How to Measure Rifle Trigger Pull Weight

There was a time when the designer and manufacturer determined the trigger pull on a rifle. Most field guns were set with high, almost always over 5-pound, trigger pulls to avoid accidents. Custom guns were usually set much lower, at 4oz ounces to 5 pounds, to allow better accuracy. Any shooter can have a higher or lower trigger-pull thanks to adjustable triggers, depending on their individual shooting style. This only leaves one question “How do you measure the trigger-pull weight?”

Trigger pull is the amount of pressure measured in pounds needed to manipulate the trigger entirely and fire the rifle. In other words, it is the amount of force necessary to move the trigger to the rear, move the sear, and allow the hammer to fall. For more information check out our earlier article What is Trigger Pull Weight?.

There are several reasons why knowing the trigger pull is essential. The first reason is safety. Too light a trigger pull, and you may have an accidental discharge. The second is accuracy. Too heavy a trigger pull, and you will move the gun during firing. The third is to determine if the trigger-pull may need to be changed.

The goal is to have a comfortable trigger pull, easy enough for the shooter to manipulate repeatedly but not so light that it poses a danger. Usually, this is in the 1 to 5 pound range, but that is more a personal than a technical decision.

Adjusting the trigger-pull is easy on modern rifles since most are equipped with adjustable triggers. Measure the current trigger pull, adjust as per the user’s manual, and measure the new trigger weight to confirm results. Repeat the process as needed to attain the desired trigger pull.

What tools will you need?

  •   A small screwdriver or Allen wrench
  • Trigger weight measuring device

Your owner’s manual will tell you whether you need a screwdriver or an Allen wrench. However, you will need to select a weight measuring device. There are several options from which to choose.

Standard trigger weights are the simplest in terms of technology but also the most complex and time-consuming. Hang weights from the trigger, increasing weight until the trigger is activated. Add the total weight used to determine trigger-pull weight.

Spring gauge – these devices are like the scales used by fishermen. Attach the cord hook to the trigger. Pull back on the handle until the trigger is activated and record the amount of pressure needed using the scale on the side. Rifle Basix carries a spring style pull gauge.

Digital tester this device is like the spring gauge, except it uses a digital scale rather than a mechanical gauge to read out.

In terms of accuracy and ease of use, it is hard to beat a digital tester. A quality tester will provide an accurate reading that can be saved and compared to other readings.

You may need to adjust your rifle’s trigger pull for several reasons.

You may have a new rifle and want to confirm the factory setting. Maybe you have added a new trigger and want to ensure its settings. Both cases are for your peace of mind rather than mechanical need.

Others are more interested in having an exact personal pull-weight on a gun, or even all their guns. This allows for easily repeatable performance shot after shot, a widespread trait among competition shooters. Before adjusting the trigger to the desired weight, you will need to measure the current trigger pull.

Finally, there may be a need to know the trigger pull due to a mechanical issue. Perhaps your firearm is experiencing a mechanical problem, such as an inconsistent trigger pull. Or a recent mechanical problem was repaired, and that repair included replacing part of the trigger group. Both situations require measuring the trigger-pull as part of the diagnosis or testing.

It is essential to ensure that your rifle’s trigger pull is within the acceptable range.

First and foremost is safety. Most shooters realize a light trigger can be dangerous, but so can a too heavy trigger. While the light trigger can go off unexpectedly, a heavy trigger pull can make a gun hard to control or require unsafe technique when firing.

Second, accuracy is the reason many shooters decide to change trigger-pull in the first place. A trigger set too high can result in unintended movement of the firearm and the reduced accuracy that goes with it.

Third, are legal considerations. Yes, some states require a minimum trigger-pull weight on personally owned firearms. Modifying the trigger-pull can result in legal troubles that no gun owner needs.

Final, there is the question of mechanics. Each firearm is a precision machine. Like any precision machine, they are designed to operate within a given set of tolerances. If one or more of those tolerances are exceeded, say a trigger pull outside the recommended range, there is more likely that over time the entire machine will fail. This may not occur on the first shot or even the 100th shot. However, eventually, the other parts will wear unnecessarily, ultimately leading to failure.

Now that you know what trigger-pull is, why it is important, and the benefits (and potential dangers of) changing the weight, it is time to do what any fun-loving gun enthusiast would do – pick up a scale and start checking all your firearms! Seriously, hopefully, this information will let you better understand how trigger-pull weight impacts your shooting and have the ability to address issues that may arise.

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