The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

Three Inviolable Rules of Trigger Finger Discipline

There are multiple rules of safe gun handling from top instructors and organizations. No matter whose rules you subscribe to, they all have similar themes regarding how we approach using a firearm– where we point it, what we point it at, and when to put our finger on the trigger.

When we start to examine the rules for the trigger finger, the root of the rule is to protect from unintentional manipulation of the trigger. A finger unintentionally hovering over a trigger is a bad outcome waiting to happen. If people are shooting, it should be deliberate.

But a mere conscious decision to shoot is not enough to dictate whether or not a trigger should be manipulated. There are three things to consider before you consciously decide to put your finger on the trigger.


The vast majority of well-intending people who shoot loved ones they mistake for intruders do so because of mistaken identity. They perceive a threat, decided to shoot and intentionally pull the trigger at an unidentified target that was not worthy of being shot.


The failure to positively identify a target worthy of shooting is also the cause of many hunting accidents. Injuries can and do happen when people shoot at improvised targets without understanding how that target or the bullet will react upon the two meeting at high velocities.

If you have not positively identified the target or don't have a clear understanding of whether or not your target is acceptable to shoot, your finger should not be on the trigger.


The discussions on when it is acceptable to start prepping a trigger in shooting sports can wax passionate debate. Many stipulate that as long as there is nothing that can be significantly damaged between the holster and the target it is acceptable to start prepping the trigger on the transition between the two. The problem is that the practice does not translate well to environments where the consequences of shooting anything but the intended target can be severe.

Those who carry or use firearms off of sterile ranges need to be very conscientious of where their finger is in relation to the trigger. Each time our finger is on the trigger, a discharge is likely to occur. That potential should be reserved for the intended target and nothing else. We do this by training in the discipline that only allows the finger on the trigger when the sights are oriented on target.


Even if we may not be able to see the sights when shooting from certain retention positions, this doesn't negate the rule. With good training in shooting from retention, we learn the distances shooting from retention is appropriate and how to get consistent hits. We can have reasonable assurance that our sights will be on target and when we can have our finger on the trigger.


There is a strong argument to be made that if you haven’t made the conscious decision to shoot a target you shouldn’t be pointing a firearm at it. In general, I would strongly agree. However, there are chaotic circumstances wherein guns are being pointed in shows of justifiable force while decisions as to whether or not the shooting must commence are still being made, or while the shooter is finding the best angle to deliver the shot with concern for what is beyond or around the target.

The target has been positively identified, the sights are on the target, but the decision to start shooting is delayed. In this case, the trigger finger should be staged in a positive index along the frame or slide of the gun to mitigate the risk of an unintentional shot.


  • positively identified a target,
  • put your sights on target,
  • and made the deliberate decision to shoot,

Then, keep that trigger finger in a high, positive register between the frame and the slide. This position keeps fingers from sympathetically or accidentally manipulating the trigger during administrative handling.

The decision to put your finger on the trigger is one of the most important decisions a shooter can make as they transition from handling a firearm to deliberately shooting. The consequences can be grave, and it is our responsibility to make sure we are doing it consciously with consideration to what we are shooting and why.

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