Finesse the Trigger

See that stack of rocks?

That’s Steve Reiter, national champion Bullseye shooter many times over.

I call him a “stack of rocks” because if you finish your Slow Fire early and sit down to watch, he looks like an utterly immobile stack of rocks that’s been like that for a couple of millenia. Nothing moves. The wind blows but nothing moves. A cloud hides the sun, nothing moves. A bird flies across the range but nothing, not even a muscle in his beefy, farm-boy arm moves.


Now there’s no way I’m going to be able to stand that still. While I do have my better days when the wobble nearly stops for a second or two, when that happens, I so dearly want the gun to go “Bang” but, invariably, if I will it, I jerk it.

Years ago, Coach Pat had me hold the gun and do everything except pull the trigger. He did that. As a team, we shot a ten, two nines, an eight and a seven with five shots. Coach’s lesson was that my “hold” was the seven ring even though my shooting (by myself) had a lot of fives and sixes.

He said, “Your problem is trigger control. Move the trigger straight back.”

“Level and smooth,” he would croon as I would try to follow his teaching.

So, I’ve learned to do a lot of dry-fire and to watch and see what the front sight does when the hammer falls. And recently, I’ve been seeing the front sight take a little bob downward. Sometimes I put the gun down, rest a moment and try again and it goes away. But other times, it’s still there and ultimately I decide to stop because I’m obviously teaching myself to do the wrong thing. But what am I doing that causes it?

Not long ago, our car had a slight pull to the left. To compensate, we drove with a slight pressure to the right, not much, just enough to offset the left pull. The car goes perfectly straight as long as you keep up the pressure.

Pressing the trigger back on the 1911 and holding the gun really tight can end up in a similar situation. If your trigger pressure isn’t perfectly straight, a strong grip can exert a counter-pressure and end up holding the gun perfectly straight.

But unlike the car, at some point the trigger hooks release the hammer. At that instant, the trigger floats free for a fraction of a second before bottoming out on the over-travel adjustment. During that fraction of a second, whatever unaligned force your trigger finger was adding is suddenly removed and the compensating force from your grip that was previously offsetting the crooked trigger pressure is released, and the nose of the gun twitches out of alignment.


I once asked the members of the Bullseye-L emailing list how long it took, with everything in place and all lined up, from the time they committed to firing a shot to when the gun went off. Answers varied but the norm seemed to be somewhere between a half and a couple of seconds, no more than 2-3.

But when I watch Steve Reiter, I think it’s longer, much longer.

Same with John Zurek. I know because I asked him what he was doing for the 30+ seconds I watched him routinely hold.

John said, “Movin’ the trigger straight back.”

Here’s an interesting observation: The harder you grip the gun, the more it will mask a mis-aligned trigger pull, and you’ll only know it when the hammer drops.

Oops, too late!

With a very strong grip, mis-aligned trigger pressure can’t be seen before the hammer falls.

A gentler grip, on the other hand, will immediately show poorly directed trigger pressure; it will push the front sight away from alignment. Long before the shot breaks, you’ll see the sights being pushed out of alignment.

Brian Zins says he “steers” the front sight with his trigger finger. He calls the sights his “trigger purity indicator.”

A word comes to mind: finesse. says finesse refers to “slowing down and using smaller lures, line, and rods.”

And in Bullseye, perhaps it can mean using a less-than-crushing grip and finer “control” of the trigger.

Finesse the trigger.

One thought on “Finesse the Trigger

  1. Ed that was a very enlightened post. Since you’re out there in AZ with Steve, I’m certain you’ve watched this guy like a hawk.

    I had a peek at him two times last year in OH, and your right, the guy stands in the wind like a brick sh*7 house. Not once did I see him waiver or try to over compensate.

    Your insights about over gripping have a lot of merit. When I purchased my AW-93 last August, it became painfully obvious that any little trigger error while having a massive grip simply threw my shots south into the 7 ring. I’ve since returned to the “two finger” c-clamp grip method.

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