When I first got a compound bow nearly 20 years ago, I was both intrigued and frustrated by how I would ever learn to properly pull the 55-pound draw weight (which is the amount of force needed to fully draw the bow). Of course, some archery training (and some weight training) certainly helped! But I have seen many new bowhunters struggling with gear that wasn’t set up for them … and sometimes giving up on the task altogether.

Just as draw weight is something to consider so an individual can more effectively execute consistent and accurate shots with a compound bow, trigger pull weight is important so an individual can more effectively execute consistent and accurate shots with a handgun. To help demystify the topic, here are some common questions (and answers) to better understand trigger pull weight.

Let’s start with a definition: What is trigger pull weight, and why should firearm enthusiasts even care about it?

Trigger pull weight is the amount of force or pressure needed to manipulate the trigger properly and make the gun fire. Thus, the greater the trigger pull weight (or the higher the number of pounds), the greater the force needed to make the weapon fire. It’s important for any gun user to understand this topic, since some guns may require a lot more force to fire. And if you have weak hands and fingers, arthritis or any injuries, this could greatly affect your ability to smoothly and safely press the trigger and properly control the gun.

What impact does trigger pull weight have on shooting accuracy?

Unfortunately, I see a problem with heavier trigger pulls and accuracy way too often in my beginner pistol classes. For example, a student will bring a double-action-only revolver that has a very heavy trigger pull (maybe upward of 10-12 pounds!). The student will struggle with it and inadvertently pull the gun to one side in order to press the trigger. This extra movement pulls the shots off target in that direction. It can be very frustrating. I have even heard that some instructors will tell the shooter to use multiple fingers to press the trigger in order to fire the gun! Clearly, this is not ideal.

How can someone determine a good trigger-pull weight when renting/purchasing a handgun?

If you come across a firearm that has a heavy trigger that you really struggle with, think about how that will negatively affect your ability to get defensive accurate hits on a target. Of course, you should not discount a gun just because of a less-than-perfect first try. Many gun owners use strength training for their hands and fingers to improve their grips and their trigger press! On the other hand, you should be just as cautious with guns with really light trigger pulls. You don’t want to fire a shot before you are on target and ready. For example, I used my husband’s competition gun in a shooting match and found myself taking shots earlier than my brain had planned since the trigger was lighter than my competition gun, and I was pressing off shots easier and faster than with my own firearm that I was more accustomed to. I learned that day that I prefer a slightly heavier trigger!

Is a lighter trigger-pull weight better? If so, why?

Each gun owner needs to make decisions on the gun’s purpose to determine what trigger pull may be best. For instance, a shooter may want to choose that lighter trigger for a competition gun, in which you know you will be shooting multiple targets and wanting to get those accurate hits as quickly as possible. But that light, 2-pound trigger is probably not the best idea for a defensive pistol. In the case of self-defense, you want to be certain and deliberate, so many gun owners will choose a handgun with somewhere around 5 to 8 pounds of trigger-pull weight. This doesn’t mean the trigger is so heavy it interferes with shooting. And no matter what trigger-pull weight you choose, it should be something you have trained with and are comfortable and proficient using.

If someone is not happy with a firearm because of the trigger-pull weight, what could he or she do about it?

There are a few different options if you are not satisfied with a firearm because of the trigger pull. First, you can practice and train more so the trigger is no longer an issue! If it starts out heavy, you can practice until your fingers are stronger and capable of that smooth press. Or if the trigger is light, you can use good physical and mental training to ensure you press the trigger when you are ready. Second, a gun owner can look for another firearm that fits his or her needs and abilities better. It can be a lot of fun trying out a variety of firearms. Just take note of the trigger pull and narrow down possibilities that work best for your skills and abilities. Third, if the trigger-pull weight is an issue, the gun owner could possibly have a knowledgeable gunsmith modify or change that trigger so it better suits him or her.