(sigh) Why light triggers aren’t recommended

Every time I post something suggesting that you don’t want a light trigger on your carry gun, or that you shouldn’t lighten a factory trigger on a carry gun, I get all sorts of nasty comments.  I’m puzzled why this particular advice strikes such a nasty chord in people, but this subject brings it out like nothing else I’ve written.  Let me address the objections, which are basically of two kinds.  (Note that here I’m lumping SA and DA/SA triggers with lightened ones into the same category.)

It’s a training issue.  Well, no shit.  Everything is a training issue, and almost everything can be overcome with enough training.  The people objecting thusly clearly suppose themselves to have had enough training.  To which I ask, “How do you know?”  The answer will usually be something along the lines of them having carried and shot a light trigger – maybe a SA pistol, maybe a DA/SA pistol, or maybe just a damn light striker-fired pistol – for years.  Decades, even.  I’m not impressed.  Here’s how I’d know you’re sufficiently trained: you have many – not a couple – closely observed or video-taped sessions of high-stress force-on-force scenario training.  In this environment you didn’t ND the pistol, nor did you trigger affirm* (which is an unconscious action and not remembered – hence the observation or taping).  Lotsa trigger time on a range over decades don’t count.  (Alternatively, if you have lots of time in theater with a very active SF unit, or lots of dynamic events under your belt as a (SWAT) cop – and a light triggered pistol has been your primary weapon in those environments – then that qualifies, too.) Now, you combine trigger affirmation, the tendency to forget to work the safety when under the-most-stress-you’ve-ever-faced, with the distinct possibility of an involuntary hand contraction** if you’re startled, shoved, or bumped or you trip, and you can see why a light trigger stacks the odds against you.  That’s why I don’t like them.

This also, by the way, is why I call the 1911 (and the Hi-Power) an experts gun.  The fact that there’s lots of people carrying one who’ve never had an ND isn’t relevant – anyone can carry a gun and shoot it only on a range safely for an arbitrarily long time.

There’s no data to support that they’re dangerous.  Again, no kidding.  There’s no data because no one keeps data on this kind of thing.  There’s also no data to support that they’re as safe safe.  False argument.

Also, there’s the aftermath argument.  I’ve had the good fortune to train with some of the best-known instructors in the country.  I’ve met many more, and had interesting conversations, often over dinner, with a good number of them.  Now these aren’t your Gun Culture 2.0/YouTube/Facebook/Instagram “instructors” who simply regurgitate what others have told them.  There are people who’ve been instrumental in developing the doctrine that the rest of us teach, and who have long and regular experience (not a couple of one-offs) as expert witnesses in defensive shooting cases.  They know how the system works (and you simply don’t if you haven’t been there).  They will tell you that many shootings are gray affairs, with not all the facts known.  When the DA in a criminal case, or opposing counsel in a civil case, wants to paint the defender in a bad light, they grasp at things that should be irrelevant but that will paint you as a trigger-happy irresponsible gun nut…like a modified trigger or a “hair trigger”***.  Yes, this issue can sometimes be overcome, but that’s not certain, and it requires bringing in expensive expert witnesses, who may or may not be allowed to testify, and who may or may not sway the jury if they do.

And there’s no need – you gain nothing defensively from a light trigger.  Yes, you’ll look better and feel sexier on the range, but most civilian defensive gun uses are short-range affairs – the length of a car, and you usually have the whole of the bad guy out in the open.  It’s not a marksmanship problem!  Anyone who can’t hit COM in those circumstances with the most crappy factory trigger shouldn’t carry a gun at all.

I’ll leave you with this regarding lightened triggers: Andrew Branca strongly recommends against anything but a factory trigger.  When a guy who studies this sort of thing exclusively for a living makes such a blanket statement, you’d have to be a fool not to pay heed.  The extrapolation to light SA triggers (or SA/DA) should be fairly obvious.


* Look it up if you want to have this argument. 

** Some people still even dispute this!  Anyway, here’s a link – one of many I could provide.

*** I know it shouldn’t be.  Yet, it is.

7 thoughts on “(sigh) Why light triggers aren’t recommended

  1. Lots of people want light triggers because they don’t put in the time mastering their trigger. A light trigger is fine for competition, but in my opinion, I don’t think a fighting gun should have a hair trigger. A fighting guns trigger should have a smooth take up and a clean or crisp break. And what the hell is trigger affirmation?! I’ve googled it and I don’t even get anything related to shooting. I’ve been shooting and training a long time, been to many classes, and I’ve never heard of it.


    • It appears in the second result when I Google it. If you read that link to a PPSC piece from 2002 (by Tom Aveni) you’ll see that he mentions that it was Dave Spaulding who mentioned the term to him. If you then Google “trigger affirmation Dave Spaulding” you’ll get more results, including a piece that I wrote years ago for the old POSA Journal of Tactics and Training. In that piece I say that I first learned about it in an article by Dave in Combat Handguns (but I couldn’t remember the issue). So the phenomenon has been known for almost 20 years, and any good instructor (not the same as a famous one) knows about it. And should teach it.


  2. It is my opinion that a heavy “factory” trigger is a liability as well. You own every shot you fire. If you are considering making fast and accurate shots at distances longer than a car length, a smooth and lighter (3.5 lb) trigger is unquestionably the way to go. Defensible? I believe that testimony from reputable expert witnesses will establish the fact that “lighter and smoother” triggers produce better accuracy. I would hate to defend why I was so “cheap” that I refused to spend extra money and went with the cheapest gun I could find and invested zero in training and zero in practice. LFI I Graduate.


  3. What about a permanently-adjusted trigger-stop. I find I’m more accurate if I can minimize the effect of the heavy trigger suddenly giving way.


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