Saturday, April 02, 2005

Good Triggers

I was thinking about my Champion, my Kahr, and triggers. From time to time the question arises, what makes a good pistol or revolver trigger (rifle triggers are a whole 'nother ball game).

In a factory single action or conventional SA/DA trigger (i.e. NOT a Glock), in single action; there should be a maximum of about 1/16" of weightless takeup (some designs, like SIGs, have more like 1/4" of initial takeup), then up to about 1/32" or so of takeup under pressure as the trigger engages the sear, with maybe just a little bit of creep (1/32" is too much for a good trigger) followed by a snap break at 5-6lbs. Excessive takeup, roughness, or creep (especially with roughness or stacking, even worse if uneven or stairstep) are causes for a concern.

That's a factory trigger, not a good custom trigger; for which totally different standards apply.

Unfortunately, a lot of factories produce truly horrendous triggers out of the box; either from liability concern, or simply from poor tolerances (getting a good trigger requires hand fitting, which is expensive). It is very difficult to get consistent accuracy with a bad triger, and you shouldnt ever have to, especially with a 1911.

A competition 1911 trigger is generally around 2.5-3lbs with basically 0 takeup (maybe 1/32"... probably less), almost 0 creep, and almost 0 overtravel. The problem is if you get down to absolutely 0 creep, especially at that light weight there's a good chance of doubling.

In my opinion, a carry trigger should be no lighter than 3lbs, and I prefer 3.25-3.5lbs (most cops and instructors will say 4 and 4.25-4.5 jsut for lawyer safety), with a max of 4.5-5 lbs in a 1911, and maybe up to 6.5-7lbs in a DA/SA (though I'd still prefer 4.5).

Never let a gunsmith you don't trust explicitly work on your trigger; we've all seen far too many butchered guns and deadly triggers.


Oh and anyone who tells you that "Any good trigger will have zero creep" is talkin out their ass, or hasn't shot anything except pre-1970 Smith and Wesson revolvers, and/or target rifles.

It is almost impossible to get a reliable and safe auto pistol trigger (for a carry type pistol anyway. Competition only pistols are a different story) at a reasonable weight with absolutely 0 creep. You CAN have an ultra light trigger with 0 creep, but if you don't double that sucker at least once it'd be incredible; hell even with a 3lb trigger it's easy to double during recoil with +p loads if you arent paying attention. You can have an ultra heavy trigger with 0 creep, but... why?

A very little bit of creep is actually a good thing for safety and reliability (and I do mean VERY little. Imperceptible unless you're a gunsmith or match shooter used to an ultralight ultracrisp trigger).

Trigger pull weenies get fixated on creep as the evil of evils, when in reality that title goes to stacking. Stacking is the evil of all evils. Inconsistent, stairstep, changes from shot to shot stacking. Stacking makes consistency impossible, and consistency is what gives you good groups.

I think the reason this whole creep thing became such a big deal was that the S&W revolver guys had to have something to bitch about the autos when the mass changes started in the 70's, and it was ingrained in everyone since.

Combine that with the rise of IPSC, and you have these guys out there with 6000 grit stones (about the same abrasiveness as a piece of construction paper) masturbat.... I mean polishing their sears, triggers, and hammers to astronomical instrument tolerances.

Of course the second they shoot these ungodly overstoned guns the polish develops blemishes, the edges of the parts chip, engagement becomes iffy and unreliable etc.....

No thanks, I'll take a little creep with my trigger thank you.


The funny thing is, S&W still does the best triggers of any factory. If you ever want to see a truly perfect 1911 trigger, pick up a performance center SW1911 and squeeze a time or two. Wilson, Les Baer, Ed Brown, Ted Yost, Bill Laughridge, Jim Clark; they can all go pound sand, this is the perfect 1911 trigger.

Of course if you ever want to feel the most perfect trigger ever put on centerfire handgun, thats real easy; if that is you can get one of their owners to let you pry it out of their hands for a second. Go and squeeze a 1965 era S&W Model 29. Really anything from '57 til '68 will do (before they retooled and fired a bunch of the old timers). Once you squeeze one of those you realize all the "great" triggers you though you had before are just... not quite there.

Oh and just about as good would be a K-22 masterpiece (obviously a rimfire), but getting an owner to let you touch it is about as easy as getting a basehead to give up the rock.