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View and Review

Tam has a great column on my* website about how we tend to obsess over the smallest differences between one gun and another.

“Another common number that shows up is the weight of a trigger’s break. That’s an easy number for us, the reviewers, to give you. It’s concrete and can be revealed by some calibrated weights or a trigger scale. A lot of what is felt by the shooter’s finger when a trigger is pulled can be hard to define in words, and it’s easy to wind up writing something that sounds more like a wine tasting than a handgun review: “The trigger on the Sheepdog Defender opened with a smooth, brief takeup before hitting a crisp note on the break and finishing on a short, sharp overtravel.” It’s easy to read that and prefer a nice round number instead that can be plugged into a “Should I Buy This Gun” spreadsheet.”

This was brought home to me this month, doing a review on two rather decent pistols from two different, well-known gun manufacturers. Both of the guns advertised they had 4-5 pound triggers and that is so, according to my Lyman trigger gauge. However, how those triggers actually felt in operation were completely different. One pistol had a short amount of travel (about an 1/8th of a inch) and a crisp break, which meant you could really tell when the gun was going to go bang. The other trigger had longer travel, about 1/2 an inch, and the break was mushy. Worse still, the amount of effort needed to pull the trigger back increased slightly as the trigger moved, which meant you had to apply more and pressure before it went bang, and you were never really sure when that was going to be because of the lack of a crisp break.

Well fine, you say, but what does that mean in the real world?

Well, a trigger with a crisp break and a small amount of movement means less of a chance to have the act of pressing the trigger yank your sights off-target. Conversely, a trigger that moves a lot requires your finger to move a lot, which can lead to sympathetic movement of your hand. The same is true for a trigger that doesn’t have a distinct point where it makes the gun go bang. Describing this every single time we review a gun gets a little boring however, and so we resort to clichés to speed the process along.

Writing about guns is tough because aside from reliability, there aren’t a lot of obvious differences in performance between guns on the bottom of the rung and top-tier guns. Yes, one gun may shoot tighter groups from a rest than other gun, but 90-99% of the gun owners out there are just not talented enough to take advantage of that fact.

Buy the gun you will grow with. Learn to use it well. Carry it everywhere you can. And don’t worry about the meaningless details.


* Look, I run it, I decide the content, I write for it occasionally, it’s mine, as far as I’m concerned.