What is the right Trigger Pressure?
At what pressure is it sensible to set your trigger? James Mott considers the right trigger pressure on sporting rifles.
Recently, one of my stalking clients, who was using his own Sako 85 rifle with an adjustable trigger, missed a straightforward 80 yard shot at a Munjac buck. When I asked him what went wrong, he told me that the rifle had gone off before he was entirely ready. It transpired that he had recently adjusted the trigger to its lightest setting of 2lbs because ironically, he thought it would make his shooting more accurate!
(Left: Safety when setting the trigger is paramount)
This brings into question: what is a suitable weight to set a trigger on a deer stalking rifle?
Experienced marksmen shooting at long ranges from a stable position or bench, often set their triggers quite light. Their rifles are usually fitted with precision aftermarket triggers which can break from as little pressure as a few ounces. However, controlling and using a light trigger takes a lot of thought and practice.
On the other hand the L96A1 AW/AWM sniper rifle used by the UK’s SAS and other military forces including the Royal Marines and Parachute Regiment, has a minimum trigger pull weight of 3.5 lbs, sensible I’d say for work in the field.
When considering what pressure to set the trigger on your stalking rifle, there are three important considerations:
Avoiding accidental discharge (AD)
Accidental discharge is where a bullet is fired in error from a rifle. Because deer stalking involves carrying a loaded weapon, having a very light trigger pressure is an accident waiting to happen. Even with the safety catch firmly engaged, the rifle needs to be able to withstand knocks against trees, crawling along the ground etc. without the possibility of it going off.
(Left: Most triggers these days are adjustable and offer some choice of setting)
Stalking is performed in all sorts of weather and although we don’t have to deal with extremes, we do experience a range of weather conditions including heat, rain and minus temperatures in the winter. Cold hands or wearing gloves will change the feel of the trigger, which in turn could lead to the gun going off before you are ready.
With experience, hunters will often become better able to keep their emotions in check. The inexperienced hunter, will for a long time experience excitement known as buck fever, this can result in the shakes (sometimes uncontrollable) as adrenaline courses through the body at the sight of a deer and/or at the thought of shooting it. The inexperienced or novice stalker should therefore avoid lighter triggers!!
The rifles with which I stalk all have their triggers factory set at around 3lbs of pressure and have always served me well, indeed a quick poll of professional stalkers that I know seem to agree that about 3lbs of pressure works for them.
Additionally, the British army, with all their experience using weapons in the field and varying weather conditions have their rifle triggers set to break between 3.5 – 5lbs.
All things considered then, unless you are an experienced shot and have had a lot of practice using a rifle set with a lighter trigger, a trigger pressure of around 3-4lbs for the majority of deer stalkers is in my view about right and will serve you well.
In my opinion having a rifle trigger set at below 3lbs will see the user compromised sooner or later - the most important thing is to be safe at all times and avoid the potential of accidental discharge or the rifle going off prematurely before you are ready.
On a parting note, whether you use the factory setting on your rifle, end up adjusting it, or even if you get an aftermarket trigger fitted, remember that practice with your setup is key.
Knowing your rifle(s) and practicing regularly and/or getting help from a professional trainer is well advised, both of these components will help you to become a more proficient marksman and effective deer stalker.
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