Trigger discipline is one of the most essential yet often neglected aspects of firearms training. It is the practice of controlling your trigger finger so that you don't accidentally discharge your weapon. In this article, we will discuss why trigger discipline is important, how to carry out proper trigger discipline, and the ultimate rules to follow. We will also provide some helpful warnings and media references. Practice makes perfect, so be sure to take advantage of our practice tips section!

Table Of Contents

Trigger Discipline Explained 

Trigger discipline is one out of four disciplines of firearms. The other three are muzzle discipline, gun safety, and weapon handling. All four of these disciplines are equally important in preventing accidents.

Trigger discipline is the practice of keeping your trigger finger away from the trigger and the trigger guard until you are about to fire.

The trigger has to be pulled before a modern gun fires. However, unintentional and careless releases happen more frequently than people realize. It sounds like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how often people forget to do this simple yet essential step.

Why is it necessary?

Trigger discipline, first and foremost, helps ensure the safety of those around you and prevents accidental firearms discharges. Unintentional discharge can lead to severe injury or death. It is vital in law enforcement and military situations where many people are close to each other. If you are careless with your trigger finger, you could quickly discharge your weapon accidentally.

In addition, trigger discipline helps to improve the accuracy of your shots. By making sure your finger is off the trigger until you are ready to fire, you can avoid jerking the trigger and throwing off your aim.

Finally, trigger discipline is simply a good habit to get. It instills a sense of responsibility in shooters and helps create a safety culture around firearms. As with anything, the more you practice trigger discipline, the more second nature it will become.

Without trigger discipline, we might encounter unwanted discharges in the following scenarios:

  • "Rack" the slide When getting ready to shoot.
  • Manipulate the weapon when repairing a malfunction or fixing a misfire,
  • Put a loaded gun on the shooting bench.
  • Take up the shooting position with the gun (before targeting).
  • Holstered weapon.

How to carry out proper trigger discipline?

There are two main things you need to do to practice proper trigger discipline: keep your finger off the trigger and know when and where to put your finger.

1. Keep your finger off

Remember to constantly maintain your index finger outside the trigger guard, on the side of the frame, and aimed parallel to the gun's barrel, known as trigger discipline. This rule applies to whatever gun you pick up, real or fake, including any pistol, rifle, shotgun, PCC, airsoft, BB, and pistol.

You might be in a public place, surrounded by others, and in need of defense. You risk firing a cartridge too early and in the wrong direction, maybe at an innocent civilian, if you pull out your gun and press the trigger without first aiming the muzzle at the threat.

Everyone must have seen films of somebody drawing a gun from their holster, pulling the trigger, and shooting themselves in the leg. Not good at all!

Even with heavily set triggers, your body's natural defensive reaction and high tension during a self-defense situation prevent your brain from concentrating on how much force your trigger finger is exerting on the trigger.

You will safely handle a gun at home or in high-stress defensive scenarios if you develop excellent habits through range practice rounds. Every shot you discharge with a weapon needs to align, including your grip, alignment, and even where you position your trigger finger.

trigger discipline

2. When and where to put your finger

a. For gun gripping

As soon as you start picking up a pistol, place your index finger alongside the slide or the frame and hold it until your full grasp is established. You aren't prepared to pull the trigger until your hands are firmly on the weapon and your sights are set on the intended target.

When you're not shooting, your trigger finger should rest alongside the frame above the trigger guard or trigger. Any part of your body should never touch the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

Consider that you are preparing to shoot with a shotgun. Regardless of whether you are left- or right-handed, as soon as you grab the gun, place your trigger finger on the side and hold it until you are prepared to fire.

Trigger finger discipline

b. For firing

Once you have aligned your sights on the target and decided to fire, only then should you place your trigger finger inside the trigger guard and onto the trigger. Squeeze the trigger smoothly and evenly until the round is discharged, then return to your original trigger finger position alongside the frame. It would help if you never placed your trigger finger inside the trigger guard until you aligned your sights on the target and decided to fire.

If you're using a semi-automatic weapon, keep in mind that after each shot, you will need to release the trigger completely before pulling it again for the next shot. If you don't do this, you risk damaging your gun or causing a malfunction.

Note that there are two types of triggers: single-stage and two-stage. The pulling pressure of a single-stage trigger remains constant throughout. The take-up stage, also known as slack, and the wall stage, where the trigger breaks the cartridge, are the two stages of a two-stage trigger. It's a sensible move to "dry fire" before ever firing it to know the outcome for all the trigger variations.

It's crucial to keep in mind that trigger discipline continues after the initial shot is fired. Your trigger finger must return to its resting position on the gun's frame if the next shot is not required.

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Ultimate rules to follow

You can prevent negligent discharges by following these four trigger discipline rules at all times.

#1: Act as if all guns are fully loaded

This exists to prevent any lethal accidents. It would help if you always perceive that a gun was loaded until you have checked and confirmed that it is unloaded. Don't take in anyone's words so easily, even your memory. Trust is needed, but when it comes to firearms, the trust may cause high-cost consequences regrettably.

First, remove all ammunition from the area to check if a gun is loaded. Then, open the action and inspect the chamber, magazine well, and feed lips to ensure no rounds are present. Make sure the slide is removed to check its underneath. There might still have one ammo active. Finally, dry fire the weapon to ensure there is no round in the chamber.

Only once you have completed these steps should you proceed to handle the gun.

#2: Never point a gun at anything within your target

You should never point a gun at anything you are unwilling to destroy. This rule exists to prevent accidental shootings. Even if you know that a gun is unloaded, you should never point it at anything you do not want to shoot.

If you pay close attention throughout a competition, you'll note that these participants always keep their muzzles aimed downrange, even when running. This is only one of many real-world scenarios where shooters can be seen to abide by the rule.

This rule also applies when you are cleaning your gun. You should always clean your gun in a well-ventilated area and point the muzzle safely. Some people say that you should always point the gun in a safe direction, but this is not always practical. For example, if you are cleaning your gun on a table, it is not always possible to point the muzzle in a safe area. In this case, you should point the muzzle downrange or into an unloaded firearm pointed in a safe direction.

#3: Fingers on only if you are ready to fire

This rule has been discussed along the blog, so you know how to do this properly.

In general, you should refrain from putting your fingertip on the trigger guard because it could fumble and land back on the trigger. Instead, rest your finger on the frame or receiver, preferably far from other controls like the safety or magazine release, and keep it away from the trigger.

The most frequent violation of firearm safety regulations committed by novice shooters is breaking trigger discipline. Jeff Cooper, a forerunner of contemporary gun safety, referred to this guideline as the Golden Rule since adhering to it keeps the handgun from discharging even if you break all others. Cooper calculated that the absence of trigger discipline was directly responsible for most negligent discharges and the following implications.

Further, you must never "hack" the rule by using the mechanical safety on your rifle to circumvent this requirement. It's simple to get comfortable and overlook the fact that the security is not activated.

#4: Lock your target and whatever beyond it

This trigger discipline rule is vital for self-defense shooters. In a life-threatening encounter, you need to be able to shoot at your assailant while minimizing the risk of harming innocent bystanders or anything in the ammo's route. You still might be prosecuted if you miss your target.

Build an appropriate backstop to block bullets and other particles if you routinely practice in your courtyard or on private property. It should be tall enough and thick enough to stop the bullets you're shooting. A row of cinder blocks, a mound of dirt, or a sand-filled oil drum works well for most handgun calibers. If you're unsure if your backstop is adequate, err on the side of caution and build a larger one.

When at an indoor range, make sure that all shots fired go into the berm at the end of the lane. Many ranges have rules stating that shooters must cease firing and raise their hands immediately if they see any bullet impact anywhere other than the berm.

Biggest warning: Never "blast the sound air" or something you can't be sure is what it is.

You should also consider the probability of a ricochet. Even the most experienced shooters can't always predict where a bullet will end up after it hits its target. So, you need to be aware of your surroundings and what's beyond your target.

Other challenges

In real-life situations, following guidelines is not enough. There are some other potential challenges you can encounter, hindering your process or even harming you, so take a close look at these, too.

1. Weapon selection

Suitability can impact trigger discipline. Some guns, such as Glocks, have a trigger safety that only allows the trigger to move when the shooter presses down on it with their trigger finger. Other guns, such as 1911s, don't have this safeguard.

Your grip can also influence trigger discipline. The way you hold your gun can affect where your trigger finger is located. For example, if you have a poor grip on your gun, your trigger finger could end up resting on the trigger even when you don't mean to.

2. Trigger's heaviness

The trigger's heaviness is also a significant factor. A heavy trigger pull can make it more challenging to maintain trigger accuracy, as it requires harder and stronger force from the trigger finger.

A light trigger, on the other hand, can make it easier to discharge the gun accidentally. That's why many guns have an adjustable trigger that allows the shooter to set the trigger pull to their liking.

3. Jerking the trigger

One of the most common trigger discipline mistakes is jerking the trigger. This often happens when the shooter is nervous or anxious and tries to fire the gun as quickly as possible.

When you jerk the trigger, you increase the chances of your shot going wide of the mark.

To avoid this, these need to be secured:

• Nothing but only our trigger finger can move.

• The rear is kept straight.

Using an unloaded case and balancing it on your front sight is a fantastic dry-fire drill you can conduct to develop the two concepts while keeping an eye out for imbalance. Repeatedly pull the trigger directly to the back while being careful not to knock the casing off the front sight.

Practice and practice

Trigger discipline is one of the most critical aspects of marksmanship. By following those mentioned guidelines, shooters can ensure they are correctly squeezing the trigger every time they fire their weapon. The practice involved in mastering these skills will lead to improved accuracy and shooting performance. So make sure you practice often, and always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot!


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