How do you pull off the perfect handgun shot? One of the many factors that can affect your marksmanship is having a good trigger pull. Here are three tips I’ve gathered from various firearms instructors over the past few years to help perfect your trigger pull.
Isolate Your Trigger Finger
Of any advice I’ve been given to improve trigger pull, this is one recommendation I’ve heard most often. Sounds a bit tricky, though. After all, most people’s fingers are pretty well attached to their hands. Fortunately, once you start thinking about it, the easier it is to accomplish.
More often than you may think, your grip can effect your trigger pull. Squeezing a pistol grip like it’s about to run away from you has a way of making your hand curl into a first—including your trigger finger. When your trigger finger pulls inward, it has a tendency to pull the shot off to one side—leftward for right-handed shooters, and rightward for left-handed shooters. Additionally, if you gradually squeeze your grip tighter while preparing to fire, you can pull the shot off to the right (for righties, and, following suit, to the left for lefties).
If you take a moment to think about separating your finger from the squeeze of your grip, you can help to isolate it from these negative effects. This isolation is especially helpful when shooting with two hands. In this way, you can use the majority of your hand strength to keep your firearm steady, and let your trigger finger work only on just interfacing with that bang switch. You should be able to move your finger freely in and out of the trigger guard with no effect on the position of your aim.
Don’t Pull, Compress
Ever heard someone tell you you’re “jerking the trigger?” Like I mentioned with isolating your trigger finger, how you manipulate the trigger itself can yank your aim (mostly from side-to-side). “Jerking” or “slapping” the trigger generally means you’ve tried to pull somewhat too quickly and forcefully (“milking the trigger” is another phrase for putting too much force into your trigger pull which will have the same effect), and, in doing so, yanked your aim a bit downward and in the direction of your pull. For right-handed shooters, that results in rounds landing low and left of center (and vice-versa for lefties). To correct this, think of your finger and the trigger actioning like a piston in an engine. Pull it straight backward, with as little side-to-side finger movement as possible (which is easier to do once your trigger finger is isolated). This precise machine-like trigger pull fits right along with the next technique.
Once your shot is lined up, your trigger finger is isolated and you’re ready to begin that perfect pull. Keep your pull smooth. Some instructors recommend reciting a mantra in your head while you pull, such as “sloooooow” or “squeeeeeeeeeeeeze” (that’s the one I use). When using this method to execute a precise shot, I focus on keeping my grip steady (using these grip improving tips), my front sight lined up on my target, and smoothly working the trigger back while thinking “squeeze.” When the gun actually fires, it’s almost a surprise.
These tips are geared toward range practice where you can take the time to isolate one marksmanship element, in this case, the fundamental trigger pull, and improve it. These pointers aren’t intended for applying to active shooting scenarios, such as during sport shooting matches (IPSC, USPSA, IDPA, etc.), or self defense situations. Nor do this three advices represent all trigger pull techniques you can employ in the effort of improving your marksmanship. I invite you to share any tips you use, but I didn’t include, in the comment section below. The goal of these tips is to help improve your overall accuracy so that you can put those refined marksmanship skills to work in whatever situation you may need, whether that’s dispatching a couple of aluminum cans in the field out back, bringing home a bigger buck this season, getting more comfortable with firing a chosen concealed carry pistol, or eking out a few extra points in competition shooting. As with all disciplines, perfect practice makes proficient. Train on!