Why teaching cops 'trigger reset' could cause problems on the street

Train for the worst conditions and lowest performing shooters

A few police officers in any agency are “shooters” — guys and girls who take every opportunity to get on the range and bust a few caps. More and more, we find the majority of cops shoot when they must to qualify and pay little attention to their sidearms otherwise.

This drop in officers’ shooting interest coincides with reduced training budgets and unpredictable ammunition supplies. The final result is a police population with a greatly decreased interest (and skill level) in firearms training.

Yet, I hear avid shooters and instructors arguing about a particular pistol’s “trigger reset” feel over those preferred by others. Those of us who cut our teeth on double-action revolvers and single-action auto pistols (like the venerable 1911) find little to praise about any of the mushy triggers on striker-fired pistols, but they dominate the market because they work.

A Dangerous Concept
Teaching the average cop about “trigger reset” may cause serious problems on the street. Do you really think a cop whose only trigger time is two to four qualification shoots per year (100-200 rounds per year) can ever master the fine motor skill of trigger reset?

Hell no! They can’t even master trigger reset on the training range – asking them to perform such a minute task under combat conditions is downright irresponsible. We know fine motor skills degrade rapidly under stress, and there is hardly a finer skill than finding that exact mechanical point in a short, 5.5 pound trigger pull.

Why do we even care about trigger reset? The whole idea is to avoid the full length and weight of a trigger pull to allow faster follow-up shots. I suspect the trigger reset mentality is a leftover from the days of PPC competition with revolvers. PPC shooters learned to “stage” double-action revolver triggers. The first part of the pull would rotate and lock the cylinder for the next shot, leaving a shorter and lighter remaining pull to drop the hammer and rate the highest “X” count on the string of fire.

Those were target guns with trigger systems tuned specifically for staging. Duty-grade revolvers were almost impossible to reliably stage. I always wondered if those cops were truly able to shift their brain from the conditioning of thousands of “staged” trigger pulls on their competition revolvers to the few hundred practice rounds fired with their duty guns. Their muscle memory was highly conditioned to staging.

Any “partial” trigger stroke can actually become a dangerous concept. When my agency tested for new semi-auto pistols almost 20 years ago, one of the test pistols gave us an unusually high “malfunction” rate. They fed and functioned fine, but several randomly selected test officers complained of the trigger getting “locked up.”

They were avid shooters who had become highly familiar with what was at the time their current issue 9mm, one which switched from double-action on the first shot to single-action on subsequent shots. As enthusiastic competitors, they had learned to “stage” the single-action trigger stroke for very rapid fire. When their “reset” conditioned fingers attempted to master a double-action-only (DAO) trigger, the trigger system would literally lock up.

That pistol’s DAO system required the trigger to be fully released forward before the next press. Less than a full release jammed the sear and had to be re-fully released before it would fire. That pistol failed the test for other reasons, but it alerted us to a training “scar” we would need to address when transitioning to a new sidearm.

So, to put it plainly, I disagree with whole concept of a short trigger reset for practical shooting. Train for the worst conditions and lowest performing shooters. A full release/pull stroke on the trigger may be a bit slower for follow-up shots, but precludes the fumbling of attempting a fine motor skill few can ever master at high stress levels.

Comments and disagreements are always welcome — let the argument begin!

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