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Mechanics of the double action trigger pull

Discussion in 'Handguns: Revolvers' started by Johnm1, Feb 17, 2019.

  1. Johnm1

    Johnm1 Member

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    I have been a revolver guy all along. Though I must admit the bottom feeders our beginning to breed. I have shot all sorts and makes of revolvers. Ruger Security Six, 6 in. Ruger Security Six 4 in. Smith & Wesson model 57 8 3/8 in Barrel. Smith & Wesson J frame snubby. H&R 732 snubby, Charter Arms Parhfinder. I have never been able to master the double action trigger pull. I just assumed it took superhuman Talent like Jerry Michlalak. No matter how hard I try the barrel is pulled to the right when I pull the trigger in double action. Until I bought a Police Positive in 32 SWL. It was a service revolver and dates back to 1929. It has a service-type trigger pull. Heavy but crisp. I don't shoot it exceedingly well in single action. The pull is fairly stiff but very crisp. I do shoot it very well, in comparison, in double action. And I have no idea why.

    I have compared The colt to my J frame and the trigger on the J frame is closer to the front of the grip frame. The grip on the colt is smaller front to back and my middle finger is almost directly behind the trigger on the colt. My middle finger on the J frame is noticeably lower. I am 5'-7" and have relatively small hands unlike most, I assume, the factory grips feel right to me.

    I found that the muzzle of the Colt Rises slightly while the trigger is being pulled. But it is predictable and isn't a concern for me (or should it be?)

    What is it about the colt that allows me to shoot it so much better in double action? Is it pure geometry? Or is it the way Colt did their triggers?
     
  2. captain awesome

    captain awesome Member

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    Get some snap caps and practice. Dry fire for a while each day , really focusing on not letting the sights move on your "target". some have suggested balancing a coin on the front sight and trying not to let it fall from the motion of dry firing the gun. I am not surprised you shoot the Colt better. The smoother and lighter the trigger the easier it is. The Colt revolvers I have fired have had wonderful triggers. But sometimes some handguns...I just shoot well without much effort, others not as much, whether it's the sights, the trigger, the way it fits my hand, maybe a combination of all three in an already mechanically accurate firearm...I have no idea. But It's a rare thing that I am able to out shoot a revolvers accuracy without a rest. Usually the shooter is the weak link.
     
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  3. reddog81

    reddog81 Member

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    Having a gun and grip that fits you makes a huge difference when firing double action. The Police Positive is a small gun. I’ve got one in .38 S&W and it is a good shooter but I’m better with it in single action because the grip is a little too small for me.

    Conversely something like a Colt New Service from the same era is too large for most people. It’s hard for me to get the appropriate grip on the gun and be able to reach the trigger with the pad of my finger.

    What types of grips are on your Ruger’s and S&W’s? I switched out the wood grip on my security six because it was too small for me the black Hogues look
     
  4. 243winxb

    243winxb Member

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    Last edited: Feb 18, 2019
  5. Drail

    Drail Member

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    Shooting DA revolvers is a learned skill. If you have ANY bad habits you will steer the gun off line. Some guys learn quickly and some guys never figure it out and just blame the gun. Dry fire practice while concentrating on front sight movement is crucial. It's all about that front sight and pressing the trigger straight back. Having someone else watch you shoot will show you things you had no idea you're doing.
     
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  6. Johnm1

    Johnm1 Member

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    I no longer have the Sixes or the 57. Grips were selected on slow fire performance as back then the only compitition I was involved with could all be shot single action. Even the rapid fire was plenty long enough for single action.

    I have tried the exercises to no avail on prior revolvers. I can see being able to keep the Penny still on the Colt. That never worked even on the 57. And it had a wonderful wonderful trigger pull. Though admittedly it was a single action silhouette tool.

    My thoughts are that the placement of the hand is the key. Specifically the location of the middle finger directly behind the trigger finger. I'm hoping some competitive shooters will chime in.

    Thanks for the replies.
     
  7. thomas15

    thomas15 Member

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    It took me in excess of 2 years to almost master the DA trigger on my revolvers. By 2 years I mean dry fire practice roughly 5 days/week. Even now each dry fire session begins with 25 or 30 trigger pulls just to work on just keeping the muzzle still. In my opinion for me at least it was something that I really wanted and was willing to put forth a lot of effort. The gun, the trigger, the grips are important, true, but more important is the effort.

    No one is asking me for my autograph as of yet so take this with a grain of salt but in my opinion a good firm 2 hand grip, strong hand high on the grip and weak hand putting forth a lot of the effort are important.

    It is worth it though because for most of us shooting fast and accurate with a revolver means having dominion over the DA trigger. True, it is possible to achieve fast and accurate with a single action revolver but that will require much more effort.
     
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  8. thomas15

    thomas15 Member

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    I'm a competitive revolver shooter. Mainly Steel Challenge where I'm at 80%. So not a competitor of note or fame but not awful either.

    I have to confess though that I really don't understand your question. I will say this, my grip which is almost visible in my avatar, is fairly typical but not universal. My trigger finger is deep in the trigger guard and at the 1st joint. My thumbs are crossed with my weak hand thumb on top. The weak hand is in contact with the grips as much as possible and doing most of the work. Everything is as high on the grip as I can possible get it.
     
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  9. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Something that a lot of people miss about handgun shooting in general: You have to keep aiming through the shot. However long the trigger is moving, one must keep aiming the whole time. If the duration and force applied during the trigger pull is brief and light (as with a bullseye-tuned 1911), you can sometimes get away with aiming to the decision to make the gun go bang, but not always. As the trigger pull gets longer and heavier, the chances of getting away with an approach of aiming-then-pulling go way down.

    A lot of people have the notion that they can align the sights, and, then, if their trigger pull is sufficiently ingrained, they can then switch from aiming to pulling. You can't, at least not if you want to reliably hit precisely what you are (or were) aiming at. That's like saying that, once your car is lined up on a straight road, you can take your hands off the wheel. If you do that, sometimes you will get away with it and sometimes you won't. It's better to keep affirmative control of the car the whole time, though. And it's better to keep aiming through the shot.

    DA revolvers just really force you to keep aiming throughout the shot. They're like a car with wonky steering - you just cannot take your hands off the wheel!

    I say all of this humbly, because one of my continuing struggles in shooting is to do what I've just stated above. Sometimes I can do it, sometimes it is a struggle. But working on it with a DA revolver really tests it, and makes it much easier to carry over to other handguns.
     
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  10. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    One other thought: If your Model 57 is like mine, you may have a wide target trigger on it - serrated and quite broad. For most people, this is nice for single action shooting, but not conducive to DA shooting - those vertical serrations grab your finger and are very effective at transmitting lateral force to the gun. Lots of DA shooters prefer a polished, rounded trigger, because it lets their finger slightly slide left/right without providing as much "input" to the gun. Regardless, though, you have to keep aiming through whatever input you're making.
     
  11. thomas15

    thomas15 Member

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    ^^^Very well said!

    ^^^Yes this is true. All of my competition revolvers have had the factory trigger rounded and smoothed. This in addition to action work and hammer bobbed.
     
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  12. Johnm1

    Johnm1 Member

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    Thomas - it's not a problem per se. In general, I suck in double action. And I have tried to improve over the years . Although, I have not made it a high priority . This has been true with every revolver I have owned. For some reason or other when I shoot the colt in double action I am marginally acceptable. It's like the Colt is a magic pill and I'm just trying to figure out what it is that allows me to shoot better with this revolver over all of the others. I know there aren't any magic pills. But I naturally shoot this revolver better in double action. My grip is definitively higher with the police positive. I will post a picture here in a little bit that demonstrates what I mean by my middle finger directly behind the trigger finger.

    Dave - you are correct. The 57 had the target trigger and it was wide. I compared the width of my J frame, the only Smith & Wesson I still own, and the J frame has a wider trigger then the police positive. I suspect this comes into play.

    I am unlikely to compete with a double action revolver. But if I can change a grip or a trigger and improve my double-action performance I would do that. Even on my J frame that is my carry revolver.

    I put around 2,500 rounds down the pipe on my J frame before I started carrying it. Double action I can keep all shots well within an 8-inch square at 7 yards with it. But it certainly isn't a natural feeling. For some reason or other the police positive allows me to do the same and it feels natural.
     
  13. MrBorland

    MrBorland Moderator

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    A good point. I'll also add that revolver shooters who struggle with the DA trigger (whether they know it or not), often yank that trigger at the beginning of the pull. It's like they're violently pulling at the beginning of the pull to let momentum take over. It should be a smooth continuous stroke, and as noted, though the break. Think of a child learning to play the piano - they play that little etude all herky jerky, whereas their teacher plays it smoothly. To that end, and excellent dry fire tool is a metronome. Dry fire to it. Don't set it for fast splits, but set it so you can pull off a series of nice even strokes like a piano teacher.

    One thing you'll notice when you do the metronome drill correctly is that you won't be staging the DA trigger. We don't know if this is part of your problem, but staging is a bad habit and something to avoid. It amounts to timing the shot, which any target shooter will tell you is a fool's errand. Plus, it's highly likely you'll yank that trigger when you re-start the pull. Just a smooth continuous pull, though the break.

    I've echo'd the dry fire suggestions, but make sure you put the mental effort into it; otherwise, you're just practicing a bad habit. The coin-on-barrel drill is a decent drill to get started. Really, though, watch the front sight (even during live fire), since it tells you everything you need to know.

    In addition to the serrations, the width itself can be an issue when shooting DA. Some shooters prefer a polished, rounded and narrowed trigger for DA shooting. I suspect that the size of your N-frame is contributing to your issues, so a smooth narrowed trigger might especially help here. And use grips that leave the backstrap exposed. And grip that revolver high.
     
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  14. ATLDave

    ATLDave Member

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    Yep, I think that's another aspect of the aim-then-fire mental approach. If aiming is something you do before the trigger, and then shoot, then the pressure is on to make the "shoot" aspect of this a zero-time/instantaneous event. Which is, of course, impossible.* The key is to not quit aiming just because one has decided to fire!

    Staging is just another way that people try to execute a (doomed) aim-then-fire approach: they think "if the whole DA stroke has a significant time duration, maybe I can get it right to the edge while aiming, then make switch to an instantaneous shot." Which, of course, doesn't work either. No version of aim-then-fire with a handheld gun works. Aim-then-fire is for ransom rests. Except for that kind of rigid, fixed, mechanical control of the gun, the approach has to be aim-while-firing. It's concurrent, not sequential.

    I know you know all of this, Mr. Borland, and could teach me a lot about it. I'm just expounding (bloviating?) for the benefit of anyone reading this who doesn't. I feel that I'm qualified by virtue of having explored all versions of the aim-then-fire approach!** I can confidently say that it doesn't work.

    *I don't know if it's logical to speak in degrees of impossibility, but if it is, it's especially impossible with a DA revolver.
    ** To my great annoyance, my subconscious will periodically decide to start yet another research project in this area, which I then have to shut down with conscious effort.
     
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  15. Johnm1

    Johnm1 Member

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    All very good points. And I’m sure I suffer from most if not all of the inexperienced issues. Here is a set of photos of my double action grip on my J frame and the Colt. I started with both hands and removed the off hand for the photo. notice the relative location of middle finger to the trigger finger. 914E0559-24D9-42A0-8C8A-6AF769DA473A.jpeg

    C9326A62-D5EB-4C17-A7DD-EFDE3AE2EA39.jpeg
     
  16. 5-SHOTS

    5-SHOTS Member

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    I see two possible issues: you grip the revolver too low and I'd use more trigger finger.
     
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  17. Jeb Stuart

    Jeb Stuart Member

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    "follow Through".
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2019
  18. 5-SHOTS

    5-SHOTS Member

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    To shoot double action the trigger has to be placed between the phalanges or you haven't control of the pull.
     
  19. Sarge7402

    Sarge7402 Member

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    What everyone forgets is that all DA pulls are different as their mechanism's are all different. Colt and S&W came up with their early 1900's DA's in different methods. Just like the new Ruger DA pull is a different breed from the earlier two.

    They all do take some getting used to. Usually about 500 repetitions before one get's the muscle memory needed to make things go right.

    If the Colt trigger pull works for you great, look for a police positive in .38 special and go from there
     
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  20. 5-SHOTS

    5-SHOTS Member

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    Eminence tenar has to be an half inch higher and in contact with the frame. That means you have then to slightly rotate the wrist down to have the sights on the target which is correct.
     
  21. thomas15

    thomas15 Member

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    I know an individual that competes. This person would like to be a better marksman but has been shooting terrible for about 3 years. I believe that there is now an expectation of doing poorly and actually a comfort in bad shooting. I have made the suggestion many times, to no avail, but first set goals, second work diligently towards meeting the goals and third, convince yourself that you have the ability to accomplish your goals. Mr. Borland, you are correct, it is the mental aspect that needs to be trained just as much as the physical.

    To the OP, we are not advocating a move to shoot Master Class scores in a competition. But if there is a desire to do something then by all means first convince yourself that you can do it then proceed to prove it to yourself that it is possible. Revolver is, in my opinion, a difficult gun to shoot well. Key word....well.
     
  22. Col. Harrumph

    Col. Harrumph Member

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    Could be the Colt trigger? I don't know about your gun, but Colt DA triggers have a reputation for "stacking." As you approach the end of trigger trigger travel the mechanical resistance suddenly increases, and you have to press harder to fire the shot. My Officer's Model does it, for one example; S&W triggers on the other hand (the ones I've owned anyway) don't have this "feature." S&W triggers just require a steady pull all the way through.

    Could it be that as you reach the stack point, you're stopping your finger momentarily and re-aligning the sights? Maybe you could be doing that without realizing it?

    Just a thought... if an off-the-wall one.
     
  23. reddog81

    reddog81 Member

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    You can have 10 people tell you how they hold their gun but it doesn't mean anything if you aren't shooting the same gun, same grips and have the same hand size. It's not as much placement of the hand that is the key, but finding something that fits you, is comfortable, controllable and repeatable. You can google "how to hold a revolver" and there will be many opinions on what works the best.

    Dry firing builds muscle memory and helps build strength to smoothly pull the trigger. Like others have mentioned, a lot of new shooters will jerk the DA trigger pull because there aren't really any similar movements that the average person does on a daily basis and a smooth trigger pull takes practice. Dry firing will help develop your technique, but I'd be hesitant to do much dry firing of a 100+ year old colt.
     
  24. MrBorland

    MrBorland Moderator

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    Lanny Bassham writes about this very thing. It's definitely worth a read. In essence, we develop a subconscious self-image, and we'll find a way to perform to that level - good or bad. I saw a lot of shooters who were unhappily stuck in Sharpshooter/Expert Perdition for years because I suspect, whether they liked the self-image or not, they subconsciously believed themselves to be Sharpshooter/Expert shooters.

    Doing well with a revolver in competition is a challenge, but if you start off there and take it seriously, the low participation in that division offers a huge benefit* - you win. A lot. And quickly, before a poor self-image can set in. More important than actually winning, your self-image is someone who's a good shooter and wins matches. The benefit of this can't be understated.

    Even if one doesn't want to compete, a positive self-image is important. With a revolver, you gain it by doing something other than taking pot-shots at some silly target like most do when at the range. Dry fire (do the coin drill, eventually balancing it on edge), work on shooting tight little DA groups on a real NRA target, work on your gun-handling skills (drawing-to-first-shot-on-target, reloads, weak hand shooting, etc., shooting on the move - pushing yourself a bit and gaining new proficiencies helps cement the sub-conscious image of a competent (i.e. good) shooter.


    * btw, the downside to shooting in the revolver division, besides the low participation, is that revolver shooters (and other shooters and SOs) are quick to adopt the Great Revolver Narrative, which states everything is oh so hard because I shoot a revolver. Buy into the GRN, and you give yourself permission to underperform even before you started shooting, and more importantly, you're greatly undermining your own positive self-image. The GRN is baloney, and unfortunately, endemic. Instead of listening to the GRN disciples, understand that your revolver is your gun of choice - it is what it is, and you'll simply shoot the stage.
     
  25. tipoc

    tipoc Member

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    Johmn1,

    In your pics which you linked to above folks here commented on a couple of things. I'm no expert on much of anything so take my comments as an effort to get the conversation moving along.

    There are a good many sources on the internet about taking a grip on a handgun. You can take a look at those. One thing mentioned already about your grip in the pics is that with both the Bodyguard and the Police Positive your grip is quite low. This is not conducive to recoil control and good shooting. Note the grip on the gun below...

    grip10.jpg

    It's high up on the backstrap yet out of the way of the hammer. The gap between the backstrap and the crotch of your hand between the thumb and first finger is minimal. There is plenty of room to get the trigger finger into a good spot on the trigger.

    The Bodyguard is a J Frame and they are usually more challenging to shoot well than a mid frame revolver. The Colt is also a small frame gun and in a minor caliber, 32, so the minimal recoil helps some but the round is not a common one.

    The sights on the two guns shown (the gutter sight on the J frame and the fingernail, or half moon on the Colt) make learning to shoot da a bit harder. They are minimal and harder to see well in varying light conditions. They do work but there are better for more accurate shooting.
     
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