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Ask the Instructor: Pulling the Trigger Too Soon

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

Pulling the Trigger Too Soon

Question: I have a problem with pulling the trigger before I want to. Is there anything I can do to overcome this, or is there an exercise I can do to help me stop this?

Answer: I am assuming that the issue is with both barrels. If the second barrel is discharging immediately after the first, this would be a different problem. Having qualified my answer, there are three possible causes of “premature execution”:

1) Trigger pull is too light. A good trigger pressure is about 4 1/2 pounds. Some shooters prefer it bit lighter and others are comfortable with a bit heavier triggers. For most shooters, anything in the 3 to 3½ pound range or lighter will be too light and result in occasional accidental discharges. Out of the box, the triggers on most modern shotguns are between 3.6 pounds at the low end to 5 ½ pounds at the top end. Many triggers degrade with use and can get lighter over time. If this is the issue, a qualified gunsmith can tighten up your triggers a bit. Just make sure that you engage a gunsmith familiar with your brand of shotgun and type of trigger mechanism.

2) “Overgripping” the gun. As shooters, we tend to tighten up our hand grip when we are in a pressure situation. This can cause the gun to discharge before we are ready. Any good pre-shot routine includes deep breathing and is just one of a number of ways to reduce bodily tension as you prepare to engage your targets.

3) A poorly trained “conditioned response”. Some aspects of shot execution are conscious acts, such as moving the gun and body to your ready position as you prepare to call for the target. Others are subconscious, like your movement to the breakpoint and gun placement to kill the target. Shot execution, however, is a conditioned response. Properly timed, shot execution should occur at the precise moment that two events simultaneously occur: the target reaches its preplanned breakpoint (or “kill spot”) and the shooter achieves the proper level of visual connection with the target. Many shooters, and especially novice shooters, dramatically underestimate the level of visual intensity required to break targets consistently. “Pray and Spray” or “Poke and Hope” are generally not very effective paths to consistency in clay target shooting. A more intense visual connection with the target at the breakpoint will help you time your shot execution appropriately, unless of course the issue is #1 or #2 above.

Whether it’s a trip to the gunsmith, reworking your pre-shot routine or committing to your breakpoints, a qualified instructor can help you assess which of the above possible causes are to blame for your premature execution.

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