Why the Flex is Best

By Massad Ayoob

Tim Smith, editor of Airgun Hobbyist, was devoting a whole issue to safety and asked me why I teach a flexed trigger finger position up on the frame at low ready. I realized to my horror I had never addressed that here. So here’s exactly what I told Tim, verbatim:

“It goes back to the latter 1970s. A good friend of mine, a police sergeant, was making a felony stop arrest subsequent to a high-speed pursuit. The suspect grabbed the sergeant’s 1911 .45 auto and pulled it toward himself, resulting in a severe gunshot wound to the head. The cop was criminally charged with aggravated assault and acquitted, thanks in large part to the expert testimony of the late, great Jim Cirillo, NYPD Retired.

“The cop swore he was holding the pistol on safe with his thumb on the safety, his finger straight and in contact with the front edge of the trigger guard. Reconstruction indicated that as he reflexively tightened his hand and pulled back, the thumb closed down (wiping the safety into the fire position) and his taut finger simultaneously snapped back into the trigger.”

Analyzing what went wrong led to my developing the finger-flexed-on-frame register position. I began teaching it in the late ’70s and it first appeared in print in my 1984 book StressFire.

A flexed finger allows the Good Guy to hang on to his gun longer,
hopefully buying time for a retention technique.

Avoid the Unintentional

If, in an extreme stress situation, your finger does enter the triggerguard from the flexed position, it will be coming across the trigger, not straight back into it! I’ve never claimed this can prevent an unintentional discharge 100 percent of the time, but it will vastly reduce the chance of it happening. You can see (and feel) this for yourself. With your unloaded gun pointed in a safe direction, put your trigger finger on the front edge of the guard, and mimic a spasm that closes the finger. Because your finger has been held taut on the front of the guard, it will strike the trigger with more than enough force to fire. I am aware of cases where this happened with fatal results. One was in Texas involving a GLOCK 22 with an NY-1 trigger (pull weight around 8 lbs.). The other was in New York City involving a GLOCK 19 with an NY-2 trigger whose pull measured 11.5 lbs.

Now try this again (dry-fire!), but starting with your trigger finger flexed and the tip of the finger — not the pad — on the frame above the triggerguard. Your finger will go across the face of the trigger, greatly reducing the likelihood of unintended discharge.

Bear in mind a straight finger along the frame need only slip down parallel to the triggerguard — highly likely in a struggle for the pistol, for example — and we’re right back to the taut finger snapping straight back into the trigger. Your flexed finger greatly reduces the chances of this.

Mas uses a Blackhawk dummy GLOCK to show a lateral strike against the pistol with the
trigger finger extended can cause sympathetic release of your other fingers.

Speed Advantage

We all stand on the shoulders of the great shooting masters of the past, some of whom discovered when the time does come to fire instantly, the finger must be able to get to the trigger swiftly. Fingers hanging up on triggerguards — especially likely with long fingers and short guards — were why Col. Charles Askins, Jr. cut away the front of the triggerguards on his revolvers (as did J.H. Fitzgerald before him) and why so many such mutilated handguns are on display at the Texas Ranger Museum from days past. It’s why the great Bill Jordan cut a half moon out of the front of the trigger guards of his revolvers.

The tip of the flexed trigger finger — being directly above the triggerguard — allows it to simply slide down and effortlessly find the trigger instantly when the time to shoot does come.

Tactile indexing points for a right-handed shooter would be behind the protruding stud on the slide-stop lever of a 1911 or Browning Hi-Power, the takedown lever niche on a GLOCK, the sideplate screw of an S&W revolver, etc.

Felt index points for flexed trigger fingers in ready position: Fingernail behind stud of slide
stop on Ruger 1911 (left). Fingertip in takedown niche on GLOCK 31 (right).

Don’t Be Disarmed

An attempt to disarm the Good Guy will likely begin with the Bad Guy slapping the weapon off the midline of his own body. If the Good Guy’s trigger finger is extended along the frame, this can drive the gun against the index finger bending it backward, causing a sympathetic release of the other fingers and yielding the gun to the Bad Guy.

You can simply push your own straight index finger over the back of your hand toward your wrist and experience this for yourself. The bent trigger finger we teach greatly strengthens the index finger and reduces the likelihood of this happening.

1911 Addendum

A right-handed shooter’s index finger — when held straight along the frame of the pistol — can press the 1911’s slide stop far enough to the left that the gun will lock up after the first shot. The flexed finger — indexing the fingernail behind the little “takedown button” — prevents this.

Thanks to Tim Smith and Airgun Hobbyist magazine for inspiring this column.

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