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October 13, 2006

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A Shovelful of Salt, Part II: Trigger Weight and Gun Safety

A friend of mine shoots a Weatherby Vanguard in informal competition and asked an acquaintance who is a fine rifle and pistol shot to try it out.

“This rifle has a disgusting trigger,” said the marksman. ”It’s 3 pounds, which is a good weight, but it’s creepy. You pull and pull but nothing happens. Have a gunsmith get rid of the creep and take it down to 2 pounds.”

The creep part of this was good advice. A creepy trigger is as useful as a poopie-flavored lollipop. But a 2-pound trigger is a proposition for experts only. In the hands of a less-than-expert shooter, it is an invitation to an accidental discharge.

Moreover, every factory trigger I can think of is incapable of holding the sear safely when diddled down to 2 pounds. (The sole exception is the Savage Accu-Trigger.) You can get them to that weight, but eventually the rifle will go off accidentally. If you’re lucky, you’ll merely scare yourself to death. If you’re unlucky, you’ll kill someone.

If you must have a 2-pound trigger, get one that’s designed to operate at that weight. There’s no shortage of them. Then, buy lots and lots of ammunition and learn how to use it.


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Ralph the Rifleman

My factory Savage BAT(Before Accu-Trigger) trigger breaks at approx. 4 pounds with some creep, but I find it managable.I recall shooting a two set-trigger job on a German manufactured rifle once that was sweet, and crisp, but I could see needing a lot of practice shooting it to avoid an accidental discharge.


What's really scary is to see the number of self-proclaimed snipers on the internet telling uninformed people that if they can't afford an aftermarket trigger for their 700P (this seems to be the most prevalent rifle used) that they should adjust it themselves. Most of these guys claim to get them down to 2-2.5lbs and that they are just as good as a custom job and completely safe. I sure hope people don't take this advice.


The number of self-proclaimed experts on the internet only proves the point that one should take advice with a "shovelful" of salt. Anybody anywhere can put anything on the internet. And I'm an internet expert, so you can trust me on that.

JA Demko

A poopie-flavored lollipop is a potentially useful item if your goal is to catch flies.

Mike Shickele

I agree with you that a 2 pound trigger is too light for a hunting rifle, but I disagree that most triggers can't be worked down to that level safely; by a gunsmith that REALLY knows what he is doing. If a Remington, or Timney trigger has been honed properly, and then set up properly, they will hold 2 pounds until the cows come home.
If a 4 pound trigger has no creep, it feels lighter than a 2 pound trigger with some creep.
I use a three pound trigger on all of my hunting rifles; I do this for 2 reasons: as a margin of safety if the adjustment ever does change, and when it is cold out, and my hands are numb, I still want to be able to 'feel' the trigger.
I have invested in having all of my triggers break the same way; then I know exactly when the firearm will go off.
Incidentally; I have instructions on how to adjust all of my triggers, plus others. But I refuse to touch them myself, I leave that to a professional trigger artist.

Must leave to go hunting: Mike


"poopie-flavored lollipop"? We've gone from Christopher Wren, Jane Austen, and caviar to poopie-flavored lollipops. I suppose next we'll be sharing fart jokes. How gauche!


I have rem 700 adl that has a light 3 pound trigger. I think it's too light, when at the range, I usually see the orange burst of flame out my scope before I flinch...that's a crisp light trigger but I am having it set heavier as I like to "know" and feel the trigger before it goes off.

Dave Petzal

To KJ: Gauche is my middle name. Do you think it's easy for a born lowbrow to maintain this level of culture?

I understand The Decider likes fart jokes, and if the Decider can indulge in a little flatulence humor, why not us, his semi-loyal subjects?


Well, ok...

You know how you can tell when a moth farts?

It flys in a straight line. (rimshot)

Do you know the difference between an oral thermometer and a rectal thermometer?

The taste. (big rimshot)

Now - I'm back to Mozart and Rilke.

Mike Shickele

I'm impressed! most people wouldn't admit to the fact that their gun goes off before they have a chance to flinch.
I don't think that your trigger is too light, it sounds to me like your getting yourself so psyched out that at the time the gun goes off, your not fully aware of your surroundings.
This may be occurring because you are afraid of your rifle. If this is due to recoil, you need to reduce the recoil to a level that you can handle. I don't endorse muzzle breaks, but a slip on recoil pad, shoulder pad, or Caldwells lead sled can work wonders. Don't be ashamed to use these items, as shooting from the bench is not a normal shooting position, and recoil is generally far worse than is experienced when shooting from a field position.



Trigger pulls IMO varies in what the particular rifle’s “Raison Etre”. My .458 has a much heavier trigger pull than my medium or varmint rifles. On these I like something slightly less than 3-lbs pulls. None have creep. Reasons are obvious, especially since I shoot too many Clays and drink too much coffee.

Hey, David! How come this format doesn’t accept italic’s and underlining? Makes us bloggers seem more illiterate than we are when we quote titles, etc. My college prof’s forced me to follow writing guides for those “A’s”….most likely because their prof’s did the same thing.

…Come to think of it, I became more concerned about properly writing my bibliographies, footers, and end notes than the actual content of my papers because of those terminal, saber-toothed college Profs.

And they wonder why I am the way I am.


If a person can't find their own Raison D'être this is a good start:



is it just me or is a flinch a bad thing....I grew up shooting my old man's custom .257 Roberts with a timney trigger at 2-2.5 lbs and when I bought my first rifle, a Tikka in .270 WSM, two things happened, first of all the gun with a trigger of 4 lbs wouldn't go off when I thought it would, and then the recoil, much more considerable than the .257 caused a pretty good flinch...the result, no groups....Solution: I had the triggers turned down to 2-2.5 pounds, now the gun goes off when I want it to, regardless of recoil, I have no chance to flinch.....

Mike Shickele

I'm a firm believer that a trigger should always go off when...and how you expect it to. This is in no way a fix to a flinch though.
When I'm target shooting, I always dry-fire my rifle at least twice for every shot fired. This teaches me about the trigger, allows me to concentrate on my breathing, and enables me to catch a flinch if present.



Although a 1kg (2.2lbs) trigger is allowed for _serious_ competitions, I suggest that you have a trigger shoe fitted instead of fooling with the trigger (SAT excepted): the larger surface area of the shoe distributes finger pressure and thus gives the illusion of a lighter pull.
Handgun flinch? Have somebody else load your clips, salted with a few duds. Too funny to watch.

Thomas Hall

A while back I replaced my Ruger MK 77's trigger with a Timney and adjusted it to release at 2 lbs. which various internet writings had convinced me was the setting that all serious, and seriously good shooters used. I did seem to be an improvement over the factory trigger and I was pretty pleased with my handiwork. Then I went a couple of months without a visit to the range and when I did go back I learned what D.P. said earlier in this thread was right, it really does scare the daylights out of you.

D.P., I just read the first part of Bill Heavey's story about caribou hunting in Alaska and you were right about him too, he's just awful.


I have just seen the light of day and figures out why the HELL I can't get a flippin' group out of my package Savage 111.

Fart jokes? I can get a lot of those in the deer woods from my uncles.

Mike Diehl

I've never used a rifle whose factory trigger pull or "trigger creep" stopped me from taking a good shot when the sight was on food. To whom is this supposed to matter? Long range competitive shooters?

I hope there aren't any rugged-terrain hunters walking around with triggers set at 2 pounds. Seems to me like asking for trouble.


Now that this topic isn't at the top of the list any longer, I will confess to something so monumentally dumb it's a wonder someone didn't get hurt. There are a couple of lessons here that are worth remembering, so it's worth embarrassing myself. Years ago, after reading "Adjusting Your Rem. M700 Trigger for Dummies", (don't recall the author) I did just that to my M700 BDL in .270. It was a work of art, if I do say so myself. All I had to do was THINK about it and it went off. Had to be under a pound. Even bounced the butt on the concrete floor to make sure it'd hold. (This trigger work is a piece of cake, and look how much money I saved!) Worked like a charm at my Gun Club range (temps in the 60's-70's :first clue). I was ready for those big Mule Deer. Off to Montana, and sitting at the ranch shooting range. Gun in the sandbags, crosshairs on the target, put a round in the magazine, close the bolt - BANG!!! What the Hell was that!?!? Keep your finger away from the trigger, dummy, you know better!! Another round in the magazine, close the bolt - BANG!! What the f---?!?! About that time the nickel drops, the light goes on and I say to myself: "You dumbass. You should have thought about that." Did I neglect to mention how bitter cold it was in Montana that November? Back home, standing in front of my gunsmith and telling him this story, he looks at me with "that look" and says - "So, where would you like it set?" "Right about 3 pounds, if that's OK with you" I answer. (At least he was kind enough not to add the well deserved "dumbass" to his question.)
Lesson #1. Metal will shrink/contract in cold temps (and then maybe that sear won't hold). Lesson #2. Only a fool adjusts his own trigger. Make a copy of DEP's "Trigger Weight & Gun Safety", post one at your local Gun Club shooting range and re-read it at least once a year. He's smarter than he looks. (Names have been changed to protect the stupid.)

Mike Shickele

Hello Dumbass
You don't know how much I enjoyed saying your name. My triggers have always been adjusted to three pounds; that was the weight that my dad always used, and he always did the best job of adjusting triggers that I've ever seen, and I'm not even being biased.
I never do any work on rifles on my own; the gift that my dad had, I will never acquire, I'm too lead handed.
Over the years, he has taught me much about what makes a rifle tick though. About metallurgic properties, and such. Much of which I retained.



i have 3 brownings 2 remingtons and a cz all set at 2 lbs. i fire all of them often at the range . and have never had an accidental discharge . all trigger work is done by a very good gun smith who has proven his skills over the years to my friends and i . where i live and hunt , we almost never see freezing temps so thick gloves and no feeling in the fingers are not a concern . i have never heard anyone speak of it being so cold that gun metal shrinks . by the way i was a machinist for several years , and i recall using liquid nitrogen to try to shrink a piece of stainless. it didn't work , so i can't beleave you could be out hunting in conditions cold enough to shrink metal .


oh yea , one more thing , Never Ever work on a trigger yourself !!!

Mike Shickele

The metal does change dimensions, but I think that it's more a matter of a thin layer of ice forming on the sear that makes a light trigger even lighter. I've heard of this, but never personally encountered it.




Mike and all,

I think i should have stated it as "blink" because if you watch anyone shoot through a scope, their eyes will "shut" "blink" as their gun fires. It's a normal reaction and I haven't seen a normal human not blink when that scope jumps backwards with a shot from a high-power rifle. I can shoot my ruger 10-22 all day without blinking but that's different.

Now I can't speak for anyone else and you may know all the macho, superhumans, aliens, or "master gunman" who will never flinch, blink, or even crack a smile when firing a high power rifle with the eye 1.5 inches away from the scope...before commenting, have a friend video tape you shooting at the range and what your face does when firing and you'll see what i mean.

Now, everything I've read in books on gunsmithing (books like this are usually more reliable than "Earl" or "Bubba") have stated that a great trigger should "break" like a glass rod would. That is to say, it should break cleanly, fast, and at once without any percevied creep. I understand the glass anaolgy.

It should not have creep as this ruins the desired glass-like break and shooters tend to anticipate the shot, and tend to pull it or place it off target. And to measure the "weight" you have to use a scale to measure it becuase "feels like two" doesn't mean it's two pounds.

I noticed that my 700 has a trigger like glass. When I shoot it, it breaks so cleanly that I am still wide-eyed concentrating on the target and I can see the fire coming out of the muzzle break before i know the gun is going off and that scope is now moving back towards my face....then somehow, my eye will blink as I am a human being, not the superman kind that will respond with "I never blink or react" to anything short of a german 88.

so i actually measured the trigger break with a scale and it breaks just under 3 pounds, and i think that this may still be a bit too light to be safe. that was my point. I have to agree with being safe first and being stupid last.

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