The Curse of the Match Trigger

Let’s play a game, called never have I ever. I’ll start. Never have I ever….shot an AR15 with a mil-spec 7lb trigger. If you aren’t taking a shot right now from one of the finest beverages that’ll make you blind, you may have missed out on an important lesson on trigger control.

There’s a huge push these days to utilize extremely light pull, match grade triggers. I’m on the bandwagon myself, but my reasons for jumping on it seem to be different then a lot of people. The most quoted reason I hear, and I’m paraphrasing, “match triggers make rifles more accurate.” That statement is 100% false. A match trigger makes a shooter accurate, with less effort, but does absolutely nothing to make a rifle more accurate. Truth be told, it doesn’t actually make a shooter more accurate either, if that person understands the fundamentals of marksmanship. Match triggers, in the hands of a rookie, are a crutch allowing them to bypass learning the fundamental of proper trigger control. Let me explain.

First off let’s recap the basic concept of trigger press. I say press very specifically, and never trigger pull. The term “press,” conveys the concept of even pressure on an object allowing complete control and repeatability over it’s movement in a single direction. You press a keyboard key, strait down, the same way every time. You press an elevator button strait in, with the same pressure, every single time. Isn’t that what we want in our trigger press? Accuracy and repeatability? Sure sounds like a fundamental of precision fire to me. Pulling, on the other hand, does not imply an even, smooth repeatable action. It conjures up images of a rearward motion, where force can be applied just as easily to the sides as well as strait back. Sounds like a detriment to proper sight picture to me. Maybe it’s a simple interpretation of words, but I don’t get any sense of precision from the term pull.

Regardless of the rhetoric, we do want some basic things when it comes to our trigger press. We want to use the same part of the finger from shot to shot, and that location is shooter dependent. The location will be based on trigger shape, grip shape, shooter’s hand size, shooters finger shape, and who knows how many more. Once that location is determined we want to evenly increase pressure (there’s that root word, press again) until the trigger “breaks” and the round is fired, and you follow through all the way to the rear. If you are always applying the same amount of pressure, using the same part of the finger, with the same motion, the trigger break should never be a surprise to you. The break will always be identical to the previous break, and will be repeated on the next break.

The reason we need to know where that trigger breaks is simple. A firearm, whether unsupported or on a rest, has some degree of motion in it. If you’ve ever shot a scoped rifle, from any alternative position, you understand the the reticle is going to move. The way to provide accurate fire even though there is movement is to control the movement, and to know when the trigger breaks so that it happens when your reticle is where you want it on the target.

Now that we understand the basic concept of trigger press, lets get back to why match triggers are a crutch for new shooters. Match triggers are usually set for extremely low weights. 3.5lbs and sometimes less. The press on that same trigger also tends to be extremely short, with little or no movement on the final stage. With little need for application of force, and even less movement, the shooter doesn’t really have to worry about about applying force in a specific direction, evenly and repeatedly. Just tapping it with any force will cause the rifle to fire. This also makes it very difficult to understand when a trigger breaks. With that tiny amount of required pressure, it’s “almost” difficult to push or pull the sights out of alignment.

With a mil spec trigger, however. The shooter is forced to gradually apply rearward pressure to the trigger, evenly through the full length of the press. That pressure has to be gradual, even, and in exactly 1 direction, or the sights will be thrown off target, and sight picture is ruined. That concept is very difficult to learn on a match trigger. The best shooters in the world understand this and can accurately provide fire, despite the heavy and long trigger.

Now apply that same principle to a match trigger. You can now press the trigger, and break the shot, accurately, but with less force, and less movement. You now understand that how much pressure to start with, how to increase the pressure, and realize that there will always be some degree of travel. What does that actually amount to? The answer is simple: Time. With a match trigger I can apply the same level of accuracy I get from that Mil-Spec heavy trigger, in a fraction of the time, with a fraction the amount of force. That knowledge and understanding of the fundamental, is the true benefit.

After having read that long winded description of the proper application of trigger press, are you still asking yourself, what’s the difference? Accurate fire is accurate fire? Well here’s your answer.

Not understanding the fundamental of accurate trigger press is fine on a flat range, firing from a prone supported position (not really fine, but bare with me). At least, the rifle is more forgiving in this situation because it is completely support, front and rear either on the ground, or something connected to the ground, preventing the rifle from moving. Now try that same application from kneeling supported. Or sitting. Or God forbid, standing unsupported. The rifle is no longer planted, front and rear from a fixed object, allowing the rifle to sway to some degree. Do you have the intimate knowledge of your trigger, to know when to press it, how much force is required in order for the shot to break as it’s passing over the needed point of aim on the target? If you’ve never shot a long, heavy trigger, are you even able to grasp the concept of travel? Without a point of reference, from an exaggerated trigger pull, it’s very difficult.

So here’s my challenge to you, and the point of this article. If you’ve only fired an AR with a match trigger, find someone with a Mil-Spec trigger. Take that rifle out to the range Are you just as accurate with that rifle as with your fancy 2 stage match trigger? If you are, you’re lucky enough to be one of the talented few with a natural understanding of the fundamentals. If, however your groups sizes are NOT the same, you may have been leaning on the crutch of the match trigger. In which case, it’s time to get back to basics, learn how to properly apply proper trigger control, and you’ll have taken another positive step in the journey for accurate rifle fire.

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