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Triggers: The difference between creep and take-up

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.

25 thoughts on “Triggers: The difference between creep and take-up”

  1. Thanks for this blog, BB. I haven’t messed with the adjustment on my RWS yet but its on my list of things to do next time I have some more range time.

    As a hobby metal worker I wondered if sometime you could explain how barrels are rifled? You explained the different riflings a week or so ago, but I’m interested in the mechanics of actualy making the rifling. It has to do with machines and tools….(insert Tim Allen grunts here.)

  2. Bob,

    I have resisted explaining how rifling is done because there are so many excellent refernces on the subject. I’m a poor second-best to the books and articles that have been written.

    However, this same request has been popping up more often, so I will take a stab at it for you.


    • BB

      Yeah, I want your input on that subject too. Is hammer forging more accurate in general or is it just the best for mass production? I’ve read histories on making lands and grooves and find it fascinating.


  3. BB,

    I am stuck. I am thinking about getting a Tx200 mk3 .22 or a RWS 52 .22 for target shooting and hunting. I know this is not a good comparison, but how is the accuracy for these two rifles at 50yd? Thanks.

  4. Well, you are right, the RWS 52 is more powerful than the TX200, but I believe the TX will make up for that with its extra accuracy, neutral hold and fine trigger. Also, the TX has a better scope stop than the RWS 52. I’d vote for the TX.

    The 52 can be accurate at 50 yards (one-inch groups), but you’ll find the TX easier to shoot.


  5. I’m Looking for a 10 yard plinker/target air rifle. Should I go with a Daisy Powerline 953, Crosman 795, or Gamo Delta. I already have a few multipumps and a Gamo springer, And I want a lower velocity “Fun Gun”. I don’t care if it’s single pump (daisy) or springer (Delta and 795). I might even consider a Crosman 1077 CO2. Just wandering if you have any expirience with these guns and any accuracy knowledge about these rifle I’m looking for 1/2 to1 inch groups or better

  6. HB,

    You might consider the IZH-61. /product/izh-61-multi-shot-air-rifle?m=76
    It’s inexpensive and around 450fps using Premier Domed 7.9 gr, as I recall. It has open, adjustable sights and is as accurate as you mentioned. I’ve added a red dot scope which makes it even more fun, at least for me, and makes those half inch groups repeatable from a bench. It definitely qualifies as a “fun gun.”


  7. Great report on two great guns but I was wondering if you could ever do a little write up on someof the chinese airguns. especially the QB78 which is known for its great accuracy.

  8. I haven’t had muchluck getting a comment/question into you, so let me try “anonymous” until I can figure my way in via regular blog channels.

    Have a Crosman 1377 and Benjamin 1322 and need a scope to overcome my poor eyesight even at 5 to 15 yards. Any suggestions for a decent pistol scope ?

    Reticle vs red dot ?

    Thanks, Paul

  9. HB,

    The rifles you mentioned will all give one-inch accuracy at 10 yards. Please read today’s post on airgun bargains. I agree that the IZH 61 is the gun you probably want. It will outshoot everything you have mentioned, plus it’s easier to cock and has the best trigger of all of them.


  10. Tech Force 99,

    I will review the 99 for you, but I don’t think you’ll like it. Of all the “improved” Chinese airguns, the 99 has been the biggest disappointment I’ve seen.

    Pyramyd AIR used to sell them, but I believe they dropped them because of customer returns.


  11. Paul,

    With poor eyes I would recommend a red dot over a scope. The simpler optics make focusing much less of a problem.

    A pistol scope is one of the hardest things to get used to. The reticles never seem to be where you think they should be and just seeing an image in the scope is a big problem at first. It has to do with the alignment of the scope, which is difficult when it is hand-held.


  12. TX200,

    I am very sorry. but there is NO air rifle in the world that can compare to the TX200 for accuracy, except the hand-made Whiscombe that costs over $2,000.

    You might consider a Gamo CF-X, which has decent accuracy at about a third the price.


  13. B.B.

    I have a question on the mechanics of using a two stage trigger. My practice has been to pull through the first stage as I’m aiming, which allows me to squeeze through the second stage immediately when I have the sight picture. This has caused me to fire off a few shots when I wasn’t ready. I guess I’m really using the trigger as a one stage. On the other hand, if I wait until I have the sight picture until I start stage one… well there’s just that much more opportunity for the gun to move off the target. Howzit spozed to work?


  14. I disagree with your statement: “but very few top shooters use single-stage triggers because of the lack of feedback.”
    Just about all Free pistol shooters use single stage or roll triggers.

    You left out roll trigger.

    I disagree with this too: ” but there is NO air rifle in the world that can compare to the TX200 for accuracy, except the hand-made Whiscombe that costs over $2,000.”

    There are many air rifles that compare or even best the tx200 in accuracy. Any half decent co2 or pcp for example. The TX is inherently less accurate because of it’s hold sensitivity.

  15. I also left out five lever set triggers, release triggers and a number of other exotic types that the average shooter is not likely to encounter.

    You apparently didn’t get the gist of the ansewr I was giving. If you had known I was answering a person who asked me whether there was a less expensive rifle than a TX with the same power and accuracy, would that have made a difference?

    Of course I was only referring to rifles within the spring gun category. But I felt the reader would understand that.

    However I am aware of no CO2 rifle that can outpace a TX. Perhaps you can enlighten me?

    The Haemmerli 160 free pistol has an adjustable two-stage trigger that conforms to ISSF rules. What free pistol are you referring to? Like any trigger, the first stage (takeup) can be removed. Is THAT what you mean?


  16. Free pistol shooters constitute a very small portion of the world’s marksmen, so you prove my point. And, the last time I checked, the Haemmerli 162 free pistol had a first stage. They call it take up in the manual, but that’s what it is.

    Yes, I also left out release triggers, five and six lever set triggers and a number of other exotics that our readers are not likely to encounter. This posting was not a review of all trigger designs.

    My remark about the TX 200 was directed at a question regarding spring rifle accuracy. While I disagree that there are any CO2 rifles as accurate (I’m not talking about 10-meter rifles, but sporting rifles that can group at 50 yards, which was the gist of our conversation), but I do acknowledge that there are plenty of sporting PCPs more accurate. However, I expected the asker of the question to understand that. That was the reason I referred to the Whiscombe instead of an AirForce Talon.


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