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Blake. Trigger upgrades.
Building on the previous lesson of combat shooting skills, we'll be covering the topic of handgun triggers. With the exception of two of my competition race guns, I run stock triggers on all of my combat and defensive handguns. There are many great trigger upgrades and there are some really bad upgrades. This isn't about which trigger is the best. What I really want to cover is whether or not you should upgrade your triggers.
I've often heard that the best reason to not upgrade a trigger is the legality. That somehow, a lighter trigger will be used against you in a criminal or civil case. I've heard it explained that a lighter trigger can be used to demonstrate premeditation or predisposition. That reason has been repeated many times without any case study. Public opinion cares about gun used. The courts care about the "who" and "why".
A lot of us want that competitive edge to shoot faster and more accurately. I hear excuses for missing all the time and most will blame the sights and trigger. I'll often see someone buy a new handgun and the first thing they do is upgrade. Most people who change triggers, add better optics, add custom stippling or grips think that all the upgrades will conceal that they suck at shooting. Don't use upgrades to convince yourself that everything is fine and you don't need training.
If you always rely on a trigger upgrade to shoot better, you never really improve your shooting fundamentals. Those are usually the guys that like to show off their "skills", but their skills aren't any better just because they have better tools. Get good trigger control and once you master that, then and only then, should you ever consider upgrading to a better trigger. Otherwise, your trigger control is always stunted by that trigger upgrade. You'll think all is well, but it's not.
When I'm teaching a handgun class, I don't want anyone in these classes see me in demo and think "Of course he can do that with his trick gun.". I want to be able to pick up anyone's handgun and not rely on the crutch of any upgrade and I want everyone who completes my combat course to be able to do the same.
In a trigger cycle there is pre-travel, break wall, break, over-travel and reset. Pre-travel is the distance between the trigger at rest and break wall. Break wall is that last bit of resistance before break which is the point where the firing pin or hammer is released. Over-travel is the distance between break and full rear trigger pull. Reset is the forward travel between over-travel and break wall.
The easiest way to shoot quickly and accurately, is to install a very short pull trigger with a very light pull. When you reduce the trigger pre-travel and break weight it allows you to make a shot without influence of poor fundamentals like bad trigger control and shot anticipation. Shorter and lighter is better for accuracy.
The problems occur when outside stresses alter your trigger control and increase your chances of negligent discharge. What gun manufacturers have done is they've built in that pre-travel and designed in a higher break wall and break. That space is like the bumper of your car. It's to prevent a bad situation from becoming worse.
In a potential shooting situation, you prepare your trigger by removing the slack in pre-travel and position on break wall. I'll use averaged numbers. Let's say your break wall is somewhere around 2.5 pounds and your trigger break is somewhere around 5.5 pounds. Using my averaged stock figures, there's only about 2.5 pounds between life and death. That small amount can mean the difference between justifiable homicide and murder.
Lightening the trigger increases your chances of negligent discharge and negative consequences. When you "upgrade" your trigger, the goal for most, is to reduce or remove the pre-travel and lighten the trigger break. Some "upgrades" reduce or remove pre-travel, reduce trigger break, and reduce or remove over-travel, which also reduces reset.
For defensive carry, when the fear hits you and your stress levels increase you really want that pre-travel. When adrenaline courses through you, your body tightens and your muscles involuntarily flex. I watch a lot of shooting videos for training and something that is very common in police involved shootings is the first shot is often low. Many times, even at close range, they shoot before they are ready and the first shot is in the dirt. The most common reason for shooting low is anticipation of recoil, but in a combat shooting situation, the instinct is to shoot fast. Many will have their finger on the trigger before they are on target and they stress fire.
Technically, that can be considered a negligent discharge even if their intention was to shoot. Police use stock triggers and even with the stock trigger that stress overwhelms. Even outside of a stress situation and depending on your holster and how you carry, that light trigger can be dangerous. A "cocked and locked" or striker fire gun with a lightened trigger is especially dangerous while holstering into worn leather or holsters with thumb breaks. If you're lucky, you'll just shoot your own leg, but people have died while appendix carry holstering. For those reasons, I want to be able to wade into my trigger.
Inevitably, I'll come across a guy with a high dollar gun. I'll give him a bone stock gun to shoot and most often, they'll say, "This needs a trigger upgrade.". A gun with an upgraded trigger won't make someone a good shooter any more than buying a race car will make someone a good driver