What's a good trigger pull?
One of the most common topics of discussion on gun websites, magazines, and TV shows is the weight of the trigger pull of gun X. Usually heard as “my CQB Tactical Destroyer has a 2.5 pound trigger pull!” or “I had to use a fish scale to measure the trigger pull of the Hi Point it was so heavy”. Many pixels have died to bring us this information, and yet for whatever reason people seem to think a light trigger pull is almost a badge of honor. I recently met a guy that was talking about how he had his Glock trigger down to 2.5 pounds or some absurd number, which made me wonder “why?”
I tend to fall in the school of thought that thinks that a light trigger pull isn’t necessarily a good thing for self defense, or even for competition. Here’s the logical process behind that though – I started shooting serious competitions at the Academy for the collegiate pistol team. I used an earlier version of the Pardini SP pistol in .22, which being a bullseye .22 had a trigger pull that was adjustable. I was essentially issued this gun by the team, and I never bothered with screwing around with adjusting the pull, I’d imagine based on current knowledge that it was probably around 2.5 pounds, which was plenty light.
I also competed in Free Pistol, or 50m Pistol as it’s known elsewhere. Free pistol is a weird bullseye sport that uses guns that have evolved to the point where they don’t really resemble firearms any more.
The Pardini pictured at left has a factory trigger pull of 50 grams – that’s 0.11 pounds if you’re wondering. For reference, a quarter weighs about 6 grams, so a stack of 9 quarters would be enough to make this gun go “bang”.
Now, you’d think that because my real introduction to serious shooting was with high end competition guns with great triggers that I’d demand light trigger pull weights on all my guns – but it’s precisely the opposite. Coming in to shooting from NRA Collegiate Pistol taught me that the most important thing in the world isn’t the weight of your trigger, but how you manage the trigger. With a 0.1 pound trigger, any mashing or jerking is magnified significantly, and turns a 10 into an unacceptable 7.
Fast forward 10 years, and now the lightest trigger pull on any of my competition guns comes in around 9 pounds. Yes, I shoot revolvers exclusively, but even though the triggers are heavy doesn’t mean they’re bad. Personally, the most important factor in whether or not a trigger is good or bad isn’t the weight, but rather how smooth it is. I’ll take a 12 pound double action revolver trigger that’s nice and smooth over a gritty, stacking 5 pound trigger any day of the week. Even Jerry Miculek is credited with saying that the best action job you can give a revolver is to dry fire it 3000 times; from personal experience I can tell you that doing that will make the bearing surfaces plenty smooth.
The point of all of this is to establish that you don’t need a light trigger to shoot well – in fact a light trigger can actually hurt your ability to shoot well by masking flinch and jerk that would affect shots if fired from a “duty” trigger pull. If you’re shooting IDPA or USPSA there isn’t any reason to screw around with the pull weight on your gun unless you’re running head to head with Dave Sevigny and need to shave 0.003 seconds off your splits. Shooting a gun with a light trigger isn’t going to make you a better shot – but practicing your trigger pull with lots and lots of dry fire or a Crimson Trace laser will.