Trigger Finger Discipline: The Core of Safety and Accuracy

How you operate the trigger on your firearm tells a lot about you.

Think about all the ways people describe trigger manipulation. You can pull the trigger, squeeze the trigger, press the trigger, jerk the trigger, slap the trigger, mash the trigger or tickle the trigger. Are there any more descriptive terms for the movement that allows the firing pin to strike the primer?

In the words of my friend George Harris, to keep your rounds on target you must “operate the trigger without adding any additional movement to the muzzle.” The absolute best way to do that is still a matter of some debate, but there is no debate about the words George so often utters. Operating the trigger is typically the only reason a gun’s muzzle is moved off the target. So it is very clear that to keep the muzzle pointed at the target, we must operate the trigger without adding any additional movement to the muzzle. George is also fond of saying, “There can be no argument to that.”

Operating the trigger while keeping the gun on target is just one side of the greater message surrounding what can be called “trigger finger discipline.”  George Harris also either coined this term or perfected its true meaning. In the years that I have known him, I’ve spent many hours listening to him teaching people, including me, to be better shooters.

Trigger finger discipline is not only the core of accuracy, it is also the centerpiece of firearms safety. If we agree that a properly maintained modern firearm will not simply “go off” unless the trigger is depressed fully to the rear, then we must agree that trigger finger discipline is the hallmark of firearms safety. If you don’t put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot, you won’t have a negligent discharge. It is just that simple.

Consider how closely this aligns with Newton’s First Law of Motion. This is known as uniform motion. An object continues to do whatever it happens to be doing unless a force is exerted upon it. In this case, the trigger is at rest and will remain at rest until some force is applied to it. Typically, the force is your finger, but other things have been known to operate triggers. But again, typically, it is your finger. So keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. To do this effectively, place your finger up, out of the trigger guard, on the side of the frame of the gun, running parallel with the barrel. From there, it is a very short trip to the face of the trigger and thus the firing of the gun.

As for HOW you operate the trigger … again, there is some debate. Some people will tell you to use only the first pad of your finger and slowly press the trigger straight to the rear until you are surprised by the release of the sear. Others will tell you to have the first distal joint of the finger across the face of the trigger and “roll” your finger smoothly through the movement until the gun is caused to fire. Too much finger on the trigger will make you shoot left, not enough will make you shoot right (if you are right-handed, of course), etc.

No matter how you do it, when you decide to put your finger on the trigger, focus on the smooth operation of the trigger so the movement of your index finger does not pull the sights off the target.

Ah, yes … the sights. That is another story.