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 Okay, I have really started to get intolerant of certain gunzine content, or lack thereof. I have several major gripes about ALL gunzines, and it is because the industry is rife with writers who seem to glom onto the same "standards", terminology, and hackneyed quips. And it seems that these writers and editors have a terrible understanding of the written word and our language. I am starting to believe that the gunzines have become the bastion of opinionated keyboard commandos, who spend much more time talking and writing about guns than they do operating them. That would not be a problem if they were good at writing about guns. But to me it is obvious they cannot shoot well, and do not understand precision handgun shooting.

In this editorial I bring to your attention the way gunzines handle the subject of triggers, sights and accuracy.

It seems the writers like all triggers, because none are too heavy, too light, have too much travel, or have backlash. Take up and over-travel are not discussed, but the majority of writers now mention reset. However, they do not describe the pertinent details of reset because they apparently do not understand what a good reset is.

We all have preferences, but some aspects of what makes a trigger "good" are universal:

  • a light trigger is typically easier to shoot for accuracy
  • a heavy trigger is typically "safer" in regards to ADs
  • less take up and over-travel is typically easier to shoot accurately
  • backlash will decrease accuracy
  • "crunchy" or rough triggers will decrease accuracy

The above are the more basic aspects of trigger pull quality, yet a gunzine writer will review a gun with a long heavy pull and praise it: "weight and length of pull is really not important - quality is, and this trigger is smooth. If the shooter does his part..."

AAAARRRGH! The gun review is worthless! THE POTENTIAL SHOOTER HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH A GUN REVIEW! Yet I read this garbage in every magazine. The potential shooter is a wild card and not subject to review or supposition.

More importantly, the weight and length of pull has just as much to do with trigger quality as smoothness. For example, do you want a long heavy pull for ANY of your guns? I don't! When shooting a rifle or target pistol, I want the trigger to simply break, and all I care about is weight at that point (if the trigger is crisp as it should be).

How about take-up? Over-travel? Release quality? Reset feel? Backlash?

Oooh, backlash. What the heck is that?*

I have never read one single gunzine hack that understood trigger backlash, yet for shooters like me it is an accuracy killer even when everything else is perfect. I honestly think most of these gunzine hacks are not a good enough shooter to realize the vagaries of triggers and trigger manipulation!

*Trigger backlash is an undesirable property resulting from design, and is directly related to trigger release and overtravel. Webster's defines backlash as:

Function: noun

1 a : a sudden violent backward movement or reaction b : the play between adjacent movable parts

So as this relates to shooting a pistol, backlash will move the pistol substantially at ignition. here is how backlash happens:

As you pull the trigger, you are creating dynamic tension that builds up to release. The amount of tension is related to weight of pull. Quality of release is important because the tension energy is going to manifest itself at the moment of release, which in a gun just happens to also be the exact moment it fires!

If the gun has a heavy trigger pull and has substantial over-travel, backlash happens! Backlash is the sudden release of tension, and the now free trigger still having the finger pulling relative to the heavy cocking stroke: the trigger not only slams to a stop at the end of it's travel, the trigger linkage "bounces" and all of that reciprocal movement going on results in inaccuracy. Remember, the bullet is traveling down the barrel during all this movement. Since the movement is erratic, sights, grip and other common remedies cannot overcome the backlash.

But no worries: "gunriters" aren't concerned about accuracy anyway, so trigger pull qualities can be justified.

One writer frequently comments that his carry 1911s have 3.5 pound triggers! He is a competitive shooter, so he likely shoots very well with that light trigger. Being a keyboard commando, he waxes on about his exploits at the range. But at least he understands accuracy to the degree he can shoot well.

Accuracy. Here is the most common quote I see in gunzines regarding accuracy: "the pistol displayed more than adequate accuracy for a self defense piece". What the heck does that mean?! Even if a measurement is given, not enough details are provided to be meaningful. I want the handgun to be as accurate as possible, not "adequate" enough to hit a human torso at seven feet.

A ransom rest is a good indicator of intrinsic accuracy. Given that the operator of the pistol is skilled, off-hand shooting can be even more enlightening. Yet every article that provides shooting data will include information that renders the recorded shot groups irrelevant in my opinion. One writer claims that the best three of five shots in each group indicates the potential accuracy of the pistol! Others will claim a called flier that ruined an otherwise perfect group... did he run out of ammo? For criminy sakes! If I write for a nationally distributed gun magazine and have a called flier, I am re-shooting the group! Why would I publish my failure?

It will never happen, but wouldn't it be nice if accuracy for pistols was held to a common standard such as we see in rifles?

The last thing I will complain about is gunzine reporting on pistol sights. There are several writers who demonstrate good knowledge regarding sights.

Everything on a gun can be perfect, but if the sights do not work well for the shooter, the combination will not be accurate. Yet repeatedly gunzines rave about pistols that have horrible sights. While eyes are different and therefore sights are not going to be universal in appeal, a basic problem with modern pistols is the lack of light in the sight picture. The rear sight notch should be wide and deep. The ideal front sight width will vary somewhat with the shooter's vision, but in all cases he should see enough space around the front sight to easily center it in the rear notch. This basic tenet of marksmanship is lost on most keyboard commandos, and it shows in their praise of guns with cool go-fast "tactical" sights that amount to nothing more than express sights. A $1000+ pistol should shoot tight groups!

I must be getting old, because I have enjoyed gunzines for many years and been able to overlook the baloney. Gunzines are "edutainment", and it should not be a big deal. But I see a whole generation of shooters who think Clint Smith is the ultimate gun guru.

Bill Jordan has to be in Heaven, looking down and shaking his head, either in mild amusement or disbelief. We have some of the best guns and gun technology ever available... and some of the worst shooters I have ever seen. Much of the blame lies with the gunzines that now operate as nothing more than a marketing arm of the gun industry. Worse yet, the gunzines have become an outlet for boobs to feed their colossal egos rather than inform the shooter.

Okay, I feel better now. (26 June 07)


author with S&W's Julie Goloski

Uploaded: 6/26/2007