Trigger Control; Key to Accuracy

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

For decades, sight picture has been touted as the most important part of the fundamentals of shooting; being the one factor that has the greatest impact on shot placement and accuracy. However, recent studies are showing this to be false. It’s actually trigger control that makes the biggest difference in how accurately someone shoots, not sight picture.

To see this, you need to think about the geometry of the shot. As we all know, the muzzle of our gun tends to wander a bit while we are lining up our shots. We’ve been taught that we should expect that wandering to settle down to a pattern and that we want to center that pattern over the center of the target, learning to time our pulling of the trigger so as to have the sights aligned over the center of the target when the gun goes off.

Based  upon that, the farthest we can expect our shot to be from the center of the X-ring is the farthest point of that muzzle wandering. For me, and my hands tend to be a bit shaky, that means that I should have no shot hit more than about an inch, maybe an inch and a half from the center of the X-ring. Since the X-ring is two inches across and the ten ring is four inches across, every string I shoot should be a possible.

But it’s not. Close, but no cigar.

Now let’s talk about trigger control. One minute of angle is 1 inch at 100 yards. That works out to 1/20 inch or 0.05″ at five yards, which is a normal range for practicing self-defense handgun shooting. But that one minute of angle is actually 1/60 of one degree. Not much. Poor trigger control is going to push the muzzle of the pistol off target much more than one minute of angle. It’s probably going to push it off by something on the order of five degrees.

Five degrees may not seem like much; but that’s 300 minutes of angle or 300 inches at 100 yards (25 feet). That works out to 15 inches (1.25 feet) at 15 yards. Even pushing your muzzle off target by only one degree equals 3 inches. That puts you on the line between the 8 and 9 rings. Compared to the difference that poor sight picture can make, that’s huge.

The truth is, most of us have much more problem with trigger control, than we do with sight picture. It could be that we jerk the trigger (I’ve fought against this one for years), we anticipate the shot or that we’re pushing the trigger to the side when we shoot. Any of these problems, as well as others, can really mess up our shooting.

Most of us will automatically blame our guns for these problems; usually saying that the sights are off. But that’s a bogus complaint. Guns leave the factory with their sights properly set. So it’s not really the gun’s fault; it’s ours. Messing with the sights, when we should be working on our trigger control, is a guaranteed way of ensuring that it will take us longer to overcome those problems.

The chart below shows you the common trigger problems and what causes them. It’s made for a right-handed shooter, so if you’re a left-handed one, use the mirror image of this chart. Look for where your missed shots are ending up and work on fixing the problem that’s shown there.

Speaking of the Trigger

Even though we shouldn’t mess with our sights; there is one thing we may want to consider messing with; that’s the trigger. It’s possible to make adjustments to the triggers of many popular guns, specifically changing the trigger pull required. It might also be possible to change the trigger out entirely for a better one or to give the existing trigger a “trigger job” for accuracy.

There are two different things we want to look at here; trigger pull and part finish. Olympic grade competitive firearms usually have very light trigger pull. That’s because it is easier to avoid the problems on that chart, when you have a light trigger pull. So, changing out trigger parts, in order to have a lighter trigger pull, makes sense; making it easier to shoot accurately. Just be sure that you don’t have such a light trigger pull that you’ll be firing the gun accidentally.

Both of the other options; replacing the trigger or giving the existing one a trigger job are about having a smoother operating firing mechanism. As a general rule of thumb, cheaper parts will not have as good a fit and finish as more expensive ones. This is true for just about anything, not just gun parts. But in gun parts, especially trigger parts, that lower-quality fit and finish can make it so that parts don’t slide over each other smoothly, leaving rough parts or finish areas, which make it harder to pull the trigger smoothly and easily.

Smoothing out the parts, sanding them, filing them or just allowing them to rub against each other over and over again, will smooth out any burrs or rough places on the metal, making the parts ride over each other smoother. As this happens, you’ll find that the trigger pull feels smoother, with less chances of the trigger “hanging up” while you are drawing it.

So, taking the time to do a little work on your trigger is worthwhile. A trigger job really doesn’t cost you more than that time. If you want something better, you might want to consider buying and installing one of the after-market trigger options that are available, assuming there is one for your gun. In the mean time, keep practicing, especially your dry fire. That will help you with any trigger problems that you might have. And as always, keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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