Most people are aware that the trigger on a pistol is the mechanism that is used to fire a shot. The role of the trigger is more complex than this, and it can perform multiple functions in the action of a firearm. In fact, there are some firearms that have two triggers rather than the more traditional single trigger, but the purpose for the second trigger may be different than you think. Why would a pistol have two triggers?
Some pistols appear to have two triggers, but the front trigger is not actually a trigger at all. The front trigger is a safety mechanism that acts as a safety measure to prevent accidental discharge of the firearm. Some firearms have a set trigger to cock the action and another to fire the weapon.
Pistols having two triggers is not to be confused with single and double-action triggers on pistols. What we are talking about with two triggers on a pistol is two physical triggers on the gun. In most cases, this is more commonly seen on rifles than on handguns, but there are some pistols out there that have the extra trigger.
What Is The Purpose Of Two Triggers On A Pistol?
There are several pistols that have two triggers as part of their firing mechanism; in some of the pistols, it is a safety feature. In others, it is for accuracy, and in others still, it is a single trigger that looks like multiple triggers.
The function of the two-trigger system varies depending on the type of the pistol and the intended use of the pistol.
Two Trigger Safety Mechanism
Some pistols look like they have two triggers, one mounted directly on top of the other, but the first trigger is not a true trigger.
The smaller “trigger” in front of the main trigger is actually a safety mechanism and not used to fire the pistol. Instead of it being a trigger, it is more accurately described as a lever. The main trigger that fires the pistol cannot be pulled back unless the trigger safety lever is depressed at the same time.
When the trigger safety lever is in the up or normal position, there is an extension of the lever that will jam up against the back of the trigger mechanism, which will not allow the main trigger to move backward. Essentially, this will prevent the main trigger from releasing the sear and dropping the hammer.
The only way to pull the trigger rearward and fire the pistol is to first depress the trigger safety lever and then pull further rearward onto the main trigger. This allows the trigger to be pulled backward and the weapon to be fired.
This configuration of the trigger is part of the safety mechanisms on some pistols and is used in conjunction with other safety features to enhance firearm safety and prevent accidental discharge of the firearm.
A pistol manufacturer that incorporates this trigger design in many of their models is Glock. Glock incorporates the trigger safety lever into a triple safety mechanism on some of their pistols. The trigger safety works in conjunction with the firing pin safety and the drop safety to help make these pistols some of the safest handguns available.
There are other pistol manufacturers who also incorporate this type of trigger safety mechanism into their trigger designs.
The Double Set Trigger System
In firearms that have double-action triggers, the pressure that is required to pull the trigger to cocks and fire the hammer can lead to inaccurate shooting.
With dual-action triggers, the first part of the pull of the trigger pulls the hammer back, and the second stage of the trigger pull releases the hammer or firing pin to fire the weapon.
The first part of the trigger pull can require a fair bit of pressure of the finger on the trigger, which can, in turn, cause the shot to be pulled off target.
Gun manufacturers came up with a two-trigger system for when accurate long-range shooting was required. These firearms usually had two separate triggers within the trigger guard. The trigger at the back is used to pull the action back to the point that the weapon is ready and about to fire. The front trigger is then “set” as a hair trigger, which only requires a light touch to fire the gun.
This is where the term “set” trigger comes from. The rear trigger is pulled back to “set” the front trigger to fire the gun.
This type of firing mechanism allowed the shot to be fired with a very light touch of the front trigger, which improves the accuracy of the shot.
This type of trigger system is more the realm of the rifle than the pistol. Many modern hunting rifles still have this type of trigger configuration to make for more accurate shooting, especially for long-distance shots.
Some revolvers were made with this trigger mechanism in the mid-1800s, and these were favored among army officers in the confederate army.
In most pistols, only the first trigger pull is a double-action since the action of the slide cocks the hammer or the action for the subsequent shot.
Multiple Triggers For Multiple Barrels
Some old-style pistols from the flintlock era had two barrels. This allowed both barrels to be loaded and prepared with shot and powder.
Each barrel had a separate hammer and a trigger to control each hammer. This essentially gave the shooter two shots at a time when loading a pistol for firing took some time.
The advent of revolvers and semi-automatic pistol technology largely saw the decline of this style of handgun, but similar technology still exists in some traditional double-barrel shotguns.
These old-fashioned double-barreled shotguns have a break-open breech to load the shells manually. Each barrel has a hammer that is cocked manually, and each barrel has its own trigger for firing the shot.
If you think about what a trigger is for on a firearm, which is to fire the weapon, there is no real need for a second trigger on a pistol.
The nature of how a pistol and its firing mechanism works means that there is no real use in the mechanism for a second trigger. However, other firearms for other purposes, such as hunting rifles, certainly gain some advantages from having a two-trigger system, especially as a “set” trigger to improve accuracy.
If you see a pistol that appears to have two triggers, it is unlikely that both triggers will fire the weapon. The additional trigger in these systems is a safety feature rather than an additional way to fire the pistol!