4 - TRIGGER WEIGHT?

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 Triggernometry:

 The main purpose of a defensive pistol is to save lives by shooting those things that endanger you and others! 

I am frequently asked by Glock & Ruger shooters what is the proper/best trigger pull weight for their Glock OR Ruger SR. What is the difference between a trigger for target and one for self defense? This subject is hotly debated, argued and is rife with contradictions. The first thing I must make clear is that my position is based on an assumption that you are a safe law abiding shooter. That is, you will keep your finger off the trigger until you are absolutely positive that you must immediately fire! Practice and preach this or suffer the consequences. You will not point your firearm at anything unless you are: one legally justified to do so; and two, you are willing to damage it severely or destroy it. 

Finger off the trigger until you must immediately fire!  

The status quo: "Lighter is better for target and heavier is better for self defense." Let's examine these. Lighter is better for target shooting because you are seeking the most efficient trigger pull to enhance your ability to shoot precisely.  Consider "lighter" to be read as 3.5-5.5 lbs. Lighter triggers make it easier to place your shot.  This is simple physics. You are attempting to steady an object that weighs a little less than two pounds while you are simultaneously exerting up to 12 lbs. of force against the trigger to pull it. Once the sights are aligned, a lighter trigger pull will cause the pistol to move less before the bullet exits the barrel.

The lighter the trigger pull the less the pistol moves when the trigger is pulled! 

The lighter the trigger pull weight the less the muzzle will move as you pull the trigger to fire the pistol. The pistol will move less because of the weight you exert on the trigger is less, regardless of how fast you pull the trigger. So why is light good for target but bad for self defense? Are we not seeking efficiency? Why is efficiency in punching paper more important than wining a gunfight or our survival? Pistols are defensive weapons when used by law abiding persons. You are reacting to the actions of another or others which you believe rises to the level of justifying you to use force, deadly or otherwise. First-the actions of these individuals justify the use of your pistol to defend yourself! Second-you are playing catch up because you are reacting defensively (vs.-offensively) and you want a heavy inefficient trigger pull because you are afraid of being sued?  You are willing to die or be seriously injured because of civil liability? What are you thinking?

The trigger is the heart of any pistol. Get a good one! 

I say "heavy inefficient trigger pull", why? What is my definition of heavy? Any trigger pull above 7 lbs. What is inefficient? A trigger with excessive movement needed to fire the pistol for the first shot and excessive movement to reset the trigger for subsequent shots. We are told the concept of hitting things with bullets is to place your primary focus on the front sight of the pistol and not trigger manipulation. Once you have decided something needs to be shot to save your life or another persons life you have to place a bullet or bullets into another living thing. You must put your front sight on the object where you intend to deliver your ballistic energy. Now if you have a heavy trigger pull weight in your pistol you realize how much concentration it takes to shoot well with this heavy trigger. But wait a minute the experts tell us that under the stresses of a gunfight concentration will be difficult for most and maybe impossible for some. Now knowing your trigger pull is heavy and concentration on your sights is going to be difficult you will focus on pulling the trigger. How will you pull the trigger? Very rapidly because you are already playing catch up and you know from your training that the trigger offers allot of resistance and it is difficult under the best of circumstances to shoot well. You will not focus on the front sight because your mind is screaming SHOOT NOW LAUNCH SOME LEAD! The heavier the trigger pull the more pressure will be applied to the trigger and subsequently to the pistol and this pressure will cause the muzzle to move off the line of sight when you exert this much pressure to pull the trigger. How is this possible? It is that physics thing again. Your pistol weighs almost two pounds you are trying to steady it while rapidly maybe even violently applying up to six times its weight (depending on the trigger pull weight) to pull the trigger, this will likely cause the muzzle to move and the bullet(s) to strike off the intended target. I said the primary focus should be on the front sight. But it is difficult to do this when we realize how critical trigger manipulation is. The fact of the matter is of the two fundamentals sight alignment and trigger pull-trigger pull is more critical to insuring hitting what you aim or point at!  If you miss-align your sights even out to seven yards you still hit within six inches of where the pistol was aimed. If you jerk the trigger the shot will go low by a few feet and possibly miss all together. Feet or inches I would choose inches. Using or issuing a pistol with a heavy trigger pull is a perceived low cost solution to training and avoiding liability. Because "how could they pull the trigger negligently with a heavy trigger pull?" But the inverse is true. The heavier trigger pulls leads the shooter to "prepping the trigger" That is placing your finger on the trigger in preparation to firing your shot and moving the trigger to the rear to take out the slack or the excess front end movement of the trigger right before it releases the firing pin. Prepping the trigger or placing your finger in the trigger housing prior to actually firing the pistol is negligent!  Remember-you will keep your finger off the trigger until you are absolutely positive that you must immediately fire! Practice and preach this or suffer the consequences! The mindset that some people express to me and much too often for my comfort is that "I like a heavy trigger because I can put my finger on the trigger and prep it by feel so that when covering a suspect/subject/intruder etc. if they move I can react and shoot them before they shoot me!"   

The heavier the trigger the more likely the shooter will prep the trigger for a perceived advantage-finger on the trigger bad!

Think about this. The experts say that your body will go through many changes when you are involved in a critical incident and or a gunfight. Some of changes they state will occur are that you will lose the ability to perform a fine motor skill (i.e. precise trigger manipulation), tactile sensation (the ability to feel with your finger tips) and your body will operate with gross motor movement. According to the experts, you will not be capable of; pulling the trigger precisely you will pull the trigger and fire the pistol when you place your finger on the trigger!  

Wait-if you can't feel the trigger or its pull weight and you are going to pull hard what benefit does a heavy trigger pull weight give you? 

Short answer it doesnt. You do not need a heavier trigger pull when you will not be capable of feeling or sensing this heavier trigger weight! Additionally we now know that you will get no self preservation or life safety benefit from a heavy trigger pull weight. In fact it is the opposite it will hurt your survival chances! So why do agencies and the experts say you do?  Law enforcement firearms instructors and the experts of the week think "Heavier" is safer, politically correct and because the cost of teaching people to shoot effectively is expensive. They think they are getting a pass by recommending a trigger pull weight which they can claim is safe because of the weight. They are more concerned with agency liability and peer review than you winning a gunfight. But we know that the argument of heavier equals safer is also not true, because people will place their trigger finger on the trigger to prep the trigger to gain a perceived edge. We know that once you place your finger on the trigger under stress you will very likely fire your pistol regardless of trigger weight! 

So then this is how the trigger pull weight makes a difference. Under stress the trigger pull weight becomes either an asset or a liability. The heavier the trigger pull weight the more you will move the pistol-liability! The more movement the more you will miss! The lighter the trigger pull weight the less you will move the pistol and your bullets will go where you want them-asset!! This means that a lighter trigger under the stresses of a gunfight means more hits!   

Remember according to the experts under stress you will not feel the trigger or its weight!

What do the numbers say about trigger pull weights and hit ratios in actual gunfights?

-New York City Police Department (N.Y.P.D.) Glocks with 12 lb. triggers 15% hit ratio* (heavy trigger pull poor performance).

-Los Angeles County Sheriff Department (L.A.C.S.D.) Double/Single Action trigger, first shot double action approx. 12 lb. subsequent single action shots approx 5 lb. trigger pull weight 51% hit ratio* (transition to a lighter pull creates more hits).

* SPECIAL REPORT: FIREARMS, Aveni, Thomas; Law and Order, Vol. 51, No.8 August 2003

Just to give you some insight into the importance of a good trigger and good trigger manipulation (a good trigger being a smooth light consistent pull with little or no trigger over-travel-my definition)  

The FBI's Firearms Training Unit  wrote a manual entitled; Advanced Firearms Instructional Techniques, January 1999, it takes seven (7) pages to explain sight alignment issues and thirteen pages (13) to explain trigger control. Why are more pages dedicated to trigger pull than to sight alignment? Reason, if you can't control and manipulate the trigger effectively you will not hit things that are trying to hurt you. The FBI issues their Glock pistols with 5.5 lb. trigger connectors! They determined that anything heavier resulted in poor performance by their agents during stressful shooting conditions!

If heavier is safer or better, then why don't all firearms have heavier triggers?

The single action (read this as lightweight triggers) 12 gauge pump action shotguns, 5.56mm AR-15 series of rifles and various submachine guns have trigger pull weights ranging from 2.5 lbs to 7 lbs. Why do these weapons which deliver a greater ballistic payload not merit 25 lb. triggers if the real concern is safety and avoiding civil liability? I believe this is a contradiction!

Let's see, you use a double action pistol with a 12 lb. trigger pull but you have a shotgun, assault rifle or submachine gun with a 3 lb. trigger. More power, lighter trigger! "Yes, but when you need a shotgun, assault rifle or submachine gun it's really bad." So using this logic, if someone is only trying to kill you with a pistol, knife or bat that's not so bad and you should use the under powered pistol with a heavy and inefficient trigger pull that is difficult to shoot well?  Not if you want to live! 

Proper TRAINING insures firearms safety not increasing the trigger pull weight! 

Again, if your intention is to hit where you are aiming your Glock or Ruger SR Series, if accuracy and speed are an issue, a smooth lighter Ghost trigger in the 3.5 to 5.5 lb. range with little or no trigger over-travel is the best trigger to have in your pistol.  I addressed the lighter is better point now I'll define trigger over-travel. What is trigger over-travel? It is the excessive rearward movement of the trigger after the firing pin has been released by the sear to fire the pistol. Why is limiting or stopping over-travel important? To stop pistol movement off the line of sight while the bullet is moving in the barrel. You need to do this to insure the pistol stays aligned with the target and the bullet goes where it was aimed. Eliminating trigger over-travel is so critical to precise shot placement that all target rifles / pistols, sniper rifles and expensive self defense pistols have trigger over-travel devices incorporated in their designs. If the worlds best shooters incorporate these devices to insure their success and survival so should you.

The Glock & Ruger SR Series semi-automatic pistols as designed have excessive trigger movement and trigger over-travel. I believe this was done to simplify the manufacturing of the pistol and from a manufacturers stand point it was brilliant. Mr. Glock makes a pistol where all parts will interchange between like models without the required fitting that is common to all other handgun designs. But because these same tolerances make the Glock & Ruger SR Series so easy to manufacture it results in a very sloppy trigger pull. We already know that the trigger is the heart of any pistol. Our patented Rocket & Tactical triggers eliminate trigger over-travel our Ultimate, Ranger and Patrol increases the reliability of the triggers and pistol. How the Rocket & Tactical use the patented Trigger Control Tabs which are fitted to the pistol eliminating trigger over-travel. These trigger connectors stop trigger movement at the instant of firing resulting in precise bullet placement. The Ultimate, Ranger & Patrol utilize the Debris Channel. This debris channel is a hole manufactured into the trigger connector that removes debris or any foreign matter from the trigger system making the Glock & Ruger SR Series trigger mechanism more reliable.   

Once again never forget keep your finger off the trigger until you are absolutely positive that you must immediately fire! Practice and preach this or suffer the consequences. There is no excuse for placing your finger on the trigger except to justifiably launch a bullet!

Arthur Viani

President of Ghost Inc. 12/09


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