By Steve Tracy I Editorial director
The first trigger I ever pulled was on the single-shot youth rifle my dad bought for me. A deal for an old Stevens Favorite falling block .22 came up and my dad figured that since my name was Steven, this gun would be my favorite.
He was right, as usual.
I have fond memories of shooting the reduced-size little rimfire in the woods along the Mississippi River on a father/son camping trip we went on with my godfather and his son. We had a terrific time plinking at improvised targets like empty pop cans and the Winchester Wildcat cardboard boxes the .22 rounds came in. It was all the fun a kid could want. My Favorite was downsized for a small fry, with its short wood stock, shrunken forearm, and 16-inch barrel. My used, but in excellent shape, Stevens sported a Lyman peephole sight on its grip tang and a German silver front sight blade.
But the trigger is what I remember most.
It was light, attributing to my ability to hit at what I was aiming. I would flip the loading lever downward, pick out the empty fired case, slide a new .22 long rifle cartridge into the breach, close the lever, and then manually cock the hammer. This rather complicated process meant that, as a kid, I always knew when the single shot was loaded and ready to shoot. I also knew to keep my finger off the light trigger until I was ready to kill one of those printed Wildcats on the Winchester box.
I still have my Stevens Favorite. I took it out of my safe and measured its trigger. As I held it, I reminisced that my daughter fired her first shot with it while my dad watched, beaming with pride. The trigger on the little gun breaks at a mere 2 pounds, 3 ounces. It’s as light as I remember.
I learned to shoot a pistol with a High Standard Model 103 Supermatic Citation .22 target pistol. Back in the 1970s, bullseye-style shooting was still big and that’s how I was taught to shoot by my father. With my left hand secured in my pocket, I would raise the pistol in my right hand while inhaling a breath. Then I’d lower the Supermatic as I exhaled and aligned the sights at the six o’clock position at the bottom of the round bullseye target 50 feet away. I would let half my breath out and then squeeze off a shot. The trigger on that High Standard breaks at just under 2 pounds. Yes, I still have that gun in my safe too.
Colt Single-Action Army revolvers require thumbing their hammers back before each shot and then pressing the trigger. The ones I’ve fired had quality triggers to drop their hammers. When I fired double-action S&W or Colt revolvers, I only remember shooting them informally and thumb cocking them first. I could shoot them more accurately that way. A few years ago, I purchased a Smith & Wesson Model 617 .22 caliber, double-action revolver. My intent was to practice inexpensively so I could learn how to shoot a DA wheel gun better. I’m much happier with my performance after plenty of range time. I can pull a double-action trigger through the longer arc of its hammer-cocking, cylinder turning action and hit my target.
Colt 1911 pistols usually have excellent, short trigger pulls to release their hammers. The Gold Cup National Match model has an amazingly light and crisp trigger fitted with over-travel adjustment screws.
When I entered the police academy, I carried a Smith & Wesson 645 on my duty belt. The first double-action round required extra concentration each time I fired it. Follow-up shots were fine in single-action mode. The same was true for my off-duty/backup pistol, a stainless-steel Walther PPK .380 ACP. The double-action first shot was long and took a lot more pressure than the single-action pull. But the Walther’s DA was smooth and I always qualified well with that little gun.
My department switched over to Sig Sauer pistols in the late 1980s. My P220 .45 had a 12-pound DA trigger pull and a crisp 4-pound SA pull. Again, however, that first shot required some extra attention on the range. The majority of officers at the range would consistently throw that first double-action round out of their grouping.
Double-action triggers keep a handgun immediately ready to fire, but without the need to keep the gun’s hammer cocked in conjunction with a manual safety. Some handguns feature double action-only triggers that cock and release the hammer every time. Good ones are relatively light and smooth and they mimic the feel of a quality DA revolver. Obviously the pull is the same from shot to shot with a DAO, but like a DA revolver, it takes practice to master.
Recently, officers at my department were allowed to choose other pistols for duty use if they desired. I chose the S&W M&P .40 caliber Professional model. Striker-fired pistols have swept over the American police forces the way double-action pistols swept over revolvers a couple decades ago. Striker-fired pistols provide the same trigger pull from the first shot to the last. It’s usually easier to master one trigger pull than it is to master two. If police departments had more training time and an unlimited ammo budget, we could probably have considerably more officers qualify at Master level. But as cops, we know the reality of our situation. The really good shots are those who practice on their own time.
Almost all of the major firearms manufacturers produce a polymer-frame, striker-fired duty pistol. The Sig Sauer P320 and Heckler & Koch VP9 are the most recent pistols to hit the market and both are proving to be quality duty guns. Consistent trigger pulls, from the first shot to the last, contribute to more accurate hits. Striker-fired triggers are more similar to the single-action pull of a 1911 than the double-action pull of a classic revolver.
They’re not miracle devices, but like my old Stevens Favorite, a quality trigger certainly contributes to hitting your target. PM
- J. Stevens Arms .22 caliber “Favorite” youth rifle.