Trigger control is defined as the manipulation of the trigger without disturbing the rifle or the lay of the sights on the target. Most errors when shooting can be attributed to improper manipulation of the trigger. In fact we are such creatures of habit we can improperly actuate the trigger over and over yet still manage to group well. This is the most influential point, because we are turning the machine on. Pressing the trigger to the rear starts the process. In most people’s mind it is also the end, which causes them to inadvertently affect the shot placement. We literally beat the bullet out of the bore by moving the rifle and altering the sights off the target. In some cases the shooter is so relieved at having firing the shot that they immediately disengage from the rifle. This is a bad idea.
The purpose of the firing hand is to manipulate the trigger and hold the rifle into the shoulder pocket. We aren’t gripping it like a handgun, but holding it straight back to the rear. This requires very little pressure, so we don’t want to have a death grip on it. The shooter should establish a firing position on the stock that starts from the trigger back and not from the stock forward. This is more a mental process than a literal one as we don’t want people putting their fingers on a live weapon trigger first. The initial practice should have the shooter visualize the trigger finger before the grip. You can do this during dry practice which is highly recommended.
We want to place the trigger shoe squarely on the pad of the finger, creating a 90 degree angle with the finger and second joint. This will vary slightly from shooter to shooter based on their hand, and type of stock, but the goal should be to get the finger nail to point to 9 O Clock for a right handed shooter, 3 O Clock for a left handed shooter. This right angle position should be there before the trigger is pressed and remain there after. If you find the trigger finger, curling or even flying off the shoe, we need to work on our trigger control and follow through.
When addressing the stock, regardless of the type, we want to make sure the movement of the trigger finger is not touching the stock. In the old days they called this “dragging wood” for the obvious reasons. If the trigger finger is resting against the stock, you will influence the rifle which is not good.
The trigger finger should be moving like a hinge straight to the rear using our body mechanics to our advantage. If the finger nails starts at 90 and ends at 90 you can rest assured you are manipulating the trigger straight back to the rear. In many cases, you’ll find the finger is moving much less than it moves if you are incorrectly pressing the trigger shoe.
The 3 fingers below the trigger finger should be pressing the stock straight back into the shoulder pocket. The pressure should not be so great to discolor them visually. We want to develop a front to back management of the stock, and the thumb should be there to support this front to back pressure. It’s not necessary to engage the thumb. Depending on the stock type, many will lay the thumb on the strong side or using it as a reference point on the stock, putting it in an out of the way place. We call this floating the thumb and it is a perfectly acceptable position as we don’t need our thumb for the task of shooting.