What's the difference between pulling the trigger and squeezing the trigger?

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Apr 1, 2005
Weirton, WV
I have a question, and I didn't know exactly where to post this, since it applies to all firearms. I hear this statement a lot from people, "Don't pull the trigger, squeeze the trigger." Can anyone articulate the difference between the two?
To me, "pulling" indicates putting more force on the initial action which generates a jerking motion, something you do not want when working a trigger.

A "squeeze", on the other hand, is a constant force applied throughout the motion resulting in a steady site-picture and the all important "surprise" when the firearm goes off.

The squeeze could also be called a smooth pull I guess. That's my thoughts on it.
I think when they say dont pull, squeeze, theyre saying you're supposed to squeeze your hand shut (like squeezing an orange), rather than jerking your finger back.

Actually, that is poor technique and reason enough not to tell a beginner to squeeze the trigger. He should keep his grasping pressure constant and press the trigger with nothing but his forefinger until the shot breaks.
Squeeze, pull, press... all the same thing, essentially. They seem to take on different meanings to different people over time.

The idea is that your trigger finger moves completely on it's own, and brings the trigger straight to the rear in a way that doesn't disturb your perfect sight picture.

By the time you can do that reliably and consistently, you'll know what each term means to you.
Take a rifle you can make "safe" like an FAL or an AR. Open the receivers, remove the bolt and cock the hammer.

Close the action and line up on a target. Hold the gun steady. With your trigger hand not on the pistol grip "pull" the trigger until the hammer falls. Note how far off the sights are.

Repeat, but this time have a firm hold on the pistol grip. Hold the rifle steady, on the target, but slowly squeeze the trigger until the hammer falls. Note where the sights are.

The terminology may be what's throwing you, but the point was to try and get the student to realize the fast uncontrolled movements to fire the weapon will result in pulling the firearm off target.

Smooth, controlled actions, however, are more likely to maintain proper sighting.

Same is true in dealing with a lot of machinery. I once explained to a buddy of mine when racing sports cars to think about the throttle like a trigger, that it needed smooth, controlled inputs to keep from upsetting the car. Note that smooth does not necessarily mean slow, nor does fast mean jerky, but it takes skill to be both fast and smooth.
Can anyone articulate the difference between the two?


Pulling (jerking) means missing 8" to the right at 100 yards with a rifle and either low right or low left with a pistol depending on your grip

In military marksmanship training, they balance a dime on the rifle barrel. When you finish the shot (no round in the chamber) the dime should still be there

Hold a spring between the pad of your index finger and your thumb. If you push the spring straight together, that's a good trigger squeeze IMO. Whole idea is to not torque the firearm.

FWIW....I suspect most poor trigger control comes from gripping the trigger too deep. If you move the trigger too far down on your index finger, the only way to compress your hand (finger) is to roll your hand (finger) which alters your grip and tends to roll the rifle (or REALLY rolls a pistol). Once I started to fire pistols by using the pad on my index finger, my accuracy improved dramatically.

Hold your hand out and try to move your index finger toward the V where your thumb meets the web of your hand. Now move your finger like you're pulling the trigger. It's easier to keep the tip of your finger in a straight pull than it is the first joint of your finger.

Don't know that everyone here would agree, but it worked for me and about all the guys I worked with in the range at the gun shop.

If the trigger breaks as the sights are aligned at the target, that's squeezing. If the trigger breaks after the sights have gone off target, that's pulling.

"Jerking" the trigger is even worse.
The diff between pulling & squeezing?

Pointless pedantry.

The bottom line is that you must apply continuous, smooth pressure to the trigger, without disturbing the alignment of the sights, until the gun discharges.

How exactly you achieve that is highly variable to the person and gun in question.
Pulling implies a jerking motion which, generally speaking, reduces accuracy, squeeezing implies a consant steady force. I was taught "point and pull" for shotguns, and "aim and squeeze" for rifles and pistols.
I have had good success with new shooters telling them to not think about firing the gun. I think with a lot of us our brain thinks FIRE! so we whack the trigger. Just think squeeze I tell them, and create the conditions for the gun to fire. Also suprising is how long people can go on with new shooters about sight alignment yet neglect trigger control. I draw a new shooter a crude picture of what I want their sight alignment to look like and then I tell them to squeeze the trigger without mving the sights.
Keith Wheeler, sir;

Your example of removing the "bolt" from an FAL (for dry-firing) is very badly chosen.

If you remove the carrier and its contained breechblock from an FAL, the hammer strikes a hard blow on the edge of its slot in the upper receiver. The force of the blow is concentrated on a very narrow area of the hammer, and has been known to cause the hammer to break right off at that point. Damage to the thin edge of the receiver slot is also likely. With all parts in place, the hammer is brought to a safe halt, as designed, by impacting the rear of the carrier and the protruding spring-loaded firing pin.

The military rifles are intended and designed for extensive dry-firing, WITH all parts installed. Use them as intended, with all the proper precautions about the presence of ammunition, etc.
always squeeze. what was told to me in basic. and its not a " gun " its a weapon.
Hello friends and neighbors// Once you find a consistant grip, find the break point of the trigger.
Then learn to squeeze the trigger straight back into your hand as if you were simply closing your fist, most use the index fingers front pad but some use the first finger joint, find what works for you..

If you need to "pull" your trigger IMHO the trigger needs adjusted (lightened) to your finger strength.
A better question is the difference between jerking the trigger versus squeezing the trigger. Both are "pulling the trigger". I think the difference is rather obvious and does not need to be explained
I think a bit too much is made of triggers-'course, I'm coming at this from a SD point of view.
I always find it amusing when folks put so much emphasis on riding/staging the sear or reset length etc. I always figured if you're fighting (shooting) for your life, you're not going to be worried/notice the sear, reset, or probably the front sights! Now if you're talking bullseye shooting etc that may be a different animal?

BTW-I read where one of the schools (Thunder Ranch?) is teaching "trigger slap". High speed photography has shown many world-class competitors' fingers actually come off the trigger during high speed shooting, and apparently the school has realized when you're in a fight for your life, you're probably going to be slapping the trigger.
I remember one of the instructors saying if you're shooting nice, tight groups, you ain't shooting fast enough.

Having said that, practice dry firing A LOT like you think you're going to be using the gun-it helps!
What I do is practice pulling the trigger as "slowly" as possible while maintaining the correct sight picture. That helps prevent me from flinching and jerking the gun.
always squeeze. what was told to me in basic. and its not a " gun " its a weapon.

Apparently they didn't teach shotgunning in basic. Squeezing the trigger works for rifles and handguns, but do it with a shottie at a dove or grouse and you'll be behind them everytime. One reason you rarely ever hear about bad triggers or see reduced pull AM trigger assemblies for shotguns(altho Timney has just come out with one for the 870). I was taught, "squeeze" a rifle... "snap"(not jerk) a shottie.
to pull or not to pull(a trigger)

In fact, just a few small differences between the two, but that make a a big one at the end, if you pull, and are not used to shooting at long range, you will get your whole body's muscle tight as you expect the recoil, then ur shot will be off-course before the bullet left the barrel, as if you squeeze, it will be a single arm muscle going and with much more control on the trigger, but neither will work till you shoot lots of bullets till it's like any other thing you'd do in a day! So in fact, if you dont shoot much, it wont make a difference if you squeeze or pull!
I really do not know. I just pull the trigger and the gun fires at the paper target. I heard not to jerk it/pull hard, just to squeze it slowly till it goes off.
Ignore the dictionary definitions--"squeezing" the trigger is simply jargon for pulling or pressing (in general activating) the trigger in a smooth manner that does not throw off your aim. It doesn't have to be slow, and probably shouldn't be if you're well-practiced and keen on survival. But it does have to be smooth and as straight back as possible, and using a steady rate of movement and level of pressure is helpful for most people. Obviously, beginners should start out slow, and calling it "squeezing" is a useful way to help them remember not to rush their movements, but obviously they'll want to work on getting much faster eventually (without throwing off their aim).
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