What's the Right Trigger Pull Weight for a Carry Gun?

What's the Right Trigger Pull Weight for a Carry Gun?
(Photo courtesy of the USPSA)

(Photo courtesy of the USPSA)

A few months ago I was at a local USPSA match, and one of the regulars was shooting his new carry gun. This was a custom Commander-sized 1911 chambered in 9mm, and it was just a beautiful gun. It was also a joy to shoot, too, as, even in a slightly reduced size 1911 the 9mm provides almost no recoil. What I noticed most, however, was the trigger pull — I've got an educated finger, and estimated it to be right at 2 pounds.

"Isn't that a little light for a carry trigger?" I asked Rob, the proud new owner.

"Nope," he replied, and that got me thinking.


Some well-known gun writers have made their bones writing about how no carry gun should EVER have a trigger pull under 4 pounds. I have continually insisted that a trigger pull so heavy it affects your ability to hit the target quickly is not something to be praised. But how light is too light?


Why has 4 pounds become the carry standard? Why not 5, or 4.5 or 4.2379? It is an arbitrary whole number that was chosen because when you start dealing with triggers lighter than 4 pounds in the hands of people who are incapable of keeping their fingers off the trigger, you get negligent discharges.

I, however, don't think everyone should handicap themselves because some people are idiots. You are either following safe gunhandling rules, or you aren't. If your training is sorely lacking, and/or you never practice, you are unsafe with any weight trigger pull.

The standard Glock trigger pull (with a 5.5-lb connector) runs around 6-7 pounds, but that was WAY too light for some police departments whose officers were sorely undertrained, and had more than several instances of negligent discharges. This situation led to the New York and New York Plus Glock triggers.

Instead of improving the training of these officers, the department instead put really heavy triggers in their Glocks. I've spent some time behind Glocks burdened with these triggers, and as far as I'm concerned they don't make the pistols safer. They make the pistols more unsafe. What do I mean by that?


When you put a trigger that heavy in a pistol, you have made it much harder to shoot fast and accurately. You are almost guaranteeing the officers saddled with that atrocity will miss what they shoot at.

But how heavy (or light) should the trigger on a carry gun be for someone who is trained, and knows to keep his or her finger off the trigger until the sights are on the target? That's the caveat — training. Not just knowing to keep the finger off the trigger, but the gun pointed in a safe direction until it's time to shoot.

I think the answer to this is, it depends. I would carry a 1911 with a 2-pound trigger pull before I would carry a Glock with a 2-pound trigger pull. Why? The 1911 has both a thumb safety and a grip safety. The Glock only has a trigger-mounted safety, and the number of accidental discharges with Glocks because of that are numerous.


Notice I used the term "accidental discharge," not "negligent discharge." The second is when you pull the trigger and something happens that you didn't intend ("I thought it was unloaded," etc). These accidental discharges I'm talking about are varied. I know of officers re-holstering their Glocks in thumb-break holsters, and the thumb break strap gets inside the trigger guard. As they push the pistol down, boom. I also know of instances where windbreaker drawstrings have gotten tangled in the triggers of Glocks, causing ADs.

As long as the pistol is mechanically sound, there is no such thing — theoretically — as a trigger pull that is too light. That said, once a trigger pull gets so light that unintended movement or jarring can set it off, it's too light. Where is that tipping point? I'm afraid that's a bit subjective.

When it came to the ideal carry-weight trigger pull on a 1911 in the hands of someone competent, Jeff Cooper himself said, "Three pounds, crisp, is the word."

Does 3 pounds sound too light? Well, if you don't trust yourself carrying a pistol "X" weight trigger, you shouldn't carry it. Cooper's concern was a pistol that enabled you to survive a gunfight, not the tongue-lashing of a lawyer in a courtroom.

Let me be clear: If you find yourself in a self-defense shooting and hit what you're aiming at, the weight of your trigger won't be an issue. If you find yourself in a self-defense shooting and don't hit what you're aiming at, all bets are off whether that trigger was light or heavy. Wouldn't you rather be carrying a gun that has a trigger which doesn't interfere with your shooting so you can hit what you aim at?

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Going To The Range

Going To The Range

Jim and Scott show you how to make each trip to the shooting range a quality experience.

The New Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun Load

The New Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun Load

Speer's Jared Hinton shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the new Speer Gold Dot G2 Duty Handgun load.

Handgun Basics

Handgun Basics

SIG Academy's Hana Bilodeau joins Rich and Jim to discuss the essential skills all handgunners should master.

Kyle Lamb and Eric Poole talk SIG pistols

Kyle Lamb and Eric Poole talk SIG pistols

G&A Editor Eric Poole and Viking Tacticals's Kyle Lamb talks about 2 new pistols from SIG Sauer and a Lipsey's Special of the P365.

Trending Articles

The number of accessories and aftermarket upgrades for the SIG P320 is only going to increase. Accessories

SIG P320 Accessories and Upgrades

James Tarr - December 14, 2017

The number of accessories and aftermarket upgrades for the SIG P320 is only going to increase.

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo with these 10 low-priced pistols. Compact

10 Cheap Guns Under $250

Evan Brune - September 24, 2015

Guns are fun, and cheap guns are even more fun. Spend less on the firearm and more on ammo...

As you will learn in this detailed review, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 380 (manufacturer SKU # 180023) is an easy-racking, soft-shooting pistol. Compact

Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 380 Review

James Tarr - November 06, 2018

As you will learn in this detailed review, the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield EZ 380 (manufacturer...

The Ruger SR1911 is offered in two versions, an all-stainless in .45 ACP (model # 6762) and a two-tone aluminum-framed model in 9mm (model # 6758). This review by James Tarr will focus on the 9mm. 1911

Ruger SR1911 Officer-Style 9mm Review

James Tarr - May 01, 2019

The Ruger SR1911 is offered in two versions, an all-stainless in .45 ACP (model # 6762) and a...

See More Trending Articles

More Personal Defense

There's something in the DNA of some gun guys, a genetic compulsion that they cannot resist: They Personal Defense

7 'Innovative' Handgun Cartridges that Failed

Patrick Sweeney - August 01, 2013

There's something in the DNA of some gun guys, a genetic compulsion that they cannot resist:...

Ever since gunpowder was invented, shooters have been making handguns with the biggest hole down the barrel that they could safely shoot. Personal Defense

Best Big-Bore Handguns of All Time

Joseph von Benedikt - May 27, 2015

Ever since gunpowder was invented, shooters have been making handguns with the biggest hole...

What cops have learned in everyday dealings with criminals can help you stay safe. Personal Defense

Personal Defense: Being Street Smart

Richard Nance - September 19, 2017

What cops have learned in everyday dealings with criminals can help you stay safe.

Recognizing and properly using cover can save your life. It's important to know what will and won't stop a bullet, as well as how closely you should hug cover depending on circumstances. Personal Defense

Using Cover for Self Defense

Richard Nance - March 18, 2020

Recognizing and properly using cover can save your life. It's important to know what will and...

See More Personal Defense

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.