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Jeff Franz

Drills to Perfect Trigger Press

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I have received a few requests recently to post some drills that can help shooters stay sharp and improve their shooting skills. There is no substitute for hands-on instruction, and of course we recommend taking a class from a reputable instructor if at all possible. However, we understand many shooters do not have the time or funds to train under the watchful eye of an instructor as much as desired. Hopefully, these drills, along with a like-minded training partner will help improve your skill and keep shooting safe and fun. For ALL drills we run during our classes at Aesir Training, accuracy is king. You can’t miss fast enough to win, and no one will have to remind you to go faster should you ever find yourself in a defensive shooting scenario. Furthermore, speed comes with improved accuracy, but accuracy does not come from speed. So we always tell students that if we are forced to choose between making a par time and accuracy, we will take the accuracy every time.

 

One final disclaimer: the drills we use are an amalgamation of drills we have learned from a myriad of top-level instructors. Nothing I will be presenting in these articles is original, and credit will be given where possible to the original author of the drill. On to the first installment – trigger press.

99% of all misses when shooting are related to trigger press and recoil anticipation, not a sight problem or mysterious mechanical malady with the gun itself (trust me – I’ve tried to blame a few “bad guns” in my day). Because proper trigger press is the foundation on which all accurate shooting is based upon, this first installment will deal with this all-important issue. Trigger press and recoil anticipation (or lack thereof) is just as important with the rifle as it is with the pistol, but harder to properly apply to the handgun. Therefore, this drill should be conducted more frequently with the pistol. If you can successfully apply these principles with the handgun, the rifle will be easy. The converse is not always true.

 

In order to condition ourselves to not anticipate recoil, usually manifested by pressing down on the gun when the shot breaks, and to press the trigger straight to the rear, we must practice the ideal scenario with dry fire. Paul Howe conducts a drill known as the 5x1 drill, and Larry Vickers and Ken Hackathorn add a variable of placing a spent casing on the front sight post during the trigger press to aid in keeping the gun absolutely still through the entire trigger press. For guns with a smaller or oddly shaped front sight post, and penny or dime can be balanced on the front sight post. Here is the drill:

 

1. Check, double check, and triple check that the gun is unloaded and no magazine is in the magazine well.

 

2. Present the gun toward the target and have a partner balance a spent casing (penny or dime if sight will not allow a casing to be balanced), taking care to not pass his or her hand or fingers in front of the muzzle of your gun.

 

3. Perform a trigger press as if firing the gun, taking care that the object balanced on the gun does not fall off. Concentrate on pressing the trigger straight to the rear, with the only movement in your finger taking place perpendicular to the face of the trigger. Look for movement up and down as well as left and right. If the gun moves left or right, adjust the amount of finger on the trigger (more if gun moves left, less if gun moves right for a right-handed shooter).

 

4. Reset the trigger by manipulating the slide (double checking the gun is empty), and repeat for a total of five repetitions.

 

5. Load the firearm with ONE round, and fire for accuracy.

 

6. Unload the weapon. Check, double check, and triple check the weapon is unloaded and no magazine is in the magazine well, and repeat the process as many times as needed.

 

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Check your target for the grouping of your fired shots. Are the groups tightening? Are they on target? Low and left? Vertically strung? Your target will tell you a lot about what you still need to work on. We recommend firing your shots at a minimum of 10 yards. The further you are from the target, the more precise your fundamentals must be to get your hits.

 

One criticism we hear of this drill by the uninformed is that it is easy to keep the gun steady when you know it is not going to fire. Our response is yes, exactly! That is why we use this drill to help hone that skill set into subconscious muscle memory by performing many repetitions. The more trigger presses you perform properly, the more likely you are to perform the task the same way when the gun is going to go BANG. This portion of the drill can be performed at home sans the live fire, in a room with no magazines or live ammunition, and facing an outside wall. Furthermore, when you couple the above drill with the “ball and dummy” portion below, you begin to see if you are indeed performing the task properly.

 

Ball and Dummy

 

This drill works best with a partner, but can be performed alone with the use of snap caps if the magazines are loaded randomly before heading to the range.

 

1. Safely hand your partner an unloaded firearm (always keeping the muzzle pointed down range and in a safe direction) and a loaded magazine.

 

2. Walk up range of the firing line, with your back turned. Your partner will manipulate your gun, either loading a round or not. You will not know which.

 

3. When your partner calls you back to the firing line, SAFELY take the gun from your partner (weapon on safe, muzzle pointed down range and in a safe direction, fingers nowhere near the trigger).

 

4. Present the weapon and fire ONE shot. Have your partner watch you and the gun (not the target) for proper form and a flinch if the gun is not loaded.

 

5. If a shot is fired, remove the magazine from the magazine well, unload the chamber, checking, double checking, and triple checking that the gun is clear, and hand the weapon to your partner with the muzzle down range in a safe direction to repeat the process again.

 

6. If the chamber is empty, and you “flinch,” remove the magazine from the magazine well, check, double check, and triple check the gun is unloaded, and perform five more trigger presses with a spent casing on the front sight post.

 

7. Hand your unloaded weapon and loaded magazine back to your partner, and repeat the process.

 

A few additional notes: if you are performing the above drills with a DA/SA gun, your trigger press should ALWAYS be from double action mode. If you can master the longer, heavier double action trigger pull, the single action trigger pull will be easy. If you gun has a visible loaded chamber indicator, you must use dummy rounds, or you can cheat and know if your weapon is loaded or not.

 

Though this skill set may seem elementary, it is something we personally revisit often on the range in our own practice. Shooting is a perishable skill, and must be kept sharp. No matter what drill we are practicing, we always strive for fist size groups on the range (shooting on the move, low light, etc.). If a proper trigger press cannot be performed quickly, repeatedly and on demand, you simply will not meet that accuracy standard. Those of us with the sheep dog mentality that carry a firearm in the defense of ourselves, our loved ones, and innocent people owe it to those we wish to protect to be as accurate as possible.

 

The particular skill covered in this article is how we shoot ACCURATELY. In my next installment, I’ll discuss how we shoot accurately AND quickly with a trigger reset drill.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Safe Shooting,

 

JF

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Thanks for this post, this delivers the mail. Looking forward to the next one.

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Jeff - Thank you for taking the time to prepare these posts! I've been working on trigger pull quite a bit lately, particularly with my pistol and bolt gun with lots of dry firing. I've also done Vicker's dime drill on my AR quite a bit as well.

 

Recently, my pistol shooting wasn't as solid as I had hoped/envisioned and not what I had been shooting many years ago when I shot often. So yes, I definitely see how they are pershable skills, but those skills are also victims of lazy or non-purposeful shooting, like shooting just to run a gun, where I think I picked up some bad habits doing so, which I am trying to get rid of.

 

Thanks again and looking forward to future installments.

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Excellent post, Jeff!!

 

bc

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Definitely going to try this, thanks for posting!

 

 

You will definitely benefit from it. I practice both of those drills regularly and my handgun shooting has improved dramatically. The ball/dummy drill will tell on you every time if you have someone to load the mag for you :wink:

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Good post! Looking forward to the next installment!

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I've been doing the 5x1 drill (well, without the one) at home for a few minutes each night. I started with just doing 5, but now I'm trying to get as many trigger pulls in a row without it falling. I've also found that one of the spend casings that I've been using is a little rounded on the bottom, which makes it tougher. I'm going to my first USPSA event this weekend, so will see how it goes and if these drills are paying off. I'll be sure to try the 5x1 with the x1 at the range on my next trip.

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Good info, thanks for posting. :thumb:

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