by B.B. Pelletier

I find the subject of triggers is misunderstood by many shooters, and not at all helped by some gun manuals whose writers haven’t a clue what they are talking about. So, today, I’d like to set the record straight on the difference between creep and take-up. In so doing, I will also be describing the difference between single-stage and two-stage triggers.

Single-stage trigger
A single-stage trigger is a simple lever that has resistance from the start. As your finger squeezes the trigger, you are met with full resistance from the moment you first touch the trigger blade. If the trigger is a good one, the resistance is even right up to the moment the sear releases. There is never an increase in pull weight, and you do not feel any trigger movement before the release.

If the trigger starts moving, as if to release, then hesitates and perhaps moves again, you are experiencing what is known as creep. Creep can also be any movement of the trigger, regardless of whether there are hesitations or not. Creep is the detectable movement of a trigger that doesn’t result in the release of the sear. Good triggers have no detectable creep. An average single-stage trigger may have just a single spot of movement/creep, while a poor one moves and pauses, moves and pauses several times before release. The poor one will unnerve the shooter and make it much more difficult to stay on target.

Two-stage trigger
A two-stage trigger has two separate movements. The first stage is a lighter spring-loaded pressure working against your trigger finger from the moment you touch the trigger blade. At the end of this travel, the trigger stops positively against the second stage. If you release the trigger at this point, it should move back to the starting position so you can go through the first stage many times without firing the gun. The second stage is the one that releases the sear. It acts exactly like a single-stage trigger, with an increase of resistance from the trigger until the sear finally releases. Because of that, a two-stage trigger can have creep in the second stage, just like a single-stage trigger.

The purpose of having the first stage is to provide feedback to the shooter, so he knows when the trigger is ready to fire the gun. You don’t get that feedback with a single-stage. With the single-stage trigger, many more accidents happen because shooters are not aware they are squeezing the trigger until the gun fires. The two-stage trigger is considered the more sensitive and more advanced trigger type.

The movement of the first stage of a two-stage trigger is called take-up. A good trigger allows the shooter to adjust take-up. Some shooters dislike the take-up and either adjust it to be as brief as possible or, on some triggers, it is possible to remove it altogether. Then, the two-stage trigger becomes a single-stage. Unfortunately, take-up has been described in some owners’ manuals as creep (in the IZH 46 manual, for example). That has confused new shooters, who then cannot communicate about their triggers because their vocabulary is wrong. They may even think that a fine two-stage trigger is flawed because they can feel the first stage take-up that they believe is creep, and they have heard that creep is bad.

The effect on accuracy
You might think the choice of a single-stage or two-stage trigger is a matter of personal preference, and to some extent it is, but very few top shooters use single-stage triggers because of the lack of feedback. The set trigger, which is always single-stage when set, is the only exception I know. The top Olympic target air pistols that have a minimum trigger weight limit of 500 grams have the ability to put most of that weight into the first stage. They are so smooth and sophisticated that it is possible for the shooter to feel a second-stage resistance of a few grams, when already pulling most of the total release weight in the first stage. This gives the same level of control as a set trigger.

I hope this clears up any questions you might have about the differences between these terms. If not, I await your comments.