Triggers

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The other day I mounted a scope on an air rifle that a buddy is going to give his grandson for an upcoming birthday. Now, this wasn’t a top-end target air rifle, nor was it an entry-level shooter. It was a relatively high-velocity hunter and plinker. I sighted the scope in so that the youngster can start hitting things right away. Confidence is a tremendous asset in developing a shooter. But the trigger on this rifle will make this shooter’s learning curve much longer. It is terrible.


I am an unabashed snob when it comes to triggers. The trigger is the interface between the shooter and the gun. It is the last point of contact between the shooter and the bullet as it is launched toward its target. As rifle and pistol shooter, we take excruciating pains to minimize any movement that might change the sight picture when we send a bullet downrange. A bad trigger pull can nullify that effort.


A couple of decades ago, gunmakers were under a great deal of litigating pressure to manufacture so-called “safe” triggers. Gun manufacturers’ legal advisors were tasked with protecting their clients from debilitating lawsuits from so-called accidental discharges, and so they set the design parameters of the company’s fire-control systems. It wasn’t uncommon to encounter rifles and pistols from the factory with triggers that supported the weight if the gun. To make matters worse, many of these abominations were not capable of adjustment. This gave rise to the term “lawyer triggers.” The customer had but one choice if he wanted a decent fire-control system: purchase an aftermarket trigger. That gave rise to the disparaging, “Buying a new gun is buying a work in progress.” You buy the gun, then buy and install—or pay a gunsmith to install—a decent trigger. I’ve done it many times.


Thankfully, some manufacturers have made significant improvements in their fire-control systems. Savage is largely responsible for pushing this with its fine AccuTrigger. Glock’s “Safe Action” trigger prodded handgun manufacturers to produce guns with good triggers. Kimber—a company with an almost psychotic fixation on quality—simply takes the time to produce a good trigger from traditional designs it employs. That fixation comes at a price, though.


Some shooters can “work through” a bad trigger and still hit fairly well. However, I’ve done some informal tests over the years—sort of a before-and-after test—and I believe a good trigger can as much as halve the groups of a rifle or pistol that comes from the factory with a lousy trigger, given a reasonably skilled shooter. The point of this windy diatribe is this: If your groups with a new gun aren’t giving you a warm-and-fuzzy feeling, or your progress as a shooter is disappointingly slow, take a look at your fire-control system. A good trigger is as good an investment as gold.


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