Trigger Control

Posted on November 9, 2011 by


“I don’t like revolvers. They’re just not as accurate with that heavy trigger pull.”

It’s the most frequent complaint I, as the local “gunny” and avowed wheelgun apologist, hear about revolvers. Usually, it’s from someone who is used to shooting a single-action or safe-action pistol. I will usually proceed to point out to them the fact that in reality, revolvers are no less mechanically accurate than their favorite semi-automatic pistol (the reverse is very often the case). Instead, they’ve developed a trigger control skill that is specific to an individual platform, making the loss of accuracy the fault of the shooter, not the gun.

By contrast, shooters who cut their teeth on double-action revolvers don’t have this problem and will frequently attest to the accuracy of the platform. The difference between the two groups is that the latter has developed necessary trigger controls for the double-action revolver, while the former has not. It’s this observation, coupled with my own experience, which has led me to the following conclusion:

Trigger control is the most important platform-specific skill required to effectively deploy the combat revolver.

Put simply, trigger control is the ability to press the trigger rapidly without disturbing the sight plane (or axis) of the firearm. You need trigger control regardless of what you are shooting, but the double-action revolver is less forgiving in this regard than others.

The purpose of the heavy, long pull that distinguishes the double-action trigger is, first of all, safety. It is almost impossible to accidentally fire a double-action revolver (provided it is being used in double-action, i.e., the hammer has not been cocked back). The trigger is heavy enough to require a purposeful, deliberate squeeze in order to fire. It is this aspect of purposefulness that has made the DA trigger popular in many of the most recent designs of duty and civilian carry guns.

The fighting revolver requires a swift rearward squeeze. The tendency that most shooters have is to use the wrist instead of the hand and finger to squeeze the heavy trigger back. This will cause the gun barrel to be jerked either upward or to the right, followed by an over-correction on the part of the shooter that renders the shot ineffective.

This can be remedied by two means. The first is the development of sufficient hand strength to pull the trigger smoothly. A few minutes spent daily with a stress ball for a couple of weeks is usually adequate for this purpose. The second is consistent daily dry-firing practice. When we get to training drills in this series we will introduce the “Light-plug Drill”. This is a drill that I have found to be especially helpful in developing a consistent trigger control without the expense of a range fee or ammunition.

One thing to beware of is a “flinch” – a pushing-forward or pushing-down of the gun in anticipation of the gun’s recoil. It is easy for new shooters to develop a flinch if they are shooting loads that are too hot for their skill level or guns that are too light for the loads that they are shooting. I know a shooter whose first exposure to the double-action revolver was an airweight .44 Magnum he had purchased (as his second firearm). The flinch he developed continues to hurt his trigger control to this day. While training scars like this can be fixed with proper practice and instruction, it is always better if we can avoid them all together.

Also understand that different guns (and different brands of guns) have different kinds of trigger pulls. The two Smith & Wesson revolver I carry on a regular basis have distinctively heavy, crisp trigger pull. The Ruger GP-100 I carry on the weekends has a longer, smoother pull. And I have a Rossi 461 that has a heavy, clunky trigger pull. But with proper trigger control, all three guns shoot equally well (though obviously I like some of them better than others) – the point being that if you have problems shooting a revolver, you might just need more practice, not a new gun or fancy trigger job.