Control the Trigger, Control the Fight

August 04, 2016

Control the Trigger, Control the Fight

This article was originally published on

One of the first skills to degrade under stress is trigger control. This vital skill is composed of two parts: mental control and physical manipulation. On the mental side, control of emotions comes into play. On the physical side, learning how to manipulate the trigger correctly allows us to stay in control, whether we are in a match or fighting for our lives.

Trigger Isolation

No matter how you choose to manipulate the trigger, the number one thing you must learn to do is isolate the action of your trigger finger. This requires both mental control and physical manipulation. Two things make this difficult:

  1. You must deal with noise and recoil at the end of the trigger press. This leads to anticipation of recoil and noise and a subsequent flinching response while manipulating the trigger.
  2. The faster you go, the greater your tendency to move other fingers while you manipulate the trigger.

Before a shooter can precisely isolate the trigger, he or she must feel in control of the shooting grip and confident that the gun will not slip in the hand while it is recoiling. Only then will the shooter be able to relax, isolate the tension, and focus on the manipulation of the trigger at higher speeds. The shooting grip is “alive” in that it will respond to inputs from the brain and the firearm. The key is to build awareness in processing what is really going on and how to make it work for you.

Isolation, Balance, and Acclimation

In order to effectively isolate the trigger, you must have control of the handgun and establish proper balance. An effective grip allows the hands and the handgun to move as a unit, without slipping, through the recoil cycle. Proper balance allows the body to relax and compensate for the effects of recoil without tensing up or moving. The proper balance for shooting is with the center of gravity slightly forward.

Proper control of both grip and balance allows the shooter to acclimate to recoil and muzzle rise and start to relax mentally and physically. In doing so, the brain is reprogrammed not to become alarmed when the gun is fired.

Further acclimation can occur in relation to noise and muzzle blast if you let yourself shoot the gun below eye level at a safe backstop. Just look at the backstop and shoot. Then look at the gun and shoot without blinking. As you learn to relax, isolate tension, and let recoil happen, your capacity to isolate the trigger will increase.

Excessive/violent muzzle rise and a loss of friction between the hand and the handgun will invariably result in tightening your grip as you press the trigger. This results in muzzle movement and a change in point of impact. Whatever type of shooting stance or grip you are currently doing, staying consistent on grip pressure will lead to better shooting performance.

Trigger Control Exercises

Here are some tips and exercises that will help you become a more consistent shooter:

Exercise #1

With either your empty firearm or a blue gun, establish your shooting grip and, while holding the grip firmly, have another person hold the firearm behind the muzzle with one hand and give a tug on your support hand with the other hand using approximately 20 pounds of force to see if it comes loose. The goal is to create enough pressure and friction to keep the support hand firmly connected to the gun.

Exercise #2

After completing the first exercise, establish again your shooting grip. Without changing grip tension, dry fire the handgun. Hold the grip pressure the same before, during and for three seconds after you have finished pressing the trigger. Repeat a minimum of 25 times.

Exercise #3

Once you develop a feel for keeping constant grip pressure, do it with live fire, paying particular attention to keeping grip tension the same as you finish trigger press and after the shot is fired.

These simple exercises, done correctly, will result in a much more educated trigger press which will increase your precision at speed and distance.


Ron Avery, co-founder

Tactical Performance Center

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