The buck made his way out of the timber and into the alpine opening without knowing that we were perched above him. As he lifted his head up and presenting a broadside shot I told my hunting partner to “take him.” But the buck did not fall as the rifle cracked, not on the first, second or even third shot. My hunting partner kept asking me where his bullets were hitting and I told him that the vegetation and trees made it impossible for me to know where the bullet strikes were but since the buck was not moving I assumed he was shooting high. The deer moved off and we ranged the distance again — 320 yards, well within his shooting ability.
The following week we were back on the rifle range and a few shots from the bench proved his rifle was still on. Replaying the scene a few times in our minds—knowing he had a good rest and plenty of time to make the shot, along with the rifle sighted in—we couldn’t figure out why he missed. I took to the bench and pulled the rifle tight into my shoulder. Clicking the safety off and pressing my finger against the trigger, I pulled, and pulled, and finally the rifle fired. “Is your trigger always this hard to pull?” I asked.
INDUCED STRESS SHOOTING
Turns out my hunting partner’s rifle had a heavy trigger with no travel. It was then that I asked him to take the bench again. I ran him through a drill, known as “induced stress shooting”. I told when I said “go” to get the rifle on target and fire three rounds as fast as he could just like when he missed the buck. As he did this I started yelling, “That’s a big buck! Hurry, shoot, shoot now!” What my hunting partner didn’t know was that I had put a spent shell into the chamber when I handed him the rifle. I watched as he tried to shoot, and he jerked the rifle as it went “click”.
This simple drill taught my hunting partner a very important lesson about “trigger control”. He didn’t flinch at the shot, as there was no shot. Instead he jerked on the trigger and I assumed he did the same thing when he missed the buck.
There are several things that contribute to the accuracy of our shooting. Most think of ammunition, scopes, rests, and so forth, but it really comes down to remaining steady and pulling the trigger correctly.
The weight of the trigger is the biggest factor. If you have a trigger set to a heavy weight, such as eight pounds or more, then it takes more force for your finger to move the trigger than it can do by itself. It takes muscles in your hand and this causes you to jerk the trigger or roll the rifle as you squeeze your hand, not simply pull your finger. Too light of a trigger, such as one pound, means you might set it off prematurely. A light trigger is also a dangerous trigger. Once the safety is off, the gun can misfire when dropped or when the shooter is not ready. You need to find the right balance between a heavy trigger that offers an extra precaution and a light trigger that can be a hazard. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I suggest taking your rifle to a gunsmith and having the trigger weight adjusted. A good rule of thumb is to adjust it to 3 ½ pounds. Anything lighter and you run the risk of the aforementioned problems.
Trigger travel is another factor that plays into the accuracy of the shooter. Some like a “stiff” trigger which is one that doesn’t travel at all. Any moving of the trigger causes the gun to fire. Others like to be able to move the trigger a little, or have it “travel” before the gun goes off. This allows the shooter a bit of time to make sure the shot is on but if you are prone to flinching then a trigger that travels can cause you to miss the mark as you anticipate the recoil.
AVOID THE YIPS
Next time you are at the range try shooting a few times and then putting in a spent casing and see how you react. Better yet, have your friend put one in your rifle so you don’t know if the gun will fire or not and see it you jerk the trigger.
Jason Brooks, WHJ Field Editor