One subject that is quite contested within the domain of shooting technique is that of trigger placement. Here, we refer to where the finger actually makes contact with the trigger. Almost all new shooters who have learned how to shoot the ubiquitous striker-fired pistol within the past couple of decades have been told to place the pad of their index finger on the face of the trigger. Revolver shooters are taught to place the crease of the first distal joint on the face of the trigger. However, the question to ask is, is finger placement dependent on the gun being used and nothing else? Let’s delve deeper:
Trigger finger placement matters, but it should not be determined by the specific kind of gun a shooter is using but instead by the geometry of the individual’s hand as it applies to the size of the individual gun. Sticking to hard and fast rules, such as always placing the pad of the finger on the trigger face on Glocks or similar striker-fired guns, does everyone a disservice as this finger placement is not ideal for many shooters.
The Principle of the Straight Press to the Rear
Consider a principle of shooting that you have certainly heard if you have attended any amount of professional training at all: press the trigger straight to the rear. What does that mean? In order to press the trigger and not disturb the sights (throw the gun muzzle off-target), one must press the trigger mechanism so that it moves directly rearward rather than to one side or another. This is actually quite difficult to do well as it goes against everything that the human hand does naturally.
The fingers close in a circular, arched fashion, which makes the entire principle of pressing a trigger to the rear difficult to achieve. For most shooters, placing too little finger on the trigger (for example, only the tip of the finger on the trigger face) will result in shots landing towards the support-hand side, and too much finger on the trigger can result in shots landing off-center as well. This happens because of the naturally circular motion of the finger when it closes. To mitigate this, the finger should be placed at the optimal point for achieving a straight press to the rear, and this optimal placement is based on the size of the individual’s hands versus the size of the gun being used.
There is nothing wrong with shooting a striker-fired gun with the first distal joint of the finger on the trigger face. I know many good shooters who do so, and these tend to be individuals who have larger hands. Personally, I shoot with the center of the finger pad on the trigger face, but I have small hands, and I shoot double-stack Glock 9mm pistols, which are notoriously fat in the grip. My own hand/gun combination leads me to use the generally accepted “pad on trigger” as that works for me, but I made that decision based on verified performance, not based on dogma. If you find that you push shots towards one side or the other, try placing more or less finger on the trigger.
Test Your Finger Placement
A good way to determine if your finger placement is optimal is to dry fire the gun with a single hand and watch what the sights tell you. I suggest doing this with only your dominant hand on the gun, as the support hand often puts counter-pressure against the gun to steady it and minimize the influence of the trigger press. This is a good function for the support hand to serve, but getting the trigger press as clean as possible before relying on the support hand to correct it is the better way to approach the problem. With a single hand, dry fire the gun and pay attention to the movement in the sights; are they moving towards one side or the other?
You can go a step further: hold the gun in only your dominant hand, point it at the wall (a safe backdrop during dry practice), and remove the middle, ring, and pinky fingers from the gun so that you are holding it only between the web of your hand and thumb and your trigger finger, then press the trigger to the rear. By removing the influence of the other fingers, you will see exactly what the trigger press is doing to the sight picture. If the sights veer off to your support side when you do this trigger press, you undoubtedly need to place more finger on the trigger so that the arc of the finger movement guides the trigger rearwards rather than towards the side. If you are seeing this kind of movement in the sights and you are placing the pad of your finger on the trigger, place the first distal joint of the finger on the trigger (as you would shoot a revolver or other double-action gun) and see what the sights tell you.
Getting a trigger press that is truly straight to the rear so as not to disrupt the sight picture is a matter of tailoring your own individual technique to your hand size and the size of the individual gun you are using. An individual with large hands, shooting a small gun, will likely need to set the finger deeper into the trigger to accomplish a straight push to the rear. There is no reason to stick to a dogmatic tradition that dictates where to put the trigger finger based on gun type, but rather, experiment for yourself to find the optimal finger placement for shooting.