If you have been to any kind of formal firearm training, you have likely heard of this rule. One version says to keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, while another version says keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target. There are also other, less professional, versions as well. But no matter how you look at it. It is important to keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to actually fire the shot.
While it sounds easy to do, “finger discipline” may be one of the more difficult safety rules to make a habit. Your fingers and thumb are meant to work together to grasp something. When your other three fingers grasp the grip of your firearm, your trigger finger wants to grasp something too. You might hear this referred to as sympathetic grip or sympathetic muscle reaction. The only place there is room to grasp is inside the trigger guard. So you have to learn not to grasp with that finger, but rather, to leave it extended. When learning this skill, you will have to pay close attention at first. After much practice, it will become more natural. In fact, you will notice that you begin to extend that index finger all the time, such as when you use a bottle of spray cleaner!
If you are not ready to pull the trigger yet or your sights are not on target, extend your index finger on the slide or frame of the gun. It is best to get your finger up as high you can and as far away from the trigger guard as possible. You have probably seen some shooter rest that index on the front of the trigger guard. This is not a great idea because if you are moving and trip, or if you get startled such as in a personal defense situation, it is all too easy for that index finger to slip off the trigger guard and onto the trigger. Also, if you are in a firearms course on the range with multiple people, your instructor will likely be observing from your left. If your finger is high on the slide, the instructor immediately can tell that your finger is not on the trigger when it shouldn’t be.
The main reason is to avoid the possibility of a negligent discharge. If you learn and make a habit of keeping your trigger finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot, you are less likely to mistakenly put your finger on the trigger too soon in a personal defense situation. If you are in that situation and feeling the effects of adrenaline, it is so easy for your index trigger to pull back on the trigger before you are actually ready to make the shot.
Often, shooters who are learning will fire a shot and then leave their finger on the trigger rather than move it to the frame. Instructors will often use the term “finger” to remind you to be aware of where your finger is located and move it if necessary. You do not want your finger on the trigger while you are inserting a new magazine or when holstering your firearm. So finger discipline is important both before the shot AND after the shot.
So when you head to the range, remind yourself of this important safety rule and be very conscious of your trigger finger, keeping it away from the trigger until you are ready to shoot. With some practice, your finger will always be in the right place! Safety is your number one priority!
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