Trigger Reach Measurements

Discussion in 'Firearms' started by gunsmoker, Jul 7, 2018.

  1. gunsmoker

    gunsmoker Lawyer and Gun Activist

    While I was shopping for a small, slim summer carry pistol recently, I looked at the specifications for a lot of guns. I rarely found any information about the distance of the reach required to put your finger on the trigger when it was in the fully-forward position (and for DA/ SA autos, this means the gun would be "uncocked" and you would be reaching for the longer double-action trigger pull).

    I handled a dozen in gun shops and sporting goods stores, and pawn shops. I rented a total of six (6) promising candidates from two different indoor shooting ranges (Bullseye Marksman in Cumming, and Johns Creek Indoor Range in, well, John's Creek). I found that the "trigger reach" distance was a MAJOR FACTOR in what guns I liked. That measurement made me reject some guns that were otherwise good by every other standard I was using to evaluate them.

    Why don't more gun manufacturers, or gun writers who review and evaluate new models of guns for popular gun magazines and blogs, take a measurement of this distance from the back of a gun's grip frame to the center of a weapon's trigger and get the "trigger reach" measurement, so people can narrow or expand their list of guns to check out in person when they're gun shopping?

    A gun's overall length is always given. So is its thickness, although some manufacturers may fudge those numbers a bit by not counting levers and buttons that protrude beyond the normal frame or slide surfaces. Just about every gun made in the last 30 years has its height, from magazine base plate to the top of its rear sight, measured and posted online somewhere.

    I'd like to see the trigger reach measurement similarly publicized.

    Back in 2013, somebody on the "USA Carry" website posted about the issue of trigger reach, and provided a link to a database of many guns that had such a measurement done.

    That link (at "" appears to be dead and no longer valid.

    I PROPOSE THAT WE, at GEORGIAPACKING.ORG, create a database of "trigger reach" measurements using any guns we can put our hands on-- guns we own, guns our friends and family own, and guns we fondle at gun shops or gun shows where we're allowed to take a measurement.


    If what we want is an actual measurement of the length of an imaginary straight line going back from the center of a gun's trigger to that point on the rear of the grip frame or handle opposite that point on the trigger, and forming a line that is parallel to the line where the slide and frame meet (or parallel to the gun's bore, if you prefer), I don't know of any easy way for one person to make that measurement, considering that a gun's grip frame is typically not flat, and may be quite thick due to the frame size and the attached grip panels / stocks (if any).

    Taking a straight line measurement would seem to require either 2 people working together to place a pair of long slender sticks or rods perpendicular to the flat surface on which the gun is resting, with one rod touching the trigger and one rod touching the back of the grip or frame. Then while one person holds those sticks in proper alignment with each other and to the table top, the other person gets a measurement between those sticks with a ruler or calipers or whatever.

    PERHAPS a better measurement would be one that traces the actual contour of the gun, on one side only, by stretching a string from the center of the gun's trigger to the correct point on the back of the gun's grip. Near one end of the string, but not literally "at" the very end, could be a black dot made with a permanent marker. Place that dot over the center of the trigger and hold it in place with your finger. Then stretch the string around to the back of the gun's grip and, over the correct spot, pinch the string with your thumbnail to make an indentation in it. Remove the string, mark that dent with a touch of a permanent market, and then use a ruler or tape measure or calipers to get the measurement, center-to-center between the marked spots.

    I think the above technique could be performed easily by one person with no special tools or equipment.

    What do you fellow GPDO members think?

    Could you do it with your guns?

    Would you be interested in knowing the numbers for this "trigger reach w/ contour" measurement on other folks' guns and new models of firearms on the shelves at gun stores?
  2. gunsmoker

    gunsmoker Lawyer and Gun Activist

    I realize that most handguns' trigger reach, the true straight-line measurement that is not related to grip thickness, could be measured with a caliper, like this one:

    Calipers-six inch.jpg
    BUT, considering that the jaws of this tool are hard steel, I don't think many of us would want to touch such an instrument to our guns. I doubt that any gun shop owners or managers would agree to let any of us mess around their new guns while holding such a tool that could scratch the finish on a firearm.

    The string-measuring method seems safer to pristine firearms with delicate finishes.

  3. gunsmoker

    gunsmoker Lawyer and Gun Activist

    Here is a good article (from 2016, updated in 2018) about how a handgun's backstrap-to-trigger distance is important in finding a handgun that properly fits your hand to allow you to get the correct firing grip on the weapon.

    With many gun, even some that I own and have owned for years, I cannot have a "proper" grip on the weapon and still get enough of my trigger finger on top of the gun's trigger. I have to grab the weapon at a slight angle from its right side, so that there is something like a 15-degree angle, as viewed from the top, between the line formed by my forearm and the line formed by the gun's slide. Such an off-center grip serves to let me reach the trigger more easily, but it puts my fingers farther away from any controls on the gun's left side, such as the magazine release, slide release lever, and manual safety. So that workaround is not ideal and has its own issues.

    Grip angle comparison.png

    See these split-image pics above?
    The left side shows what conventional wisdom says is the correct alignment of the gun with your arm, IF (and only if) this allows you to reach the trigger well.

    As a practical matter, the article from which I copied that photo says that plenty of people, even expert marksmen who win action pistol championships, cannot do that kind of grip shown on the left. Their fingers are too short or hands are too small. Instead, they have to grip the weapon shown in the right side of the image, approaching the gun from the rear-right angle, not straight behind it. And they make it work.

    I do this too, and have done it for years, but if all other factors were equal, I'd rather have a gun that fits my hand and Vienna-sausage fingers.

    Vienna Sausage fingers.jpg
    Yeah, my stubby little fingers look a lot like the image above on that can's label.
  4. zetor

    zetor Gaston beat up John

    That right photo seems awfully exaggerated....maybe it was exaggerated on purpose for illustrative purposes. I have medium sized hands and I've never had to alter grip too much. It's mostly finger placement on the trigger that gets changed and that's with small guns.
  5. gunsmoker

    gunsmoker Lawyer and Gun Activist

    I can't place more of my index finger pad on the trigger of a long-trigger-reach handgun unless I grip it from an angle, maybe slightly less exaggerated than the right side if that photo, but it's noticeable. And that means my thumb is further back on the gun's left side. Farther away from the mag release and slide release controls.
  6. Nemo

    Nemo Man of Myth and Legend

    That/those gun(s) are too big for you.

  7. RedDawnTheMusical

    RedDawnTheMusical Well-Known Member

    Strange. I have "medium" size hands according to gloves that I wear but I have no problem obtaining the grip shown in the left picture on my 1911s and Sigs. I definitely wouldn't find comfort in shooting something that I had to over-rotate my hand on like they show in the right side picture.

    Along with trigger reach, pull length and weight are important considerations as well - at least for accurate/range shots.
  8. 45_Fan

    45_Fan Well-Known Member

    Using a fabric tape measure would be more accurate than calipers because frame width would be factored in.

    There are still several measurements to contemplate though. Unengaged, engaged slack taken up, break, overtravel after break, then the questions of DAO, SA, DA/SA, and reset length.

    Don’t forget a quarter of the modern polymer pistols have replaceable back straps and side plates for adjustment purposes.