How to Perfect Your Pistol Trigger Press [for Free] Home / Pistol 101 / How to Perfect Your Trigger Press

How to Perfect Your Pistol Trigger Press [for Free]

Image of Bryan Hill, Founder of Pistol Wizard Bryan Hill / March 10 2021

Want to tighten your groups at the range, hit targets at 25 yards or longer, and gain one of the keys to accurate speed shooting?

If you already have a gun, you can do it at home, for free, right now. I'll show you how.


On this Page:

  1. Setup for Dry Practice
  2. Will Dry Practice Hurt My Gun?
  3. Gripping the Pistol
  4. Sight Alignment
  5. The Trigger Press
  6. Common Faults
  7. Skill Progression
  8. Next Steps

Setup for Dry Practice

A "dry" gun is unloaded, and dry practice uses a dry gun.

Choose a dry practice area. It can be in your living room, bedroom, etc. For this exercise, you just need a plain wall to point at.

Unload your pistol, and place your ammo somewhere away from your dry practice area.

During dry practice, continue following the 4 rules of gun safety. If you ever have to leave your gun unattended, re-check it to verify it's still unloaded.


Will Dry Practice Hurt My Gun?

Dry practice will not damage modern guns, except for some chambered in .22 Long Rifle (.22lr), and some guns made before 1970.

Does your pistol sound like one of those exceptions? Check the user manual and verify whether dry fire is safe for it. If it doesn't say it's safe to dry fire, you'll need a snap cap, (an inert/dummy round) loaded in the chamber to practice dry and not damage your gun.
Snap Caps from Glock, Tipton, and ST Action Pro.
Left: Glock snap caps are solid plastic. Center: Tipton has a brass striking surface and a spring inside. Right: ST Action Pro has a recessed plastic primer.


Gripping the Pistol

Start with this foundation:

  • Shooting hand: Get the web between your thumb and index finger is as high on the grip as possible. No gaps!
  • Support hand: Put your index finger under the trigger guard, then roll the wrist forward 10-20º to get more of your hand on the grip.
  • Both hands: Turn your wrists toward each other. You'll feel it mostly around the base of your thumbs. Hold that tension constant anytime you prepare to fire, until you finish firing.
  • Both hands: Grip hard. With your firing hand, dial it back just enough to use your trigger finger effectively. Your support hand grips as hard as possible. When you put the gun down, there should be imprints of the grip on your hands where they touched the gun.
This will do for now. We will improve the grip in another lesson.


Sight Alignment

When using iron sights, you'll want to see this:
A good sight picture. The front sight is centered in the rear sight window, is horizontally level with the rear sight, and is in focus.
Front sight is vertically centered in the rear sight window.
Front sight and rear sight are horizontally level.

Focus on the front sight. If you can't do this due to bad eyesight, a laser or a red dot (for compact and larger pistols) will bypass this issue.


The Trigger Press

What part of your finger do you use on the trigger? Between the middle of its tip and the joint.
Use the half of the finger closer to your thumb.
Clear as mud? Check the index finger in this diagram. The darker part is the sweet spot:
What part of the finger to press the trigger with

If your finger can't reach the trigger comfortably, the pistol's grip may be too big for your hand, or its trigger reach may be too far out. Try a different pistol, if you can.

The trigger press has 4 parts:

  1. Slack: At first, the trigger is easy to press.
  2. Wall: Once the Slack is out, the trigger becomes hard to press.
  3. Break: After you press through the Wall, you'll hear and feel a click (since you're practing with an unloaded gun).
  4. Reset: How much to release trigger before it can Break again.
    To test this dry, Break the trigger, hold it back, pull the slideback an inch or two, and then slowly release the trigger and listen for the click. That click is the Reset.

Take the Slack out, then press straight back through the Wall.

Experiment with how you use your finger to press. Try using your first finger joint, closer to your knuckle instead of the second one, closer to your fingertip. You'll probably feel tension between your index knuckle and your wrist, on the back of your hand.

To Reset the trigger, pull the slideback about an inch or two and release it.

This is what you'll see during a good trigger press:

You'll have some natural hand movement. We're human, not machines.
What's important is that you don't move the gun as a result of pressing the trigger.

What does that look like?


Common Faults

The following assume a right-handed shooter. Anytime it says the gun goes to the right, it will go left for a left-handed shooter.

Fault: Gun jerks to the right as the trigger breaks.

  • Cause: You're pulling too much with your second joint, next to the trigger.
  • Solution: Pull more with your first joint, closer to your knuckle.

Fault: Gun glides to the right as you press.

  • Cause: Your shooting hand's other fingers are squeezing as you press the trigger.
  • Solution: Set your grip firm before you start shooting, and keep it firm until you finish your set.

Fault: Gun jerks left as you press.

  • Cause: Too little finger on the trigger.
  • Solution: Experiment with different placements of your finger on the trigger, closer to the first joint.

Fault: Gun jerks down as the trigger breaks.

  • Cause: Your index finger is pulling slightly down as you press. This won't really reveal itself unless you press the trigger hard.
  • Solution: Instead of using the exact center of your finger, try using the upper half (like closer to your thumb).

Fault: Gun glides down before you press, and continues more as you press.

  • Cause: Anticipation of recoil. Your shooting hand's other fingers are squeezing as you press the trigger, or your hands or wrists are moving the gun down.
  • Solution: Set your grip firm before you start shooting, and keep it firm until you finish your set. Master your grip technique and overcome your fear of recoil.


Next Steps

Top shooters can do a perfect dry trigger press in 0.20 seconds or less. That's 5 (or more) shots per second!

If that sounds beyond you, it's not. My course will get you there in 24 1-hour classes or less, and teach you much more along the way.

If you want to transform yourself into a confident, effective concealed carrier or home defender, and you're within 30 minutes of Georgetown, TX, sign up:

If you're near Georgetown, TX, we have classes in convenient 1-hour slots:
Demonstration of pistol training with recoil simulation technology.

Basic Pistol
Learn safe gun handling and basic pistol skills, so you can practice safely and effectively. Gain confidence with a pistol in four 1-hour classes.
A woman drawing her pistol.

Practical Concealed Carry
The Texas LTC doesn't teach you how to win a gunfight. Carry every day with confidence in 24 1-hour classes.

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References

  1. Skills and Drills Reloaded (2018)
  2. DryFire Reloaded (2017)
  3. Practical Pistol Reloaded (2016)
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