Rifle Marksmanship

Trigger Control



 Main Page


To fire accurately, it is necessary to achieve a precise aiming point and pull the trigger without disturbing the aiming process. Trigger control is the most important fundamental of marksmanship after sight alignment. Trigger control is the ability to move the trigger to the rear to allow the hammer to fall without disturbing sight alignment or sight picture.

Definition:  Trigger control is the manipulation of the trigger, allowing the shot to break without disturbing sight alignment. Sight alignment and trigger control must be performed simultaneously in order to fire an accurate shot.

  • Surprise Shot


    • Controlling the trigger is a mental process as well as a mechanical process. Everyone has probably heard or read that trigger control is such a subconscious effort that a surprise shot can be fired.

    • This is a good way to teach beginner shooters the concept of trigger control.  However, it is not the way to teach more experienced shooters.  The shooter should consciously fire the shot exactly when the rifle settles to his aiming point, but it should be a subconscious effort not to disturb the aiming point or sight alignment.  

    • If the shooter can move the trigger without thinking about it (subconsciously), he can concentrate on sight alignment and his aiming point.
  • Types of Trigger Control


    • Uninterrupted Trigger Control
      • This is the preferred method of controlling the trigger.  
      • Once trigger pressure is applied, firing of the shot is completed. The shooter is, committed to an unchanging rate of pressure: no speeding up, slowing down, or stopping.
      • Initial trigger pressure is rapidly applied to take up most of the weight of the trigger.  As the rifle settles into the aiming point and the sights are aligned, the remaining trigger pressure is taken up and the shot is fired without disturbing the aiming point or sight alignment.
    • Interrupted Trigger Control
      • This method of trigger control is used in extremely windy conditions when the weapon will  not settle, forcing the shooter to fire the shot when the target comes into his aiming point.
      • The shooter takes up initial trigger Pressure and begins normal trigger control.  He then holds his position until he gets his aiming point.  He then pulls the trigger until the shot breaks.
      • The shooter should not force his rifle by storing it into his aiming point.  He should let the rifle move naturally toward and away from the bull's-eye.
      • If the rifle is moving toward the bull's-eye, the shooter continuously applies trigger pressure.
      • If the rifle is moving away from the bull's-eye, the shooter holds his position until the rifle starts drifting back toward his aiming point.  He then applies pressure to the trigger.  If the shot breaks as the sights are moving towards hi8 aiming point, the shot will-normally be inside his call.
  • Finger Placement on the Trigger
    • Finger placement on the trigger is correct when it allows the trigger to be moved straight to the rear, without disturbing sight alignment.
    • Every shooter is different.  The trigger finger should contact the trigger naturally.  The placement of the trigger finger on the trigger is an individual preference and depends greatly on the size of the shooter's hand and his grip.  

Errors in Trigger Control

   Trigger control is the most difficult marksmanship skill for most shooters to master.  The majority of shooting errors stem from errors in trigger control and can be attributed to the following:

  • Flinching
    • Flinching is the shooter's reaction to the anticipated recoil of the round going off.  It is indicated by the shooter moving his head, closing his eyes, tensing his left arm, moving his shoulders to the rear, or a combination of these movements.
  • Bucking
    • Bucking is an attempt by the shooter to take up the recoil, just before the weapon fires, by tensing his shoulder muscles and moving his shoulder forward.
  • Jerking
    • Jerking is an attempt by the shooter to make the rifle fire at a certain time by rapidly applying pressure on the trigger and disturbing the alignment of the rifle with respect to the target and/or sight alignment.
  • Follow-through

    • Follow-through is the continued application of the fundamentals after each round has been fired.  The shooter does not shift his position, move his head, or let the muzzle of the rifle drop until a few seconds after the rifle has been fired.  Follow-through ensures that there is no undue movement of the rifle until after the round is fired.
    • From a training viewpoint, follow-through can assist the shooter in correcting his own errors.  By knowing his aiming point the instant that round is fired, the shooter can analyze his shot group in relation to this aiming point and correct himself accordingly.


The conscious mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time. Therefore, the competitor must practice moving his/her trigger finger without consciously thinking about it. In order to successfully compete, trigger control must be developed through dry firing and continuous training until it becomes a subconscious process.


2003 GySgt Gregg White (Ret.)    Contact E-Mail