Disclaimer: This article is directed to beginner shooters and new PTC holders – for experienced shooters who are happy with their shot placement, good for you – however you get the holes where you want them is OK with me. Please though remember that for beginners, simple is consistent, and consistent is successful.
A wise old  woman once said “every time you pick up a gun, you’re either ‘training’, or ‘un-training’ .”
The point being that, when we work with our handguns, we are either re-enforcing our fundamentals through diligence, or eroding them through laziness. So, as we await the new State training requirements for PTC (of which more when they are published), it’s a chance to think about one of our core basics, trigger press.
What *IS* trigger press, or, put another way, “why do we press the trigger?” The obvious answer is “to fire the gun”, but in reality, that’s only part of the truth. It’s our job to press the trigger, but it’s the trigger’s job to fire the gun, and so it behooves us to press the trigger correctly. This way, we won’t disrupt the trigger from firing the gun correctly.
What is “firing the gun correctly”? When we fire the gun correctly, the holes go where we expect them, which for the vast majority of semi-automatic handguns out there, is behind the dot on the front sight. Remember, the holes never lie. So, where does the shot begin? It begins with grip, and presentation. On the range, stance is controllable, but in the wild, grip and presentation may have to be achieved in a variety of positions, on a range of surfaces, with varying degrees of solidity, slipperiness and so on, so let’s focus on grip and presentation.
Grip consistency is our friend and simplicity leads to consistency; “always do the same thing “. So, always get your hand high into the tang of the gun with our finger on the frame of the gun and the knuckle of your shooting hand on the left side of the gun (for right-handed shooters). The gun is actually gripped by the lower three fingers and the back of the hand. You should be able to get the pad of your trigger finger on the trigger. If it’s the finger tip, or if the knuckle of your thumb is behind the gun, then the gun doesn’t fit – it’s too big.
Put your support hand on the left side of the gun with all of the fingers high and tight under the trigger guard – don’t fall into the trap of putting your support hand index finger on the front of the trigger guard, all guns are different and so this will naturally lead to inconsistency.
Presentation consistency follows from grip. Push your arms to full extension in the isosceles position. This is the easiest way to achieve consistency. Forget about varying degrees of push and pull – advanced shooters *may* do this, but it’s devilish hard for relative beginners, as most PTC holders are, to do this consistently, so don’t try. Don’t even think about the “Weaver Stance” – it was developed for success in pistol shooting competitions and does not translate well to movement, multiple targets and so on. The gun should be presented straight out to your eye level. Bring the gun to your eyes, don’t try to bring your eyes to the gun. If you don’t believe me, try presenting the gun at shoulder level and see how much stress comes in your neck and shoulders as you try to see the sights. Now as the last part of the shot, comes trigger press.
I teach “Finger on the trigger, pause your breath, steady press back and hold back, relax, breathe, finger off, bring the gun back (to high compressed ready)”. The finger starts off the trigger, the finger ends off the trigger; the gun starts at high compressed ready, the gun ends at high compressed ready. The “shot” begins and ends at high compressed ready. If you learn this, you’ll *never* jerk the trigger nor flick your finger off after the shot breaks.
It’s not unusual for right-handed shooters to begin to bleed shots off to 9 o’clock (and left-handed to 3 o’clock). Generally this is because the trigger finger pushes through, leading to the trigger being in the joint of the first knuckle rather than finger pad. However, it can also happen because the support hand is not fully extended. Ask me how I know this.
What does this achieve? It hard-wires the essentials of the single shot. Practice this at 3 yards, set your own goal – 8/10 shots in a 4 inch circle? Sure. 3 inch circle? If you like. 10/10? Absolutely – it’s *your* training so it’s *your* goal. When you can achieve this, push the target to 5, then 7 yards – keep the circle the same size; this is far more effective than making the target smaller.
“What’s this?”, you say, “only single shots?” Well, yes, at first . Multiple shots, and the concurrent necessity to understand and learn trigger reset, only have a context if single shots can be achieved with the desired degree of precision and defensive accuracy.
So, what is “defensive accuracy” anyway ? It’s getting shots into high center chest, generally. Those who are hunters understand this. To train this, draw a 9 inch circle on a Q target with the 6 o’clock of the circle just under the “Q”. Looking only at the target with both eyes open, present the gun as described and fire one shot. See? It’s in the circle. Don’t care about where. Anywhere in the circle is an equally effective high-center-chest shot. When you can do this reliably, practice this from holster draw. It’s much harder. Consider taking a specific lesson in a class that focuses on the holster, such as the NRA CCW class.
If you have to use your sights, then it is essential that you can focus clearly on the front sight at full extension with your dominant eye. If you wear glasses, talk with your eye-doctor about this. If you’re unsure, then hold up your index finger at arms length, close one eye and determine whether you can see your fingernail clearly – all the little groves and bumps. If you can’t, then you won’t be able to focus on your front sight without your eyeglasses. Remember, only *you* can decide whether you need to use the sights to get defensive accuracy, relative to the size and distance of the target. If you want to understand this more, take a “Defensive Shooting Fundamentals” class from a suitably qualified USCCA Instructor.
OK.. so pretty soon, we will know what the State requires for all PTC permit holders. My bet is on HCQ2. Can you consistently hit a Q at 25 yards? Better get on it.
Good luck to all of us in the pending litigation!
 Scott ducks for cover.
 “Complication is Inconsistency, Inconsistency is Confusion, Confusion is Failure” Chef Marco Pierre White.
 Which is also the punchline for a very funny but definitely NSFW joke regarding military parachuting. Thank you, Paul.
 “Precision” is putting the shots where you want them consistently, “Accuracy” is yes or no – one either hits the target area, or one does not.