Keep Your Finger off the Trigger

Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Philip Mahin

The next thing on the list of rules to live by is to keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. I shoot in International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA) competition for fun and the one thing I have found that happens every time I get into a high stress situation, my brain goes into fight mode. I literally have to use muscle memory to make sure everything runs correctly with no mistakes. That’s the best reason to train repetitive motions like drawing a firearm so it is second nature.

As I’m drawing my 1911 from my inside the waistband holster, my palm finds the back of the grip and at the same time, my thumb is finding the edge of the holster to push on while my outside three fingers wrap around the grip after it is found. My trigger finger is positioned outside the holster in line with the slide as the firearm is withdrawn and my grip tightens. At this time, my thumb is in alignment to find the safety easily and rest there until time to disengage it. When the firearm has cleared the holster and I start to present it out away from my body, my support hand finds my three knuckles around the grip and forms around them. At this time, my support thumb has found the pivot point of the slide lock and makes sure it doesn’t come out inadvertently. I have squeezed the slide lock so tight that it didn’t function, so I loosened up a bit. At this time, I should be at full extension and the safety has just been clicked to the off position and the thumb is resting on it, holding it down.

As soon as the threat is in focus and my sights are lined up, my trigger finger comes back to the trigger and starts working. Any sooner than this and I could risk the trigger breaking early and missing my target. At the range against paper targets, a slight miscalculation on trigger manipulation may cost a match win but even there, bad things can happen.

The range where I attend these matches is a cold range, meaning no ammunition is allowed in a firearm until you step up to the firing line and have instructions from the range officer to load and make ready. I have witnessed an accidental discharge as the firearm was loaded and being re-holstered in preparation for the stage. Whether it was her finger or the shirttail that was inside the trigger guard, I didn’t hear her say, but when she pushed it back into the holster, it fired sending a round into the ground right beside her foot. Rocks went flying, but no one was injured thank goodness; but her nerves were well shook up and for good reason. She promptly stored her gear and excused herself from the rest of the match. Others have not been that lucky and how many tragedies could have been avoided by following this one rule? Training the finger to remain outside the trigger guard until it is needed can be a difficult endeavor to achieve, but well worth the effort.

Till next time, be safe and have fun shooting.

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3 Responses to Keep Your Finger off the Trigger

  1. David (Rupe) Ruppel says:

    You are so right! It can’t be stressed enough to new shooters to keep that finger off the trigger. I had an uncle that shot himself in the leg because he was practicing fast draw with his finger on the trigger. Wouldn’t have happened if he had followed that one simple rule. With practice it takes no time to get your finger on to that trigger if you need to shoot.
    Thanks for the reminder!


  2. Pingback: Know Your Target and What Is Beyond It | Sierra Bullets

  3. firstriverbend says:

    One thing I have noticed over the years and is reflected in this article, is a super important point is often missed, practice holstering the firearm just as much as drawing the firearm!
    Too many times I have read or seen, a person holster or re-holster a firearm carelessly!
    Now sometimes it is not particularly important as the weapon is fired dry, so cannot go off, however!
    As anyone whom has been in competition knows, things can and will go wrong!! I have witnessed and sadly once did this myself, re-holstering a firearm with a live round in the chamber or cylinder. This is fairly easy to do during a complicated course of fire, especially if part of the course involves more than one round on each target! A partial mind fade and loss of count can and does happen. While it is a course DQ, it can be much worse than that if poor re-holstering techniques are used, which is what happened to the person mentioned in the article.
    The only reason neither myself or anyone I witnessed re-holstering did not have an AD is because of careful and well refined re-holstering procedures!!
    It is always extremely important to have redundancies in all parts of firearms use!!!
    While drawing a pistol or revolver is what is mostly shown, talked about, practiced, one of the most likely times to have an AD, is putting the firearm away! It will often be pointing at something you do not want to damage and is often done with a round ready to be discharged!

    In this article the photos show and cause one to concentrate on the draw, which is extremely important, however, how many times is the weapon holstered and the same detailed photos are included?

    Very good article though, just as a concern, I think more attention needs to be given to the amount of detail given to the holstering of the firearm too. I have not intended any criticism, just hoping to illuminate a point. 🙂


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