Teach a person to shoot: Part 6
by B.B. Pelletier
Today, we’ll talk about triggers. Besides the sights, the trigger is the most important part of a target airgun. On a pistol, the trigger is just as important as the sights, because the proper use of the trigger promotes stability and control over the handgun.
How light should a trigger be?
Many veteran shooters like their triggers to be as light as they can be, commensurate with safety. Indeed, on world-class 10-meter target rifles, the trigger-pulls can be adjusted to mere tens of grams. But, a light trigger is not good for the beginning shooter for a number of reasons, with safety being the overriding one. By the way, the guns are called 10-meter guns because the targets we shoot are 10 meters, or just under 33 feet, distant. That distance is measured from the muzzle of the gun – both rifle and pistol.
The types of target rifles that are intended for training shooters have heavy (for competiton guns) trigger-pulls. Crosman’s Challenger 2000, for example, has a two-stage trigger that breaks at 3 lbs. Daisy’s Avanti 853, which has been around for decades, has a single-stage 6-lb. trigger! Neither one is adjustable. Both companies have learned the hard way that new shooters, and some who should know better, are not cautious about the trigger, so they make their triggers on the heavy side. This is perfect for the beginner. By the time they know exactly what they want in a trigger, the safety procedures will be deeply ingrained.
Watch each new shooter!
An instructor faces the moment of truth every time a new shooter touches a gun. The most dangerous part of the gun is the muzzle; however, at the same time, the instructor must watch how the shooter addresses the trigger. I have some friends who instinctively put their trigger fingers on the trigger of a gun every time they pick one up. These are dangerous people! If memory serves me, every one of them has had at least one shooting accident. Do not allow new shooters to get into the bad habit of touching the trigger before they’re ready to take the shot. Make them hold their trigger finger straight out alongside the triggerguard until the proper command is given to shoot.
The RIGHT (and only) way to squeeze a trigger!
There is just one way to squeeze a trigger to obtain the best accuracy. I will describe rifles first, and then pistols. First, get into your position so the rifle is fairly close to the intended target. Then take a deep cleansing breath and let it out. Next, breathe deep and let about half out. You now have five seconds or less to sight and squeeze off the shot. Align the sights and take up the first stage. This is where a single-stage trigger becomes a liability. When the second stage is reached, squeeze with increasing pressure while keeping the sights aligned with the target. If you go longer than five seconds, relax and begin again. If all you have is a single-stage trigger, pretend it is the second stage of a two-stage trigger. The reason for the five-second limit is that after that time, your muscles will start twitching and throwing you slightly off target. If you watch a champion shooter, they get the shot off in three seconds or less.
The shot should come as a surprise. Keep practicing until it does. If you intentionally make the shot go off, you will move the gun, however slight, and that’s called “flinching.” At this point, you’ll also understand the necessity of an overtravel adjustment. It makes the trigger that much more precise. When you have done this a thousand times, you will get a feel for your trigger and how it has to be manipulated.
Trigger work with the pistol
First, get into your stance. Raise the pistol with your eyes closed, and the sights should be on the bullseye when you open your eyes again. If not, move your feet until they are. I like to point both toes slightly inward to put tension on my legs; it gives a more solid stance. Then, you’re ready to shoot. Rest the loaded pistol on the shooting table and take a cleansing breath. Take another breath and let half out as you raise the pistol and drop it back until the sights are aligned with the target. This starts your five seconds. Squeeze the first stage out and begin the second stage. Increase pressure until the pistol fires. If you take too long, release the trigger and start over.
After the student has fired many shots and about five times as many dry-fire shots using exactly the same technique, they will be proficient with that trigger.