Monday, August 9, 2010

Making the Double Action Trigger Work for you

When I first started shooting as a kid, I voraciously devoured all of the written literature on the topic I could find. I read dozens of books, many of which I still own or have bought subsequent copies of after borrowing them from the library, and even still I read dozens upon dozens of magazine articles. It seemed to me that the monthly publications of the magazine writing elite were the best way to stay on top of all the new "techniques" and I was all about technique. I learned a lot about shooting from those magazines. Then I started to actually shoot...

What I immediately learned was that I knew less than nothing about shooting, but also that learning to shoot wasn't all that difficult. The first and most important lesson I learned is that learning to shoot takes time and practice. I wanted to become, overnight, with parental supervision of course, the greatest shot in all the world. The harsh realities began to set in when I realized I was never to be that, at least not without hundreds of thousands of hours of practice and I just didn't have that time, what with the homework and all (heck I STILL don't...stupid Graduate degree).

When I first arrived at the shooting range I immediately I was wanton to do, started yanked the trigger to the moon and back as quickly as possible to simulate the movies and televisions shows I held so dear. Once these sloppy techniques were applied to the range with bullets and targets I found that I was unable to hit anything resembling the center of the target. With a firm desire to hit the target, I heeded my father's advice, "Slow down son, those bullets don't pay for themselves." So, for the next few weeks I practiced (with appropriate supervision and following the Four Rules) slowing down with dry fire practice. I learned that the trigger felt different at different points in the trigger stroke and I learned that the double action stroke that felt best also allowed my hand to point the pistol more naturally. When we returned to the range, I was rewarded with more center hits than ever before.

And so, after that exhaustingly long personal history lesson, let me offer you a few tips and pointers for effective double action shooting:

First, ignore the magazines and books for a while. Focus on learning the weight and length of the trigger pull. Once you have felt the weight and length of the pull, you will better be able to learn it. Next, focusing on being smooth with the trigger is critical. The advice I was given by my father was some he learned in the military. I started with a quarter on the end of my barrel and stroked the double action trigger, until when the action broke the quarter did not fall. Then I moved down in denomination to the nickel and then dime. After you have mastered being smooth stroking the trigger back, you must focus on being smooth returning the trigger forward on the reset. Learning your weapons reset is critical, once you can smoothly navigate a rearward trigger stroke followed by a forward trigger reset, without moving a dime even a fraction of an inch, you have mastered the revolver trigger. You can practice these drills in dry fire (obviously putting a coin on the end of your revolver firing live ammunition is ill advised), and you should practice them a lot. On a good day, I can achieve the desired effect of no dime movement 4 out of 5 times, on a great day I can get 9 out of 10 pulls to come out effectively.

Once you've gotten the smooth stroke and reset down you can focus on advanced techniques, like staging the trigger or running the gun quickly. On the staging vs. straight stroke debate, I have no dog in the fight. I spent some time focusing on learning both skills. For those who don't know, "staging" the trigger is where the double action stroke is pulled all the way back to just before the breaking point, the stroke is then paused while the shooter makes a final sight alignment and then the stroke is finished and the shot fired. It is believed to be "more accurate" than the "straight stroke" method which involves stroking the trigger smoothly in one motion. These days, I use both methods, intuitively when I am shooting without thinking about my shooting too much (I.E. quick defensive style shooting), I use a straight stroke method, which is arguably better because it doesn't involve a reflective pause in the middle. But when I think about o focus heavily on the front sight and accuracy, I do tend to "stage" the gun. I have found that staging is slightly more accurate for me, but not so much that I focus on it. I will say the biggest negative about staging is the tendency of the shooter to then yank or push the trigger down on that final bit of stroke, as many are trying to effectively "time" a shot, it doesn't work folks, don't bother.

Finally, I want to comment on terminology of "stroke" versus "press" or "squeeze". I call the action of activating a double action trigger by a "stroke" instead of a press or squeeze for a simple reason. A stroke is a long, smooth, motion that requires more finesse than a press or squeeze. The double action trigger requires more finesse, it is a longer action, that requires you to be very smooth in the action to produce the desired results. As such, "stroking the trigger" is the most appropriate turn of phrase for working a double action trigger.

Be safe,


1 comment:

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