In a recent conversation, the topic of when the finger should move to the trigger came up and produced a lively discussion. The simple answer is when and only when you have positively identified a threat and your sights are on target.
We see so many bad habits as a result of ugly training. I reference ugly training as something you have a hard time looking at, it is just plain ugly. There are two main problems with this subject, the first has to do with marksmanship and the second has to do with tactics. During our marksmanship classes we teach the shooter to place their finger on the trigger once they have aligned their sights. The first reason for this is logical sequence. It does no good to place the finger on the trigger prior to the sights being aligned and being able to confirm the sights are aligned requires the student to see their sights. When the student rushes to put their finger on the trigger before developing an appropriate sight picture they end up rushing their shot. Therefore, the finger should stay on the trigger index until this micro-task has been achieved. Too many will comment how this will slow you down and is unnecessary. If you hear this justification you are probably about to partake in ugly training.
The unnecessary conversation
A big problem with this industry is a desire to put the cart before the horse. To try and fast track the shooting sequence in an effort to be a faster shooter. Again, THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS. There is correct training and then there is ugly training, correct training would isolate these micro-tasks and place them in the correct chronological sequence. The perceived gains in speed are not worth the risk you take on or the extra liability by placing your finger on the trigger prematurely. I also believe it produces a poor attitude towards correct training. One where we preach one thing, but yet do another. For instance, we talk about “safety” and how important it is, but placing the finger on the trigger inappropriately is no big deal.
The fallacy of the flat range
From a tactical point of view, the trigger finger should only move to the trigger once positive target identification has been made. This process is often overlooked in flat range training and has created a precedence where we “feel” it is no big deal to have our finger on the trigger. We are doing a disservice to the student by not forcing trigger finger discipline along with safety manipulation. It is well known it will take far more time to positively identify a threat than move your finger to the trigger and select fire. So why then do we still see training emphasizing unsafe and reckless practices that needlessly expose you to more liability?
And now the courts are involved
The answer however unpleasant is true, we continue to see this type of training because instructors either are ignorant to the fact or complacent in ugly training. Some instructors may not recognize the dangers, the truly are ignorant and with time may come to recognize the importance. There are those who may recognize the dangers yet don’t believe the effort is worth it in the end. The problem is compounded with the courts now recognizing how an officer may no longer be granted qualified immunity during an accidental shooting. I believe these incidents can be avoidable with correct training, training that is not any more difficult to put on or organize.
I do not care what your profession or whether you wear a uniform or not, there is correct training and ugly training. Don’t settle, avoid ugly training and strive to excel.
"The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence." Confucius, Chinese teacher and philosopher