View Full Version : Triggers....

Dave McC
July 24, 2002, 05:27 AM
Something came up on another thread, and I had a query about proper trigger method.SO,here's a few facts, opinions and theories...

While I've been shotgunning for a long time, I've shot rifles even longer,starting with the usual Red Ryder Daisy and proceeding up to some fine benchrest and hunting rifles of amazing accuracy.

One key to good rifle shooting is a good trigger. And while riflemen(and women) are quite diverse, one and all they'll tell you that the best work is done with a clean, light trigger.

So why do shotgunners live with our heavier, roughncreepy, overtraveling triggers?

At this point,some of you might say,"It's quite different, we slap the trigger because we have to shoot fast moving small targets".

Wrong, most shotgunners YANK the trigger. What we call a slap is usually a convulsive grab to the rear with the whole hand, or at least an attempt to weld the trigger to the guard just by pressure.

Most shotgunners know no better, and the triggers we've had on most shotguns haven't helped. Most are a pound or six too heavy, there's roughness, creep, overtravel,and stacking ad infinitum.

Back when the Brits had an Empire and made wonderful guns for aristocrats, the formula they used was that the front or only trigger on a shotgun should be about half the shotgun's weight.
The back trigger had to be 1/2 lb heavier. Since most Brit shotguns went less than 7 lbs, this meant triggers should be say, 3-4 lbs. And that's in the ball park.

Check out some local legend's shotgun. Regardless of make,or discipline, I'll wager the usual flagon of mead that the pull's clean,light crisp, and would work on a good rifle. Exception, release triggers, but I'm not going there.

Some shotguns need trigger work more than others. 870s usually have decent triggers, a couple of mine came from the factory with weights of less than 4 lbs, and fairly clean. Autos, and shotguns of any design recently made in this age of litigation run up to 8-10 lbs, but can oft be tweaked to a SAFE clean 4-5 lbs. The reason they're not are litigation,it's cheaper,and few of us demand good triggers. Disagree? How many of us KNOW what the pull weight is on our favorite scattergun?

SO,why get a good light trigger? First, we don't want a surprise break when we swing on a bird or clay, we want the thing to go bang exactly when we will it.

And,we'll shoot better,and way better with slugs. I've tried a few highly touted slug guns, and except for one, all had lousy triggers. Both of my slug shooters go off at about 4 lbs, a good weight for my big hands.

So, how do we improve our hardware and technique?

The hardware's easy.Find a decent smith and have him/her take the trigger down as far as is safe. Do NOT attempt this yourself, anymore than the average driver should work on his brakes. Darn near all modern, US made shotguns can be brought to a decent trigger for $50 or less. One local smith charges $35.

Failing a good smith, or in addition to same, there's one or two things to do.

You'd be surprised at how many triggers can be improved by deep cleaning. Grease and gunk oft turn into what looks like dirty varnish, and will turn a good safe trigger into a risky, nasty pull.

Ultrasonic cleaning,dunk into a scrubber solution, etc, will oft do as much as a smith can in relieving the weight.Clean, relube, reinstall.

Another approach or addition is to use a trigger shoe on a recreational shotgun. I've one on my 870 TB trap gun, and it takes that clean, sweet trigger into the sublime. The extra width means a lighter, more controllable "Feel". Not for "Serious" use, it's something else to go wrong in a crisis.

And technique has to be discussed. Most of us shooting shotguns just stick the finger into the guard and yank.Most of the better among us use a fast press, and know exactly when it'll go off because we will it to happen at a particular moment.Fast and accurate presses need practice, but a few moments watching an IPSC competitor going for gold shows it can be done.

And, simply moving the contact point from the middle of the curve in the trigger to the tip will gain leverage, lower the apparent weight and aid control.

Questions, comments, donations?....

July 24, 2002, 07:11 AM
Good post Dave.

It seems to me that the newer the shotgun, the worse the trigger. I recently shot a new Remington 1100 and it's pull was substantially worse than my factory stock 870 from the 1980's. A new Beretta Xtrema I test fired had positively the worst trigger pull on a gun in that price range I've ever experienced. Long, heavy, inconsistent with substantial over travel.

In my experience, crisp and clean is more important than weight. I have a sxs with 5 and 5.5 lbs triggers that break like glass with absolutely no overtravel. It feels like a much lighter pull. The 4lb pull on a Beretta 390 that is long and creepy isn't nearly as nice.

Shooters can live with bad triggers and millions do. When you first try a gun with a good trigger, you might consider it unsafe because it may go off before you expect. It's not unsafe, but when you're used to 5lbs and the trigger trips at 3.5 (the absolute minimum for a shotgun pull IMHO) it can come as a surprise.

But once you get used to shooting with good triggers, you'll wonder how you could ever shoot anything else.

Dave McC
July 24, 2002, 02:24 PM
Good point about crisp and clean, Paul. My old 94 has a fairly heavy trigger(5lbs or so), but it snaps like an icycle.

3.5 lbs is a good cutoff, 'specially on a GP shotgun.

Good triggers are like fine wine and great food. Once you've tried them it's hard to settle for less....

July 24, 2002, 05:19 PM
Reminds me of the NSCA master class shooter who shot my K80. He fan fired the gun, touched off both barrels in very fast sequence by pulling the trigger too hard. Claims I had a "Hair" trigger. It is factory stock. And his Browning had trigger work done to it!

Good triggers are a must in Bullseye or Benchrest shooting, but I am amazed at the poor triggers shotgunners accept as OK, even in expensive guns.

Anybody tried the Timney trigger for the 870?

Dave McC
July 24, 2002, 06:56 PM
Toyed with the idea of a Timney for Frankenstein II, but the fact remains that stock triggers do well in 870s assuming the weight's about right.

As for "Hair" triggers, some of the worst shooting I've seen from pros has been Cops and COs shooting both shotguns and carbines when they use SA/DA autos like the Beretta 92, NOT known for a good factory pull.

Even old time cops who were used to DA revolvers did better. Of course, more of those shot on a regular basis. There's still a retired cops' pistol league in the area.

July 24, 2002, 07:51 PM
Spot on gentlemen.


July 25, 2002, 09:53 AM
I shoot up at PG fairly often, usually skeet.......

Question is:

Who does your smithing for you up there? My buddy and I have a couple items we would like done, trigger job being one of them. He lives around there -- down by Ft. Meade really.



Dave McC
July 25, 2002, 02:18 PM
Mike Thomas, formerly the resident mad scientist at Valley Gun Shop has pretty much gone into forensics and is not smithing these days. He did lots of the stuff I mention here, and did it well.

Greg Wolfe in Easton, associated with Albright's Gun Shop, is the best I know of, try there. He did at least one forcing cone and tube installation for me, the bbl on Frank is his work.

I was at PG this AM, range 8. Maybe we'll cross paths there, and you can tell the folks here I am real(G)...

July 25, 2002, 09:02 PM
Been thinkin on this thread.dangerous

Maby at least some of the reason for mediocre (at best) triggers on so many shotguns is the buyers haven't a clue what a nice trigger feels like and can do for your shooting.

Maby I am way wrong but it seems to me that a lot of shotgunners have only one gun of any kind, and shoot that one rarely.

If Marketing can make a product desirable, why spend the effort to make it better ?

Talkin bout guns that cost less than a new turbo diesel truck. :D


Dave McC
July 26, 2002, 05:30 AM
Right, Sam. Once anyone more than casually interested in shotgunning tries a good trigger, they get hooked.

Most of us settle for less because we know not good triggers.

July 26, 2002, 07:31 AM
It's not just shotguns, it's all guns. Recently a friend was showing me his new S&W Performance Center revolver. It was innovative and stylish but the triggers, both single action and double, couldn't hold a candle to my 40 year old S&W Model 15 that I'd bought used 5 years ago in factory stock condition.

Try the trigger on a 50's vintage Model 70 Winchester or even a Model 94 for that matter and you'll notice a distinct difference.

Product litigation usually gets the blame for the current trend toward heavy, long and just plain awful triggers. I am skeptical of that being the only reason. Perazzi, Krieghoff, Dakota, Sako, Cooper, Beretta (high end guns) and many others are willing to put the effort into providing excellent triggers. Certainly their litigation risk is no different than Remington or Ruger. I think many gun makers use litigation as an excuse because they either lack the skilled workers of an earlier era and/or are attempting to reduce their costs and maximize profits.


July 26, 2002, 01:12 PM
I have had trigger work done on one of my competition O/U's--a Winchester 101--and have done my own trigger work on ALL my 870's and 1100's for over twenty years...BTW, I've had THREE Remington 3200's, and NONE of them needed trigger work--just fine "out of the box"...a good, crisp trigger IS IMPORTANT to shotgunners, too...I like 3 to 3&3/4 lbs. and CRISP...otherwise, I start to get the "Flinchies"...FWIW....mikey357

Dave McC
July 26, 2002, 03:54 PM
You might have something there, Erick. The heaviest trigger here is on the 20 gauge YE. It's still not bad, but a lb or so heavier than the rest.

The newest other 870 here is about 1980,IIRC, and all have plenty of rounds behind them. I wonder if a coupla K of shells will smooth and lighten that 20's pull.Only one way to find out.

Mikey, Gene Hill wrote that some flinching can be prevented or cured by a good trigger. I'm inclined to agree.