Service Pistol Action Jobs- Smooth is better than light

At just about every class we teach, we have a certain percentage of folks that show up with carry pistols with extremely light triggers.  Earlier this year, we taught a class out on the west coast for a large Sheriff’s Office.  This office has a VERY liberal firearms policy that accepted various types of aftermarket parts, and exceptionally light trigger work.  There were some M&Ps, Glocks, and M1911s with triggers that weighed in ounces.  On duty pistols.

That school of thought took me back about 10 years.  I was carrying SIG products at an agency that had a liberal policy like the one above.  I ran into Bruce Gray, the over lord of all things SIG, and asked him to do a trigger job on a P226ST.  Bruce asked me what the intended use of the pistol was to be, as he did not advocate light triggers for duty use.  I lied through my teeth and said it was a competition pistol.  I got the pistol back, slid it into an Uncle Mike’s Pro 3 and off to work I went.  I just knew light triggers made me a better shot.

Fast forward 10 or so years, and I understand in duty applications how wrong I was.  Fact of the matter is that a light action job basically just turns the trigger into an “On/Off” switch that gives very little control to the shooter.  The perceived advantage is actually that light triggers will mask to a certain degree poor trigger control on coarse targets.  But it is important not only to get on the trigger aggressively when the time comes, but also to be able to get off of it when the conditions of the threat change.  A smooth action job on a service pistol allows both.  I used to curse the stock trigger on a Glock as being “un-shootable”.    These days, a smooth action job on a relatively stock Glock trigger is probably one of the most “shootable” triggers out there.  I actually prefer it as it gives me enough sponge to prep it aggressively, but the control to get off of it when the conditions change.   And my trigger control is better for it, keeping me honest even at the pace of .20 splits.  Same with the M&P.

Oh, and that west coast Sheriff’s Office?  By the end of day three, parts were swapped out, guns exchanged for near stock configuration, and they admitted they were shooting faster, and more accurately than ever.

This entry was posted in Modern Service Pistols, Training, Weapon Modifications by Jerry Jones. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jerry Jones

Jerry Jones has been a Sheriff's Deputy in Kentucky since 1996. Jerry is currently assigned as a patrol deputy, firearms instructor and senior operator/training supervisor with a multi jurisdictional tactical team. Jerry is Kentucky POST certified to teach firearms, SWAT, and sniper operations and deployment at the Academy level. Jerry is also the President/CEO of Operation Specific Training and the Law Enforcement Representative for Apex Tactical Specialties.

11 thoughts on “Service Pistol Action Jobs- Smooth is better than light

  1. Well stated, Jerry. I’ve found the same thing with students thinking that a super light, no take up trigger was what they needed for a street gun, when they need a smooth usable pull instead. We use pistols in LE as threat management tools lots more often than shooting tools. That requires a trigger that isn’t too light and I like some distinct “feel” to it so I know I’m pressing a trigger!

    Thanks again for pointing out what lots of folks don’t know!

  2. A smooth pull does make a big difference. That being said, I personally feel the trigger pull weight does make a difference as well, just that it’s not really as much of an issue after a certain level of experience and below a certain trigger pull weight.

    I train civilians a majority of the time, and most of them have a very limited degree of training and/or may never take another training class from anyone in their lives again (despite my best efforts to encourage continued education). For a lot of these people sometimes they may not have the hand strength and manual dexterity, in my opinion, to deal with a heavy trigger like an NY1 Glock trigger or some of the 8-12# typical DAO triggers out there. I find, for those people at least, there can be a very definite performance improvement stepping down to something around a 4-6# pull. For more experienced shooters, yeah, it may not make much of a big difference at all.

    Does that mean anyone really needs a 2-3# pull on a hard use gun? No, I’m not saying that. I do think there can be a definite performance improvement, including under stress, when stepping down from a DA/DAO pull of ~8-12# to something more like half that weight.

  3. Good article.

    One of my mentors used to like to tell people “a really nice trigger is a crutch for people who can’t shoot”.

  4. I have come to the opinion that with Cop triggers take up is more important than weight. I set my Glocks up with a stock weight, and added take up with shorter reset. When officers are stressed, in fear, or anticipating a confrontation there is often a trigger check with the finger. Most don’t even realize they are doing it. In the past we have used the long, heavy, initial action of the DA/SA auto to deal with this. Unfortunately, we end up with a trigger that requires a much higher level of training and practice to shoot well………which is often never added with the purchase of these systems. Then we have the other side of the coin where we see the use of a very light trigger with little or no take up to solve a problem of shooting performance. This then presents the issue of unintended and negligent discharges. In both cases we have a situation of using a hardware issue to correct a software problem. The use of any equipment to solve a problem with little or no training will often have tragic results.

    Personally, I have begun using a TLG LEM or light LEM trigger in most of my HK carry pistols. I get a lot of take up and a visual indicator (hammer movement) on my trigger, yet does not have the weight and effort required of a DA trigger or a trigger that changes with different shots. I get chided often about how horribly un-workable these triggers are compared to “tuned” on other guns in dealing with one dimensional paper or steel targets. Great. If they can be safely managed while dealing with living breathing humans at the end of a gun, terrific. Unfortunately, they often can’t. I am much more comfortable dealing with live threats with my long take up Glock trigger or my LEM’s than a “Skimmer” or other trigger of that type. I know way too many people who can shoot the piss out of the longer take up and tougher to work actions to try to fix the trigger press equation with mechanical hardware solutions. I would rather take the hard road and fix it with software work.

  5. I agree 100% and have seen the good (light) trigger cause issues with officers during training. During my 20 years I’ve carried two types of pistol and while they vary I’ve managed with both styles. I started with a stock Sig 226 then moved to a stock 220 shortly after passing FTO. Bought one of the 1st 220ST and sent it to Ernest Langdon for some minor work. I also bought a 226 railgun that went to Langdon for some minor work. Both the 220ST and 226R have great triggers with DA pull probably around the 9-10 pound and the single action breaks at about 5 pounds. I retired the 226R after a OIS incident and transitioned to the 1911 around that time. I have three 1911’s that are set up for duty all Colts and all have a 5 pound trigger with some takeup. While I’ve shot “better” triggers I prefer the way mine are set for most things. I’ve used them in IDPA, Schools and Department training with no issues. Still like to take the 220ST out for a run and keep it with a TLR in the bedroom.

  6. To add to the “threat management” tool vs pure shooting tool talk, we have to note that not only are we going to be jazzed up at least slightly during any deadly force encounter, no matter what our experience, we will also have to deal with other factors.
    In real life people don’t always shoot or handle guns on what Pat Rogers likes to describe as the perfect square range day; impossibly blue sky, fluffy white clouds floating by on a cool breeze, birds sing, trees give beer. Sometimes they are wearing gloves, sometimes it’s cold as hell, raining, bloody, at the end of a foot pursuit or fight.

    We need to allow for these realities.

  7. In the military we were accustomed to horrible crunchy triggers, first with legacy 1911A1s that had survived numerous conflicts and who knows how many trips to depot for overhaul, to the Beretta M9 with the DA/SA pull that required a complete retraining of my A-detachment when we got them. With enough dry-fire the Beretta triggers would smooth out enough to allow respectable results on qualification day. Most guys never got the hang of that DA/SA transition and just pulled the first shot. That’s right, Green Berets missing a qual shot!
    Now that I’m a civilian I usually have a Glock for my daily CCW. At a recent Vickers Pistol 2 course I was using a pair of Glock 19’s, one with stock parts and one with the OG New York trigger spring and a (-) connector. After running about 800 rounds through the pistols in two days (plus a few more in the carbine class) I decided to put the stock parts back in both guns. The triggers just seemed smoother with those parts, and some polishing. On there was a good sticky on what to do to make a Glock a bit more ‘shooter friendly’ and none of it was rocket science, mostly polishing metal-metal contact with Fitz or Brasso to a mirror finish and keeping the factory parts intact (it’s also available at Grey Group Training in their blog I shoot with Chuck Haggard more than I do anybody else and I have to agree with him: the best trigger job is a lot of dry fire, and shooting drills. Amen!

  8. I was also a 1911 trigger snob for a long time, though my 1911s were typically set up with pre travel and 4-5.5 lb pulls, as it was (and still is) important to me to be able to properly and safely run one while wearing tactical gloves.

    After attending Jerry and Bruce’s APOC course last fall, I came away with a new appreciation for service pistol triggers as well as a much improved manner to convey trigger management to students. I took my M&P there and came away shooting it better than I ever have.

  9. When I started carrying the choices were Government Model, Commander or HiPower. A 5lb trigger was recommended by Jeff Cooper & others and it was a major improvement over factory pull. Today I own but do not carry Nighthawks & Wilsons with trigger pulls I consider “Scary Light”. I usually carry Glock 30’s with NY-1 -3.5 or 5lb connector combination.

  10. I couldn’t agree more. From my own experience and that of my students, a smooth trigger pull will do more for your accuracy than a purely light pull. While keeping your finger off the trigger until you intend to shoot is the rule, I think we’ve all found ourselves prepping the trigger and then the dynamics of the incident changed in a split second. I’ve found a stock Glock which has been polished is a very useable trigger, and I can live with it day to day, not just on range day.

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