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Rifle Shooting Tips: Learn Trigger Control

Mar 3, 2008
See that buck over there? He's an easy target. He's just nibbling leaves and totally unaware you've seen him. You set up your rifle. You've lined up your shot. You hold your breath. You start to squeeze the trigger... and it jerks. There goes your aim, the deer you were targeting runs off into the trees, frightened but unscathed. How do you control your trigger?

You'll find that if a trigger is lighter, it will be easier to control. While you don't want it too light, finding out what pressure is comfortable for you will make a huge difference in how your rifle handles. It will also depend on what kind of animal you are hunting. Large dangerous animals will need a heavier rifle. Many rifles that you buy today have a heavy trigger. Some allow you to adjust the trigger, others need the entire trigger replaced by a gunsmith. If this is not something you can afford or adapt, don't worry. Even a bad trigger can be controlled, it just takes practice. If you use a wide variety of rifles, gaining trigger control may be more difficult, especially if some have good triggers and some have bad triggers.

Pulling your trigger should be a smooth movement. If you take a shooting class, the marksmanship instructor will tell you that you should not anticipate the shot. Anticipating may cause your finger to jerk involuntarily, and you lose control of the trigger. If you use the same rifle for any length of time, of course you're going to get to know when the shot will go, but the key is to ignore that and don't anticipate.

So, what is so bad about anticipating or not controlling your trigger precisely? You will either flinch, buck, or jerk. When a shooter flinches, they invariably close their eyes at the last second... ensuring that they miss their target. When you buck, you are unconsciously pushing your shoulder into the butt of the rifle, in anticipation of the recoil. This will usually send your shot off to the left of your intended target. Jerking happens when you pull your trigger rather than squeeze it. Squeezing should be a smooth, steady movement. Pulling is usually a quick reflexive action. Jerking will cause your shot to go to the right of your target. The good side of knowing this is you'll be able to tell what you did wrong by seeing where your bullet went.

When you start to pull the trigger, the first portion is known as taking up the slack. Some instructors recommend that you use the pad of your finger only to work the trigger. When the slack is taken up, the same smooth movement should continue as the trigger "breaks," causing the rifle to go off.

Like all other aspects of hunting, learning to control the trigger takes practice. If you only hunt a couple of times a year, you will not learn how to control your trigger. Visit the shooting range or set up a practice range where it is safe and practice year round until you can make that smooth movement on the trigger and stop anticipating the rifle's response.
About the Author
Scott Peters is an avid outdoorsman and hunter. For more informaton please see Nikon Monarch Scopes.
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