How to Refine Your Trigger Press

Failing to master your trigger press can take you places you don’t want to be.

posted on September 8, 2021
Skip Loading Drill with dummy rounds and live rounds on target

Learning how to refine your trigger press to a smooth, consistent movement takes lots of practice. Using a mixture of live ammo and dummy rounds can help eliminate the dreaded “Baja California” shot.

Jeff Cooper called it the Baja California shot, a hit landing low-left from the point-of-aim due to jerking the trigger. Imagine shooting at a map of the United States and you’ll get the idea. True for a right-handed shooter, I suppose we could call it the Florida shot for a left-handed shooter, although I never heard the Colonel describe it that way.

What’s this jerking the trigger all about? It can be a form of anticipating the shot and tightening the grip on the pistol. Try this: Point your “finger gun” at something, imagining you are holding a pistol. Now tighten your grip and watch your gun barrel/trigger finger move. Tightening the grip, especially if you do it convulsively, moves the trigger finger … and you “jerk” the trigger, moving the sights off your point-of-aim.

Slapping the trigger, or what I call jumping on the trigger, usually comes about from watching the sights move the point-of-aim and hitting the trigger NOW! Baja California again. You can’t stop the movement of the sights and gripping the gun harder only makes it worse. If you’re using a red-dot sight or a laser, this movement seems to be magnified. The cure is to accept the wobble and understand if you press the trigger smoothly, the shot will hit within your arc of motion.

Here’s the Drill:

To help you overcome these trigger errors, you’ll need a target, a couple of inert dummy rounds, your pistol or revolver, some live ammunition and a shooting partner. Have your partner load your magazine or revolver cylinder and mix in those two dummy rounds.

From a low-ready, muzzle-depressed or holstered starting position, point in on your target and fire two, careful shots.

Repeat, watching to see what happens when you get a click instead of a bang.

Did the gun move or dip? Did the sights stay on the point-of-aim?

Repeat again, until you eliminate (as much as possible) errors caused by a jerky trigger press.

Shooting is a mental exercise; you must think through the process and do everything right. Talking to yourself doesn’t mean you’re crazy, so talk it out, “Front sight, press, front sight, press, front sight.” That’s my two-shot mantra and I say it or think it to talk myself into properly focusing on the front sight, pressing the trigger and following through. You might want to give it a try while doing this drill. And, stay out of Baja California.


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