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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Editor’s Note: Today’s shooting tip comes to us courtesy of the US Army Marksmanship Unit and the Civilian Marksmanship Program (

Trigger control is one of the two main principles of shooting that we teach. You can have the best position in the world with perfect sight alignment, but if you have bad trigger control, you have wasted all that effort that you put into your position and sight alignment.

Good trigger control begins with a good firing hand position. If you are right handed that would be your right hand, and if you are left handed your left hand. Place your firing hand high on the pistol grip, with a good firm grip. Grip tension should be like giving someone a hand shake or holding a child’s hand while walking across a street. The first reason for a good firm grip is to give you control over the rifle and to pull it into your shoulder. The second reason is so you can move your trigger finger without moving your other fingers. Try this, hold out your firing hand with fingers extended; now try moving your trigger finger to the rear as if you were pulling the trigger. Unless you concentrate very hard on moving just your trigger finger, other fingers will move. Now make a fist as if you were grabbing a pistol grip, now you can move your trigger finger freely without introducing movement in the other fingers.

Placement of your trigger finger on the trigger is just as important. I'm sure you have heard advice to place the tip or the pad of your finger on the trigger. This is true if you have short stubby fingers and that’s where the index finger naturally rests, but if you have long fingers like myself you want more of your finger around the trigger, I place the trigger between my first and second knuckle. By placing your finger where it naturally rests on the trigger you are ensuring that you are pulling the trigger straight to the rear, and this also allows you to get more leverage on the trigger. It is harder to pull the trigger straight to the rear with the tip of your finger because of the loss of leverage. Shooting is all about being as comfortable and smooth as possible.

Speaking of smooth, this brings us to the process of trigger control! At the Army Marksmanship Unit we describe trigger control with the word smooth. You can be smooth fast and you can be smooth slow, but you always want to be smooth.

When you are shooting standing have you noticed that the rifle never really stops moving? Well, this is where you would want fast and smooth trigger control. While shooting standing you want to be aggressive on the trigger, take it when it's there. I have found that when I’m not aggressive, I’m outside of call and behind the trigger. When I am aggressive, I am on or inside of call. What I mean when I say "behind the trigger" is simply this--I see what I want to see in my sight picture, but I hesitate for a split second that is long enough for me to shoot a 9 when I saw a 10. When I come down and start settling on the target, I take up the first stage of the trigger. Once I’m getting to the end of my firing process and the movement has slowed down, I manipulate the trigger fast, but smooth, to the rear when I see what I want to see in my sight picture. Over time, this will become a subconscious act; when your brain sees the sight picture, it will automatically tell your trigger finger to move instead of you having to tell yourself there it is, take it. Lots and lots of dry firing will help this process.

To repeat, you want to be fast and smooth! This is not to be confused with slap, jerk, pull, snatch, command detonate, yank, squeeze and surprise break. If you are squeezing the trigger waiting for a surprise break, the only surprise you’re going to have is that it wasn't in the black when it went off.

Trigger control for the rapid fire stage is different than it is for standing. You can actually take a little bit more time to break your shots in rapid fire because of the steadiness of a supported position. A good rapid fire shot process is: 1) drop down into position, 2) get your natural point of aim, 3) take up the first stage on your first shot, 4) break that shot smoothly and hold the trigger all the way to the rear through recoil, 4) once recoil has ceased, let the trigger out only far enough to reset the trigger (you should hear a metallic click of the trigger resetting) and continue by firing your second and succeeding shots.

By doing this, you already have most of the weight of the trigger taken up so the next shot is ready to go without having to take up all the weight of the trigger every single shot. One thing you will see shooters do is pull the trigger and immediately release it all the way out. This means you have to take up the full weight of the trigger again. Another reason you want to hold the trigger to the rear after every shot whether you are shooting standing or rapid fire is because you can still disturb the bullet while it is moving down the barrel. During your firing process, you want to produce little or no additional movement when breaking your shot.

During the slow fire prone stage, you have even more time to break your shots, so you would use the slow--smooth method. You should have little or no hold movement at all, thus allowing you to acquire good sight alignment, a good sight picture and break the shot using slow and smooth trigger control. Again you want to hold that trigger all the way to the rear until recoil has ceased so you do not disturb the rifle, no matter what position you are shooting.

You don’t have to shoot matches all the time to practice good trigger control. I recommend dry firing a lot, this way you can see what you are doing, right or wrong, without recoil. Practicing proper trigger control while dry firing enforces good habits that will become muscle memory in time, allowing your trigger control to become natural instead of your having to think about it on every shot.

I will leave you with a good drill to practice shooting standing called live fire--dry fire. You need some dummy rounds to perform this drill. When practicing standing, have someone load your rifle for you, mixing up live rounds with dummy rounds in no specific order. This way the shooter has no clue what they are shooting. This forces them to react the same every time. I used to react differently with a live round in the chamber, I would dry fire a good shot, but get jumpy with a live round. This drill forces you to create a mental process to practice good trigger control whether it is a live or dummy round. I hope to see you on the range, good luck and good shooting!

--- SPC Tyrel Cooper, USAMU

FYI - Good, good advice.


Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Another reason you want to hold the trigger to the rear after every shot whether you are shooting standing or rapid fire is because you can still disturb the bullet while it is moving down the barrel. During your firing process, you want to produce little or no additional movement when breaking your shot.
As a relatively new shooter, I have suspected that my moving too soon during the trigger pull was affecting my accuracy, but had no one with enough shooting experience to confirm this. Thanks a lot. Your article is greatly appreciated. Now off to the range I go!!
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