Do you need a trigger job?

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It occurs to me that not everyone who stumbles into my little corner of the internet necessarily knows what they really need. I receive quite a number of emails that essentially ask “should I have a trigger job done on my revolver?”

(I am aware that asking someone who became known as a gunsmith that question is tantamount to requesting that the fox guard the henhouse. Still, I’d like to take a crack – hopefully a fairly objective one – at the topic.)

There are a lot of factors involved in this decision. Are you happy with the action of the gun as it is? Do you have a frame of reference to really know if you’re happy with it? Are you able to tell the difference? Is your experience level such that you can take advantage of the results?

Believe it or not, it’s the second of those questions – having a frame of reference – that is the most important. Without it, the others can’t be addressed in any meaningful way. Simply put, have you had the opportunity to handle (and preferably shoot) a revolver whose action has been tuned by a good gunsmith? I don’t mean a factory “custom” gun – I mean a real custom from someone who knows their stuff. The difference can be like night and day, and until you have one in your hands everything might seem good.

It’s a little like eating a great steak; if all you’ve ever had is hamburger, you can’t imagine how good a steak is. Once you’ve had the steak, though, the hamburger is far less satisfying than it used to be. Your ability to judge has been expanded by your experiences, and the same is true with the action on your revolver.

True story: I was at the gun counter of a large outdoor retailer one day, and they had just gotten in a then-new S&W “Performance Center” wheelgun. (If memory serves, it was a 627.) I’m always interested in what’s coming out of the P.C., so I asked to see it. Right away I noticed serious shortcomings in the fit and finish, but when I pulled the trigger I was taken aback: the double action quite literally felt like someone had stuck a playing card in a bicycle’s spokes! I shook my head as I handed the specimen back to the clerk.

Before he could put it away, however, someone else came to the counter and asked to see it. This fellow and his buddy gushed enthusiastically as they looked the gun over, finally pulling the trigger. The guy holding the gun said “man, you have got to feel this trigger – it’s like butter!” The second fellow tried it and concurred that it was the “best trigger I’ve ever felt – boy, you sure get what you pay for with a Smith & Wesson!”

Propriety forbade me from educating them and possibly ruining a sale for the store, but the incident serves to illustrate that some people perhaps don’t know that there can be something better. (In some cases, a whole lot better!)

Once you have a standard – a frame of reference – against which you can judge, you can then answer the first question: are you happy with what you have now? You may in fact be quite happy; your gun may be good enough for the task at hand, even if it isn’t the very best. For instance, my wife and I have gotten along for many years – quite happily, I might add – with a plain old RCA 21″ television. (Yes, a twenty-one-inch!) Your children probably have better televisions in their bedrooms, but for us it is good enough. We don’t watch much TV, rarely play a movie (we own exactly 3 DVDs), and thus for our use it is perfectly fine. On the other hand, someone who likes to watch lots of sporting events, or is a movie buff, would find it annoyingly limited.

Can you appreciate – and take advantage of – a highly tuned action? Can you tell the difference between what you have now and what it could be? This isn’t as silly a question as you might believe.

Case in point: I’m not much of an oenophile. I can count the number of bottles of wine I’ve drank in my 40-plus-years on one hand, with fingers left over. (Yep, I’m a lightweight.) I have, however, tasted some very expensive and special wines at various functions over the years, and therefore have something of a frame of reference. On me, though, the differences between a good wine and “Two Buck Chuck” are lost. I simply can’t appreciate the difference, and what’s more I don’t care because I don’t drink enough wine to enable me to care!

The same is true with revolvers. Many people, some of them very good shooters, really can’t feel a difference between a factory action and a tuned one. One day at the range I handed my personal Colt Detective Special to a fellow who had been shooting a bone-stock example. They were like night and day – the factory one stacked horribly, was rough as a gravel road, and weighed in at roughly 12 pounds. Mine? Buttery smooth, no stacking, and broke right at 9 lbs. This fellow, however, couldn’t tell the difference – he handed it back with an apologetic look and said that he was sorry, but it didn’t feel any better to him!

As you might surmise, I was a bit disheartened. But it illustrated to me that not everyone cares about this stuff as much as I do, and it would be unconscionable of me to talk them into something that they really don’t need – at least, not right now.

The foregoing is a long-winded way of saying that if you don’t know there is a difference, can’t feel the difference, or don’t care about the difference, don’t feel pressured to spend money – with me or anyone else. Whether it comes from shooting magazines, gunstore commandoes, or even my website, don’t buy what you know in your heart you can’t use. Spend the money on ammunition instead, and enjoy yourself.

(And maybe take a class or two with the money you’ve saved!)
-=[ Grant ]=-


About the Author:

Grant Cunningham is a renowned author and teacher in the fields of self defense, defensive shooting education and personal safety. He’s written several popular books on handguns and defensive shooting, including "The Book of the Revolver", "Shooter’s Guide To Handguns", "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals", "Defensive Pistol Fundamentals", and "Practice Strategies for Defensive Shooting" (Fall 2015.) Grant has also written articles on shooting, self defense, training and teaching for many magazines and shooting websites, including Concealed Carry Magazine, Gun Digest Magazine, the Association of Defensive Shooting Instructors ADSI) and the popular Personal Defense Network training website. He’s produced a DVD in the National Rifle Association’s Personal Firearm Defense series titled "Defensive Revolver Fundamentals" and teaches defensive shooting and personal safety courses all over the United States.
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