Trigger Discipline Guide For Beginners

Trigger discipline in the context of firearm means a shooter keeps their finger off the trigger, resting it along the side of the gun, until they're ready to shoot. It's one of the four main rules for safe gun use.

What is the 4 rules of gun safety?

  1. Always act like guns are loaded (Even if you know its physically empty without a magazine)
  2. Don't point the gun at anything unless you're okay with destroying it.
  3. Keep your finger away from the trigger until you're ready to shoot and you're sure about it.
  4. Know what you're shooting at and what's behind it.
firearm safety trigger discipline

In the context of shooting performance, trigger discipline is more about good shooting techniques.

For trigger pull and follow-through, ideally, you would control the firearm with just a thought. However, the reality involves managing mechanical actions and human reflexes.

Beginners often rush the trigger press due to anticipation of the loud noise and recoil, which can cause unwanted movement and affect accuracy. A red dot sight or laser sight can quickly help new shooters learn not to jerk the gun. The key is to minimize gun movement during the trigger press by:

  • Using the middle of the first index finger pad,
  • Removing the initial slack in the trigger gently,
  • Squeezing the trigger slowly towards the back,
  • Maintaining pressure on the trigger after firing ("follow through"),
  • Gently releasing the trigger to the reset point with a click,
  • Preparing for the next shot with a slow squeeze.

You must always follow these rules. But let me explain why each one is important and how they keep you safe even if you forget another rule. If you ever find yourself breaking a rule, remember it so you don't do it again.

When did trigger discipline become a thing?

The practice of keeping the trigger finger straight along the gun's frame and outside the trigger guard probably became well-known in the 1980s, thanks to the influential firearms instructor Lt. Col. Jeff Cooper and his gun safety guidelines listed above.

modern technique lt col jeff cooper

Strict gun safety, especially trigger discipline, became a focus for modern militaries much after World War II, possibly during or after the Vietnam War. Previously, soldiers might not have adhered strictly to the "keep your finger off the trigger" rule, suggesting that safety protocols were less emphasized. Over time, with changes in military culture and inclusivity, safety procedures, including trigger discipline, began to be more rigorously enforced. 

vietnam war

Referenced The Armory Life

Always treat guns as if they're loaded, a basic rule that supports strong trigger discipline. It might seem obvious, but not everyone realizes the danger of pointing a gun, loaded or not, at themselves or others. This mindset reinforces the importance of being cautious and ready, ensuring you only engage the trigger when absolutely necessary.

Never aim your gun at anything you're not prepared to destroy. Each year, avoidable accidents occur because this principle is overlooked. A gun, regardless of its status, has the potential to cause irreversible harm. Maintaining trigger discipline—keeping your finger away from the trigger until you're certain you need to fire—minimizes the risk of accidental discharge, even in unexpected situations like a gun malfunction.

The golden rule of keeping your finger off the trigger until you're truly ready to shoot ties all safety practices together. Accidental pointing at an unintended target can happen, but if your trigger discipline is solid, the risk of an accidental shot is greatly reduced. This habit is essential, not just for casual shooting, but also in high-stress scenarios where the decision to shoot must be deliberate.

range safety target background

Be aware of your target and what lies beyond it. This rule is crucial in all contexts, from recreational shooting to defensive situations. A missed shot or a bullet that goes through a target can have unintended consequences if a proper backstop isn't in place. Strong trigger discipline ensures that when you do decide to shoot, you're fully aware of your target and the backdrop, minimizing the chance of collateral damage.

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