Fundamentals of Pistol Shooting (Part 4)


The third Fundamental of Pistol Shooting is:

  • ‘Press the trigger smoothly and straight to the rear.’

First of all, let’s distinguish between ‘trigger manipulation,’ a physical process, and ‘trigger control,’ a mental process. Trigger control is the result of the Decide phase of each shot referenced in the first post of this series. Being a mental process, trigger control will not be addressed in this post.

Note that trigger manipulation has two components. The first, Press the trigger smoothly, is fairly well known even when it’s not well done. A dictionary definition of smoothly is:

in an even way, without suddenly stopping and starting again

Consider the way you squeeze a tube of toothpaste. While the trigger press is often much faster than that, as an analogy it describes the feel of the process fairly well. What we want to do is to press the trigger adequately to make the pistol fire and no more.

Pressing smoothly avoids trigger yanking, the opposite of Pressing the Trigger Smoothly. My friend and colleague Ken Hackathorn refers to yanking as ‘El Snatcho,’ which is a good way of describing it. Trigger yanking isn’t a problem in the Fairbairn-Sykes scenario of hitting a full size silhouette at two yards fifty percent of time. However, when the distance is greater, the hit standard higher, or the target is smaller, then we need to avoid yanking and press the trigger smoothly even if we must press it quickly.

The second component, straight to the rear, is not nearly as well understood. Our trigger fingers are not well set up to press the trigger straight to the rear. Physiologically, the finger most naturally moves in an arc curling toward the tip of the thumb. This is easily observed by manipulating the trigger finger without a pistol in your hand. To overcome this built in tendency, training the trigger finger is necessary. An easy practice exercise is available in the Press the trigger smoothly post.

This is a video with further explanation about the straight to the rear practice drill.

Learning to Press the trigger smoothly and straight to the rear is critical to becoming “A real shooter with aim.” Aim, as described in Part 2 of this Series, doesn’t do much good if you yank the pistol away from the target as you fire the shot.

The next Part will cover ‘Follow Through.’

Part 1 of the Series 

Part 2 of the Series 

Part 3 of the Series 

Tactical Professor books (all PDF)

Purchase of any book includes Serious Mistakes Gunowners Make.

STOPP Presentation at Rangemaster Tactical Conference

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