How To Reduce Pistol Trigger Pull – 4 Easy Steps

What Is Trigger Pull, And Why Is It Important?

Trigger pull is defined as the amount of pressure needed to release the hammer and fire the pistol. Adding pressure to the trigger will eventually cause the trigger to disengage the sear and release the firing pin, which in turn strikes the primer on the cartridge and fires the bullet.

There are quite a few ways to reduce trigger pull on your pistol, from actual mechanical parts and engineering to more straightforward and less costly solutions. We’ll look at those and the pros and cons of each so you can determine your best option.

When your life is on the line, your trigger pull could well mean the difference between life and death.

how to reduce trigger pull

Understanding How The Trigger Works

First, let’s look at the simple fundamentals of firing mechanics. When the hammer is cocked, it is engaged by the sear. 

This action holds the hammer in its cocked position, ready to fire.

Depressing the trigger disengages the sear and releases the hammer, which then strikes the primer on the cartridge and fires the projectile.

The pressure applied to the trigger is known as the trigger pull, and this has a massive influence on the weapon’s proficiency and the shooter.

The trigger pulls pressure measures how much weight (usually measured in pounds) you need to apply to the trigger to fire the gun.

The more pressure you need, the heavier the trigger pull is, and the more challenging it will be to keep the muzzle aligned to target when you fire.

What’s The Ideal Weight For A Trigger Pull.

The consensus is that a serious use pistol should not have a trigger pull lighter than 4 lbs and not heavier than 6 lbs.

Any weights below 4 lbs can lead to accidental or unintentional discharge, especially under stress, like when your life is in danger. 

Plus, if you are wearing gloves or have sweaty hands, a 4 lbs trigger may feel like a 2 lbs trigger!

Going the other way is that some law enforcement agencies set their standard issue weapons with 8 lbs triggers or even heavier for liability reasons.

Remember that if your pistol weighs 2 lbs loaded and with an 8 lbs trigger pull, it will take four times the weight of the loaded gun to fire it!

This makes it extremely difficult for the shooter to get the shots on target, and the phrase’ spray and pray’ would come to mind!

This is also why you should match the gun to the application! You can see why a target weapon with a 3 lbs trigger would be risky and unsuited as a self-defense weapon.

Many authorities on firearms consider the trigger pull weight and technique the most crucial aspect to accurate pistol shooting.

How To Reduce Pistol Trigger Pull - 4 Easy Steps 1

How Does Trigger Pull Affect Accuracy And Consistency?

As with any weapon, the goal is to become proficient with the gun so you can effectively use it in your chosen application.

With guns, this translates to getting your round on target the first time, and whether it’s hunting, competition, combat, or self-defense, you can’t afford to have total confidence in your ability to strike your target the first time.

In the shooting action, a stiff trigger pull will lead to uncertainty as to when precisely the weapon will fire, which may lead to flinches and pulling the muzzle off target in anticipation of the shot.

Often, the shooter would require some proper training or coaching as to the basics of shooting and acquisition of shooting skills – many of which revolve around the true and correct way of firing the weapon itself – in other words pulling the trigger.

With either a stiff trigger pull, poor shooting technique, or both, you may find yourself wasting a lot of time, rounds, and money at the range.

While shooting skill tips and training are readily available online, getting your gun to the right trigger pull for your chosen field may be a bit more complex.

A Word On Target Pistols 

Because target pistols are created and specifically designed for accuracy, they have the trigger pull weight adjustment screw on the gun itself.

Usually found by the trigger guard or behind the trigger itself can be adjusted using a small screwdriver.

Setting up the trigger pull weight on a target weapon is mostly a case of trial and error; adjust, fire, and fine-tune till you achieve the pull that works for you.

A gunsmith would not be required in most cases, and you can do this safely and efficiently at the range or home.

If your gun is to be used for target shooting, whether for fun or competition, good training for skills improvement is preferable in this field.

Trigger Pull In New Vs Used Pistols.

In new pistols, the trigger pull is set by default at the point of manufacture. While some may come out with a lighter trigger pull than others, most shooters prefer to set their trigger pull according to the pistol’s primary use is to maximize its efficiency.

Setting the trigger pull in new weapons would require mechanical intervention.

When buying a used weapon, especially from a shooter who used the gun for the same purpose as you are going to – you may find that the trigger pull has already been set and would require little or no adjustment.

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Trigger Pull and Its Effect On Application 

Before we get into the ways to reduce trigger pull, there is another element to consider here – how and where you are using the gun.

For example, if you are using your weapon in a combat situation, you wouldn’t want a very light trigger as this could fire the gun when you least want it to and cause possible injury or death.

Same as if this is a carry weapon or even a backup – should you get into a fight and it involves impact with objects in the process, you sure as hell don’t want your gun going off in all of that!

And the opposite is also true – that in that same situation, you don’t want to struggle to pull the trigger, especially when your life is on the line.

Essentially the same is valid for sport shooting and hunting – you need to know precisely when that weapon will fire so you can be absolutely consistent with your technique and achieve high levels of accuracy.

When you are looking at reducing the trigger pull, establish some baseline information about what others are doing with their weapons in your field and then look at the options to do the same with your gun.

The Safety And Trigger Pull

One of the most significant factors to consider when reducing the trigger pull is the weapon’s safety mechanisms.

A 1911, for example, has both the grip safety and active thumb safety, which contribute directly to ensuring that the gun does not fire accidentally, even WITH a very light trigger.

So the 1911 with a 2 lbs trigger is far safer and less risky than a Glock with a 5 lbs trigger as the Glock has no active safety on the weapon. In this case, a slightly heavier (maybe 7 lbs) trigger would be better as this would require a bit more pressure from the shooter to fire and is less likely to lead to accidental discharge.

With single-action and double-action revolvers that don’t have a safety, the half-cock position for the single action could be seen as the ‘safety or having the hammer down on an empty chamber is also a   good idea, especially if the trigger pull is light.

The first pull (uncocked) on double-action revolvers (and pistols), the first pull (uncocked) could be as high as 13 lbs, then dropping to around 5 lbs on the 2nd pull.

Of course, double-action pistols usually have an active safety available as well.

The Impact of Training On Trigger Pull and Accuracy

A gun is a tool and correctly used is a very effective one whether it is for combat, self-defense, sport, or hunting.

Whichever you pursue, there is no substitute for proper training, especially with a tool that has the capacity to take life.

From cleaning and maintenance to shooting techniques, there is every reason that you should become completely proficient in every aspect of the weapon.

Since pulling the trigger is essential, you should invest both time and money in acquiring proper knowledge of this technique, depending on the application.

Now, let’s look at the ways to reduce the trigger pull.

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4 Ways To Reduce the Trigger Pull

These steps require the services of a qualified gunsmith and WOULD NOT BE recommended as a DIY project. This is because this is an exact process, and due to the forces and pressures from ignition, doing this yourself may damage the weapon and severe injury.

How an armorer would do this is as follows :

  • Replacing the mainspring or trigger return spring with reduced power springs and then TESTING the gun with ammo designed for that weapon to ensure proper firing and function. Do not be tempted to simply cut the springs even though it seems like a logical option.
  • Thorough clean and lubrication of the parts in the trigger/firing assembly.
  • Polishing and smoothing of burrs and other rough edges or surfaces on all and any parts involved in the firing process, such as the trigger bar, hammer struts, and firing pin safeties.
  • Honing or smoothing surfaces the metal surfaces that interact in the gun’s fire control mechanism.

Another idea is to take your weapon to a gunsmith specializing in your gun or a similar weapon.

So if you have a semi-auto rifle and need a trigger job, do some research and find armorers in your area.

Contact them to establish if they specialize in working with your type of weapon.

Then see if they have been recommended by others that also have your type of weapon.

Plus, be clear about your purpose with the weapon so that you can discuss this with the armorer and ensure you get the best possible result for your money.

Someone specializing in semi-auto fine-tuning may not have the same skill set for large double action autos or single-action revolvers.

DIY Options To Reduce Trigger Pull

Not all triggers need a gunsmith to reduce the trigger pull.

Some simple DIY fixes can do this for you at little or no cost and don’t require you to disassemble your gun to do it!

  • Applying a decent lube. 

Many years before all the new synthetic lubricants were available, the legendary Bill Wilson ( he of Wilson Combat) recommend a drop of STP treatment on the sear and hammer.

Because many of the surfaces are paint hardened, applying lube is a great way to start, as you will see results in a very short time.

  • Dry firing 

The simple truth is that firing the weapon will help with reducing the trigger pull as it causes the contact surfaces involved to smooth out. 

Using blanks or spent cases in the chamber is a good idea in most cases simply to protect the firing pin from damage.

Cycling the weapon and then dry firing it, or taking it to the range and sending some rounds down range will also help smooth out the action.

While not the same as a professional ‘trigger job,’ these remedies will surely help.

  • Invest a bit more upfront and get what you want.

Instead of spending $400 or $500 on the gun and then another $400 to tune it, instead, look at spending a bit more and get the weapon with the trigger, target grade barrel, etc. already done so you can simply go and enjoy it without the hassle of fine-tuning.

Then, if you feel like you need some adjustments done, consult the dealer you bought it from or a gunsmith and explain your requirements.

  • Spend time training your trigger finger.

While many people look to mechanical solutions, a realistic option may be lying right in front of you! Trigger technique and finger strength are essential for consistent accuracy. 

While you may think your trigger is too heavy, it may be that your fingers aren’t quite strong enough, and you need to develop some finger and hand strength.

Investing in both training and range/practice time will develop this reasonably quickly, and from there, you can determine whether you still need to have the trigger adjusted.

  • Trigger pull mechanics.

The actual technique used in pulling the trigger also affects your accuracy. Combined with the strength training, learning and practicing proper technique would also be an excellent place to start BEFORE you look at the mechanical options above.

You can accurately determine whether your trigger pull needs adjustment based on the weapons intended use when you have good mechanics.


Firing the gun safely and accurately is paramount in any situation, and as such, the importance of the trigger pull weight and the trigger technique go hand in hand.

Take the time to get to know your gun, how the trigger feels, and invest in training for good techniques, strength, and mechanics when it engages the sear.

Since your gun may save your life or another’s, it would be very wise to have an intimate proper knowledge of your weapon’s most crucial action.

The steps above will help you achieve this and lead to many years of safe and accurate shooting.

Lastly, be very clear about what you will use your gun for, as this will significantly influence the trigger pull weight you need.

It’s a case of horses for courses here, folks!

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