By Gary Kercher – Instructor

There are some shooters that just can’t believe that trigger control can make that much difference. Believe me it can make a huge difference. Trigger control is essential if you plan to put those hits on the target. Like any other control and dexterity dependent skill, there is a proven and correct way to shoot a pistol. I will agree that some of the skills involved in the target shooting discipline also corresponds to tactical shooting, but I am primarily interested in talking about self-defense shooting. This means that we want the ability to place solid hits on an adversary from a condition of not being ready, and with urgent time constraints.

There are several fundamentals to marksmanship, they include Sight Alignment, Sight Picture, Trigger Control, Grip on the Pistol, Shooting Stance, Breath Control, and Follow Through. Of these seven, FOUR are most important. It is these four which must be focused on by the tactical shooter. They are Sight Alignment, Sight Picture, Trigger Control, and Follow Through.

Probably the most important fundamental of shooting, is Trigger Control. Proper trigger control allows the shooter to fire a shot without disturbing the sight picture. The trigger must be pressed smoothly to the rear, without any disturbance of the sight picture, until the pressure suffices and the pistol discharges. Two key elements to this are Finger Placement and the “Surprise Break”.

Correct Finger Placement on the trigger is dependent on the type of trigger you are operating. The placement should allow you to press straight to the rear without any lateral divergence in pressure. Placing too much of the finger, or conversely, not placing enough finger on the trigger will cause your shots to string laterally on the target. Such extremes in placement will cause you to exert pressure to the side as well as the rear, with poor results on target.

Now, naturally, some triggers are easier to operate than others, but all can be managed with enough training. With Colt/Browning single action triggers the area of the first pad of the finger seems to work best. When using a Glock pistol, the area between the pad and the first joint will most likely allow you the best control. Finally, if you are using a double-action pistol, you may have to place much more finger on the trigger in order to provide the leverage necessary to operate the heavier trigger. For these shooters the area just above the first joint will work best.

Before we discuss the actual operation of the trigger, I want to discuss some physiology. It is just unnatural for us to experience a small explosion out there at the end of our hand. That is precisely what happens when we shoot. Invariably, our subconscious mind wants us to flinch, close our eyes, and do silly things in anticipation of the forthcoming BIG BANG. This creates all kinds of problems with marksmanship. Now I know you mocho kind of guys/girls will not want to admit this but trust me when I say, that our subconscious takes over and sometimes we just anticipate that big bang not because we are necessarily afraid of it but, just because we know it is going to happen. The sooner we comes to terms with this, the sooner we will fix those bad habits. Not to worry though, we can easily get around this by allowing the shot to “surprise” us.

When operating the trigger, the shooter must apply smooth and constant pressure to the trigger, until eventually and almost unintentionally, the pressure is sufficient to “break” the trigger. This is called a Surprise Break. Pressing the trigger in this manner may be likened to using an eyedropper. Think of the process involved. You “align” the dropper above your eye, you get the proper “sight picture” by focusing on the end of the eyedropper, and finally you gradually begin increasing pressure until one drop forms and falls into the eye, by surprise. If you force the drop out by mashing the eyedropper, you will flinch, close the eye, and get the eye drops everywhere except in your eye. The same process applies to operating the trigger on a pistol. First, align the sights with the target and establish an appropriate sight picture. Next, focus visually on the front sight while building constant smooth pressure on the trigger until, eventually the pistol fires, by surprise. Another way we can relate to the eyedroppers is when we squeeze the dropper and we squeeze the bulb in and out and you can see that drop come almost out of the dropper and then you loosen up on the bulb and the drop goes right back into the dropper. We relate this to taking the slack out of your trigger and when the time is right and we get that good sight picture we go ahead and experience that surprise break.

The important point to remember here is that the “break” of the trigger is not specifically expected by the shooter. The shooter knows that it is going to happen, and is continuing to apply constant pressure on the trigger, but he does not know the exact precise instant when it will “break”. The trigger must break almost unintentionally. If the shooter anticipates the break, or forces it to occur, he will invariably bear down reflexively on the weapon and flinch at the final moment. This will cause the shot to go errant.

The human eye could only focus on one specific thing at a time? Now under stress, the human mind is much the same way. If you mentally focus your attention (as well as your visual attention) to the front sight while you operate the trigger, where will your thoughts be when that trigger pressure is enough to cause the gun to fire? They will be on the front sight, and not on the small explosion that just happened. That is how you experience a surprise break.

In a combative situation, you will not have an open ended time interval in which to c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y press the trigger. This does not, however, change the process. Going back to the eyedropper example. Those of you who put drops in your eyes on a daily basis know that it becomes quite easy as you get used to the procedure. As you become accomplished at using the eyedropper, you do not require the lengthy time interval to “align”, “focus”, and “p-r-e-s-s”. In reality we can perfect this technique pretty quickly due to practice. Operating the trigger on a pistol is the same. Through perfect practice and programming, you can learn to operate the trigger on a pistol in pretty much the same fashion.

Another part of trigger control particularly on the Glock is Trigger Reset. When shooting the Glock it is important to remember to take the slack out of the trigger and then go for the surprise break. Also when following through with the shot you only release the trigger just far enough to hear and feel that reset. Now this is a definite feel and sound of a click. The shooter will need to make a conscious effort to experience this reset click by pulling the trigger and holding it back and then release the trigger very, very slowly just far enough to hear and feel the reset. When the reset is felt you can once again verify that you have a solid sight picture and go for that surprise break. The trigger reset is crucial to putting those solid hits on the target with the Glock Pistol.