Highly Recommended Trigger Control Drills

Winchester Defender   may be the best self-defense firearm for the beginner

Air Pistol Practice     technique that has also helped my pistol marksmanship


Highly Recommended Trigger Control Drills


    While I am notoriously a good shot with a rifle, I find myself kind of a joke with a pistol. Bought one for Y2K, pointed it at a tree, and watched the leaves next to it, rustle.  The round traveled on the ground a short way up the hill.

    I had missed the tree.

    (Always have a backing, when you shoot. In North Carolina, there are many hills, in the woods, that you can stand at the base of. Idea is to stop any misfires from going astray.)  Anyway, with some practice, I got better, but I find I shoot a little to one side, and low, habitually.  Using this guys system, below, watching the sights, discovered the problem. 


    You can see my front sight go the right, slightly, as I complete my trigger pull.  You can also see me drop the front sight, slightly, as I complete my trigger pull. Now, dry-firing, usually with the TV as a background, I am working out steadying out my trigger pull. Method makes no noise, wastes no ammo, and is actually fun. Until I tried the basic format the man recommended in the following article, I did not know how to fix my pistol problems.

Scroll down for as good a series of firearms-practice drills as I have seen.. Paul. 


Owen's Life Trigger Control



Owen's Life
The Adventures of a Damn Yankee living in South Carolina

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Trigger Control

Lately I've been shooting mainly USPSA/IPSC matches. One of the funny things that happens in USPSA, is that the people who start in USPSA often never develop accurate shooting techniques. It's striking to me, because my shooting pedigree is in smallbore and highpower rifle, followed by bullseye pistol and Air Pistol. I was never a serious player in any of those games, but I was good enough to be one of the people to beat in the local league (except air pistol). The focus of IPSC is heavily oriented towards speed, so competitors often focus on speed, and neglect marksmanship. It's not that surprising; speed is fun to work on, marksmanship can be a drag. Entry to mid-level competitors never learn how to see their pistol sights, and they never learn how to pull the trigger. It becomes painfully obvious when one of these competitors is handed a double action revolver and stood in front of a plate rack. There is something about 6" steel circles that confounds many a shooter.

Hitting a target with a pistol is a very simple process: point the pistol at the target, and fire without moving the gun. The purpose of every other pistol technique is to enable this process, and to speed it up.

The trap that many USPSA competitors fall into is that they practice the advanced techniques without ever building an accuracy foundation. The result is that when they leave their local paper-only matches and start going to larger matches with tough marksmanship problems, they choke. I've run into many people on the local level that have difficulty hitting the IPSC target at 50 yds, never mind scoring decent points. It makes you wonder why they spend all that money on fancy shooting irons. One of my fellow competitors actually shoots a bit faster than I do, but he has difficulty hitting the A-zone at 15 yards. He often asks me to shoot groups for him, because he has doubts about the accuracy of the gun. I tend to tear 20-shot fist-sized groups at 15 yards with the same gun. Here is a man that would benefit tremendously from shooting at a bullseye now and again, but he won't, because they don't have bullseyes in USPSA. It seems to me he could have saved $2000 of the $3000 he spent on his limited gun, and bought a heck of a lot of ammo, and a decent .22.

The following is Owen's Quick and Easy Marksmanship Lesson Plan.

Rules for Dry Firing
1) Dig out your pistol. Make sure it is a pistol that can be dry-fired. In general, rimfire pistols should not be dryfired without snap caps. Any modern centerfire pistol should be ok to dry-fire, but refer to the owner's manual in both cases.

2) Make sure the pistol is unloaded.

Revolvers; swing the cylinder open and ensure that every chamber is empty. Pistols; remove the magazine and lock the slide back. Visually inspect the chamber.

3) Repeat step 2. Accidental/Negligent Discharges are both dangerous and embarrassing.

4) Go to your dry fire area. Your dryfire area should be in a place where people will not be crossing your line of fire, and the area you are aiming at should be sufficient to stop anything that may project from the gun. Remember, Accidental/Negligent Discharges are dangerous and embarrassing. You need to take steps to minimize the effects. My dry-fire area is in my basement. If you live in an apartment, you do not want to use a wall with neighbors on the other side for a backstop. Use your common sense. If you have no common sense, guns are not for you.

A Note about Pulling the Trigger
Your trigger pull should be a smoothly applied, constantly increasing force, like you are depressing a spring. (Heck, you are depressing a spring). One of the mindgames that helped me quite a bit is this:

Pretend that the front sight is attached to the trigger. When pressure is applied to the trigger, the front sight moves rearward towards the rear sight. The goal of pulling the trigger is to pull the front sight post straight though the center of the rear sight notch. (if anyone wants to provide an animation for this, I will gladly post it.) With enough practice, you will feel like you are steering the gun with the trigger, mainly because you are.

A Note on Sight Alignment

It is extremely important that the sights stay aligned with each other while you are pulling the trigger. The alignment of the sights is more important than the location of the sight picture on the target. With practice, the sight alignment will become fairly steady, but the location of that sight picture on the target will move around quite a bit. Don't worry about the location of the sights on the target so much; as long as your wobble is centered on the point of aim, you are in good shape.

First Drill

Aim at a blank wall with no target. The goal is to have a perfect sight picture for 10 seconds or so. Don't pull the trigger. Just aim at the blank wall. Repeat this until it gets boring. If you are focused on the sights you should be able to see the front sight shake around in the rear sight. If you can't see the shake, you aren't looking at the sights!! Don't worry about the shake or wobble, there isn't much you can do about it. It is caused by the way your muscles work. The purpose of this exercise is to teach your brain what a good sight picture looks like. As you practice, the shake and wobble will get better, will never completely go away. You can do this with the gun sandbagged also.

Second Drill

The second drill is the same as the first drill, but we will now be pulling the trigger. This one takes a little practice to get the hang of.

While maintaining a perfect sight picture on the wall, apply a little bit of pressure to the trigger. Not so much the pistol fires, but just enough to register on the tip of your finger. Release the pressure. Did the pistol move, or the wobble increase? Try again. Once you have applied the pressure without moving the sights, release the trigger, and apply a little more pressure. Eventually the fire control will drop the hammer/striker. Keep doing this until you can pull the trigger, without moving the sights. It won't be long before you know every hitch, every easy spot, and every gritty spot on your pistols trigger mechanism. The purpose of this drill is to learn how to activate the firing mechanism without screwing up the sight alignment.

Drill 3

Now we will put a target on the wall. I recommend standing far enough away from the wall that you can't focus on both the front sight and the target at the same time, as this will be the case when you are at the range. Also place the target so that it is at a comfortable height. I think chin height is about right.

Prepare for dry-firing as discussed above. Aim at the target on the wall. Squeeze the trigger until the hammer/striker drops. Did the sights wobble relative to each other? Did the sights move relative to the target? The purpose of the previous exercise was to learn how to pull the trigger without moving the sights relative to each other. The purpose of this drill is to learn how to pull the trigger without moving the whole gun relative to the target.

That's it. Everything you need to know about trigger control for single aimed shots is right there. Some of you may criticize me for not including live fire drills, but the gun firing has nothing to do with lining up the sights or pulling the trigger. We are concerned about the process of firing a shot, and the bullets hitting the target are results. We need to be focused on the process of shooting accurately. One the process is down, the results will take care of themselves

I will add some live fire drills next week.

Oh, when you are aiming at the target, be quick about it. The steadiest part of your hold is within the first 2-3 seconds. In a precision game, like air pistol, if you don't break the shot in 3-4 seconds, abort the shot and try again.

I really need to add some graphics to clarify this mess. Anyhow, critique away.

posted by Owen at 11:18 AM  




Back to the First Half - Page Index


Click here to view the more visual start page  

Or choose one of the access pages below.


Web Site Master- Index of Survival Files  this is the page that I personally use the most, to access my survival files  May be smaller, easier to use then last index on this page.  Files I chose first were put on the web site.


Christian Teaching       - exclusive to this site.

Basic Survival   this was my first access page to survival 

Homesteading  a lot if this is only on the DVD


Master index of DVD files and web site files  Most comprehensive master file list, yet.  With five times as much info on the DVD as on the web, many of the listed files on that page will not open from the web. 

Quick Jump Index For me, this site is a DVD that sits on my desk.  Since the DVD is as large as what we used to consider a hard drive, what I seek most is listed here. Some on web, all on DVD.


paul@survivalprimer.com   Write me.  Maybe tell me if you like this new index. Paul.



Excellent outside link


SSRsi - the Survival & Self-Reliance Studies Institute (formerly Rocky Mountain Survival Group) http://www.ssrsi.org