By Dan Kidder
Finding the balance between a trigger that is too light and thus unsafe and one that minimizes the force needed to break it, thus improving accuracy, can be a tricky balancing act.
To get a precise measurement of your trigger, you will want to add a trigger gauge to your workbench.
A quality trigger gauge, like the Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge, will not only give you a very accurate measurement of the force in pounds or grams that is needed to break the trigger, it will allow you to average out multiple pulls to get an even finer-tuned idea of how hard you have to press to pull the trigger.
There are many rifles on the market with an adjustable trigger that will travel anywhere from 2-pounds to as high as 8-pounds. An 8-pound trigger has much less chance of inadvertently firing while you are carrying the gun or in case of an accidental drop, but it will severely degrade accuracy, especially at long range. A trigger that is too light will be easier to keep still while you are pulling the trigger, but it will become dangerous as it could unintentionally fire.
Handguns have multiple modifications that are available to alter the weight of the trigger. For a competition gun, you want a lighter trigger. For a personal defense gun, you want a heavier trigger. In a startle flinch, you want to have meant to pull the trigger.
Before you go messing around with your trigger, it is good to know from where you are starting. A trigger gauge will give you an accurate reading to see where your trigger is currently set and give you a benchmark of how much to add or subtract. Some trigger modifications for handguns, reduce a trigger by a given poundage and others set it at a fixed weight. For example, a trigger modification that reduces your trigger weight by 3-pounds might be great on an 8-pound trigger, but is not even close to safe on a 4-pounder. Really, anything under 5-pounds on a personal defense gun is unsafe and could result is serious legal liability. If you are shooting in competition, a fixed weight 2.5- or 3-pound trigger may be permitted, but you need to check the competition regulations.
On a rifle, trying to set your trigger between 3- to 5-pounds is ideal. Lighter for a stationary bench rested rifle, than for one that you will be carrying in the field.
In either case, measuring where you began and then measuring again when you have made your modifications, will let you know that your trigger is at a safe weight before you carry it hot. Minimizing movement to improve accuracy is fine, but not at the expense of having a gun that is dangerous.
With the Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge, you have a metal rod with a plastic tapered wheel that gives you a steady press of the trigger while measuring the force in pounds or grams. Once the trigger breaks, the gauge senses this and locks in the measurement. Reset the gauge and test a few more times and it will give you an average of the weight. Since every time you pull the trigger there will be a slightly different measurement, the average is your ideal metric. You can still get this average with an analog gauge, but you will have to record the readings and do the math yourself.
The Lyman measurement rod is adjustable to allow it to be used at multiple angles so it can be read while it is used. This gives you better flexibility to ensure you are pulling it steadily and straight. The rod is detachable from the meter body and all stores neatly in a zippered nylon case.
To improve your accuracy, minimize unnecessary movement and improve your consistency, by all means, lighten your trigger. To ensure that you are safe, don’t lighten it too much. Get a Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge to find the perfect balance and shoot straighter and safer. Check them out in the reloading aisle at your local Sportsman’s Warehouse.
My name is Dan Kidder, I am Managing Editor of Sportsman's News Magazine. I am a former Marine who served with the Fleet Anti Terrorism Security Team Company during Operation Desert Storm. Prior to moving to Utah, I served as communications director for Georgia Congressman Mac Collins in his Washington, DC office. I am the President and CEO of On Target Defensive Training, offering firearms and unarmed combat courses to civilians and law enforcement. My students have included federal agents of the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Border Patrol, ICE, local and state law enforcement, national celebrities, and the general public. My beat at Sportsman's News includes tactical firearms, personal protection, survival, first aid, camping, and hiking.