A couple of recent discussions over at pistol-forum have touched on the question of when is it ok to touch the trigger during the draw stroke?
Essentially it boils down to two schools of thought. Some folks think it is ok to begin prepping the trigger as long as the gun is pointed in the direction of the target. They tend to advocate a draw stroke that keeps the gun below the eye-target line until the very last moment. If they waited to get on the trigger until they saw the sights, it would slow down their shots. So they prep the trigger as the gun elevates toward their normal shooting position.
Others, myself included, don’t want fingers on triggers until there has been visual confirmation that the gun is on target. Rather than drawing the gun in a straight line from the holster to full extension their draw is in more of an “L” or “J” shape that gets the sights into the eye line earlier and then allows sighting (and trigger pressing) as it drives forward.
At least on easy targets, the first version really is probably faster for most people. But the photo above is a perfect example of why it’s a bad idea. That photo is from a USPSA match I attended in 2006 while doing some work at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia. The person photographed is a career law enforcement officer and a firearms instructor.
And under the mild stress of a match, he drew his pistol and was pressing the trigger when the muzzle was pointed at a table just inches away.
He knew the table was there. He had plenty of time to think about what he was going to do and even had time to rehearse it. But when the buzzer went off, the habit he built up from all that “prep on the rise” practice led him to a situation that could have resulted in injury if he’d launched a ricocheting round into that table. In real life it could have been something a lot more precious than a range prop.
It comes down to a difference in philosophy. In a USPSA or IDPA match, generally everything in a 180 degree zone before you is a “safe direction.” For example, if you look at the photo in the banner of my website it shows a student with the muzzle of his gun elevated for a reload. In most shooting sports, if your finger is on the trigger while you’re reloading you’ll run afoul of safety rules… pointing the gun up into the air with your finger on the trigger, they recognize, is unsafe. But if instead you’ve got your finger on a loaded gun as you draw, pointed 45 degrees down instead of 45 degrees up, that’s ok because on the playground it’s usually harmless to launch a round low or into the ground.
Off the playground there’s no way to be sure what might be below or around the target that you really may not want to shoot. Think about having to take a shot in a crowded theater or — ironically — at a real playground with little kids running around. Sweeping the muzzle past all their heads with your finger on the trigger would be a bad idea, no?
Of course, advocates of the “prep on the rise” technique will assure you that under stress they’ll realize, on the fly, that the technique they’ve practiced endlessly and turned into a subconscious habit will give way to calm rational realization that it would be more appropriate to extend the gun before touching the trigger. Because we all know that under stress, going against our training is easy to do, right? Errr…
That’s why I prefer a draw stroke that keeps the finger off the trigger until the gun is up high and I can actually see that the muzzle is on target before I touch the trigger.
Photo above is me performing a demo at a C.U.S.S. class with Jack “Failure2Stop” Leuba in 2010. The gun is already more than halfway to my eye-target line and finger is nowhere near the trigger. (photo courtesy of ByronG)
Train hard & stay safe! ToddG