Gun Education – Trigger Pull Weight for a Handgun?
By Larry Vickers
AmmoLand Editors: Editors note: We get a lot of questions on the topic of trigger pull, check out our detailed explanation in another article and compare that to Larry's sage advice below.
Strasburg, OH -(Ammoland.com)- Often I get asked in my classes what is an acceptable or correct trigger pull weight on a carry or duty handgun.
Trigger Pull As a General Rule
This is a very good question and one that does not get addressed properly in the gun media. The following are my thoughts on the subject:
As a general rule, a serious use pistol should have a trigger pull no lighter than 4 pounds and ideally no more than 6 pounds. Average shooters will generally shoot a pistol with the same trigger pull weight from shot to shot better than a double action/single action pistol that has a long and relatively heavy first trigger pull, followed by lighter and shorter trigger pull for each subsequent shot. A perfect example would be a Glock 17 with a factory stock trigger that weighs approx 5 pounds and is the same for each shot, vs a Beretta M9 with a double action first trigger pull of approx 13 lbs and a 5 lb single action trigger for each shot after.
Although DA/SA guns can be mastered, the average shooter will definitely shoot a pistol like a Glock better than a Beretta.
Trigger Pull in Serious Conditions
In addition, a trigger below 4 lbs can easily lead to accidental discharges under conditions of stress. Remember fine motor skills degrade rapidly, and not only does the shooter's ability to shoot accurately suffer but because of this, a 4 lb trigger will feel like a 2 lb trigger when you are truly in fear for your life. Add into this sweaty hands, rain and/or cold, and possibly gloves, and you begin to see why finely tuned match triggers of 3 lbs or less have no place on a serious fighting tool.
New York Trigger
Another disturbing trend is for Law Enforcement agencies to put very heavy triggers on their issue service pistols for liability reasons. The most famous example is the Glock New York trigger that weighs approx 8 lbs, and even worse is the New York plus that has a trigger pull weight of 12 lbs. Remember if your pistol weighs 2 lbs loaded, and you have an 8-pound trigger pull, it will take 4 times the loaded weight of the handgun to make it fire.
This means that for the typical shooter it is virtually impossible to shoot the weapon accurately under stress.
Dangers of a Heavy Trigger Pull
This leads to misses and an unintentional spray and pray approach when in a gunfight. The danger to innocent bystanders increases dramatically, and the very thing that was meant to make the pistol safer (heavy trigger pull) actually increases the danger to the public that LE officers are sworn to protect. This sad state of affairs started as a byproduct of LE agencies that issued revolvers and relied on the long heavy double action trigger pull as a safety device. This lead to the unsafe habit of allowing officers to have their finger on the trigger when they should not.
Enter a stock Glock 17 with a 5 lb trigger and no manual safeties of any kind and you have a recipe for disaster. A much better approach is to train, and if need be, re-train officers to keep their finger off the trigger at all times except when presenting the weapon toward the target.
Always keep in mind that a mechanical device is a poor substitute for safe gun handling.
Proper Trigger Manipulation
Proper trigger manipulation is key to accurate pistol shooting. Some like me argue it is the most important factor when learning to shoot a handgun. For this reason alone, trigger characteristics and pull weight deserve careful consideration when selecting a weapon to bet your life on.
Master Sergeant (Retired)
US Army SOF Combat Veteran
Author of the Vickers Guide series of firearms books
Read more in our next article Trigger Pull Explained .
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