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Field Skills: The Perfect Trigger Press

Achieving perfection requires practice and an understanding of fundamentals.

Field Skills: The Perfect Trigger Press

The shooter-to-trigger interface greatly affects the accuracy for rifle shooters. (Photo by Todd Burgreen)

In almost every instance, the human behind the trigger is the weakest link in the shot sequence. Developing the “perfect trigger press” is a matter of perfecting the sequence through a systematic approach. Here are the components that comprise the perfect trigger press.


A rifle is at its most stable when it is independently at rest and not interacting with the shooter. There are arguably several shooter-to-rifle interfaces, for instance—the rifle mount. However, it is the shooter-to-trigger interface which most greatly affects the accuracy, as errors introduced here lead to errant shots sent downrange.

The best rifle shooters minimize the amount of negative energy input into the rifle at the shooter-to-trigger interface. That is, any input into the rifle that negatively affects accuracy.


So, what is the perfect trigger press? Simply stated, it is moving the trigger smoothly (and straight) to the rear without affecting the sight picture. In other words, touching off the shot without impacting the sight picture you were viewing to indicate it was time to fire. Yes, it sounds simple enough; however, books and manuals have been written describing in minutiae this process.

The perfect press starts with placing your fingertip on the trigger when the sights are aligned, and safety is slid off (notice I said fingertip). It is crucial that only the tip of the trigger finger be in contact with rifle. Do not allow the trigger finger to rest or lay against the stock as this can only introduce unwanted negative energy into the shot sequence.


In the perfect shot sequence, the trigger finger moves independently from the rest of your firing hand. The best shooters in the world can actually isolate their trigger fingertip movement from that of the base of their finger. The goal is to limit any sympathetic movement in the hand as the trigger finger moves rearward on the trigger.


Your firing hand’s grip on the rifle affects your trigger pull, too. Keep this in mind and adjust accordingly. Your grip should facilitate trigger finger efficiency over all other concerns. Some shooters adopt a method of moving the firing hand’s thumb to the top side of the stock. This aligns it to the trigger, or conversely, completely over to the same side as the trigger finger. This is an effort to make the trigger finger independent of any unwanted or unplanned movement in the firing hand.


While relatively simple in theory, the optimal trigger press in practice requires repetition to perfect. The actual trigger press should be straight to the rear. It’s here that fingertip and hand placement comes home to roost.

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Dry firing is crucial in determining what works best. You can’t learn muscle memory through repetition if the movement isn’t exactly the same every time, both from a shooter input standpoint and the physical trigger. A drill routinely taught during ROTC training is to have a training partner place a washer on the muzzle once the shooting position is assumed. A proper trigger press invariably leaves the washer on the barrel, indicating a good press.

Constant dry firing practice will pay big dividends. When live ammunition is inserted into equation, subtle technique nuances are lost due to rifle recoil and muzzle blast effects.


It’s surprising how many shooters do not seek, nor appreciate the benefits of receiving professional guidance by subject matter experts. A set of qualified eyes can identify areas of potential improvement.

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Case in point. At a recent long-range training class, my trigger technique was modified to keep trigger pulled to the rear until target impact was observed (i.e., “follow through”). Admittedly, I’d grown accustomed to shooting semi-automatic handguns recently and was resetting trigger upon firing. While this adjustment was minute, it took someone else to recognize it and remedy it.



Obviously, trigger quality impacts interface between shooter and weapon. A 10-pound trigger, with gritty creep aids no one in accurate shot placement. And of course, the type of trigger matters too. Some shooters excel with single-stage triggers, while others gravitate to and excel with two-stage triggers. Shoot both and determine which one works in best concert with your shooting style.

Perfect Trigger Press
Dropping in a quality custom trigger will dramatically shrink your groups. Timney custom triggers are available for any number of popular rifles. Here, G&F regional editor Dr. Todd A. Kuhn installs one on a Remington 700. (Photo by Todd Burgreen)

Shrink Your Groups with a Custom Trigger

Timney’s new HIT trigger is exceptionally easy to install. The all-CNC-machined unit’s pull weight is adjustable from 8 ounces to 2 pounds, with adjustable overtravel too. The NP-3 plated sear adds a measurably better lubricity to the assembly, polishing off the pull.

On the range, my new Timney HIT pressed without any perceived resistance, sending rounds downrange as if my brain was hardwired to the trigger. The trip was repeatable shot-after-shot, which shrunk my groups considerably over the stock trigger assembly.

If you’re looking to improve your shooting, I recommend dropping a Timney into your favorite rifle. As they say at Timney, “When your brain calls for you to take the shot, a great trigger doesn’t argue—it agrees.” — Dr. Todd A. Kuhn

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