by Brian “Gunny” Zins

Let me start by stating that some of what you’re about to read may sound contradictory to a lot of articles that have been written and lessons that have been taught in the past. Some of this may say the same thing in the end, just a different route to get there. By no way am I suggesting they are incorrect. I am merely giving my approach to learning bulls-eye and what I do as a shooter.

Trigger Control

Started out this segment as “Fundamentals” but, honestly if you know me there is only one that really, really counts when the shot breaks. Don’t get me wrong stance and grip and aiming are important. Keep in mind that you can have a perfect grip and hold perfect sight alignment all day long. It only counts when the gun goes bang and only one action causes the gun to go bang. Pulling the trigger. You can hold the gun upside down, squeeze the trigger with your pinky, and align the sights to the target in a mirror and shoot tens as long as you don’t jerk the trigger.

Please DO NOT try that at home.

Again this is what I was taught and this is what I do. It is a way, not THE way, that’s all. But I have had pretty good results with it. Also this is for a trigger with at least a little roll. My preference that’s all.

First let’s look at trigger finger placement.
Where should the trigger make contact on the finger? The trigger should be centered in the first crease of the trigger finger. Remember this is an article on Bulls-eye shooting. If this were an article on free pistol or air pistol it would be different. So International shooters please don’t unleash the hounds on me.
Why you ask? We have always been taught to place the pad on the trigger. If you a trigger that weighs in between 2 and 4 lbs. That is enough weight to move the fleshy part of the pad of your finger. Try it! Get something that weighs at least 2 lbs that has a tip or point on it the size of a pen or a trigger would be ideal. Put your hand on a table or desk, palm up and slowly lower the weight onto the pad of the finger. It moves. A lot. Now lower the weight onto the first crease of the finger, right on the joint. Sure it moves, a whole lot less than the fatty, fleshy part of the pad of the finger. Now having conducted this little experiment think about the pulling the trigger with the pad of the finger. The first part of movement you feel is flash and fat moving out of the way. This is not part of the movement involved in trigger control.
Ever been shooting well and in slow fire you start to get “chicken finger?” The trigger starts moving and then it stops and feels like it weighs 30 lbs, or did it move at all? Maybe what you felt was the flesh moving out of the way cause you are shooting well and don’t want to screw up the match, so you are really in tune with what you are feeling in the trigger.
Now think if the trigger were placed at the crease or first joint of the trigger finger. When the trigger moves, what you are feeling is really the trigger moving.

Let’s go even deeper.
Take a pen or a pencil and start tapping the fleshy part of the web between your trigger finger and the thumb. Keeping the same intensity move the tapping up the large knuckle on your trigger finger. Feel the difference? The flesh acts as a shock absorber to the tapping where the tendon in the joint is more of a conductor. I know what you’re thinking. Why do I want to feel that? Because it is that important to be able to feel every little movement of your trigger so you know that you are squeezing the trigger and not jerking the trigger.

Types of trigger squeeze
I remember when I was in Boot Camp and they taught us about trigger control before we went to the rifle range. I now look back realize they were, well not wrong, but mistaken. Just in case I run into one of my old Drill Instructors and by some strange twist of fait he read this article. We were taught two different types of trigger control: Interrupted and Uninterrupted. I still believe that there are two types: Uninterrupted and Wrong.
If trigger control is ever interrupted in slow fire the shot needs to be aborted and the shot started over. If trigger control is interrupted in a sustained fire stage then we revert to our “key word” that triggers us to kick-start our shot process. Shot process and “key word” if not already covered will be covered later.

The relationship between sight alignment and trigger control
Often when the fundamentals are explained these two are explained as two different acts. Well truth be told, it’s really kind of hard to accomplish one without the other. They have a symbiotic relationship. In order to truly settle the movement in the dot or sights you need a smooth steady trigger squeeze. Trigger control is merely a reaction to what the eye sees.
What? One can hold perfect sight alignment / sight picture for a long time. Now apply pressure to the trigger, what happens? Something moves right? So if this happens in a slow fire shot what typically happens? We stop squeezing until everything settles down again and we start the trigger. It moves. We stop the trigger. It settles. We start the trigger. It moves and so on and so on and so on. So from this we can see how the finger already acts to what the eye sees. We do not have to train the eye to accomplish this it already does it. We need to make it work for us and get the finger to react at a more opportune time. BEFORE we have obtained perfect sight alignment / sight picture. Yes I just said to start squeezing the trigger before you have obtained a perfect sight alignment / sight picture. Your sight alignment should be pretty close to perfect since we have mastered a perfect grip and the sights are aligned, not just to each other but also to the our eye, as soon as we raise the gun. Or we will master that soon. So before the sights or dot have settled into the center of the target we should start our trigger squeeze taking advantage of the pressure that is being applied to the trigger to help stabilize the sight. Continue to squeeze the trigger uninterrupted using that pressure to help move toward and stay center and allow the shot to break.
Said nothing about a surprise break. Not a big believer in the surprise break. Just being honest. I know when my gun is going to shoot. I know what it feels like right up until it shoots. I really know my trigger. I have done lots of dry firing without looking at the sights just to know what it feels like.
It has been called steering the sights with the trigger, but I don’t like the connotation that carries. More of a sight alignment/sight picture through trigger control concept.