By Jon Hodoway
I recently completed a week of training a security team for a private institution followed by multiple one-on-one lessons with new shooters. When I teach an inexperienced person to shoot a handgun I always start off with the fundamentals. I introduce them to stance, grip, sight alignment and trigger control. Most people assume that these four things are equally important in improving your accuracy. They are always surprised when I disclose that hitting the target is actually about 90% trigger control. Let me explain. If you ever have the opportunity to take a class with Massad Ayoob, you will get to experience the Blind Swordsman Drill. What you will discover with this drill is that, even with your eyes closed, you can still hit the target. I’ve seen many shooters who can hit a target while standing on one foot, holding the gun upside down. What I have never seen is someone who can consistently hit the target without a smooth trigger pull.
Let’s not sink into combat verbiage here. I know that some people would insist it’s a press while others would vehemently declare it’s rearward pressure. But we can all agree that you must depress the trigger without disturbing the alignment of the barrel.
As I begin to teach each new student how to depress the trigger, one of the first things that I must dispel is the notion that a smooth trigger press will feel smooth. As you begin to depress your trigger, you will feel a take-up and then, as the mechanism begins to engage, it will become harder until it reaches the rear of its stroke. The mistake that most new shooters make is (believing the trigger pull should be smooth) they apply pressure so they won’t feel the stacking or creep of the trigger. This results in excessive pressure being applied to the trigger which invariably causes the (right-handed) shooter to hit the target low and left. Most polymer pistols require approximately 5 to 6 pounds of pressure to fully release the striker. A new shooter endeavoring to have a smooth trigger may apply as much as 10 to 11 pounds of pressure. Conversely, I actively encourage new shooters to see just how little pressure they can use to fully activate the trigger.
One of the most important ways to ensure smooth trigger pull is to select the gun that is right for you. The size of the grip, length of pull and smooth, consistent trigger pull are much more conducive to effective control than just simply a light trigger. I’m a huge fan of the Walther PPQ M2 with its changeable back straps. This gun can be adapted to fit nearly any shooter. The trigger is smooth and stacks consistently all the way until it breaks and is easy to learn and control.
The next time you go to the range, try this exercise. When you’re ready to fire, with your sites aligned on the target, before you begin to break the shot, close your eyes. Now slowly break the shot. Try to describe all of the sensations that you felt as you depressed the trigger with your eyes closed. It’s amazing when we shut off one of our senses, how much more we become attuned with the others…in this case the tactile response to the trigger.
Jon Hodoway is owner / instructor at Nighthawk Custom Training Academy.
Jon actively competes in IDPA, USPSA and other shooting sports.