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Rifle Triggers: A Weight Problem

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August 02, 2011

Rifle Triggers: A Weight Problem

By David E. Petzal

by David E. Petzal

Upon reading that the Jarrett Signature’s trigger was set at 1 ½ pounds, Dickgun, a regular blogger, a hunter of vast experience and a bush pilot of otherworldly ability, asked if that was a good pull weight for hunting rifles in general. To which I reply, great gobs of goose grease, no! Kenny sets his triggers light because almost all the rifles he builds are for carefully set-up shots at long range, and are purchased by experienced shooters who take the time and ammo to get to know their rifles. Bush rifles they ain’t.

For general use, anything below 3 pounds is asking for it. If you’re excited, or your hands are cold, or you’re wearing gloves, or any combination thereof, a trigger pull of less than 3 pounds is going to get you into trouble eventually—the rifle will go off before you’re ready. The M24 sniper rifles used by the Army have triggers that are set between 3 and 5 pounds because even for the coldest-blooded practitioner, sniping is a high-stress occupation that is performed in all kinds of weather. Good dangerous-game rifles have their triggers set at 4 to 5 pounds, and I’ve pulled some heavier than that.

Standard triggers are not designed to hold at weights lower than 3 pounds. Take most of them down below that and there’s not enough sear engagement to hold the firing pin. If you must have a light pull, there are some excellent aftermarket triggers that will hold at a weight of as little as 2 ounces, but you better practice with them, because controlling a trigger that light takes some thought and effort. Fail to do so and you could be the subject of one of MSNBC’s idiot documentaries.

Comments (27)

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from Del in KS wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Tried out the new Vanguard 2 in 300 WBY yesterday. First group with a charge of IMR4350 and Barnes 168 gr TTSX went .75 inch c to c. Funny you should mention triggers. This rifle has a new trigger and while it's not bad it not as good as the accutrigger IMO. There is some slack you have to take up and then it breaks at about 3 lbs (I don't have a guage). As time allows I will make some adjustments to see if it can be improved to about 2 lb. The gun packs a pretty good thump but all in all not bad. It has an excellent recoil pad. My 350 rem mag is much worse. Will try again to post photos as last night it would not work for some reason unknown.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

The photo problem is fixed you can click my name and see the new Vanguard 2 and the first group shot with it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Jackson wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I shoot .22's with my neighbor, just cutting paper in the backyard for fun (our backyard's are a combined 20 acres with about 0.5 miles of pine trees behind us, and a steel bullet trap). He has an older Remington target rifle with a 32x scope and an 8oz trigger. The first time I ever tried to shoot it I discharged it just putting my finger into the trigger guard.

For comparison my .22 of choice is a Savage MkII with a 2-7x scope and an accutrigger that breaks at around 2.5-3lbs. At 100 yards his rifle outshoots mine, but not by much.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from focusfront wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Crisp and clean is more important to me than lightness. I had a BLR, of all things, that probably had a 7 pound trigger, but because it just broke when you pulled it, I shot it extremely well.

With that trigger and muzzle brake, Kenny has made the perfect elevated stand rifle, where the shooting house has coffee and flat screen TV and there are flags in the field marking 100 yard increments of distance out to about 800 yards as well as giving you a sense of the wind. For that one thing it'd be beyond ideal. Anyone who can afford one can afford the other.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I've shot a rifle with a 2lb. trigger pull and I must agree with Dave, it's too light to hunt with. Benchrest shooting would be fine.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I agree with focusfront regarding my triggers. Except for a few semis and levers, my rifles have triggers at 3 lbs. The one holdout has a Timney trigger which is safe and happy at 2.5 lbs. Back in the eighties John Linebaugh reworked an old 3 screw Super Blackhawk that I had owned for years. He trimmed and recrowned the barrel to 4 5/8" and did a complete action job. I don't remember measuring the trigger weight but it is meager with a glass rod break and no backlash or take up. It is scary and I only allow the experienced and well informed to shoot it. In fact my friends refer to this revolver as the "Death Angel". Fortunately all it has ever killed was selected targets of intent.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I don't know about Jarrett Signature’s triggers, but in a few days, I'm going to cure my AR's trigger problem of bump firing with a Timney, TICKS ME OFF!

Ya'know your having a bad day?

375 H&H shooter during cycling the bolt, his finger found its way into the trigger guard, OUCH! He did manage to hit his Caribou on the first shot

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from patrickwood90 wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Personally I don't like anything lighter than 4 lbs. for a hunting rifle. I prefer to be able to let my finger rest on the trigger and wait for the right shot. The lighter triggers just don't do it for me.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from dickgun wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Mr. Petzal,
Thank you for your clear and incisive answer to my question about trigger pull. I must confess that I was about 1/2 TIC asking the question, but, I have been with too many clients in the field who may have read the blog and then had their gunsmith set the trigger to 1-1/2# while the gunsmith was also sighting in the rifle for the client to take to the field. The client then rapping off a couple rounds at a rock and being ready to go.
I agree with all your assessments of trigger pull for rifles in their various applications. Damn sure do not want a cold finger twitching on a light trigger in an alder patch in spring time, with temps in the 30s, gloved hands, and a first time bear hunter.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Have to agree with most of the responses. When watching and waiting for game to be in the "right" position I like to have my finger (most times gloved)inside the trigger guard. I don't need to have a "hair" trigger to worry about. 4 to 5 lbs is OK for me.

Dave said, "Fail to do so and you could be the subject of one of MSNBC’s idiot documentaries."
Dave, in my opinion any program on MSNBC is an idiot documentary!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jason Hart wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Great follow up to the series on the Jarret Rifle. Please keep multi-part series of rifles coming Mr. Petzal. Clay let me know how the Timney works for you in the AR and if they are as good as other people are saying. My guess is that it will be as all of their products are top of the line. Del glad to see you are enjoying your Vanguard 2, hope it keep shooting good for you.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from wgiles wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

My prairie dog rifle has a Timney trigger set at 2 Lb. pull. Most of my other rifles with adjustable triggers are set at 3 Lb. or above. I check my triggers to see what the pull is. Trigger pull gages are cheap.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Since most of my game day shots are with gloves, I like a 3 to 4 pound trigger that breaks crisply without a lot of takeup. My .35 Whelen has a fairly heavy trigger of about 4.5 pounds+, but crisp, so I have left it alone since new. I actually stiffened up my 7mm to about 3.5#. I have never messed with the trigger on my Mark V thutty nought six that is set at 3.5 pounds from the factory. But I'm no sod poodle shooter either.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from duckcreekdick wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

That stock finish looks like it suffers from tertiary syphilis.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

duckcreekdick: I also wondered why they went to the trouble to provide a borderline on the pistol grip with no checkering within, only more genital warts...
Still this is a nice rifle and obviously performs fantastically so I suppose we are being really nit picky. I really like this rifle.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Drew McClure wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

What's the pull on a pre-64 Winchester 8lbs?, this one has been worked and is around 5lbs, anyone get their pre-64 down to 3lbs?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MReeder wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Total agreement with Dave about hunting trigger weight and also with those who say crisp and clean is more important than light. Equally if not more important is familiarity with your trigger, which only comes from lots of dry firing and shooting. I have a couple of military rifles with double-stage triggers and lots of creep, but because I've had them a long time and have shot the heads on the wall hundreds of time I can actually call shots pretty well after the first three or four dry fires. No question a lighter trigger helps with long-range precision shooting, but how much of that do you really do in the hunting field anyway? My dad customized a .98 Mauser in .243 that was intended to be a combo varmint/deer rifle. His solution was a double set trigger that when set was so light it would go off with a heavy breath. It was almost magical for bench rest shooting and long range jack rabbits and I used it a few times myself from deer stands, but neither he nor I ever set the trigger for a deer. Unset, it broke cleanly at about 4.5 pounds and that was plenty light enough.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ChevJames wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I shot my Winchester Model 100 in .308 about a week ago. The trigger pull must be around 10 pounds! It is VERY difficult to shoot accurately with a trigger pull that is that heavy! Agree with Dave that three pounds is just about ideal. In NO event should the trigger pull be greater than the weight of the rifle!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Oregon Jim wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I have never been fond of super light triggers, and actually prefer a trigger to be a little stiff. I believe that a light trigger entices the shooter to take quick shots as a target drifts in and out of his crosshairs, while a stiffer trigger requires the shooter to concentrate more on holding the rifle on target while applying a firm and steady squeeze to the trigger. A firm trigger is also a safer trigger.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jere Smith wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Duckcreek yur right that stock is FUGLY, but it probably wont be hard to hold on too.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mayerco wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

If you want super light triggers go to a double or single set trigger. Jim M. Baton Rouge

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntingismylife99 wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

My dad has a 2lb trigger and never has he ever accidentally discharged his gun.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

patrickwood90, I agree 100%

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Dell I get better groups than that with Weatherby factory ammo out of my ten year old plain jane Vanguard. They use Norma brass and must be doing something right to make the guarantees they do. Try their 180 gr. Spitzers first, they are suggested retail at $40 so I know you can get them cheaper than that and I guarantee they will shoot.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Oh yeah most of my guns have trigger jobs and I always request 3 1/2 pound pulls. That is about right for an in the woods hunting rifle.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 99explorer wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I once owned a Mannlicher Schoenauer rifle with a double set trigger. When the rear trigger was pulled to a click, it set the front trigger to break with the slightest amount of pressure. Sorry to say that I didn't measure the weight, but it must have been in ounces.
I never dared to set it while hunting, even when shooting from a steady rest at a stationery target.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe Chicago wrote 2 years 36 weeks ago

I am surprised that there are not more after market two-stage triggers. I bet there are many veterans who are used to a little take-up before the trigger engages.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I've shot a rifle with a 2lb. trigger pull and I must agree with Dave, it's too light to hunt with. Benchrest shooting would be fine.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I don't know about Jarrett Signature’s triggers, but in a few days, I'm going to cure my AR's trigger problem of bump firing with a Timney, TICKS ME OFF!

Ya'know your having a bad day?

375 H&H shooter during cycling the bolt, his finger found its way into the trigger guard, OUCH! He did manage to hit his Caribou on the first shot

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Tried out the new Vanguard 2 in 300 WBY yesterday. First group with a charge of IMR4350 and Barnes 168 gr TTSX went .75 inch c to c. Funny you should mention triggers. This rifle has a new trigger and while it's not bad it not as good as the accutrigger IMO. There is some slack you have to take up and then it breaks at about 3 lbs (I don't have a guage). As time allows I will make some adjustments to see if it can be improved to about 2 lb. The gun packs a pretty good thump but all in all not bad. It has an excellent recoil pad. My 350 rem mag is much worse. Will try again to post photos as last night it would not work for some reason unknown.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian Jackson wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I shoot .22's with my neighbor, just cutting paper in the backyard for fun (our backyard's are a combined 20 acres with about 0.5 miles of pine trees behind us, and a steel bullet trap). He has an older Remington target rifle with a 32x scope and an 8oz trigger. The first time I ever tried to shoot it I discharged it just putting my finger into the trigger guard.

For comparison my .22 of choice is a Savage MkII with a 2-7x scope and an accutrigger that breaks at around 2.5-3lbs. At 100 yards his rifle outshoots mine, but not by much.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from focusfront wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Crisp and clean is more important to me than lightness. I had a BLR, of all things, that probably had a 7 pound trigger, but because it just broke when you pulled it, I shot it extremely well.

With that trigger and muzzle brake, Kenny has made the perfect elevated stand rifle, where the shooting house has coffee and flat screen TV and there are flags in the field marking 100 yard increments of distance out to about 800 yards as well as giving you a sense of the wind. For that one thing it'd be beyond ideal. Anyone who can afford one can afford the other.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I agree with focusfront regarding my triggers. Except for a few semis and levers, my rifles have triggers at 3 lbs. The one holdout has a Timney trigger which is safe and happy at 2.5 lbs. Back in the eighties John Linebaugh reworked an old 3 screw Super Blackhawk that I had owned for years. He trimmed and recrowned the barrel to 4 5/8" and did a complete action job. I don't remember measuring the trigger weight but it is meager with a glass rod break and no backlash or take up. It is scary and I only allow the experienced and well informed to shoot it. In fact my friends refer to this revolver as the "Death Angel". Fortunately all it has ever killed was selected targets of intent.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from patrickwood90 wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Personally I don't like anything lighter than 4 lbs. for a hunting rifle. I prefer to be able to let my finger rest on the trigger and wait for the right shot. The lighter triggers just don't do it for me.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from dickgun wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Mr. Petzal,
Thank you for your clear and incisive answer to my question about trigger pull. I must confess that I was about 1/2 TIC asking the question, but, I have been with too many clients in the field who may have read the blog and then had their gunsmith set the trigger to 1-1/2# while the gunsmith was also sighting in the rifle for the client to take to the field. The client then rapping off a couple rounds at a rock and being ready to go.
I agree with all your assessments of trigger pull for rifles in their various applications. Damn sure do not want a cold finger twitching on a light trigger in an alder patch in spring time, with temps in the 30s, gloved hands, and a first time bear hunter.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from NHshtr wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Have to agree with most of the responses. When watching and waiting for game to be in the "right" position I like to have my finger (most times gloved)inside the trigger guard. I don't need to have a "hair" trigger to worry about. 4 to 5 lbs is OK for me.

Dave said, "Fail to do so and you could be the subject of one of MSNBC’s idiot documentaries."
Dave, in my opinion any program on MSNBC is an idiot documentary!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from duckcreekdick wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

That stock finish looks like it suffers from tertiary syphilis.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

duckcreekdick: I also wondered why they went to the trouble to provide a borderline on the pistol grip with no checkering within, only more genital warts...
Still this is a nice rifle and obviously performs fantastically so I suppose we are being really nit picky. I really like this rifle.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Oregon Jim wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I have never been fond of super light triggers, and actually prefer a trigger to be a little stiff. I believe that a light trigger entices the shooter to take quick shots as a target drifts in and out of his crosshairs, while a stiffer trigger requires the shooter to concentrate more on holding the rifle on target while applying a firm and steady squeeze to the trigger. A firm trigger is also a safer trigger.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

The photo problem is fixed you can click my name and see the new Vanguard 2 and the first group shot with it.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jason Hart wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Great follow up to the series on the Jarret Rifle. Please keep multi-part series of rifles coming Mr. Petzal. Clay let me know how the Timney works for you in the AR and if they are as good as other people are saying. My guess is that it will be as all of their products are top of the line. Del glad to see you are enjoying your Vanguard 2, hope it keep shooting good for you.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from wgiles wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

My prairie dog rifle has a Timney trigger set at 2 Lb. pull. Most of my other rifles with adjustable triggers are set at 3 Lb. or above. I check my triggers to see what the pull is. Trigger pull gages are cheap.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Since most of my game day shots are with gloves, I like a 3 to 4 pound trigger that breaks crisply without a lot of takeup. My .35 Whelen has a fairly heavy trigger of about 4.5 pounds+, but crisp, so I have left it alone since new. I actually stiffened up my 7mm to about 3.5#. I have never messed with the trigger on my Mark V thutty nought six that is set at 3.5 pounds from the factory. But I'm no sod poodle shooter either.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Drew McClure wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

What's the pull on a pre-64 Winchester 8lbs?, this one has been worked and is around 5lbs, anyone get their pre-64 down to 3lbs?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MReeder wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Total agreement with Dave about hunting trigger weight and also with those who say crisp and clean is more important than light. Equally if not more important is familiarity with your trigger, which only comes from lots of dry firing and shooting. I have a couple of military rifles with double-stage triggers and lots of creep, but because I've had them a long time and have shot the heads on the wall hundreds of time I can actually call shots pretty well after the first three or four dry fires. No question a lighter trigger helps with long-range precision shooting, but how much of that do you really do in the hunting field anyway? My dad customized a .98 Mauser in .243 that was intended to be a combo varmint/deer rifle. His solution was a double set trigger that when set was so light it would go off with a heavy breath. It was almost magical for bench rest shooting and long range jack rabbits and I used it a few times myself from deer stands, but neither he nor I ever set the trigger for a deer. Unset, it broke cleanly at about 4.5 pounds and that was plenty light enough.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from ChevJames wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I shot my Winchester Model 100 in .308 about a week ago. The trigger pull must be around 10 pounds! It is VERY difficult to shoot accurately with a trigger pull that is that heavy! Agree with Dave that three pounds is just about ideal. In NO event should the trigger pull be greater than the weight of the rifle!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Dell I get better groups than that with Weatherby factory ammo out of my ten year old plain jane Vanguard. They use Norma brass and must be doing something right to make the guarantees they do. Try their 180 gr. Spitzers first, they are suggested retail at $40 so I know you can get them cheaper than that and I guarantee they will shoot.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jere Smith wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Duckcreek yur right that stock is FUGLY, but it probably wont be hard to hold on too.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from mayerco wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

If you want super light triggers go to a double or single set trigger. Jim M. Baton Rouge

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from huntingismylife99 wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

My dad has a 2lb trigger and never has he ever accidentally discharged his gun.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

patrickwood90, I agree 100%

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

Oh yeah most of my guns have trigger jobs and I always request 3 1/2 pound pulls. That is about right for an in the woods hunting rifle.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from 99explorer wrote 2 years 37 weeks ago

I once owned a Mannlicher Schoenauer rifle with a double set trigger. When the rear trigger was pulled to a click, it set the front trigger to break with the slightest amount of pressure. Sorry to say that I didn't measure the weight, but it must have been in ounces.
I never dared to set it while hunting, even when shooting from a steady rest at a stationery target.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe Chicago wrote 2 years 36 weeks ago

I am surprised that there are not more after market two-stage triggers. I bet there are many veterans who are used to a little take-up before the trigger engages.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

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