General

A Note on Double Action Trigger Pull

My Beretta is a fine pistol. I love the weighty feel of a full metal frame and the softness of the recoil when shooting, it’s very confidence inspiring. If all else fails, I believe the pistol would serve quite admirably as a blunt force instrument. I cannot say the same of my FNS or any Glock that I’ve handled (though my 1911 would probably work just as well).

However, something I have consistently struggled with is the double action pull. The Beretta 92 has a nominal 12 lb double action pull. I have reduced that to about 8 lbs with the installation of a ‘D’ spring, but it still represents a challenge. The popularity of the striker fired pistol (Glock, M&P, FNS, Beretta’s new APX, and others) means that many new shooters have never really dealt with the varying trigger pull weights found in DA/SA pistols like the 92, Sig 226, or HK USP. Others, who are advocates of the crip single action trigger found in designs such as the ubiquitous 1911 scoff at the idea of carrying any handgun in any fashion other than cocked and locked. Many shooters simply look at that first double action pull as a “throw away” shot. However, I don’t think that is a practical outlook. This is especially true in professions like the military, where a DA/SA pistol is what will be issued to you whether you like it or not. In such situations, every shot counts.

The key is in developing the fundamentals of grip and trigger control so that the heavier pull weight does not interfere with sight alignment.

Ernest Langdon wrote an article for pistol-training.com years ago that I found very helpful in this regard. Here is an excerpt:

To develop speed and accuracy with the double action trigger we need to start with accuracy. The speed will mean nothing if you don’t hit the target. Start by shooting groups in double action only. Your group size and the location of the groups should be the same as your single action groups; that’s the goal anyway. Some shooters will find that with proper technique they can shoot a tighter group in double action than in single action.

The key to double action accuracy is keeping the trigger moving. Don’t try and stage the trigger to the point right before the hammer drops. This is a bad habit and will cause what is often called “Now Syndrome!” This is when the shooter stages or preps the trigger to the point right before it is going to break, then cleans up the sight picture so it is perfect and tries to make the shot break “NOW.” The “Now Syndrome” almost always causes the sights and the shot to move off the intended target. Keep the sights in your “aiming area” and keep the trigger moving. (Obviously, if the sights move way off or out of your aiming area, stop pulling the trigger) Try and think of the trigger pull as a “trigger stroke,” and pull through with one smooth stroke of the trigger.

Pete Lessler also mentions both of these two methods in his book on pistol shooting.

…There are two ways to deal with the pull. You can have either a long, steady, continuous pull until the hammer drops, or it can be a “staged” pull. The staged pull brings the finger about three-quarters of the way back, or to the point just before the hammer is released. There the finger pauses for an instant, while the shooter steadies the gun and verifies the sight picture. At this point, the small remaining part of the pull is applied, which has minimal effect on the sight picture. With a great deal of practice, staging can be done at a speed almost as fast as that with a straight-through pull.

Both methods seem valid to me, and I have traditionally done the “staged” method. However, I continue to find that staging during the double action pull tends to drag my sights slightly to the right upon the moment of hammer release. Perhaps this is an indication that I am “hooking” too much trigger finger and not pulling the trigger straight back. However, I only notice this trend during double action mode. In single action, or firing my FNS, this is a non issue.

Perhaps it is just another sign that I need to continue strengthening the trigger finger and keeping its motion independent of the tension on my other fingers.

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3 thoughts on “A Note on Double Action Trigger Pull”

  1. “Perhaps it is just another sign that I need to continue strengthening the trigger finger and keeping its motion independent of the tension on my other fingers.”

    Yes exactly, while focusing on your sight picture to witness how your finger movement disturbs the sight alignment, so as to learn to finesse the pull so it doesn’t disturb the sights (or, not enough to miss your intended target zone).

    Langdon’s interpretation of the staged trigger-cocking (double-action) pull causing a “Now Syndrome” of messing up the shot is interesting. I have the exact opposite interpretation.
    The staged pull is a way of turning a double action trigger-cocking pull into a nearly single action pull. The “Now Syndrome” that he describes implies to me, a jerk or flinch of the trigger when executing the second half (after the hesitation) of the pull, due to a mentally forced timing issue which applies equally to any short crisp pull, whether a staged trigger-cocking pull, a single action pull, a rifle trigger, etc. Bad trigger management is the issue here, not anything solely exclusive to staging a double-action trigger-cocking movement.

    The compressed surprise break cures all of the above, including the “Now Syndrome” of staging a trigger-cocking pull. The hesitation in the staging puts you into start-the-pull-from-scratch mental and physical mode, which is no different from any other non-trigger-cocking motion. If you are having issues here it is not due solely to staging, IMHO.

  2. “However, I continue to find that staging during the double action pull tends to drag my sights slightly to the right upon the moment of hammer release. Perhaps this is an indication that I am “hooking” too much trigger finger and not pulling the trigger straight back. However, I only notice this trend during double action mode. In single action, or firing my FNS, this is a non issue.”

    Col. Cooper described this long ago as an issue of what part of your finger has to be placed on the trigger when the trigger is all the way forward in its hammer-down position, vs. what part of your finger is placed on the trigger when it is in its more rearward hammer-cocked position. The reach is longer in the former. This makes for different positioning of the finger, which can have an effect on whether your pull direction is straight back or not.

    Examine how your finger touches the trigger and how it pulls in trigger-cocking mode, vs. when you slide or thumb cock the hammer and then address the trigger. I’ll bet the problem resides in a difference here.

    1. Come to think of it, this might be part of Langdon’s “Now Syndrome” too…hhmmm.
      Never bothered me with my revolver, but maybe I just found a way to work through it.

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