Having spent my entire adult life on a quest to be the best USPSA and IDPA shooter I can be, I’ve come to some realizations. One is that the single most important skill needed to shoot a handgun fast and accurately—whether in competition or in combat—is, without a doubt, trigger control. We have all heard trigger control stressed time and time again, but I feel many still don’t fully understand it. It is commonly said that the two fundamentals of practical/combat shooting are sight alignment and trigger control. In my opinion, the latter—trigger control—is the most important.

I’ve spent more than 10 years either witnessing or participating in qualifying police officers, and in all that time the area in which officers routinely have the most trouble is shooting at a distance—usually 50 or 75 feet. Officers will consistently shoot low and to the left on the target (for right-handed shooters)—that is, jerk the trigger. I’m firmly convinced this happens because it’s human nature to fear loud explosions going off in front of our faces. Often, an instructor who doesn’t understand the problem will tell them to stay focused on the front sight, but such advice is to no avail. I will usually walk over and tell them to aim the pistol at the target. When they do, I’ll then ask them if the sights are staying center-mass or if they’re jumping on and off the target. The shooter invariably replies that they are staying center-mass—and that’s because holding the sights on target is actually very easy, even at 50 or 75 feet. The hard part, of course, is breaking the shot without moving the sights, because even a few millimeters of movement of the gun translates to inches of movement downrange on the target. I then tell them to slowly and gradually press the trigger until the gun “surprises” them when it goes off. If they were indeed surprised, then there was zero flinch or jerk on the trigger, and the shot will have hit center-mass so long as the sights had remained there.

OK, you get that, you say, but how can I make a surprise-break shot and shoot fast? That is a very good question. First, I believe it’s possible to shoot very fast (numerous shots inside a second) and still make surprise-break shots. The thought process should never be, “The sights are there, now pull the trigger.” That philosophy often induces a flinch. Instead, think, “The sights are acceptable, and I’m working the trigger. The gun will go off when it goes off.”

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