For LEOs and fellow firearm instructors for whom I may in the future conduct firearms training. This short article was from an email I just sent to a fellow who is having trouble with trigger control to offer some exercises that work well for improving shooting skills.

A dissertation on trigger exercises. I’m assuming you know the basics, but I’ll give you one ‘cheater tip.’ Any iron sight shooter knows to focus on the front sight. That’s easy to say; but for some, hard to do. Go to ‘Dollar Store’ or some similar outlet and buy a pair of +1.25 diopter reading glasses. Put them on. YOU CANNOT FOCUS BEYOND YOUR FRONT SIGHT! So, by using these, you’ll make a habit and see the benefit of proper sight picture (sights aligned and in focus; target under sights, but fuzzy).

OK – one more. Some say determining your “strong (or dominate) eye” is crucial. I say BS. It’s much easier to learn to close one eyelid than to rebuild your anatomy. So IF you determine that your left eye is dominate, just put a patch over it until you learn to close it without squinting too much.


First – DRY FIRE! For hours and hours. When doing so, give extra attention to follow-through. Watch this video.

You should notice that when Keith’s hammer falls, you see no other movement of the pistol. This comes from trigger control.

Second – DRY FIRE! For hours and hours. When doing so, CALL YOUR SHOT! State exactly where the sights were when the hammer fell. There are many reasons for calling your shot. One is simply attention to the sights, optical and mental focus on the sights.

Third – DRY FIRE! The ration should be ~ 1000:1 dry fire to live fire rounds. Why is dry fire so good?
You can dry fire anywhere. No need to go to the range.
Dry fire costs nothing but time. If you’re not willing to spend that, you don’t want to shoot better.

In dry fire, you exercise every aspect of shooting except recoil, noise, and recoil recovery … the last of these will still be minimized by the firm grip you practice in dry fire.

Due to the lack of distractions of recoil and noise, dry fire allows you to concentrate an those crucial aspects of shooting: stance, grip, breath control, sight alignment, sight picture, TRIGGER CONTROL, and follow through.

Finally, graduate school: The McGivern trigger exercises.
Get a copy of Ed McGivern’s Fast and Fancy Revolver Shooting.

ISBN-10: 1-60239-086-X
ISBN-13: 978-1-60239-086-7

For his trigger drills, see pages 120 – 122 and, to a lesser degree pp 174-175. (There may have been some embellishments in my version, below.) See in particular the last line on page 122: “The trigger should be allowed to go forward as the same rate of speed as that at which it was drawn back, whether quickly or slowly.”

Also, I respectfully draw your attention to this quote from page 175: “Trigger control is the “mystery” underlying all of these seemingly
marvelous performances, and nothing else can ever take its place for successful results in double-action revolver shooting.”

Here is a quick and dirty of the McGivern trigger drills. The drills are to be conducted with a nice, heavy, double-action revolver. (E.g., S&W 686.) If you cannot find a good revolver, a FULL double-action semi-auto pistol will do. (E.g., Beretta 92F, S&W 3900, 4500, or 5900. A Glock is NOT a double-action pistol.) The drills, listed below are executed as follows: master each step before you move to the next.

1st. Single action, Two Handed, Strong Hand on Trigger. Go through all dry fire sequences. Your goal is having hammer fall without any sight movement. First, very slowly. Then, with time and mastery of keeping solid sight alignment, faster and faster. Faster and faster until satisfied that you’re snapping as fast as you can. One very important element: move the trigger finger back and forth at the SAME speed; slow back => slow forward; fast back => fast forward. The idea, of course, is to make the trigger finger move independently of the other 4 fingers and the hand itself.

2nd. Single action, Two Handed, Weak Hand on Trigger.
3rd. Single action, Strong Hand only. As above.
4th. Single action, Weak Hand only. As above.
5th. Double Action, Two Handed; Strong Hand on Trigger; then as above.
6th. Double Action, Two Handed; Weak Hand on Trigger; then as above.
7th Double Action, Strong Hand only. As above.
8th. Double Action, Weak Hand only. As above.

Full disclosure:

As you might imagine, I still occasionally do some training. When I do, I expect to be required to shoot a bit myself … and I really don’t want to give an inept performance. I have a S&W 629 with 6½ barrel; it’s a fairly heavy gun. I use that revolver to polish my technique … by using McGivern’s step 8 above.


Sure, there are other tools that will also help. Buying a nice air gun and shooting in your house, down your hallway is one. But straight dry fire is by far the best practice … and you cannot do it too much.