Having been in the range business for a while now, I can confidently say that the #1, and only, cause of accidental discharges at our range has been poor trigger discipline. The good news is that this problem is an easily addressable behavior that, when corrected, provides immediate safety benefits.
Trigger discipline, as we will use the term here, refers to keeping the trigger finger off the trigger and outside the guard until ready to discharge the firearm. As was reportedly remarked by the defendant to his attorney during the prosecutor’s demonstration at the Rittenhouse trial in Kenosha, WI, this is considered “Gun Safety 101”.
Situations, that we have observed, where having a finger inside the trigger guard has led to accidental discharges, are:
- “Racking” the slide when preparing to shoot.
- Manipulating the firearm when clearing a misfire, or diagnosing a malfunction.
- Placing the firearm on the shooting table (while loaded).
- Raising the firearm to the shooting position (before sights are on target).
- Holstering the firearm.
There are so many other situations where this behavior can lead to accidental discharges that the National Rifle Association includes it in the Three Always that are taught in all NRA classes. To practice correct trigger discipline: grasp the firearm grip firmly in the shooting hand, point the trigger (index) finger straight and press it firmly against the frame of the firearm roughly parallel to the barrel (indexed position). When ready to discharge the firearm, bend the trigger finger, insert it inside the trigger guard onto the trigger, and gently press until the firearm discharges. Once finished discharging the firearm, return the trigger finger to the indexed position.
Note that, for most people, the default behavior when handling a firearm is to place the trigger finger inside the guard and on the trigger. Whether we blame TV/movies, a lack of firearm education, or basic body mechanics, this behavior is a fact; therefore, developing good trigger discipline requires conscious effort and repeated practice until repetition and muscle memory makes it unconscious and habitual.
Good trigger discipline prevents accidental discharges in properly functioning firearms and is a core tenet of firearms safety. By adopting this discipline, you can immediately improve the safety of yourself, your loved ones, and your fellow citizens, so we encourage you to start practicing today!
Eric Nutt, is a business consultant, self-defense enthusiast, and the Founder and CEO of Heart of Texas Shooting Center in Robinson, TX.