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I got this in an email and I thought I would post it here to see what other people thought about it, especially instructors.

The Trigger Control Fallacy
By Mike Rayburn
Adjunct Instructor, Smith & Wesson Academy

Thousands of articles and reams of paper have been wasted on the fallacy of trigger control and how allegedly important it is to shooting skills. Numerous "shooting gurus" have gone on record as stating that trigger control is the number one problem when it comes to shooting a handgun.

That's a bunch of hogwash! Trigger control may be important to target shooting skills, but not to the type of shooting we do as law enforcement officers. As police officers we are combat shooters, or at least we better be. If your department is still one, of unfortunately many, that still practices target shooting skills for combat on the street, then maybe trigger control is a concern of yours. But even then, it's not the number one problem when it comes to shooting a handgun.

The leading problem is anticipating the recoil of the firearm, resulting in a pre-ignition push, or PIP. Just before the ignition of the powder in the bullet, you push the gun with your hand. The most common of these is to push the front of the gun downward. Your brain is saying, "OK, here it comes, get ready for that loud bang," and you push the gun downward at the same time you pull the trigger rearward.

A number of firearms instructors have misdiagnosed this problem as poor trigger control, stating that the shooter "is not properly controlling the even, smooth pull of the trigger". So, what usually follows is command to, "Place the middle of the first pad of your index finger on the trigger and slowly squeeze the trigger rearward until the round goes off. When it does, it should be a surprise to you."

First off, you are sending lethal projectiles down range. Your gun should never go off as a "surprise to you." Each and every shot should be controlled and expected.

Secondly, do you really think that during an all-out fight for your life, you're going to be concerned with how much finger, first pad or not, is going to be on that trigger? Of course not! You're going to stick your finger in the trigger guard and pull that trigger as fast and as hard as you can to get some lead on this bad guy who's trying to take your life. It's as simple as that.

Another PIP problem that is often misdiagnosed as a trigger control issue is what is commonly called "heeling the firearm." Instead of pushing the nose of the gun downward, you push it upward. Basically, you're pushing with the heel of your hand and the front of the handgun gets pushed up. Once again, your brain is subconsciously saying; "OK get ready for that big bang", and you heel the gun, anticipating recoil.

The last PIP problem is to push the gun to one side or the other. Most shooters will push the gun to their off side. This is because that's where the least amount of energy is being exerted on the gun during the gripping process. Most right-handed shooters will push the gun to their left and most left-handed shooters will push the gun to their right.

So, if it's not trigger control, and we're not going to give stupid commands like "slowly squeeze your trigger until the round goes off and it's a surprise to you," how do we correct this PIP problem?

First, you have to recognize that the PIP problem is all in your head, nowhere else. You've subconsciously developed this "flinch" which results in the gun being pushed off target. You have to tell yourself, and be convinced, that you're not going to do it. If you have to, just before you pull the trigger, tell yourself repeatedly that you're not going to anticipate the recoil of the firearm: "I'm not going to do it, I'm not going to do it." You have to believe that as long as you're holding the gun properly and pointing it in the right direction, you're not going to get hurt by the recoil, no matter how big of a bang the gun makes.

Convincing yourself mentally is one thing, but having it transferred to your hand is another. To reinforce what's going on in your brain, you should perform what's called the "ball & dummy drill." Take three or four magazines and stagger live rounds with plastic dummy rounds. Mix them up, placing one live, one dummy, two live, one dummy, and so forth. Now mix the magazines up so you don't know which ones are loaded which way.

Once you've done this, head out to the range and place a magazine in your gun. Begin firing one round at a time. When you get to the dummy round, if you have a PIP problem, you'll see the gun dip, or heeled up, or pushed off to one side or the other. If this occurs, practice that mental rehearsal of telling yourself that you're not going to anticipate the recoil. Continue the ball and dummy drill until you've conquered your PIP problem.

Stay away from all the hype from these so-called "shooting gurus" and stick with the facts, which show that the number one problem with most shooters is anticipating the recoil of the firearm, not trigger control. Understand that during a gunfight, you'll just stick your finger in the trigger guard and pull that trigger as fast and as hard as you can until you've eliminated the threat.

Stop worrying about the recoil of the firearm and you'll be a great shooter.

About the author:

Michael T. Rayburn is a 29-year veteran of Law Enforcement and is currently an adjunct instructor at the Smith & Wesson Academy. He is the author of three books, Advanced Vehicle Stop Tactics, Advanced Patrol Tactics, and Basic Gunfighting 101. His video, "Instinctive Point Shooting with Mike Rayburn" is a top seller in the law enforcement and combat shooting communities.
 

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Interesting article.

Just not sure I agree with it without some sort of proof.

I have taught newbie shooters who started out as horrible handgun shooters the principle of squeezing the trigger slowly and letting it surprise them. Seems to work just fine.

However, I can see his point. When I think back to the advanced pistol course I took from Strategic last year, all of our shooting was done while on the move and in semi-real environments with cardboard bad guys to shoot at. Although I wasn't hitting every bad guy in the head, I was making enough lethal shots that none of those bad guys would have lived.

I have to say that putting that front sight on the bad guy and holding it as still as possible might even be more important than anything else.
 

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A very interesting read. I think I agree. I've never liked the saying, "It should surprise you when the gun goes bang" because I dang well want to know when the thing's going to work it's magic. The last thing I want to be while handling a deadly weapon is surprised.

The key is that in a gun fight, you are rarely going to do what you do at the range, unless the type of shooting you do at the range is similar to what you'd do in a shootout. Being familiar with your gun, how it shoots, and how it sounds is probably most important.

Another good read on the related topic of point shooting - http://www.bobtuley.com/pointshooting.htm
 

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Point shooting has its place, especially within the tactical shooters realm, however, trigger control should always be a key element within anyones training program. Without proper control on the trigger, the tactical environment can add an emphesis to the "jerking" of the trigger, resulting in elevated number of missed shots "and those missed shots have to stop eventually hit something or someone". Close range point shooting should definately be practiced, but as the threat distance increases, trigger control and the other fundamentals of handgun shooting will help you shine :D

Ask a sniper what he thinks of trigger control, breathing, and balance.....and I bet he won't even mention point shooting :lol:

B
 

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No instructor here and I don't have any opinion on the matter. I just wanted to say that the article was a GREAT read, helped clarify what I am doing wrong in my shooting (PIP'ing down and to the left due to anticipating the shot), and gave me one method of counteracting that automatic action of mine. I'm going to try it out and combine it with the trigger control aspects I've been taught and see if I can't make myself more accurate.
 

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I think it is different for every person.

Some may naturally have a very smooth trigger pull and so control is not an issue or even a thought for them.

For others, they may have a bad trigger setup and it causes problems for them no matter how much work they do on their trigger pull.

I don't think you can generalize this. Each gun/trigger can be as different as each person's physical hand dimensions (size, strength, etc.) No matter what you say, every person WILL have a different experience.

I think the point is that you should shoot often enough that you know what to expect and are comfortable with what is going to happen when you squeeze.
 

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I agree with the article, in that anticipating recoil, pre-ignition push, and heeling, thereby jerking the gun off-target is a problem. I think mixing up dummy rounds in the magazine is a great idea, and I'm thankful to the range officer who had me do it! This article reminds me to do that more often.

But a lot of getting the gun off target is jerking the trigger. When the best IPSC and IDPA shooters emphasize trigger control, even with rapid shooting, I have to think they know what they're talking about.

I agree with the article and Apollosmith. Every time I read about squeezing the trigger and being SURPRISED by the gun going off, I think, "Hey, that's not the way I want it to be." With practice (and a decent trigger) a person can know pretty well exactly when it's going to go off.

Tacomatose is correct. For beginning shooters, the surprise break is good, helping a person to understand good trigger control. But I have to think you should get to the point that you're not surprised. And of course, that takes practice, both live fire and dry fire.

If I'm shooting slowly and carefully for best accuracy, I want the gun to go off when the sights are right where I want them. And that means I've pulled the trigger just to the point where just that little additional pressure will do it.

If I'm shooting rapid shots, I can still strive for a smooth trigger pull. Rapid and smooth is still lots better than jerking the trigger. I think it's true that in an stress situation, you'll shoot the way you've practiced. So whether at targets, hunting, or self-defense, I'm hoping I have the good trigger control I'm practicing.
 

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Mjolnir said:
I think it's true that in an stress situation, you'll shoot the way you've practiced. So whether at targets, hunting, or self-defense, I'm hoping I have the good trigger control I'm practicing.
That holds true in almost every other endeavor we pursue. The term often employed to explain it is 'muscle memory'.
 

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Thanks Hunter, it was an interesting article.
Personally I was taught by my father and was never told to be "surprised." So that notion is a new one to me. Over the years I have taught myself many different aspects of shooting. I shoot both handed (as long as I close my right eye when shooting left handed, being a right handed person), and I do not believe I have much of that flinch activity going on concerning anticipation and noise. If possible I prefer to shoot as quickly as possible and in doing so have found that I am more accurate with both pistols and long guns. As to whether this is a trigger control issue, or a heel or point down issue, I don't know.
There are some interesting points in the article & next time I am out I may think of these & see how they reflect as concerns me & my ability to be on mark.
I still believe that trigger control, which I have always thought was not putting my finger on the trigger until I shoot, is more important. I especially think this would be the case as concerns law enforcement. I do agree that when they do need to fire their weapon that they ought to know these points however, in any confrontation, in order to minimalize risks of premature firing, when pointing a gun at another human being your finger shouldn't be getting in the trigger guard until the moment you absolutely must be firing. Not being a police officer, only the son of a former officer, some may disagree with me. This is how I was taught.
It was a good article & I am grateful for Hunter sharing this with us.
 

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I think I see where the author is coming from, but he seems to be taking the far side of the argument. I do work on flinch a lot with folks new to shooting, but not with those who have been at it a while. I still teach the correct basics (e.g., grip, trigger control, sight picture) even if the biggest problem they have is flinching.

I used to coach a volleyball team. I taught them how to do a really good "bump" and had them practice a lot. In a game, I wasn't surprised to see poor bumps, but I didn't tell them to forget the basics 'cause that isn't what it is like in the real world. Same goes for martial arts, defensive driving, opening the door for people, and on and on.

I am a big fan of dummy rounds, first for flinch and then for malfunction clearing.
 

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bane said:
No instructor here and I don't have any opinion on the matter. I just wanted to say that the article was a GREAT read, helped clarify what I am doing wrong in my shooting (PIP'ing down and to the left due to anticipating the shot), and gave me one method of counteracting that automatic action of mine. I'm going to try it out and combine it with the trigger control aspects I've been taught and see if I can't make myself more accurate.
Try these targets bane, they're helpful whether you are practicing trigger control accuracy or high-stress CQC.

 

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RUGER: Dude, that is *SO* awesome!!! Thank you so much. I am definitely itching to go shooting now! :)

I'll let you know where me rounds land... it might be a week or so though, I'm pretty busy with finals right now...
 
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