Some Thoughts on Shotgun Triggers

What we “trigger slappers” can learn from today’s top sporting-clays shooters.

us army marksmanship unit soldier
Many competitive shotgunners prefer a trigger set to 3 ½ to 4 pounds.Wikimedia Commons

A reader chastised me recently for not including trigger-pull information when I review a gun. I apologized, after admitting that trigger pull is one of the last things I notice when it comes to shotguns for wing and target shooting.

Turkey and deer guns are different, but I was taught to slap a shotgun trigger, and I learned that lesson a little too well. I don’t slap a trigger as much as I throttle it. Hence, I can shoot shotguns with 10-pound triggers like my old Benelli Nova or many Turkish guns and not even feel it.

I had cause to think about this lately when I interviewed a number of top sporting-clays shooters about their choice of target gun. Almost every one of them mentioned the trigger pull on their gun as being an important factor, with most preferring a trigger set to 3 ½ to 4 pounds.

The shooters had a lot to say not only about trigger-pull weight, but crispness and creep and guns that go off exactly when you will them to. In general, flat springs, like the ones used in Perazzis and the Beretta DT-11, are said to give the classic “glass rod breaking” feel, as opposed to coil springs, which are more durable.

"I was taught to slap a shotgun trigger, and I learned that lesson a little too well."

However, there are a lot of people who swear by the excellence of the coil-spring triggers in Krieghoffs and Zolis, and they will point out to you that coil springs work even if they break. With flat springs, it's not a question of if it will break and need immediate replacement; it's a question of when. One reason high-end target guns have removable triggers is so you can change a spring if you break one in competition.

Similarly, hand-detachable sidelocks favored by aristocratic driven-game shooters could be opened up quickly and without tools so you, or more likely your loader, could put in a new spring between drives.

Anyway, talking to all these shooters and listening to them rhapsodize about trigger pulls was enough to give me a complex, making me feel even more than usual like I have walrus flippers instead of a trigger finger. Then I talked to David Radulovich, who is among the very best competitive shooters these days.

Radulovich shoots Perazzis, and also sells them, and he had a lot to say about the classic Perazzi flat-spring trigger, which has a wonderful pull and drops out so you can fix it as needed. Or, he said, you can order a gun with a non-removable coil spring trigger, which was his preference, because he cares more about reliability than about trigger pulls. I mentioned my own sensitivity-challenged style and wondered how he’d react.

“Good for you!” he said, “I learned to slap triggers, too. Honestly, when I’m shooting, I probably couldn’t tell the difference between my trigger and a Stoeger’s.”

Finally! Radulovich may be in the minority among top shots, but it's nice to know that at least one shooting champion feels (or lacks feel) for triggers the same as the rest of us trigger slappers.