Close up view showing a hand holding a pistol with a finger on the trigger

Understanding Firearm Trigger Types and Actions

When you’re customizing a firearm, understanding the types of triggers available and the firearm actions they work with can help keep you on the right side of the law while still giving you more fun at the range. Your gun’s action refers to how it chambers, locks, fires, and extracts cartridges, but we’re going to be focusing primarily on the firing part of the equation, which is heavily dependent on your trigger group. Changing your trigger group can change how your weapon handles, and modern trigger groups are pushing the envelope in weapon performance in ways never seen before.  

Action Vs. Trigger Action

Before we go any further, let’s take a look at the difference between a gun’s action and the trigger action.

  • Gun Action – Describes how the gun functions, specifically as it relates to loading cartridges. For example, a lever-action rifle uses the mechanical action of a shooter working a lever to extract spent casings and load a new cartridge.
  • Trigger Action – Refers to how the trigger makes the gun shoot. A single-action trigger, for example, will only release a cocked hammer but will not cock the hammer first.

In this post, we’re going to be looking at the different trigger actions and types commonly found on modern firearms, including some exciting new custom trigger groups that give you more bang for your buck.

Common Trigger Actions

Hand holding a revolver with a finger pulling the trigger
  • Single Action – Popular on Old West Revolvers and the venerable M1911, pulling the trigger will release the cocked hammer of the gun. Revolvers then must be manually cocked cowboy-style, while a pistol’s semi-automatic action recocks the hammer as a new round is chambered, making the weapon ready to fire again.
  • Double-Actions – The trigger on a double-action gun has a longer, heavier pull during which the hammer is cocked before being released. On many double-action weapons, an already cocked hammer will shorten the trigger’s travel and provide a much lighter pull, so it performs like a single-action weapon.
  • Double-Action Only – One of the more popular trigger types for defensive handguns, DAO weapons do not allow the hammer to be held in a cocked position, requiring instead the full double-action trigger pull for each round fired.
  • Striker-fired – Glock-type pistols have made this firearm action incredibly popular due to the straight-line nature of the forces involved in its operation and its reliability in the field. Similar to DAO types of triggers in that it finishes cocking and releasing the striker with each trigger pull, it features a shorter, lighter travel thanks to the semi-automatic loading action that begins the process.
  • Automatic Fire – This highly regulated firearm action type fires more than one round with each pull of the trigger–usually either continuous fire as long as the trigger is held or a burst of several rounds with each trigger pull. Primarily designed for security and law enforcement, civilian weapons with this action type require special taxes, permits, paperwork, and background checks.
  • Pull-Release Triggers – A custom trigger group designed to increase your fire rate without the additional fees and scrutiny of an automatic weapon, pull-release triggers fire a round when the trigger is pulled and then again when it’s released. By maintaining a rate of one round per trigger action, your firearm maintains its fully legal semi-automatic status, but you still get to rock-n-roll on the range.

When to Customize Your Trigger Group

man firing the trigger of an APC9 at the shooting range

The trigger group has always been a popular customization opportunity on firearms. As the link between the shooter and the firing action, refining trigger performance to meet the shooter’s needs can improve marksmanship, performance, and comfort. Some of the top customized trigger goals include:

  • Length of Travel – The longer the length of travel, the slower the shot and the more opportunity for movement that throws your shot wide. Installing a trigger group with a shorter travel can help make follow-up shots more effortless and give shooters with smaller hands a more controllable weapon at the range.
  • Weight of Pull – Pull weight is another popular adjustment with all types of triggers. As the effort required to pull the trigger increases, so does fatigue. This can lead to jerked triggers as muscles get tired or lead to incorrect grip placement in an attempt to give weak fingers better purchase. A lighter trigger pull can make the shooting experience more comfortable and lead to fewer shots being pulled wide.
  • Crisp Break – The trigger break is the point at which the movement of the trigger causes the sear to release the hammer or striker, firing the weapon. A crisp, clean break releases the tension all at once in a predictable manner, with no catching or holding. As your trigger group wears from use, this point can become less crisp, leading to a more sluggish feel from the weapon. When this happens, it’s time for some TLC in the form of a replacement trigger group that restores the factory-fresh feel.
  • Rate of Fire – Gun owners have used shorter, lighter trigger groups to help them increase their rate of fire for generations, but with modern pull-release triggers, you can take it even further. These mechanisms may retain your weapon’s semi-automatic designation, but the doubled rate of fire pushed your output into ranges formerly only enjoyed by automatic weapons.
  • Restoration – When you love a gun, you use a gun, and that leads to parts wear. One of the most straightforward reasons for customizing a trigger group is to extend the service life of a gun you know and trust inside and out.

Get Your Custom Gun Parts and Accessories

When you’re ready to pull the trigger on building out your weapon with performance parts, we have you covered with brands you can count on. Sign up for our email newsletter to get the latest deals delivered to your inbox. Order the types of triggers you need for better shooting from JSD Supply today.