Trigger Weight: Safety vs. Performance

July 07, 2016

Trigger Weight: Safety vs. Performance

This article was originally published on

I am often asked what trigger weight is optimal for law enforcement or concealed carry. The short answer is that it depends on your mission, your training, and your values.

I grew up with firearms and have been shooting since I was five years old. Shooting is very much a part of my identity and I was raised with gun safety as a priority. During my tenure in law enforcement, shooting and gunfighting training was a way of life for me. This mindset continues to this day in my career as a professional trainer and shooter.

Contrast that mindset to individuals who have never fired a gun until they attended the police academy. They arrived with no history with firearms, no set of values associated with them, and no self-identity of being skillful with them. Perhaps they do not care whether they are good or not with a gun–as long as they qualify they are satisfied with their performance and their security needs are being met.

Too many times in tense situations I have had such officers behind me with their guns pointing at my back, finger on the trigger, and no clue as to what they were doing. Many of them have an over-inflated sense of their skill and no awareness of gun safety in dynamic situations. This represents a lack of commitment to safety on the part of the individuals concerned and is a very real problem in law enforcement as well as other gun-carrying professions.

Some administrative personnel have reasoned that if you simply make triggers heavier, safety problems will magically go away. This is simply not true. You should never handicap an officer with a heavy trigger who may have to fight for his or her life. An excessively heavy trigger will decrease precision and could cause a public safety issue if the shooter cannot hit reliably while under duress.

Firearm safety is a software problem, not a hardware problem.

Trigger Weight

From a technical perspective, a lighter trigger is better for performance. However, while a lighter pull weight does make it easier to isolate the trigger, going too light can be problematic in regards to the mission that you are engaged in.

As a law enforcement officer, I routinely carried a three to three-and-a-half pound trigger on my 1911. That is not a “competition trigger” as some would call them–those are in the one-and-a-half to two pound range. Four to five pound triggers are generally considered by my law enforcement peers and I as being in the optimal range for duty use. I have also operated with a trigger weight of only three to four pounds in temperatures of 35 below zero to 100 plus degrees in deadly force situations without a problem.

As trigger weights increase to over 5 pounds or so, you will start to see a gradual loss of precision at speed. The heavier weight will often cause shooters to squeeze their other fingers as they press the trigger at gunfight speeds; it takes a lot more training and practice to overcome this. Simply put, the heavier you go, the harder it is to shoot fast and precisely.

You must decide on a trigger weight for your gun based on objective, performance-based testing and with consideration given for how your weapon will be used.


Ron Avery, co-founder

Tactical Performance Center

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