Updated: Dec 9, 2022
If I was allowed one modification to any rifle, it would be to make sure it had a high quality trigger. Quality triggers can improve the precision of a rifle as well as make it more enjoyable to shoot.
Top tier triggers are a prerequisite for competitive shooters. Anything less, is simply not an option. Once you experience a superb trigger, the same will be said on a hunting rifle. A quality trigger has these three traits: reliability, crispness, and is set at the correct poundage.
In theory, having a reliable trigger means the trigger works every time, no exceptions. In reality, triggers are man made. Anything man made will eventually fail. A quality trigger has a proven history of being reliable.
You can help ensure your trigger consistently works properly by keeping it clean. Dust and debris can work its way inside your trigger and can cause it to malfunction. The easiest way to clean your trigger is to flush it out with lighter fluid once a year. Keeping your trigger clean will help keep your trigger functioning properly.
Movement of the trigger before the round is fired is called creep. On a competition rifle, zero creep is allowed. On a hunting rifle, a little bit of creep is tolerable, but you definitely do not want a lot of creep. My favorite hunting triggers have zero creep.
Creep is an accuracy killer because when you feel the trigger move you may start to anticipate the shot causing you to flinch before the round is fired. In contrast, a crisp (clean) trigger should surprise you when the round is fired. By the time you react to the surprise, the bullet is out of the barrel.
In Benchrest most of our triggers are set near the 2 oz area. The reason for the “hair trigger” is that we do not want any movement of the rifle, or our body, while pulling the trigger. Just the slightest, finger, movement should “break” the trigger. This two ounce area is the correct poundage for what we are doing.
A hunting trigger also needs to be set at the correct poundage. A trigger with too heavy of a pull is another accuracy killer. When you have to apply a large amount of force pulling your trigger, you may move your sights off target. On the opposite end of the spectrum would be a trigger with too light of a trigger pull. On a hunting rifle, the safety risks of a hair trigger greatly outweigh the benefits. For a rifle that I am taking out in the field, a crisp, two pound, trigger pull is a wonderful thing.
Do You Need a New Trigger?
It is a simple process to determine if you need to adjust or replace your trigger. Place your unloaded rifle in any stable rest and look through the sights at a small target. Slowly squeeze the trigger (dry fire). If you notice the sights moving and/or you can feel the trigger moving before the “click” you may need to adjust or replace your trigger.
There are many good aftermarket triggers out there. When I need to replace a trigger, I prefer Timney or Jewell triggers. There are many options and styles available. Most of the aftermarket triggers will run you $120 to $300 depending on style and which firearm it fits. When shopping for a new trigger, make sure it is made for the make and model of your firearm. Not all triggers will work in all firearms.
One point that needs to be mentioned is the importance of a quality trigger that is used by any new shooter. If the trigger has a lot of creep or is set at too high of a poundage, a new shooter may develop bad habits such as jerking the trigger or anticipating the shot. Once those bad habits are formed, they are tough to break.
When you truly care about precision, having a quality trigger is a must. The old saying of, ‘you don’t know what you're missing’ could not be more true with superior triggers. There is a word of caution though; once you experience a quality trigger you will desire them on all your rifles. Until next time, enjoy the experience.