The following information on the handgun trigger squeeze comes from Section 4 of Shooting by J. Henry FitzGerald. Shooting is also available to purchase in print.
I am a great believer in a checked trigger for all kinds of shooting, as it prevents a slippage of the finger on the trigger which is sometimes taken for a creep. I have interviewed and noted many shooters who tell me they prefer the plain trigger because they place the finger high on the trigger and allow it (the finger) to slide downward as they increase the pressure, the shot being fired as the finger reaches a position near the bottom of the trigger. I contend that this is all wrong for the amount of pressure exerted may not be exactly the same each time and that will mean either a higher or lower position of the finger on the trigger as the shot is fired. And the muscles used in this operation will tend to move or displace other muscles of the hand, also the third joint of finger.
This idea should go the same way as the instruction which used to read: “Squeeze the entire hand as if you were squeezing a lemon or a lady’s hand.” This is wrong, because when squeezing the entire hand every muscle in the hand and wrist is moved or tensed. When squeezing with trigger finger alone the set of muscles attached to that finger are the only ones tensed by the operation of squeezing the trigger.
Many times some one will come to me with the complaint that the trigger creeps. I try it and find no creep. Then the mystery of the creep is shown to me. The revolver is taken in the position of a long lost child, the hammer cocked, and then one finger placed on the trigger and a finger and thumb of the other hand placed behind the trigger and in front of the guard to ease the trigger slowly backward. But this is not the way to find a creep. It should be found as the revolver is shot in regular shooting position. And even at times when a creep is found in this way it is because the trigger is pulled back and pressed sidewise instead of straight back.
The trigger squeeze is very important, for the best shot in the world would never have become even an ordinary shot if he had not developed the proper trigger squeeze.
When the sights swing in line with the target, and one is reasonably certain that if the shot was fired from this position it would hit the bull’s-eye, he should carefully tighten the trigger finger which must work in conjunction with the eye. Do not squeeze any other part of the hand. Care should be taken to squeeze the trigger slowly, not jerk or twist it, for that would result in a wild shot. When one is carefully squeezing the trigger he sometimes finds the sights swinging away from the bull’s-eye, but he should not release the pressure on the trigger, he should hold what he has gained and as the sights again swing in line with the bull’s-eye he should increase the trigger squeeze. This may happen several times before the shot is finally fired. If (he has faithfully) added (pressure) to the trigger squeeze at the right instant a bullet through the bull’s-eye will be the result.
If the shots are inclined to go to the left, with a right-handed shooter, or to the right, with a left-handed shooter, a slight increase in the thumb pressure on the side of the arm will correct this.
The reason why shooters can call their shots in the target is because they know the exact position of the sights in relation to the bull’s-eye at the instant of explosion.
To aid the trigger squeeze we must take into consideration the trigger pull. With an extra heavy trigger pull the shooter is very liable to yank the trigger and pull the arm sidewise. Still, the trigger pull should be in proportion to the weight and caliber of the arm. A Camp Perry model may be easily used with a two and one-fourth pound pull, but this would not do at all with a New Service arm to be used as a hunting arm. In the ten and twenty second work three pounds is about the proper pull with the revolver, and just as good scores can be made with a three to three and one-half pound pull as with a two and one-half pound pull. Squeeze straight back keeping sights in line with the bull’s-eye, and squeeze slowly and carefully, not changing the pressure of the rest of the hand.
In the ten and twenty second work a very light spring should be used after the parts are thoroughly worked in (about five hundred shots). This greatly assists the cocking of the hammer by the thumb and also aids the hand and arm in keeping the revolver in line with the bull’s-eye when cocking. This is one of the time-savers.
The spring must not be light enough to cause misfires, for in some matches a misfire will cause you the loss of a shot, for the range officer will ask you to try the same cartridge again and if it goes you lose the shot. This is very unfair, because in nearly every case the cartridge will fire the second time the firing pin will explode the primer because the primer metal is weakened by the first blow and the top of the primer is nearer to the anvil. If the primer in a misfire shows the firing pin indentation it means that the shooter has done his part; the only way he could be blamed for the misfire would be to rest the side of his thumb against the hammer and therefore lessen the power of the hammer fall.
Dry shooting will greatly help in attaining the proper trigger squeeze, as you can then see whether the sights remain stationary or move away as the hammer falls. Do not be discouraged if the desired results are not accomplished in a few days, for it takes time to develop the proper trigger squeeze. However, when this has been accomplished it is one more of the essentials which go to make up an expert target shot.
I am not trying to make target shooting seem like a hopeless task, but trying to impress the beginner with the things which he must do to become an expert target shot.
All persons cannot place the finger on the trigger at the same point due to the different sizes of hands and short and long fingers. Just in front of the first crease across the finger at the joint is the proper place, but a short finger will press the trigger ahead of this point, and a long finger behind the crease. A checked trigger in the above cases is invaluable.
Many of our experts have advanced the theory that they do not know or do not want to know just when the hammer is released. I cannot agree with this as I want to know, and do know, when the hammer is released.
The grip of the revolver is largely responsible for a perfect trigger squeeze. If the grip is not perfect no amount of caution will release the trigger properly. The educated trigger finger will know just the amount of pressure required to fire the shot and if the arm has a three and one-half pound pull about three and one-quarter pounds will be taken up before the thought comes to the shooter that here is the time for extreme care for the hammer is about to be released. If he did not know at what instant the hammer was to be released it would be very unfortunate for him if he were a trick shooter, hunter, or even a target shooter.
I realize that I will hear arguments on this point and the question will be asked: Why does the shooter collect nines, eights, and sevens when he is holding well, if he knows just when the hammer is released? The answer is—that the slight variation in sights occurs after the hammer is released and before the bullet leaves the barrel. The back lash as trigger is released adds to this and a slight variance in the gripping of the arm may cause the above result.
The shooter will call an eight or nine as the shot is fired and no doubt his sights were perfect when he squeezed the trigger, but the effort exerted by the trigger finger caused the sights to drift out of line with the bull’s-eye. This may be proved by holding the revolver in shooting position without squeezing the trigger, then trying the same procedure, except the trigger is squeezed and the shot is fired. You will find the arm may be held in correct line with the target for a longer period of time when the arm is held without squeezing the trigger. Therefore great care must be taken and extensive study required, to perform the operation of squeezing the trigger without forcing sights out of line with the bull’s-eye.
I may be asked how the shooter can take all this care in ten and twenty second work. He must do everything in ten and twenty second work that he does in slow-fire shooting, but he learns to speed up the operation just as the trick shot must do all the things a target shooter does to attain accuracy, only he learns to do them in a shorter time. The shorter distance used in Aerial Shooting is of great assistance to speed and accuracy. Ten and twenty second work is usually on a larger target than that used for fine target shooting; for instance, the Camp Perry twenty-five yard target, which is the fifty-yard Standard American with nine and ten ring black.