Without a doubt, other than pointing your pistol toward the target, trigger press determines more about the outcome of your shot and group size than any other variable.
Learning to pull the trigger straight back, along the center line of the pistol so the front sight doesn’t move at all when the firing pin activates will shrink groups quickly.
This drill can be practiced easily with your rimfire pistol and a paper target and can have a positive effect on all of your shooting.
What Is Really Important To Make An Accurate Shot
You can develop the perfect grip and have the sights aligned perfectly and still make an errant shot because of incorrect trigger press. You can even brace the pistol on a hard surface using a secure grip with both hands and still pull the shot off target with a poor trigger press.
That is primarily because the length of the pistol is short when compared to a rifle. You tend to move the point of aim and the end of the barrel on a rifle less because of the length of the rifle and the fact that the points of contact with your hands are further apart.
This causes less error than with a pistol. Although a lot of people do it consistently when they shoot, it is much harder to pull a rifle off target with trigger press than to do the same with a pistol
Why Won’t The Same Trigger Press Method Work For Everyone?
We must understand that no two people will use the exact trigger press or grip technique. This is because many variables play a role in determining the correct grip and trigger press for a person. Some of these variables are:
- Size of hand
- Size of grip
- Distance from the rear grip of the pistol grip to the trigger
- Trigger design
- Trigger pull weight
- Length of trigger finger
We could keep going but the number of variables is virtually endless and you get the idea. With all of these variables it is not realistic to expect that one method of pressing the trigger will work for everyone.
You will have to find the correct method for you and all of your variables. It’s not really that difficult to do. The important thing to realize here is that no matter what anyone tells you there is no one right way to press the trigger straight back.
What Does Trigger Press Really Mean?
Before we get into how to find your correct method of trigger press, let’s clear up some terminology. Notice that I refer to the act of making the shot as trigger “press”, not trigger “pull”.
This is because pulling the trigger has a tendency to create torquing the trigger in random directions. Pressing the trigger is like pressing a button. You don’t pull a button, you press it straight down. That is the thought process you should have when activating your shot.
You might think this doesn’t make much difference but it does. Not pressing the trigger straight back means the trigger is moving off enter or being torqued to one side or the other. You can do this and sometimes not be able to see the front sight move during the shot.
Get accustomed to thinking press the trigger, not pull. If you see the front sight move, even just slightly, when the shot activates, your trigger press is not yet what it needs to be.
What Is Required For A Good Accurate Shot?
It may seem like just common sense but to make a shot on target you must accomplish 2 things. Failure to do these things will result in a shot that is off target. During the trigger press, you must accomplish:
- Sights aligned and on target at the time the shot activates
- Movement of the trigger straight back along the center axis of the firearm to prevent torquing the pistol in any direction which results in the sight picture established in step one not changing at all. No movement
Pretty much everyone experiences some sight wobble when aiming a pistol. Sight wobble is normal and is different than torquing the trigger. Sight wobble is defined as the movement you see when trying to hold the sight on the target.
Torquing the trigger occurs when the sights move off target through the act of pressing the trigger. Minimizing sight wobble is very important in being consistent while shooting a pistol.
A good grip on the pistol will help but whatever your sights are on at the time the primer activates the round is what you will hit. This is a no brainer and we won’t worry too much about this right now. Sight wobble will improve automatically as your confidence grows by learning to not torque the pistol during the trigger press.
Just hold the sights as steady as you can with a comfortable grip using both hands in the proper configuration (see the 3 fundamentals). Your grip should be as tight as you can make it without causing a tremble. Imagine holding a hammer while you are driving a nail then simulate that grip tightness on your pistol.
Here is the secret to shooting accurately
It’s really very simple but no so simple to do every time you pull the trigger. You must practice this until it becomes second nature. Learn to press the trigger straight back along the center axis of the pistol so the sight doesn’t move when the shot is activated.
If you do this, it doesn’t matter if you jerk the trigger or press it smoothly. You will hit what you are aiming at. Imagine a line down the center axis of the pistol and trigger. Your job is to press the trigger back so the center line of the trigger meets the center line of the pistol – every time.
If you have too much finger inside the trigger guard, your sights will be torqued right (for a right handed shooter). Not enough finger and your sights will be pushed left. You need to find the right position where your finger pad contacts the trigger for you and the pistol you are using.
Press the trigger with the last joint of your trigger finger. The less movement you have in the rest of your finger and hand, the faster you will improve.
Most people have a tendency to move the thumb and other parts of the hand when pressing the trigger. You must learn to make the trigger finger independent of the rest of the hand.
So how do you know when you are doing it correctly? While dry fire practicing, when you find the right spot on your finger pad for the trigger, you will be able to naturally press the trigger straight back along the center axis of the pistol with your hand being in a natural position. The shot will activate and the front sight will not move…at all.
I didn’t say the front site will only move a little, I said there will be NO movement. That’s how you know you’ve got it.
Correct Front Sight Movement
If you still get front sight movement, tighten your grip but leave the trigger finger relaxed. The trigger finger should move independently of the rest of your hand.
Tightening your grip can sometimes make this easier. If you are using muscles in the large part of your hand to press the trigger, this is wrong. Take advantage of the trigger reset to minimize the total travel distance of multiple trigger pulls.
This will help keep the front sight still. Once the slack is taken out of the trigger, and the trigger is in the correct position on your finger pad, the tip of the trigger finger should initiate the press.
The end of the trigger movement should result in the correct point on your finger pad being in the exact center of the trigger and the center of the trigger should be in the center axis of the pistol.
Another thought that will help with all of this, your trigger finger should be independent of the rest of your hand. If when you press the trigger back along the center line of the pistol, your other fingers move, you don’t have appropriate control of your trigger finger.
Your thought process should be to keep the trigger finger as it’s own entity. It can move without movement of any other part of the hand. Once you master this, and dry fire practice a few minutes, you won’t believe how much it will help your shooting. You will be much more accurate and will able to get accurate shots off faster.
Practice to Ingrain The Thought Process
Once you learn the secret, the next step is to make it automatic which can only be done through correct practice over and over. Without a doubt, the best teaching device I have found for live shooting at the range is a simple pistol reflex sight or red dot.
This type of sight will quickly ingrain in your mind what you are doing wrong, or right. The first thing you will notice after mounting a red dot is excessive movement of the dot when you aim at a target.
This is not the fault of the sight, you are clearly seeing for the first time how shaky your aim is. Once seeing this it becomes clear why your pistol groups are so large.
Shoot with it for 30 minutes and I guarantee your groups will shrink because during that 30 minutes your brain is receiving the correct input to steady your hands and focus on the target.
Train with it for a month and you will see a quantum improvement in your shooting accuracy, as well as being able to acquire the target and shoot faster.
Red dots are the sights of the future and will automatically help you start pressing the trigger straight back because you will see the dot jump all over the target if your trigger pull is not correct.
I have used Vortex red dots for years with no malfunctions or change in zero. They are without a doubt the best pistol red dot on the market for the money. Below are some really good choices.
You will either need a rail on top of your pistol, or one of these specialty mounts to connect to the pistol rail underneath the barrel. I use one of these on my M&P 22 and it works great. It doesn’t interfere with brass ejection or slide movement.
What Is The Correct Trigger Finger Position For Me?
The correct position for me is to center the trigger just beyond the last joint toward the finger tip of my trigger finger. Anyone who tells you that you should center the trigger in the center of the last pad on your trigger finger does not know what they are talking about. You must find the right position to match all of your variables.
It may not look like my center point is far from the center of the pad but I can move the center of the trigger from where the red line is to the center of the pad and change shot impact at 10 yards by five to six inches.
That is why getting this right and being able to repeat it is the key to shooting really well with a pistol. I do however know a guy who actually centers the trigger on the pad of the second joint of the trigger finger, and shoots better than most other people I know.
He has to do this because he is six feet nine inches tall and has ultra extra long fingers. There is really no other way for him to shoot as this is where the trigger normally contacts his trigger finger on most pistols. As I said earlier, the correct trigger position in relation to the trigger finger is different for everyone.
Once the correct position is found it will allow you to press straight back, staying on the center axis of the pistol. Again, proof that you are in the correct position will be no movement in the front sight or dot if you are using the trainer. If you are live firing the proof will be in the smaller size of your groups.
When you read other articles on how to improve your pistol shooting they recommend things like proper grip, sight picture, and focus on the front sight. Are they wrong? No, but you must find the correct the grip and trigger position that works for you.
Following the advice above will have more impact on improving your shooting results, quicker than any other thing you can do. I have done it myself and helped others to improve within 30 minutes at the range. It works.