Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trigger Control - Lighter is Better

Recently, I wrestled with the concept of installing a lighter trigger bar reset on my Ruger SR9.  I've always assumed that a heavier trigger on a self defense pistol was a good thing.  Then I got to thinking about how I would react to a heavier trigger under stress.  Would I really care about how heavy the trigger is on my gun?  Does it really matter if I have a lightweight trigger on a self defense gun?  What I decided was that a lighter trigger pull is a better trigger pull, especially for self defense?

I've heard all the arguments for and against a lightweight trigger.  Those against light triggers claim that you might be more apt to accidentally shoot a loved one in a stressful situation, and that a heavier trigger will allow you to ensure that when you pull it, you really mean it.  I've always had a problem with that sort of thinking.  I was always taught that your finger is not supposed to rest on the trigger until you are ready to fire.  I've always trained myself to draw my pistol from the holster with my trigger finger resting alongside the weapon, outside of the trigger guard.  I only put my finger in the trigger guard when I'm on target and ready to shoot. 

I've addressed the issue of guns needing manipulation before they fire in another blog post, so I will not go over it here.  What I will go over is the irrelevance of the argument for heavier triggers in self defense guns.  Traditionally, the politically correct way of thinking is that lighter triggers are good for when you are target practicing, but a heavier trigger is preferable when you use your gun for self defense.  I was at a gun store and the counter top commando, who was selling a pistol to a young woman, actually said that having a heavy long trigger pull is good because you can stage the trigger and decide whether or not you actually want to shoot. 

I disagree with that line of thinking 100%.  Even though I used to believe that heavier triggers were ideal for safety, I've never believed that under stress, I would be able to stage a trigger when pointed at a bad guy.  I've never deluded myself into thinking that staging a trigger when pointed at someone was a viable option.  I've always maintained that my finger would rest on the trigger only when I was about to fire. 

So then why is a heavy trigger pull better?  I can't answer that.  When a trigger is pulled, you are exerting rearward force on a weapon that weighs 4-5 times less than the trigger pull weight.  Pulling a trigger causes things inside the gun to move, it moves your hands, and the act of pulling a trigger will move your front sight off target, even if only a little bit.  This is why even the best shooters shoot small "groups" and not just one hole.  Now, it stands to reason that the harder I have to pull the trigger, the more the gun may move.  The less force needed to pull a a lighter trigger means the gun should move less.  After all, I am exerting less effort to move a gun that weighs only a few pounds at the most.

In an intense situation, where I am required to shoot, I'm not going to be concerned about staging the trigger or how much it weighs.  In fact, the trigger is probably going to get pulled quickly, violently, and repeatedly until the bad guy falls over or I run out of ammunition.  So, if I don't care about trigger pull weight during a shootout, what does it matter?  It matters because a lighter trigger pull is still a lighter pull.  If the pull is smooth, light, efficient, and short, it's an asset to me.

Remember, carrying a self defense pistol concealed does not automatically give me the advantage.  In fact, the very act of drawing the pistol probably means I'm playing catch-up with a guy that already has me in a bad situation to begin with.  A lightweight trigger gives me that extra edge needed to place my shots upon their intended target.

It's already been proven that guns with heavy triggers tend to miss low by their operators.  Is this a training issue?  Perhaps.  How many times have you been in a fire fight though?  It's easy for the Internet commandos to come out and say that they weren't doing this right, or they didn't train right, or didn't fire x-thousand rounds of ammunition in training last week, blah blah blah.  The reality is that if you are training, and you are working hard to ensure that your bullets go where you point the gun, giving yourself a light trigger gives you the extra edge to do so.  No matter how much training you have, your gun will still move a little when you pull that trigger quickly and repeatedly. 

Let's understand a few things about the human body for a minute.  Your body was built with a survival system.  It is called fight or flight.  When you encounter a situation where your life is in imminent danger, the adrenaline starts to flow.  All non vital functions for the moment cease.  Your body undergoes chemical changes.  Your fine motor skills and abilities go out the window.  Your large muscles prep themselves for a fight, or to run away.  Your vision narrows, and your heart starts pumping blood quickly to get oxygen to where it needs to go.  Guess what?  Pulling a trigger on a gun is a "fine motor skill", and when the adrenaline started pumping, all that trigger staging ability went down the toilet with all your other abilities to use fine motor skills, like typing, writing, tying a knot, or putting a key into an ignition.  Suddenly, you are left with your primeval abilities, fear, and a gun.  When you put your finger on that trigger, you are going to pull it!

It is my opinion that people preach heavy triggers because they don't want to focus on training.  They think that a heavy trigger will be good insurance against negligent discharges from someone who isn't trained to properly handle the weapon.  In fact, it is a liability.  There are statistics that show police agencies who use heavier triggers tend to miss their targets more than those that employ lighter triggers.  To me, the chance of missing my target more with a heavier trigger is a liability - not insurance.

To conclude, I'd like to ask why we place so much importance on punching little holes in paper over the ability to defend one's life?  Is it really better to have a heavy trigger on a self defense gun, and leave lighter triggers to target practice?  Really?  If I'm caught in a self defense situation, I'd rather have all the advantages I can get.  A lighter trigger is a big advantage and can mean the difference between hitting close to the mark or missing completely.  I'll take a hit over a miss any day.

-James

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