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Trigger Press And Follow Through

Trigger control is one of the most important aspects of shooting long range. A slight movement can alter your point of aim and when shooting to distances greater than 800 yards any lateral movement may be the difference between a hit and a miss. Trigger control also incorporates breathing control and heart rate awareness. How you press the trigger, how you breathe when you make that press and how the press is timed with heart rate will determine the precision of most of your shooting.


By placing the first pad of your index finger just above the curve of the trigger holding it close to a 90-degree angle to the trigger allows for a clean press position. The press should be smooth and uninterrupted. It is important to allow a follow-through while pressing the trigger back. The follow-through can be achieved in two ways: 1. By holding the trigger back until your feel the trigger reset; or 2. by holding the trigger against the back of the trigger guard for a brief moment until the recoil cycle has ended. The follow-through allows the rifle to settle back into place after the effects of recoil has ended. Creating movement after the trigger breaks disrupts the recoil cycle and alters flight path trajectory by any slight movement.


A slight pull to the right of the trigger finger and the bullet travels left; a pull to the left and the bullet travels right.


Some argue the trigger press should be slow allowing the shooter to be surprised when the trigger breaks and a round is fired. More often than not a slow trigger press results in some form of involuntary movement. The same can be said for a very fast trigger press; a fast trigger press can result in a jerking movement.  And a drag of the finger across the face of the trigger may causes a hit off center.


A smooth and steady triger press is required while at the same time maintaining full concentration on the sight picture.


The placement of the trigger finger is critical to achieving accuracy. Avoid finger placement below the first crease of the index finger. It is recommended that the finger be placed on the trigger at the center of the pad of the first digit of the index finger. Some use the tip of their finger for a more tactical feel while others press the trigger just above the first crease of the index finger.  The higher you place the trigger on the pad the more force it takes to pull the trigger. For those who have difficulty pulling the trigger, they may need to drop the pad lower and be closer to the crease between the first and second digit of the index finger.


Breath control is an important part of precision long range shooting. It also creates the focus needed to shoot over long distances. Once you have obtained a clear sight picture switch your focus on your breathing rhythm. This rhythm enhances your trigger control. Breathing promotes oxygen in the blood and holding your breath creates excess carbon dioxide even with small pauses. It is not uncommon to see shooters take rapid deep breathes before a difficult shot to bring as much oxygen to the blood. This allows longer  holds on the target.  This practice is very helpful when shooting off hand where small movements from inhaling and exhaling can throw the shot off target. Most shooting between the inhale or exhale. Find what is comfortable for you and stay consistent.


Focus allows you to hear your heart beating. As you are breathing you should be following the rhythm of the heart. The trigger press occurs between heart beats. This is not as difficult as its seems it just takes a little practice. The first step is to gain awareness of your heart rate. To practice hearing your heart rate, perform some physical activity to increase the heart rate then find a quiet place and listen carefully to the heart beating. Now control your breathing to a point where the exhale occurs between the beats of your heart. Practice breath and heart beat control during dry firing exercises until it becomes a natural element of the shooting sequence. This practice helps maintain a calm mind and  precision focus. this same practice that martial artist have been using to gain focus and clarity for thousands of years.


Trigger press, follow-through, breath control, and heart rate awareness come together to send your bullet on a successful flight path and are the fundamental building blocks for precision shooting.


Ralph Hicks
President RTH Firearms

January 16, 2018
Shooting Up Or Downhill