We run more students through our training courses than most other private sector training organizations in the USA. As such we see a very good cross-section of what the level of skill is across the nation. And by skill, I am referring to the ability to hit a target on demand at various distances, and from various situationally adapted positions.
On point we constantly have to fix in our students is the management of the trigger. They stay off the trigger until the last possible moment and then they jump onto that trigger and slap it for a brief instant only to quickly move off trigger again. It is as if an instructor at some point along their formative development convinced them that the trigger was like a hot stove and that it would burn them to the bone if they lingered upon its surface.
An analogy that some readers may understand is the novice driver that is afraid of the gas pedal and that stays off it for as long as possible and then is either flooring it or simply not touching it at all. Although the characteristics of gas pedal and pistol/rifle trigger are not exactly the same, there are some very close parallels in how men operate them at the novice stage.
Another situation that virtually ignores any trigger skill development is the seemingly exclusive focus on close range shooting. Recently I heard of a rifle class that was held all inside of fifteen yards and the students went through 2,000 rounds in a weekend. A 2,000 round rifle class at fifteen yards! I am not sure what sort of "instruction" was taking place here, but I can say that in our very fast paced three day programs we barely make it to 1,000 rounds, actually focusing on learning skills, but I digress.
The desire for a high round count, relaxed marksmanship requirements, and the ever present inculcation of "trigger fear" leads to a degradation of marksmanship across the board...and with all weapon systems.
The student must learn to be comfortable with his trigger, not to be afraid of it. And he must learn that like the gas pedal, there are times to press hard and as fast as possible, but there are also many times for the soft and careful operation that yields amazing accuracy. The results of course should be a hit with every trigger press, and while not always possible in reactive events, they are the goal always in proactive shooting.
There are four aspects of trigger work.
Touching the trigger: The shooter can touch the trigger as a preparatory step. As discussed in the previous article on trigger management, you should not fear touching the trigger. And all, "but the average gun guy can't grasp such an esoteric concept", I will call "bovine scatology" on that argument and state that we take novices to a level of skill that surpasses that of many professional instructors. If Average Anny, or Mediocre Mike cannot grasp these concepts it is most likely due to substandard instruction.
A part of touching the trigger has to do with how much finger is involved in the process. The two extremes are the 1911 shooter with the finely tuned trigger that operates it with the very tip of his finger. The other is the double action revolver shooter that has so much finger in there for leverage that he could scratch his own nose between shots.
With street-realistic triggers, the finger tip method is not the best choice, and an example of when sport skills degrade street skills. Inadequate finger involvement or excessive finger involvement creates a fulcrum of sorts that tends to steer the pistol off target during the final break. Experiment with this of course. If you are steering the weapon off target consider shifting the finger position. On all my handguns I tend to hit the trigger right at the first joint.
Staging the trigger: Almost all triggers have a take up, or a pre-travel at the beginning of the pull. Often guys want to eliminate this, but I like my triggers to have a discernible take up. What the rifle match guys will call a two stage trigger...and that on both rifles and pistols. Staging the trigger is simply taking up the slack and having everything set for the final break of the shot. Attempting conduct the take up along with the break will not yield the required results...but most likely a miss.
Breaking the trigger: If everything has been properly organized, all this involves is continuing the pressure begun at the staging process and allowing that pressure to break the trigger. Notice the choice of words. "Continue the existing pressure", not "Make the gun fire". Subtle but they invoke different feelings and attitudes.
Resetting the trigger: Once the shot is fired, the bullet will leave the barrel, the fired case will be ejected and the next cartridge fed into the chamber. All of this likely happens during the recoil cycle. It is imperative that during the recoil cycle you allow the weapon to work without changing anything about your grip and position. This is an eye blink.
What you should focus on - hold the trigger back during recoil. DO NOT ALLOW YOUR FINGER TO LEAVE THE TRIGGER. I don't care what others may have told you in this respect, they are wrong and that is that. It should seem as if you have Crazy Glued your finger to the trigger. As the weapon returns from recoil...again, I am taking far longer to explain that the time it actually takes...as the weapon returns from recoil, allow the finger to move forward sufficiently, but only just so to rest the trigger in preparation for the next shot. With striker fired weapons this will be identical to the "Stage the Shot" position.
In practice begin slow. Fire one shot and learn the reset and the trigger operation. In the low standards world of "On trigger - or Off Trigger" our gray area concepts may seem uncomfortable. Regardless, once you grasp them you will be a better shot than most of the people carrying weapons professionally who do not know such things.
Hit these with an open mind and you will see how quickly your skills improve. These are the best and simplest way to learn to operate the trigger.