows you to experience the several things which may be happening before the bang. Without a slow letup after the shot, you probably won’t experience the several things which may be happening before the next bang. There’s no reason to stay slow once you learn where to turn around for the next shot, but without starting slow you may never observe that letting the trigger run all the way forward just wastes time and motion to get the next shot out.

  5. avatar barnbwt says:

    Glockfucius say, “trigger reset more important than trigger pull”

  6. avatar bob says:

    Not letting off and slapping the trigger I get and agree.

    But taking the time and mental capacity to find the reset and stop just as it clicks while finding a sight picture in a panic seems too detailed.
    Example of sounds better on paper.
    I would practice resetting full length without letting finger pressure off the trigger.
    By sitting right at reset you also set the user up for an accidental discharge if jumped or spooked during a DGU.

    1. avatar Napresto says:

      Like a lot of things with shooting, finding that exact reset spot is very deliberate at first, but muscle memory eventually turns it into a pretty automatic process. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t think at all about stopping the reset right after sear engagement… though I still have to consciously make myself start resetting during instead of after recoil (which makes me a kind of slow and deliberate, if reasonably accurate shooter).

      One of the things that bugs me about my Ruger LC9s is that the reset is rather subtle and long compared to most other guns I shoot, and the muscle memory never really works for me on that gun.

  7. avatar former water walker says:

    Well my lowly Taurus 709 has a pretty good very short reset. It seems most of the folks whining about Taurus’ trigger are clueless about the reset. And reading this article confirm’s my thinking. Now if you have a “shoot like Jerry Miculek” article coming😄😊😏

  8. avatar James says:

    Rob leatham just spoke about this on the vtacs pod cast. He said pinning the trigger and slowly reseting the trigger is dumb and only perpetuated by people regurgitating out dated info.

  9. avatar GS650G says:

    Try a walther PPQ if you want a reset that’s nearly instant.

  10. avatar General E. Senseless says:

    Now, this is just a shot in the dark, but “…assuming you are a proponent of sighted fire.”, does this mean I get to shoot with my eyes closed tight? I’m already deaf, my senses of smell and taste are pretty much shot. So I should be good to go.
    AIROAIR?

  11. avatar Gabes says:

    Great advice for new shooters just learning. I would tell experts to reset the trigger during the recoil cycle. That way, you’re ready to fire immediately once the sights are realigned. Takes practice, but is really the best and fastest way to do it.

    1. avatar Napresto says:

      It makes a world of difference for me, but it is a bit weird to get used to if you trained yourself to wait until after recoil to reset. I agree the wait is good advice for a novice, but also a technique to graduate from eventually.

  12. avatar Texican says:

    Pro shooters slap the trigger. Shooting Illustrated had an article on it Nov 2018. Comment software won’t let me post the link.

  13. avatar Paul says:

    Someone should at least show Mr. Youtube Teacup how to hold a pistol before posting a video. It kinda makes the rest of this worthless.

    1. avatar bontai Joe says:

      I had the very same thought.

  14. avatar tdiinva says:

    I suppose this might be the reason that I don’t shoot polymer pistols as well as a 1911. There is virtually no take up and a very short reset.

  15. avatar Grumpster says:

    Is this the “riding the reset” I read so much about? I have been shooting pistols for decades and have never done this. My finger lets the trigger out as soon as the shot breaks so I must be a slapper but that seems to work well for me and I have found good grip technique really helps with this. I also like to shoot a variety of pistols with longer resets to shorter resets. I believe Larry Vickers and Ernest Langdon discourage the pinning of the trigger back and then riding reset forward waiting for the “click”. In an actual SD shooting I don’t know how someone would have time for such but I won’t argue whatever someone has found to work for them.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Grumpster,

      I want to emphasize your well-founded caution about riding the reset of a semi-auto trigger for fast shooting. I have excellent “muscle memory” — perhaps too excellent. I shoot a semi-auto pistol (which has a really short reset) a lot. As a result, I don’t even have to put conscious thought into the trigger. I just know automatically how to squeeze and reset to fire off very fast, very accurate shots. And that was great until I recently went out and wanted to squeeze off some rapid-fire shots with a revolver. Guess what I did? My excellent “muscle memory” kicked-in and I did not always allow the trigger to fully reset on that revolver. And as anyone knows who shoots a revolver a lot: if you don’t allow the trigger to fully reset, nothing happens when you try to squeeze the trigger again. In fact I want to say that some revolvers could even lock-up the cylinder and render the revolver inoperable until you can sit down at a bench and fiddle with it for a minute or so.

      That experience — short cycling the trigger on a revolver — was a wake-up call that I should change my trigger technique if I ever plan on using other handguns in a real self-defense event. And that new technique will probably involve more exaggerated movement of my trigger finger, e.g. “slapping” the trigger.

      1. avatar Specialist38 says:

        Yep. I learned by dry firing and just holding the gun in my hand and moving just my index finger.

        After a while, it get more natural and easier to stroke the trigger without flexing you palm. You have to get past the “hand clench” to pull the trigger. This is why many newbies have a hard time hitting ….especially kids and women as they have less hand strength

        If does get tougher when arthritis sets in.

      2. avatar grumpster says:

        I hear you. My first center fire pistol was a Smith and Wesson 586 that I still own. Mostly shoot semi automatics these days and I have kept the habit of letting the trigger almost all the way out after the break and at 67 that is not going to change. As I mentioned a good grip really helps me stay on target. I like to dry fire once in a while using DA only using my SIG P226 and keep it on the target going at a pretty fast clip. Laser cartridge shows I am keeping it close to center of target. After that dry firing SA is a piece if cake.

    2. avatar Specialist38 says:

      In a DGU, I dont knowing you would hear a reset as much as feel it.

      I’d dont ride the reset. On a DA revolver, the rrigger return spring is pretty stout and will take you finger out if you release pressure a little.

      It is fun to watch Glock guys shoot an LCR though. The trigger spring is pretty light and riding the reset isms quick trip short stroke city.

      I figure in a DGU, the shots will be pretty fast and most won’t think about slooooowly releasing the trigger. I will spend my time focusing on the front sight and keeping it still when I stroke the “bang switch”.

  16. avatar Erotic Vulture says:

    I recently attended my first formal handgun training class (front site in Pahrump, NV) and they taught this. Trap the trigger back, reset, press…

    It was counter intuitive to me, but I am  completely self-taught so I didn’t know any different.

    I should say that I thought it was a great class, and I know I’m a better shooter after taking it. I just felt like trapping the trigger slowed me down. Training is probably the answer, no matter how you do it.

  17. avatar Sam I Am says:

    Tried to identify the “reset” posiiton on my peashooter. I can hear a click when releasing pressure on the triger…sitting at home in a quiet room. At the range, with others shootinng, me shooting, and wearing earplugs and ear defenders, the little reset click is inaudible. Unless deliberately, slowly, creeping the pressure release on the trigger, there is nothing indicating the trigger is ready for a second shot. Should I be shooting without hearing protection, and concentrating on feeling for the trigger reset?

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      No. Hearing is important for lots of things. You may lose some in a gunfight. I’d save my ears until rhen.

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        “You may lose some in a gunfight. I’d save my ears until then.”

        Meaning I won’t find any benefit to worrying over the trigger reset?

        1. avatar Napresto says:

          I would try to feel the reset, not hear it (and I would definitely, definitely wear hearing protection always). Some guns just don’t have much reset feel, which could make finding that feel tricky. An excuse to add to the collection?

        2. avatar Sam I Am says:

          “Some guns just don’t have much reset feel, which could make finding that feel tricky. An excuse to add to the collection?”

          Maybe it’s because the peashooter is just a .22. Would like to add to the collection (cache), but haven’t met the performance goal established by my superior: all bullets through the center X, 1.5in hole, 30ft. Then I can get a bigger .22 (like magnum).

    2. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      Try and focus on feeling for the reset with your trigger finger…

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        “Try and focus on feeling for the reset with your trigger finger…”

        At home, dry firing, I can feel and hear the reset. At the range, concentrating on sight alignment, proper stance, the four rules, and ensuring a smooth trigger pull, I can neither feel, nor hear the reset. Attempting rapid fire of a full magazine, I can keep the holes all on the torso, with not much clustering. Maybe I should be satisfied with no missed shots. Maybe a heavier gun would help control the recoil, so I can trade some sight alignment attention for attention to the trigger reset.

  18. avatar possum says:

    .Ive used other hand gunms but so far 1911aone is my fastest double tapps, it seemed to me the light polymers I had to fight to get back on targit YMMV

  19. avatar Mike says:

    The top picture is a Walther Creed. The Creed generally has about the nicest factory hammer-dropping trigger around, but one doesn’t usually talk about the Creed in conversations about trigger reset. Mostly, this is because the Creed trigger, while otherwise very good, has a reset length of about 50%. I had one, then I bought PPQ. I’ll tell you that the .1″ reset the reviews rave about ISN’T hype. With a proper grip, stance, and reset discipline, you can double-tap a single, or stretched single hole.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      In terms of self-defense and stopping an attacker as quickly as possible, I would NOT want both bullets of a double-tap to go through the same hole. Instead, I would want them spread out a few inches to increase the probability of promptly incapacitating my attacker.

      On top of that, it seems that sending two bullets through the same hole almost guarantees that the second bullet will radically over-penetrate and quite possibly be lethal to any bystanders standing behind your attacker.

      1. avatar grumpster says:

        Pretty sure that won’t be a problem anyway if perp you are shooting at is not strapped to a tree.

  20. avatar Steve B says:

    Proper grip and recoil management also allows for a greater margin of error in trigger mechanics! Learning how to let the recoil transfer through your body into the ground rather than having your body absorb the recoil and effect how much your sights are manipulated by the recoil makes a big difference. Everything is a piece of the puzzle, but when put all together, one thing helps the next and so on.

  21. avatar SkorpionFan says:

    Jeff, Typo in website the last sentence. You have the a and u transposed.
    http://www.therangeaustin.com

  22. avatar Gman says:

    As in all things, there are different applications and techniques for different situations. When I train a new shooter, I have them keep that trigger pulled firmly, then sight picture, reset, and fire again. Yes, this is not the best for a defensive situation, but for initial training I feel as though building confidence with shot accuracy is best first. All too many new shooters seem to think they have to get off that trigger right away. Never really understood that. When dry firing, I cycle the weapon and have them pull and hold the trigger. Then I cycle the weapon manually. If they can’t keep the trigger trapped we try again. They also need to understand that in many weapons, stiker fired ones particularly, holding the trigger keeps all the safties satisfied. That slowly easing out the trigger until the sear resets, allows for a lighter and shorter refire. Once all these basics are mastered and understood then we can move on to other things. So IMHO, as in most things in life, there is no “magic bullet” that fits all situations.

  23. avatar B says:

    Very informative thank you so much

  24. avatar Dave says:

    The author is a fucking Navy Seal trainer. Shut the fuck up and listen to a master black belt in shooting.

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