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The Trigger-Reset Method Controversy

Written by Lane Antoine

The trigger-reset method requires fine motor skills that we lose under stress.

Trigger Reset Controversy
By: Antoine Lane

www.forcescience.org

Teaching a train-the-trainer course to law enforcement firearms instructors can be a daunting task, especially when challenging long-established teaching methods. And no two topics of discussion draw more ire and interest than using the front sight and the method of trigger pull on a semi-automatic handgun.

Most law enforcement firearms instructors come from a teaching paradigm that promotes front-sight focused shooting. The matter may merely be a case of well-entrenched tradition. But what about the trigger pull? Why is this subject such a lightning rod of debate?

The vast majority of law enforcement agencies and regional police training academies teach the same way to manipulate the trigger on a semi-automatic handgun—a method called Trigger Reset. The trigger reset method is actually just a trick that helps officers pass their annual qualifications. More troublesome, it is grossly inadequate for preparing them for a lethal encounter.

The definition for trigger reset is this: When the handgun is fired, the trigger remains depressed during the cycling of the slide and the departure of the projectile and spent shell case. To fire any additional shots, the shooter releases the trigger forward, but only far enough to hear and/or feel a “click” (the resetting of the trigger). Once the shooter hears and/or feels the “click,” then the shooter again presses the trigger rearward and the gun fires.

The primary function of a law-enforcement firearms instructor is to prepare their students to win a lethal force encounter. There are numerous other things that firearms instructors need to teach in order to adequately prepare their students for such an event—like mindset, the ability to recognize precursors that threaten their safety, backdrop awareness, and so on. But at its core, the job is to ensure officers can execute the technical and tactical use of their firearm in the field, not just pass their annual firearms qualification.

The acceptance of science and research in police training, i.e., Force Science Institute, et al, has greatly benefitted law enforcement in recent years. This new reality has introduced some fascinating insight into the mind and body of both perpetrator and police officer – specifically the physiological response of the body during a lethal encounter.

These studies also gave birth to our recognition of the body’s autonomic response, and the human condition during a stressful moment typically called the Fight or Flight Syndrome. Nearly every police officer in the field has experienced some if not all of the conventional Fight or Flight symptoms during their tours of duty.

The better known characteristics are adrenaline rush, reallocation of blood to large muscle groups, auditory exclusion, tunnel vision—and important for the trigger pull discussion—a loss of fine motor skills, specifically digital dexterity or fine finger movement.

Are we adequately preparing our officers for a lethal encounter when the effective use of trigger reset asks the officer to hear something they will not have the capacity to hear, or feel something they will not have the ability feel?” Auditory exclusion inhibits the possibility of hearing the trigger-reset. And the reallocation of blood to large muscle groups, coupled with the loss of fine motor skills and dexterity, drastically reduces feeling the trigger reset.

Science, research, and most importantly, the testimony of officers involved in lethal encounters all validate this. Officers who have been involved in lethal encounters, some of whom have extensive training using the trigger reset method, admitted they did not employ the trigger resetting technique during the moment of truth. Instead, they subconsciously reverted to a technique known in the firearms training community as “slapping the trigger.” This is a method that some firearms instructors consider flawed and do not teach.

So why has trigger reset gained such prominence? Why has it predominated the world of law-enforcement firearms training for the past two decades? Why doesn’t trigger reset translate from the practice range to a lethal encounter? The answer lies in the brain’s subconscious response to stress. The brain’s subconscious response is a very powerful feature that is automatically ignited to protect the body when the brain perceives a threat.

There are two types of subconscious responses—a natural response we are all born with; and a conditioned response, which can only be accessed through conscious repetition.

If you approach someone and without warning feign as if you were going to hit him/her in the face, his/her eyes will close and his/her body will react to absorb the blow. That’s a natural subconscious response. A conditioned subconscious response occurs when through conscious repetition, a certain activity is repeated until it becomes what is commonly referred to as second nature.

A person merely performs the activity thousands or even tens of thousands of times until it can be executed without a second thought, regardless of the environment. Firearms instructors often refer to this example as muscle memory.

So if the power of the conditioned subconscious response can be only be accessed through conscious repetition, then how come officers who’ve trained extensively using trigger reset demonstrate an inability to employ this method during a lethal encounter?

In “Understanding and Leveraging the Psychophysiology of Emotional Intensity,” Dr. Matthew Sztajnkrycer of Force Science Institute suggests that under stress, the conditioned subconscious response is limited to only identifying and performing bodily movements that are uncomplicated, comfortable and without elaboration. Under stress, the trigger reset method is a sophisticated movement that requires fine motor skills. Consequently, the primal properties of the subconscious response will not elect to use that movement, and discard it for a much simpler one.

What can we teach our officers so they can consciously practice a trigger manipulation method that can be more easily identified by the body’s subconscious response during a stressful event? Or stated another way, how do we train like we’re going to fight?

We should research any literature or up-to-date training techniques that allow our officers to benefit from a subconscious response. One such technique is called a “free-flowing” or “rolling trigger” manipulation method. This method is more akin to the “slapping the trigger” technique previously mentioned, and employs characteristics that can be more readily identified by the mid-brain under stress.

The free-flowing or rolling trigger technique keeps the trigger finger in motion during live fire. The legendary Colonel Rex Applegate was involved in over 100 lethal encounters and studied the behaviors of the men he led into battle. Col. Applegate discovered there were four very natural, primal behaviors exhibited by the men during lethal encounters. First, they lowered their center of gravity. Second, they squared up to the threat. Third, they focused intently on the threat or target. Fourth, they held their weapons with a white-knuckled grip. 

All of these involuntary reactions benefit officers involved in a lethal encounter except one, the death grip. That kind of tension causes trigger freeze, i.e., the inability to pull the trigger repeatedly, and causes misses at extremely close distances. 

With the rolling trigger method, the shooter pulls the trigger straight to the rear and then during recoil allows the trigger to fully return to its original position in preparation for a subsequent shot. Whether the trigger finger comes completely off the trigger during the firing sequence is irrelevant. What is important to remember is the trigger finger stays in motion. It is flowing naturally from the front to back. 

Trigger reset method restricts finger movement, whereas the rolling trigger method promotes finger movement. This finger movement helps to mitigate the damaging effects of a white-knuckled death grip. The end result is a ‘sophisticated slap’ of the trigger that is fast, accurate, and more likely to be utilized by the brain’s subconscious response during a lethal encounter.

Sadly, most police departments have rejected this well-proven technique and have greatly underestimated its value. Instead, they have opted to hang on to traditional techniques that are 20 years behind current methods. The “rolling trigger” manipulation technique has been introduced to a few notable police departments, such as the Memphis Police, Las Vegas Metro Police, San Antonio Police and the Los Angeles Police (LAPD).

Upon completion of the training, the feedback from these departments has been extremely positive. All who have attended the training definitively stated that the rolling trigger manipulation technique more adequately prepared them for a lethal encounter than the trigger reset method. Once they fully understood the principles of the technique, they experienced improved range qualification scores as well.

The officer under stress simply will not use the trigger reset method. Firearms instructors don’t want to default to the infamous trigger slap. The rolling trigger is one positive way to train like we are going to fight.

 

Antoine Lane, Director of Training for Accuracy Influenced Mechanics for Law Enforcement (AIM4LE), has 22 years of law enforcement experience, a Master’s Degree in Training and Professional Development, and is a United States Practical Shooting Association Double Grand-Master.  He can be reached at antoinelane@att.net or through www.aim4le.com.


Published in Tactical Response, Mar/Apr 2013

Rating : 3.8


Comments

Comment on This Article

Both methods have thier place in a gunfight

By DTM

As an instructor I feel both methods have thier place in a gunfight and in training. For a new recruit they must develop marksmanship with slow aimed accurate fire before they can shoot fast accurately. Trigger reset is one component of the slow aimed accurate fire drill. If a student can't shoot accurately slowly, they will have a problem shooting accurately fast.

Distance also is a factor. Shooting fast at three yards is much easier than shooting fast at 25 yards.

Students have to learn to walk before they run.

Yes at 3 yards I slap the trigger very fast. Accuracy at this range when shooting fast is good because we practice slow aimed fire first.

Speed is fine, accuarcy is final.

Submitted Jun 11 at 6:54 AM

Psychological awareness

By JJI

I have been to several of the Aim shooting systems classes and have taught many of his methods to recruits and police officers. I will say that from the physical to the psychological affect from the time the weapon is pulled from the holster to the time the trigger is pressed, no shooter is aware of trigger reset. And many are not aware of how many rounds are fired. The mind is able to multi task on a variety of levels, but can only focus on one thing at a time. Mr. Lanes’ methodology has made many of our good and bad shooters perform at a higher level than they expected. Mr. Lane has dissected and separated the physical from the psychological and has made our shooters understand more than just the physical. Anyone dare to try is methods will not be disappointed!

Submitted May 8 at 3:24 PM

Reverse engineer...let the situation dictate

By JC

I am not for one technique or the other, i am for BOTH. The trick is WHEN to apply a given technique. As for myself, when speed counts i "roll", when time allows and i want to be more accurate, i "reset". The situation will dictate which to apply.

Kudos to Antoine, as i have trained with him.

don't hate the player, hate the game,
JC

Submitted May 8 at 2:47 PM

Dare to try something different!

By APD

For those of who are new to the concept of the A.I.M. Shooting System, let me tell you that it does work! I was fortunate enough to have been taught by an incredible instructor- Antoine Lane. He was able to take a female cadet who had no knowledge of shooting and now who is able to shoot competitively and to teach others. Let’s talk about the trigger reset manipulation. You pull the trigger, to feel or hear a click. In the moment of truth, are you really going to feel or hear the click? Absolutely not! The problem with officers today who do not know this free-flowing trigger methodology causes stagnation in their firearms growth! Sadly, trigger reset is taught universally to all police officers. If want to be released from this devastating tragedy, then I dare you to try something different.

Submitted May 2 at 9:52 PM

Staking Lives

By HOIST92510

I was involved in a shooting on 9/25/10. Not only did I stake my life on this method I had to stake the life of two innocent civilians who were facing mortal danger. The technique taught to me by Antoine with continued practice over the years was profoundly effective in stopping an armed moving threat. After my OIS I sent Antoine an e-mail thanking him for his instruction. Hs reply was to thank me for allowing him to teach me. I understand there are those who won't accept this training but to attack his credibility is blatantly disrespectful. We can all agree to disagree.

Submitted May 1 at 1:04 PM

THE CONVERSION

By Federal Drug Agent

About one year ago, I had the the pleasure of taking the authors Train the Trainer course and it had a profound effect on my ability to shoot. 

I have 16 years of LE experience and have attended three LE academies.  Growing up, I naturally used a free flowing trigger without knowing what it was called.  It wasn't until attending my first police academy that I learned trigger reset and front sight focus.  since that time, I faithfully used both and for 15 years I felt like a very proficient shooter.  That is until seeing Lane shoot at a major USPSA match in Texas.  I was lucky enough to be in the same squad with Lane.  Watching Lane shoot  made me realize my shooting style needed a major overhaul.  Not just for competition but to increase my chances of survival in a shooting situation.

After attending the match, I made arrangements to take Lane's Train the Trainer course.  I was quickly converted from using the trigger reset method of shooting and now use a free flowing trigger and target focus.  In 2012, Lane and I shot the same USPSA match and I easily won my division and was two competitors away from winning the division above that.  The system works.

Readers who compete in USPSA know how difficult it is to achieve a GM card.  Lane holds a GM card in Limited and Production divisions.  Lane's achievement didn't occur by shooting one match or even dozens of matches but rather years of studying the art of shooting.  Lane became a student of shooting and like great students, he was never afraid to learn new things.  It seems to me that many firearms instructors are comfortable with teaching outdated techniques for fear of exposing their inadequacies.  Keep in mind, these are most likely the same instructors allowing cadets to close one eye while shooting.

In the end, the only thing that matters is shots on target and the speed for which they get there.  Trigger reset and front sight focus do neither.  Criminals use handguns to murder cops every year and they often achieve a high hit ratio.  I know many factors can be attributed to this fact but one of them is not their proficient use of trigger reset.   For those of you at LAPD who want to evolve for the betterment of your cadets, you should be commended.  For those of you happy with the status quo, it's time to RETIRE.  

Submitted Apr 25 at 11:22 PM

Wow

By M. Branning

I think some of the comments below illustrate the issues that exist today with firearms instructors today. You have one side that exists in the old paradigm because it is safe and comfortable. You have another that pushes the envelope and evolves to try to bring the best training to bare. If you exist I the former, fine. At least have the decency to allow those who wish to evolve without pissing in the cherios!
I have no issues with discourse about different techniques, tactics, etc. Even revisiting older techniques has its validity. Keeping an open mind is what is needed.
To LAPD that asked about the lies, I can tell you no malice was intended. The feedback given was where the information came from. You must not have been there those days at the range. If you were, your thoughts would be different. I know this because I thought that way before I attended the first three day. I refined my thoughts about the system after my second three day, and became a believer after the third three day that we hosted.
The funny thing is, the negative commentary was expected, it makes the firearms world go 'round.

Submitted Apr 25 at 8:48 AM

EGO Early Graveyard Opportunity

By APD

In combative deadly force situations, the stress response kicks. Blood moves away from the fingers and hands, as the capillaries constrict to protect the body from life threatening blood loss. Due to this constriction, fine tactile feel is lost. The trigger reset method requires fine motor skills. Under the dump of adrenaline, gross motor skills become the body's weapon of choice. This is a known fact that is well documented and explained by the author of the article. The question is,"Why would anyone continue to teach this trigger reset method, when it will be near impossible to duplicate it in a deadly force encounter?" Answer EGO. It was taught to basic shooters to help them understand trigger manipulation. It worked for them on the range under controlled conditions and helped them to shoot tight groups. This feeds the EGO of both the student and instructor. It gives them a false sense of confidence. It will work in calm range sessions but will fall apart under combative stress. The author is teaching a method that is adaptive to the combat environment. A lot of people's EGO won't allow them to question what they have invested in for so long. They don't want to believe they have a training inadequacy. A true warrior, champion or anyone wanting to go home in victory lives outside of EGO. He or she is constantly questioning his training and technique. Looking for a way to maximize their performance.

If you find yourself questioning the authors creditianials you are asking the wrong questions. You should be asking, "Is my training and technique adequate to help me survive and thrive in a deadly force encounter?" The author has given everyone a viable solution to the trigger reset inadequacy.

I can attest to the author's skill, as I have worked and trained with the author. I can verify he is a USPSA Double Grand Master. We have competed together at various matches in Texas.

Submitted Apr 22 at 8:10 PM

Keep An Open Mind

By SAPD

You're right LAPD... Everyone does have an opinion. There's also more than one way to "skin a cat"... An "open-minded" person will try what works for others to see if it can work for them. Maybe not all of it may work but if a little helps, it was worth the effort. That's how you get better & evolve!? Stick with what works for you & lighten up about other ideas...
I'm a police officer, not a competition shooter... Everyone who was in Lathem's course was also a police officer using their issued duty weapons. My Glock has an 8 lb. trigger. I'm 24 yr. veteran bro & am still have my boots on the ground. It sounds a little more like a personal problem with Mr. Lane..?!

Submitted Apr 21 at 10:55 PM

Why the lies

By LAPD

Everybody has their opinion about this technique...why the embellishment over LAPD using "his" system...this is a nothing more than a lie? Because a couple of officers from a agency go to a class doesn't give him the license to use the LAPD name to further his agenda. Also SAPD...Lathem does slap the trigger because he can..competition triggers are light enough to get away with it...it won't work with duty weight triggers.

Submitted Apr 20 at 9:09 PM

Concept believer!

By SAPD

To preface my response, I attended a 4 hr. seminar with Safariland's best shot, Rob Lathem. It was an intense 4 hr. training session that made a lot of sense & I observed the positive results!
All of us were LE officers & most of us carried a Glock handgun. Some of what Rob said contradicted several shooting "don't do's" I had been trained on for years; slapping the trigger, anticipation.
Rob stated that there are 4 stages to the trigger pull on a Glock & therefore a weapon w/ a trigger reset: 1) take up the slack 2) squeeze the trigger 3) follow through 4) get off the trigger & reset for a follow up shot. He said to be "fast" on every step listed above but # 2). We need to be "smooth" on squeezing the trigger. Everything else is in the way & needs to be done quickly. As top world competition shooter, Rob stated that he needs to be fast.
In the drills, & giving this concept an honest chance, I was impressed! The true proof was from distance, 7 - 15 yards! What was odd was feeling like I was "slapping" the trigger; something I was trained for years not to do. My grouping was pretty good! I equate getting on & off the trigger rapidly similar to flicking a booger off your index finger!? I know it sounds gross but try it & I'm sure you'll agree!
The one thing that I disagree w/ in this article is that some shooters were actually able to discern whether they used the trigger reset or not in an actual deadly encounter... Agreeing that losing fine motor skills under stress, I find it hard to believe that any shooter engaging another person can remember using the trigger reset. As stated in one of the comments, there are different levels of shooters based upon their training so I believe that an avid shooter of a weapon with a resetting trigger conditions himself to intuitively feel how far they need to release the trigger due to muscle memory & repetition. Because of this, they actually are resetting the trigger without actually consciously remembering this action. That's like someone saying, "I had already taken up about 3/4 of the slack before the guy gave up..."!? I usually call BS on that excuse for not shooting someone..
The second handgun training contradiction has to to w/ anticipation & a proper grip which is another post..!

Submitted Apr 20 at 12:21 AM

Getting to the bang is the point

By LAPD

Everyone is clearly entitled to their own opinion, and there is no shortage of those in the area of firearms instruction, however some facts cannot be disputed. In order for the gun to be fired effectively, the trigger has to be reset and the slack should be taken in. Does it really matter how that takes place if you end up in the same place anyway? The real issue here is which method is better, more effective, and will most likely be employed under stress in a lethal encounter.

I have no problems using the reset method quickly myself, but having trained thousands of recruits (most of whom have minimal or no shooting experience), it can be problematic for the new shooter. One of the most common errors I have seen stems from the insistence that the shooter must only reset to the distinct click, not all the way off the trigger or too far into the slack. This creates such an over-thinking obsession with the shooter that they not pass this magical spot, they end up performing a very cautious, slow reset. Once timing is introduced and the shooter is expected to shoot faster, this oftentimes results in a slow reset followed by a rushed, inaccurate press of the trigger. A good instructor will identify and fix this issue quickly, even utilizing the reset method, but if the new shooter were given the freedom to come off the trigger quickly in the first place, I think this problem could be avoided. What will happen under stress is another issue.

If you are a law enforcement firearms instructor, at the end of the day our job is to best prepare the shooter for success in a lethal encounter, and as the author stated, that is multi-faceted. Some change is asinine, but much change is imperative, and if we hadn't evolved, most of us would not have a job because of race, religion, gender, height, or personal lifestyle choice. Evolving is synonymous with advancing and expanding.

Submitted Apr 18 at 2:18 PM

Evolving skill

By LAPD, also

How can you criticize something that you have not tried or seen demonstrated? I have been a true believer in trigger reset for my 20 years in law enforcement. Being an instructor (FIREARMS), I have always been in search of new and better ways to improve. I attended a 3 day course with the author and went in very skeptical. I struggled in the course with the concept, but to undo 20 years of training in 3 days is simply not going to happen. Though I struggled, I did see the concept in action. Let me say that I was impressed. I observed the author and his assistant get good hits on target at a pace faster than most instructors in my agency. You simply can't argue with the end results. What was left out of this article was the "Pause" that the author stressed throughout his course. Whether you like it or not, as an instructor of FIREARMS, you have to at least take a look at the authors ideas and concepts regarding shooting. If you're not willing to do that, then remember, if it we're up to the closed minded, we would still be issuing revolvers to our Officers.

Submitted Apr 17 at 11:38 PM

The REAL deal

By Maximus22

Let's start out with the vetting, shall we! Go to uspsa and look him up!
Hi, I have been a law enforcement officer going on year 19 years now. Been an FTO for 9 of those, SWAT operator, still in the arena, explosives handler, firearms instructor ( rifle,shotgun,handgun) low light instructor, etc........you get the point.
Been to Some of the BEST tactical schools in the nation taught by retired meat eaters! Been shooting competitively since I was 12 years old. Been in multiple lethal encounters in my career.
With all that said I am a student of A.I.M. I learned more in 20 training contact minutes with Lane, than I have been taught in the last 10 years!
One of my biggest issues I have always had in law enforcement is that our egos are so damn big we often, at times, do not listen to what's falling out of our own JIB! And refuse to open our eyes to scientific facts! Trigger re~set is a good skill to have and learn. However, with that said, for the last 20 years I have been told that, "fine motor skills are lost during high stress events, like lethal encounters" that is the foundation of the dogma! that's why we avoid using the slide stop during speed re loads and advocate running over the top of the slide, much slower, but it works.
FACT, mag release button is a fine motor skill, FACT, grasping magazine from a mag pouch, and re loading is a fine motor function, and trigger reset is the grand king sh$t wizard of all fine motor skills! So, before we drag one of the best Technical firearms instructors in the industry today through the mud, go do some scientific research on motor skill functions under lethal encounter stress, before you run your jibs, then log back on and tell him your sorry, and thank him for the education.
Short answer, under stress you will rope, or as it has been called for years, "combat roll" your trigger. ( world war II combat article)

Be safe, god bless, never stop learning.

Additionally, the editor of tactical response edited out several key points of this article that might have helped with the confusion.

Submitted Apr 17 at 8:03 PM

For real?

By LAPD

So a new system of shooting that nobody else as ever stumbled across? The version of events in regards to training LAPD is over rated at best. When, where and in what match did he attain double grand master status?

Submitted Apr 13 at 4:59 PM

Really?

By Mark Dain

For the record, Mr Lane has had absolutely no influence on the L.A.P.D. Firearms program. Two instructors attended one of his classes. He later gave a presentation to a larger group of Academy staff, many of whom were not firearms instructors. I will tell you that no changes were made to the curriculum based on Mr. Lanes presentation.

Submitted Apr 13 at 4:51 PM

Thoughts from a die-hard resetter

By Mike M.

First let me say that I come from a dogmatic private sector training background that taught trigger reset. That's what I grew up with, so to speak, and it has become subconscious for me. However, I train at an above-average level as a multi-gun competitor.

In one street encounter, I fired multiple rounds under stress from a semi-automatic firearm. To the best of my recollection, I used the trigger reset I train with and I got the hits.

But is the trigger reset best for everyone?

There is a mystique about weapons, tactics, and techniques used by elite military units and top competitors. Sometimes it is beneficial to look to these proving grounds, but sometimes it is not. We must remember that not everyone trains at their level and their operational requirements may be different from ours.

I have heard this trigger technique is advocated by professional competitors, so that tells me it is not inherently slow or inaccurate. If it were, they would not attempt to earn their livelihood with this method.

Your time between shots, or split time, is comprised of your time to get the gun back on target or recover from recoil and press the trigger again. If your trigger prep is done under recoil, I would agree that is not important whether the trigger comes only to the reset point, all the way out, or completely off the trigger. What reduces split times is being ready to break the shot when the sights settle back on a "shoot" target.

The author makes a valid point that it can be difficult to hear or feel the reset point. Some striker-fired pistol designs make it extremely difficult to hear or feel the reset point. When I switched to one of these guns, I found I was still able to reset the trigger in rapid-fire by feel or intuition, but if I tried to "find" the reset point in a slow, deliberate exercise it was difficult.

How many of our students own and shoot only one gun? What about semi-auto carbines, back-up guns, or an occasional change to the latest coolest gun on the cover of this month's gun magazine? Each will likely have different reset characteristics.

This technique can be universally applied and it will work without the same learning curve as traditional trigger reset. Especially for your students who may be struggling with learning volumes of Penal Code, department policy, etc. in addition learning to shoot their duty pistol.

I intend to work with this technique and evaluate it objectively for my own use as well.

Submitted Apr 11 at 8:57 AM

finger to your nose

By M. Branning

Having attended a number of Antoine's classes, I can attest to the validity of rolling the trigger vs trigger reset. Once the priciple was presented and I understood it, I went on the range and put it to practicle application. Anyone who wishes to improve as a shooter and/or instructor shold seek out how to employ this methodology!

Submitted Apr 10 at 7:36 AM
 
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