Trigger Trouble: A Quick Guide to Diagnosing Shooting Problems

Trigger Trouble: A Quick Guide to Diagnosing Shooting Problems

Trigger Trouble: A Quick Guide to Diagnosing Shooting Problems

There are two kinds of handgunners: those who will admit to having had trouble with some part of their technique, and liars. Some people occasionally develop a flinch. Sometimes getting and maintaining a proper and consistent grip is the problem. Everyone needs to practice their draw more often, and I myself am famous for jerking or slapping the trigger if I don’t train regularly. The good news is that there are ways for diagnosing shooting problems, and they’re generally cheap and easy to implement.

Step one is correctly diagnosing the problem. In my experience, most shooters are pretty good at identifying the symptoms (“I tend to hit low and to the left”) and less good at finding the causes behind them (“My trigger control is lacking”). This calls for honest and often brutal self reflection. I knew a shooter years ago who, after a magazine or two through my 1911, would consistently limp wrist and hit high on the target. Pointing this out met with steep and aggressive denial; he’d instead blame the gun, the ammo, the target, the wind . . . . I don’t know if he had an adverse reaction to the phrase “limp wristing” or what, but he stood in the way of his own progress pretty adamantly. So in sum, take advantage of the diagnostic tools available online, look at what’s going wrong, and be honest about why it’s happening.



Step two, naturally, is finding the solution. This involves a bit of research; I can’t go into every possible problem/solution set here. You may need some fairly advanced solutions, or you may need to just go back to basics. While we’re all drawn to the former, I suspect the latter is a much more common need. Regardless . . .

Step three involves making a plan, and sticking with it. Casual plinking of a Saturday afternoon isn’t going to fix this stuff. Instead, you’ll need to figure out the course of action you need and make a plan to develop and follow it. This means regular, structured practice which breaks down the problem into chunks and moves through them consistently. You’re rebuilding the foundation of part of your technique, and that takes time, effort, and attention to detail. And while we’re on the subject . . .

Step four: track your practice and progress. A wise older shooter I once knew said that if you’re not keep track of what you’re doing and how it’s working then your playing, not training. I have to agree: even if you’re only competing against yourself, you need a way to measure how far you’re moving.

I’ll close with one final thought: just as you need to be honest with yourself, you also need to be patient. No one, no one, no one has ever picked up a handgun and shot at a master-class level. It’s a journey we’re all on, and you’ll get there in time. Just keep after it, develop some discipline, and have fun on the road to success.

No Code Needed
J P Enterprises - Ar-15 Reduced Power Spring Kit

J P Enterprises – Ar-15 Reduced Power Spring Kit

Reduced-power springs provide a 3.5 pound trigger pull when used with J.P. triggers, and a pull of 4.5 to 5 pounds when used with standard trigger components.

No Code Needed

MCM Triggers – AR-15 Tactical BLK Trigger Single Stage 3.5lbs

This Brownells AR-15 Tactical Black Trigger features a flat trigger bow that enhances leverage and gives shooters more control over their trigger press.

$289.99 (Reg. $379.99)
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Smith & Wesson M&p Shield 9mm

Smith & Wesson M&p Shield 9mm

Smith & Wesson’s new M&P SHIELD™ is a slim, concealable, lightweight, striker-fired polymer pistol.  Available in 9mm, the new M&P SHIELD features a slim design combined with the proven and trusted features found in the M&P Pistol Series. From the pistol’s easily concealed one-inch profile to its optimized 18-degree grip angle, the M&P SHIELD offers professional-grade features that provide consumers with simple operation and reliable performance.

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Michael Jenkins is a writer and editor based in Wilmington, North Carolina. He is a lifelong reader, gardener, shooter, and musician. You can reach him at
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Great advice that I need to follow.


Glad to see you included the shooting wheel. At the range I’m seeing lots and lots of new shooters, but few good disciplined shooters. I think largely due to the lack of good quality instructor student instruction in both the written and practical skills. This largely do to missteps of the NRA reconfiguring their basic course curriculum.
Anyway, I usually take a number of copies of the shooting wheel to the range with me to pass out to those who want it. Usually I’ll offer one and then folks approach me for the rest. This also shows me that instruction if any at all being offered at the ranges today are very lacking in content. I have no problem in even saying that too many folks are skipping basic instruction and jumping straight into tacticool.
One day at the range a young lady took place in the lane next to me and placed her XDM on the table top and just stared at it. Finally she asked me if I would fire her gun so she could see what the recoil was like. Her gun was a full length XDM 45. I happened to be shooting my service size XD 40. I shot her gun, then had her shoot my gun. Long story short, she shot my gun with no problem then was surprised that her gun was even more comfortable to shoot than mine. She was a graduate of the ranges 1 hr 2 shot course.
Yes, frequent practice at the range along with frequent dry firing at home is a necessity for achieving consistency.
Last tip; at the range, if your shots are not hitting, refer to the shooting wheel then unload and dry fire consciously performing each fundamental step and watching your wrists, hands and gun while pulling the trigger. Analyze what’s happening. Have patience and enjoy your marked improvement.
Vote and vote wisely!! Please


I failed to mention finger placement on your trigger. If you shoot multiple guns both semi and wheel guns as I do, each will require a unique finger placement and grip for each gun. I usually expend my first magazine adjusting to the trigger, grip and sights when I change up guns. Also, for most of us for semi’s trigger placement is somewhere on the first finger pad and on revolvers probably the first joint. Using the shooting wheel will help you find the right spot for each piece. When dry firing watch your finger pull and adjust your finger placement to insure you are pulling straight back without either side play as a push or pull. Once you get correct trigger placement and the correct grip press the save button on the computer between your ears.
Vote wisely!!


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Some ranges don’t allow cameras, but if they do attach an inexpensive digital one to one end of a furring strip and clamp the other end on the shooting bench. Camera to be oriented to capture you holding and firing the weapon, but with the camera out of the line of fire and recording video.

Bring it home and enjoy on your TV the funny faces you make as you fire a few magazines.


You should mention that the wheel shown is for a right-haded shooter. For us lefties, the wheel is a mirror image.

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