This article could trigger some argument. Or better
Think about it. No matter how accurate and precise your rifle, scope and
bullet, if you move the rifle while pulling the trigger, you ruin the accuracy.
Ideally, a trigger should break so cleanly that the rifle never budges.
A lot of this can be controlled by the shooter. Most of us can learn how to
control a fairly heavy or rough trigger and compensate for its bad behavior.
But a great trigger -- one that breaks "like a glass rod" with no creep, no
dragging, no coarse movement, no hesitation and minimal pressure -- a trigger
like that can cut the best shooter's group size in half!
What a trigger does is release a sear (a "hook" or notched bar) that holds
back the firing pin, which is under spring pressure.) The lighter the pressure
needed to nudge the sear free -- and the smoother and shorter this connection
-- the easier it is to fire the rifle without disturbing (moving) it. But if
this connection is too easily broken, the firearm can be dangerous, prone to
firing when you don't want it to -- such as when you slam the action closed or
drop the gun. The sudden jarring frees the sear and
the firing pin spring leaps forward. To prevent this, gun makers over the years
have built "lawyer triggers" so heavy and difficult to jar off that they must
have been engineered to prevent lawsuits rather than hit targets.
There was a time when good triggers pulled with about 2.5- to 4 pounds of
pressure. On target rifles, they were sometime set to mere ounces. But, after
the 1960s, factory rifles began sprouting increasingly heavy triggers. You had
to take them to gunsmiths to lighten them up or buy aftermarket triggers, such
as Timneys and Jewells.
Today, however, factory-rifle triggers are lightening up again, largely
because gun makers have found safe ways to do it. Savage started the trend with
its Accu-Trigger, a unique device the puts a
mechanical block in the way to prevent the sear/striker/firing pin from moving
all the way to the primer unless and until the shooter pulls a lever out of the
way. This lever is cleverly placed in the center of the regular trigger shoe,
making it easy to pull out of the way as a natural part of pulling the trigger.
Without the shooter's finger on it, however, a spring holds it back so that its
upper end blocks the sear/striker/firing pin from moving forward. Even if the
rifle is jarred severely (like dropping it from 14 feet) it cannot fire because
this striker block is in the way.
Once the Accu-Trigger broke the ice, most gun-makers began building better, safe triggers. Many of today's bolt-action rifles
feature triggers that can be adjusted by the user. They adjust as low as 2
pounds on field rifles, 6 ounces on target models. Follow manufacturer
directions precisely or take it to a gunsmith.
Triggers adjust for not just the
weight or pressure required to pull or push the sear
off the striker, but for the length (creep) of the pull plus "over travel." If
the trigger continues moving appreciably once the firing pin has been set free,
your finger continues to move, potentially shifting the rifle off target before
the bullet leaves the barrel.
The ideal trigger (according to some shooters) has a "surprise break." It
has no creep, breaks crisply and immediately stops. Because you can't feel it
nearing its breaking point, you concentrate on the target and your hold.
To learn how a trigger "feels," unload your gun, point it in a safe direction with
a safe backdrop, aim, close your eyes and concentrate on what your finger is
feeling as you increase pressure on the trigger shoe. Does it creep backward?
Does it feel as if you're dragging it across a gravel parking lot? Does it
continue moving backward after the firing pin moves? Or does it suddenly break,
catching you by surprise with no perceptible movement, roughness or "after
travel?" The latter is what you want.
Some shooters prefer a "two stage" trigger that does travel a bit before
suddenly increasing in tension. This let's them know
it is ready to break with a bit more pressure. You can learn to use either
effectively. The weight of the pulling pressure (pull weight) can be anything
you want. Most hunters prefer something from 2.5- to 4 pounds for field use,
leaning toward the heavy end when wearing gloves in cold weather. Varmint
shooters often like 1- to 2 pounds of pull, and benchrest
target shooters take pull weight down to a few ounces -- not safe during rough
field/hunting conditions. Your best advice is to consult your rifle
manufacturer for recommendations or a qualified gunsmith.
But do spend some money to get a good trigger. Your shooting will improve.
Shop The Sportsman's Guide for a great selection of Shooting Accessories!
Ron Spomer has been photographing and writing
about the outdoors for nearly four decades. He's written seven books, hunted on
six continents and been published in more than 120 magazines. He's currently rifles'
editor at "Sporting Classics," Travel columnist at "Sports Afield," Field
Editor at "American Hunter" and "Guns & Ammo" -- Optics Columnist at "North American
Hunter," Contributing Editor at "Successful Hunter," Senior Writer at "Gun
Hunter," and TV host of "Winchester World of Whitetail." He will write on Shooting Tips weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You can read his
blogs and catch some of his YouTube videos at www.Ronspomeroutdoors.com.