Trigger Weight Surprises

Recently I mentioned that I had the trigger weight on my IZH-46M air pistol cranked up to the maximum. I did this to practice with a heavy trigger.

Today, I decided to measure it. And while I was at it, I weighed triggers on my other guns as well.

But before weighing triggers, I thought it might be a good idea to calibrate the trigger pull scale itself. It’s just a simple spring and indicator, after all. How accurate could that be?

For the calibration, I made up some home-made samples of known weight. They are plastic baggies with different quantities of 200 grain LSWC bullets. The bullets were, in turn, spot-sampled on an RCBS Digital Powder Scale that I use when reloading. According to that scale, the bullets were within 0.1% of their 200 grain weight.

I reasoned that if the two scales came within a few percentage points of each other, I could accept their answer.

So, I counted out 35 of them (35 x 200 grains = 7000 grains = 1 pound). I did that four times to check the trigger pull gauge at 1, 2 and 4 pounds to more or less span the trigger weights I expected to find. I then weighted each calibration weight six times to make sure my “pick up the bags” technique was consistent.

Here’s what I got.

Calibration Weight Trial #1 Trial #2 Trial #3 Trial #4 Trial #5 Trial #6 Avg Error
35-200 gr LSWCs (1.000 pound) 1.125 1.125 1.000 1.000 1.000 1.125 1.063 1/16th lb. heavy
70-200 gr LSWCs (2.000 pounds) 2.125 2.125 2.125 2.125 2.125 2.125 2.125 1/8th lb. heavy
140-200 gr LSWCs (4.000 pounds) 4.250 4.250 4.250 4.250 4.250 4.250 4.250 1/4th lb. heavy

Basically the RCBS Trigger Pull Scale is off by 6.5% and is always higher than reality. (I wish RCBS made a bathroom scale like this – knowing it is 6.5% heavy, I could back 10+ pounds off what such a scale would say I weigh.)

That isn’t bad. Not bad at all. For just a “simple spring with an indicator”, you might even say that’s pretty darn good.

So with the trigger pull scale calibrated, I was ready to measure the triggers on my guns.

And, Voila! Here they are.

Trigger Feel Trial #1 Trial #2 Trial #3 Trial #4 Trial #5 Trial #6 Avg
IZH-46M Air Pistol Springy 4.750 4.875 4.625 5.375 4.375 5.000 4.833
Crosman 2300S Air Pistol Long roll 3.250 3.000 2.875 2.750 3.125 3.000 3.000
S&W 41 (Main 22) Crisp 1.750 1.750 1.875 1.500 1.875 1.750 1.750
Ruger Mk III (Backup 22) Medium roll 2.250 2.250 2.125 2.625 2.250 2.750 2.375
1911 #1 (Wad gun) Crisp 4.625 4.875 4.750 4.500 4.625 4.750 4.688
1911 #2 (Ball gun) Crisp 5.000 5.250 5.000 5.125 4.875 4.625 4.979
S&W 36 (Snubby) SA: Short roll 3.000 3.000 3.250 3.000 3.000 3.125 3.063
S&W 36 (Snubby) DA > 8.000 > 8.000 > 8.000 > 8.000 > 8.000 > 8.000 > 8.000

The trigger weight on the IZH-46M was, as expected and as desired, high at nearly five (5) pounds.

I set it that way to help my ball gun shooting but, now that I look at the numbers, I’m surprised.

You see, and to be completely frank, I find the IZH-46M substantially easier to shoot even though its trigger and that of the ball gun are almost the same.

Part of the reason must be the feel of the two triggers. The air gun’s trigger is “springy” and as I add pressure, it moves. I like that. On the other hand, the ball gun’s trigger is “crisp”: As I add pressure, nothing happens until, suddenly, it breaks. And I don’t like that. Indeed, on days when it seems harder than usual to break a shot, I find myself wondering if the safety is still on, or maybe the hammer isn’t cocked, or any of a number of other worries creep in. And with that, my head is no longer in my shot plan.

When that happens, I need to put the gun down and get back into the plan.

So that small difference in feel makes a huge difference in how difficult or easy I think the two triggers are to operate. A smooth release of the air pistol’s trigger is easier to do than that crisp break on the ball gun.

Of course, anticipation of the size of the bang and recoil of one versus the other is also a significant factor. Although those aren’t supposed to affect how I release the shot, my gut tells me this is also happening. I know the ball gun has a big bang and throws a big recoil and, psychologically, that’s also making it harder to get off a clean shot from the ball gun.

I then weighed the triggers on my 22s and you can see that the S&W 41’s trigger is underweight. It should be a minimum of two and a half (2.5) pounds. The check weights showed the RCBS trigger pull scale to be on the heavy side so the S&W 41’s trigger is even lighter than these numbers indicate.

The Ruger Mk III 22 has Volquardsen parts and shoots with a medium roll. As you can probably anticipate from what I wrote above, I absolutely love the trigger on this gun. (Indeed, the Crosman 2300S has an even longer roll – about a mile and a half by my estimation – thanks to some minor gunsmithing on my part and a sheet of 2000 grit sandpaper from the auto refinishing store.) Unfortunately, at 2.375 pounds, that trigger is under the 2.5 pound minimum.

My biggest surprise, however, was the wad gun’s trigger. It averaged out at slightly over 4.5 pounds. The rulebook says it can be as light as 3.5 pounds. And a couple of years ago, that’s where it was. Somehow between then and now, that trigger has increased almost 50% in weight. That’s a lot.

And the ball gun’s trigger at 5 pounds is also high.

To complete the suite, I decided to measure my “pocket buddy” too, my S&W 36 snubby that rides around in an Uncle Mike’s Sidekick and rarely sees the light of day. In single action, it is a very clean and highly repeatable 3 pound break. In fact, after going through and testing all my guns in a relatively short period of time, I’d have to say it probably has the best trigger of all my guns. Nice work, Smith & Wesson. (And not surprisingly, the double action trigger weight was higher than the 8 pound limit on the RCBS trigger pull scale so I couldn’t weigh the trigger in that mode.)

In summary then, four of my guns need attention. The 41 and the Mk III are below weight while the wad and the ball gun are both much too high.

As I recall, the 41’s adjustment is fairly easy to change. There’s a lever somewhere that needs to be moved. I’ll pull out the book or check online to see if that’s something I can do.

But the two 1911s and the Ruger need an expert gunsmith. And given that I really like roll triggers, I need to find a gunsmith who can do that on the 1911s, and the longer the roll the better. From previous checking I know that’s not your run-of-the-mill trigger job.

And with the Bullseye championships taking place next week at Camp Perry in Ohio, most of them will be there having fun, not sitting at home wishing he were there.

But since I can’t be there, then I’ll wish all of you lots of Xs and tons of 10s!

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