AR Service Rifle Trigger Technique — Good Advice from USAMU By:


May 14th, 2024

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ar service rifle ar15 trigger control

imageThe First Shot, the CMP’s archived Online magazine, has an article by Spc. Tyrel Cooper of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU). In his article, Straight to the Rear, Spc. Cooper describes proper trigger hand and finger positions and how to best “break the shot”. This well-written article will help anyone who shoots off-hand, or who uses an AR or Spacegun-type rifle with a vertical pistol grip.

Cooper explains: “Trigger control is one of the two main principles of shooting that we teach. You can have the best position in the world with perfect sight alignment, but if you have bad trigger control, you have wasted all that effort that you put into your position and sight alignment.”

service rifle shooting AR-15 AR trigger technique USAMU
Photo Credit: CMP image from 2019 CMP 1000 Aggregate at Camp Perry.

Firing Hand Position and Finger Placement
“Good trigger control begins with a good firing hand position. Place your firing hand high on the pistol grip, with a good firm grip. Grip tension should be like giving someone a hand shake or holding a child’s hand while walking across a street. A good firm grip [helps you] move your trigger finger without moving your other fingers. Try this, hold out your firing hand with fingers extended; now try moving your trigger finger to the rear as if you were pulling the trigger. Unless you concentrate very hard on moving just your trigger finger, other fingers will move. Now make a fist as if you were grabbing a pistol grip, now you can move your trigger finger freely without introducing movement in the other fingers.”

service rifle shooting AR-15 AR trigger technique USAMU

“I’m sure you have heard advice to place the tip or the pad of your finger on the trigger. This is true if you have short stubby fingers and that’s where the index finger naturally rests, but if you have long fingers like myself you want more of your finger around the trigger…. By placing your finger where it naturally rests on the trigger you are ensuring that you are pulling the trigger straight to the rear, and this also allows you to get more leverage on the trigger.”

Rapid-Fire Trigger Technique
“Trigger control for the rapid-fire stage is different than it is for standing. You can actually take a little bit more time to break your shots in rapid fire because of the steadiness of a supported position. A good rapid fire shot process is: 1) drop down into position, 2) get your natural point of aim, 3) take up the first stage on your first shot, 4) break that shot smoothly and hold the trigger all the way to the rear through recoil, 4) once recoil has ceased, let the trigger out only far enough to reset the trigger (you should hear a metallic click of the trigger resetting) and continue by firing your second and succeeding shots.

By doing this, you already have most of the weight of the trigger taken up so the next shot is ready to go without having to take up all the weight of the trigger every single shot.”

Slow-Fire Prone Technique
“During the slow fire prone stage, you have even more time to break your shots, so you would use the slow–smooth method. You should have little or no hold movement at all, thus allowing you to acquire good sight alignment, a good sight picture and break the shot using slow and smooth trigger control. Again you want to hold that trigger all the way to the rear until recoil has ceased so you do not disturb the rifle, no matter what position you are shooting.”

Standing Trigger Technique
“When you are shooting standing have you noticed that the rifle never really stops moving? Well, this is where you would want fast and smooth trigger control. When I come down and start settling on the target, I take up the first stage of the trigger. Once I’m getting to the end of my firing process and the movement has slowed down, I manipulate the trigger fast, but smooth, to the rear when I see what I want to see in my sight picture. Over time, this will become a subconscious act; when your brain sees the sight picture, it will automatically tell your trigger finger to move instead of you having to tell yourself there it is, take it. Lots and lots of dry firing will help this process. To repeat, you want to be fast and smooth!”

service rifle shooting AR-15 AR trigger technique USAMU

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