Friendly and Certified Firearms Training for Women Since 2011

Trigger Talk: Stages of a Trigger Press

Enabling the gun to fire is, oddly enough, the most simplistic task a shooter has to accomplish. The vast majority of effort to successfully shoot the gun is put into safety procedures, stabilizing through grip and stance, visual acuity and sight alignment, and overcoming mental and emotional doubts to enable one finger to finesse the trigger in such a manner that we don’t otherwise move the gun and cause the gun to fire. All the hard work goes into everything done to bring the trigger to the “break” with the most consistency and stability possible. This tiny moment and how we manage ourselves and the gun determine a hit or a miss. Gaining a deeper understanding of how a trigger works allows the shooter to investigate their gun and how they interact with it. Tactile knowledge of the trigger is critical to improving marksmanship, safety, and technical control. 

Triggers move in two directions: rearward toward the shooter and forward toward the target. These directions are referred to as the Break Path and the Reset Path. Let’s walk through taking a shot from the trigger’s perspective:

Break Path is the rearward motion of the trigger as it moves towards the shooter until it meets the back of the trigger guard. This motion can also be described as Positive Movement or of the trigger.

Rest – The trigger is held in position by the trigger spring, with no human interaction or other force applied. 

Slack – Finger on the trigger, applying force to move the trigger along the break path until met with resistance. Very little pressure is needed to overcome the trigger spring and move the trigger rearward.

Wall – Where the trigger action first engages the resistance of the sear, and a distinct pressure change can be perceived.

Creep – Tension continues to increase before the sear releases. Amount of movement of the seer for the hammer/pin/striker to be released.

*All movement that does not release the sear is referred to as “pre-travel”.

Break – The sear is released, and the firing pin/striker hits the primer, firing the round. 

Over travel – The movement of the trigger after the break as the trigger moves to its stopping point at the back of the trigger guard.

Pin – Where the trigger stops its break path rearward motion at the back of the trigger guard.

*All movement after the break is referred to as “over-travel”.

Reset Path is the forward motion of the trigger moving away from the shooter towards the front of the trigger guard.

Reverse Travel – The forward movement of the trigger from the pin position towards the trigger guard. 

Reset – continued reverse travel resets the sear, enabling the gun to be fired again. There is often a perceived change in the pressure of the trigger and often an audible ‘click’ sound indicating the sear has reset. 


IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE that some handgun trigger actions operate differently.  The above outline of terms and illustration, and relative distances shown, may vary with action type and make/model of trigger.