As I was born in the not-very-rural oceanside town of Corona Del Mar, I know less about milking cows than I do about birthing llamas. But I’m pretty sure that effective cow milking involves squeezing the udders with various degrees of pressure to get whole milk, butter, and cottage cheese direct from the factory, so to speak. I have no idea how to get chocolate out of there. If I ever tried to milk Ol’ Bessie, she’d have the 4-H Club protective services tactical squad battering down my barn door in no time.

Since the motion of milking a cow apparently involves squeezing some part of the bovine anatomy with your fingers, it’s not a far leap to figure out where the terms “milking the trigger” or “milking the gun” come from. In short, it simply means that your grip fingers are also contracting as your trigger finger contracts to press the trigger.

This sounds simple, but it’s really part of a much broader concept. The human body is full of sympathetic responses. Perhaps you’ve heard stories about people inadvertently firing their gun while doing something with their non-gun hand? When you grab or squeeze something with one hand, especially while under stress, your opposite hand naturally wants to mimic that movement. This is a real problem for police officers as they’re often corralling someone with one hand while holding a gun in the other.

In the case of milking, when you contract your trigger finger, the other fingers on the same hand want to contract, too. Try holding your hand in front of you in a natural resting position and curling your trigger finger in as if you were pressing a trigger. Odds are you’ll see movement in your middle finger, and decreasing degrees of movement in your ring and little fingers.

If this happens as you are firing a gun, the contraction of your grip-hand fingers will tend to move the gun muzzle in the direction of your palm and down. So, if you’re right-handed, the motion moves the gun down and to the left.

Stopping the leak

You know what they say, right? Admitting you have a problem is the first step toward recovery. It’s the same here. Sometimes, just the awareness that you are doing it is enough to help you develop better independent control of your trigger finger.

Another method advocated by lawman, competitive shooter, and instructor Massad Ayoob is what he calls the “crush” grip. While I don’t want to put words in his mouth, Ayoob’s focus is in self-defense and combat shooting, where adrenaline runs high, and the concern is getting accurate hits on target while under incredible stress. I suspect he would agree that his “crush” technique may not be ideal for leisurely bull’s-eye shooting, but it is an excellent solution for self-defense shooting.

Here’s the basic idea of how it works. Squeeze the living dickens out of your handgun until it starts to tremble. Got that? Good. You’re all set. The act of compressing your grip fingers as far as they will go essentially prevents them from contracting in sympathetic response as you draw your trigger finger backward. If the gun wobbles a bit from the strain, it’s no big deal as your accuracy will still be well within the limits of minute-of-bad-guy vital zones.

According to Ayoob, the technique has other defensive benefits, too. Your gun is your life in a defensive encounter, and if someone tries to grab it, you’ve already got a very firm hold of it. You can read his work directly to get deeper into the topic, but that’s the basic idea.

As with any technique, you’ve still got to experiment on your own. Want to try the crush grip? Go for it! Try a little more and a little less “crush” to find that works best for you. If the crush technique isn’t helping you, try reverting to the “hammer grip strength” technique and focusing on independent trigger finger movement.

Any deliberate effort to remove milking symptoms is best addressed with lots and lots of dry fire practice. Rather than discuss dry fire practice here, I’ll point you to this article on “going through the motions.

I’m a big fan of lasers, and one of the reasons I like them is that they are a great training aid. Seeing minute movements of your front sight during dry fire is possible, but difficult. Seeing the impact of slight gun movement by watching a laser dot dance on the opposite side of the room is enlightening. Pick a safe backdrop target 20 or 30 feet away and turn on your laser while you dry fire. If you can keep that laser dot within a two-inch circle, you’re doing great.

There are a number of other reasons that your shots may not be impacting where you want, so milking is just one possibility. Misses could be the result of recoil anticipation or simply a jerky movement of your trigger-press motion. But if your shots are grouping off to the side, try the laser dry-fire technique or have a buddy watch your shooting for signs of milking.

Tom McHale is the author of the Insanely Practical Guides book series that guides new and experienced shooters alike in a fun, approachable, and practical way. His books are available in print and eBook format on Amazon.

Featured image by Tom McHale

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63 thoughts on “Shooters: Are You Milking the Trigger?

  1. Should be retitled “Milking the Pistol”.
    Many of the finest shooters talk about the technique of milking the trigger, but they never talk about milking the entire weapon.
    Properly stated, milking the trigger is a reference to not jerking or hammering the trigger when the decision to fire the weapon is made.
    Milking the trigger is a reference to just using one’s trigger finger to fire!

    As for the crush grip, it works very well for certain situations, but still can involve milking the trigger and just the trigger to make the shot!
    Read Ed McGivern’s book.

  2. the problem with the crush grip is that many of the tupperware guns can get bent out of shape with too tight of a squeeze on the grip, which prevents the mag from performing properly.

    1. They don’t mean “crush” in a literal sense, & if you have a firearm than can be bent & distorted by hand pressure, how well is it gonna hold up to the extreme pressures (25,000+ psi) of firing? I know of a Glock that fell from 15,000 feet into the sand in Iraq. It was recovered undamaged, with all 17 rounds still in it, & after the barrel was cleared, it shot just fine.
      If you have a gun than can be warped by hand pressure, the only thing you should use it for is a paper weight.

    2. While you might be able to find a polymer firearm which this could happen with, I will state the term simply is absolutely not true!
      If it is really many give us a list!
      If you know a person that actually has enough grip strength to cause this, give us a Youtube video of it happening.
      I do not buy your claim, period.

      1. That is ok, gs. My wife doesn’t agree with me on everything and we’ve been married 41 years. I can deal with ~your~ disbelief pretty well.

      2. In other words, you have no actual proof, just you saying so.
        Guess what, just saying something does not make it so!
        What I have noticed is people that are making noise to hear themselves talk, never have the data to back up what they are saying!!
        Just like this case, look around the net, if there was any truth to this, there would be plenty of evidence to support it.
        Just because you do not like polymer firearms is no reason to spread false information, claiming it is true.
        The P-32 has a very good reputation for reliability and I have not been able to find any information to support your claim.
        So put up some reliable information or go back to fooling your wife.

      3. There are currently three P-32s carried by me and my immediate family. Two of them have serial numbers going back to the low 6000s. You must have confused me with another poster who might have posted they don’t like polymer guns.

        And of course it is me “saying so” My name is on the post.

      4. So you just like to troll the net and when confronted on a claim you cannot back up, you just change your position.
        Of do you like to carry a firearm you claim will misfire if you grip it too strongly?

      5. You make a claim that polymer guns are prone to misfire from a “crush grip”. I have it straight!

        “the problem with the crush grip is that many of the tupperware guns can
        get bent out of shape with too tight of a squeeze on the grip, which
        prevents the mag from performing properly.”

        Looks like your quote reflects either a complete lack of truth or your lack of proof does.

        If this was a real problem then Keltec would take the firearm back and fix or replace it. Not to mention it would be easy to find on the reviews or forums. Seems that neither are the case!
        You just are trying to make something out of nothing!!

      6. You still have not posted any proof of your false claims either!
        If you had read the post you would have noticed I spent more time talking about Hi-Point firearms.

      7. You have not one shred of proof, but make strong false statements about the poly guns.
        Face it, you made a major exaggeration and just are not man enough to admit it.

      8. A false statement is one without any way of proving or supporting.
        Where are your legion of supporters?
        Why are there no supporting YouTube videos?
        Why don’t you make a YouTube video showing how this happens?
        Don’t you think that would be a good idea?
        I am more than willing to watch a video showing how by gripping this pistol too strongly, you can cause it to misfire.

      9. “A false statement is one without any way of proving or supporting.”

        Really? I think we have discovered your problem — a lack of critical thinking skills. So if in 350 BC a philosopher had noted that the world was round like an orange it would have been a “false statement”? If in AD 1000 a person had stated that itty bitty creatures too small to be seen by the eye helped cause small pox that would have been a “false statement”?

      10. You make a false statement about polymer framed firearms, one with no support anywhere, yet you keep telling me to prove a point that you keep making!
        Put up or shut up, prove any of the poly firearms have problems with failure to fire because of your stupendously strong grip!
        When a person cast stones at poly firearms by stating too strong a grip will cause misfires, it is casting doubt on the reliability of poly firearms because they are not strong enough.
        Face it, you were blowing out your anus and do not like the fact that you are being called on it. You posted a lie, pure and simple!!

      11. and just WHERE did I tell you ” to prove a point that you keep making”? I think you are again confusing me with another poster. If you think I really did that then please give a cite to a post of mine. Be specific. Give detail.

        And as noted several times before, I didn’t “cast stones at poly firearms”. I spoke about some guns in some calibers… I have no obligation to do anything at your command.

      12. The simple fact is you do cast stones, by stating many small caliber poly

        pistols can be forced to misfire by using a crush grip on them. Then it was just your own P32s. I say that is casting stones, and it is easy to prove what you are saying by posting a video demonstrating the problem.

        You refuse, ergo you have something to hide, because you either are flat our lying or have no idea what you are talking about. Clear enough for you???

      13. Post a video of you having the problem you claim to have with P32s. Otherwise admit you are a liar about the entire claim.
        A false claim is one that cannot be proven or backed up! It does not take a genius to understand this, but it does take a bit of integrity and intelligence to understand this! Something which you appear to have neither!
        All you do is to attempt to keep changing the focus away from your original unfounded claim of problems with poly guns when using too strong a grip. Back the claim or admit you have no idea what you are talking about.

      14. I backed with my word. That is sufficient enough for me. You can choose to believe differently if you wish. It’s jake with me.

        But I still want to know just WHERE did I tell you ” to prove a point that you keep making”?

        You claimed I posted that. But you can’t back it up, can you. A false claim is one that cannot be proven or backed up! It does not take a genius to understand this, but it does take a bit of integrity and intelligence to understand this! Something which you appear to have neither!

      15. As you have with every answer, you just keep putting working at obfuscating the issue!
        You claim several poly firearms will misfire if gripped to tightly. Then it is only small caliber ones, then it is P32s. All lies, all responses an attempt to refocus the discussion when you are called on the lie!
        Make a YouTube, back up your false claim!!!

      16. No you do not, but it is an offer to show you are not lying about the P32, isn’t it?
        The sad part is just how much you show your total ignorance of firearms, your really poor attitude toward your wife and how much you hate being called on the carpet for something that is false and you have no proof of!
        Only a true looser post outright lies and then keeps crying about what he does not have to do, and how much you need to talk about something else instead!
        Your choice.

      17. As always, you just keep changing the subject, and obfuscating the fact that you have made a false claim and are afraid to back it up!
        Show any proof that P32s are prone to the kind of failure you claim!!

      18. errr…. YOU were the one who brought up my knowledge and my wife in your last post. Have you forgotten so soon? Scroll back is available, you know.

      19. You are a liar about your fictional problems with poly guns/P32, and obviously a person with no idea of how to truthfully address the statements you falsely made about them.
        You only idea of how to respond to anything is to talk about what is not the subject at hand.
        Post a video of how you have problems with P32s or shut up with your total lack of knowledge about the issue. You are just mad because your were caught in your lie!!

      20. Much better than you can do with your false claim though.
        Everything I have written is provable, on point and at no time do I refuse to answer any questions about poly firearms, P32s or small caliber guns.
        You on the other hand have only refocused on anything and everything in an attempt to not support your false claim, flat out lie, about P32s and small caliber poly firearms!
        So yes, much better than your delude travels with fiction! 🙂

      21. Jack you are such a jackass, you must be a liberal, as only a lib would continue to push false narratives the way you do. The only other choice is you are just that stupid!
        You have lied about poly firearms.
        You make no effort to stay on point at any time.
        You are an obvious troll.
        You keep proving you have no desire to show any proof of your false claims, just idiotic statements that have nothing to do with your false statements about; poly guns, small caliber guns, many guns, P32s, take your pick, it kept changing over time.
        You only go back to the same lame statements, which have nothing to do with your totally false claim about poly pistols!
        Show some proof, make a video and prove your point or shut up with the lame obfuscation.
        The only thing “odd” is your way of supporting a false narrative!

      22. Again, YOU are the one who brought up such a stupid definition of “false”. Now you won’t even stand by your own words, eh.

        I shared mine and others experiences with some small caliber handguns. You can choose to believe it or not. It’s jake with me either way.

      23. Jack, now it is “others experiences”, bull!
        You have no proof.
        You offer no proof.
        You should either put up or shut up!
        Only a person that is afraid will not put up proof for all to see!!

    3. I have brutalized my slippery damned Glock 17 with a strong walnut cracking grip for 20 years.

      Maybe not all plastic pistols are created equal?

      1. Better than your totally lame statements about poly frame firearms!
        You are that dense about pistols as you make unfounded statements about poly guns and then do everything you can to shift the focus from your false statement!

      2. again, you consistently confuse me with perhaps another poster. I have never shifted focus on this thread. However, YOU are the one who keeps making false claims about what I have supposedly posted.

      3. No, you are the one that claimed poly guns have a tendency for problems from too strong a grip, I even put your own words in quotes for you. Guess you have a hard time reading.

      4. so where is the “shift in focus”? I made a statement and I stand behind it, no matter how much you want to change it. I did not say “poly guns have a tendency for problems from too strong a grip” I said some ones of smaller caliber do. Quite a difference, eh.

      5. Not at all and you offer absolutely nothing to back it up.
        Think about how stupid a statement you are making, with a two finger grip, all one can actually get on a small frame firearm, you want people to believe you are distorting the frame to the point of causing a magazine problem which causes a misfire. Not a chance!

      6. Shift of focus! I quote, “A false statement is one without any way of proving or supporting.”Really?
        I think we have discovered your problem — a lack of critical thinking
        skills. So if in 350 BC a philosopher had noted that the world was round
        like an orange it would have been a “false statement”? etc…”
        Also idiotic comparison, as it is very easy to make a video and post it to YouTube, something very different than the very lame excuse you are posting!

      7. Obfuscation is a common tactic by a person caught in a lie. You keep attempting to refocus the discussion after you made a false claim about poly firearms. Post a video demonstrating the problem, prove it to us all.

      8. sorry, kid, but I don’t have to “prove” it to you or anyone. And YOU were the one who came up with the idiotic definition of a “false statement”? Are you too ashamed to now confirm what you already posted?

      9. Jack seems to think that magically the “smaller caliber” firearms are made from a different kind of polymer or something, making them prone to misfire from his enormous grip. LOL
        Any one that has spent time with various poly or steel firearms knows this is not the case!
        I think Jack just like to hear himself talk!

      10. I think he might be talking about some of the subcompact polymer guns that Keltec, Taurus, Walther, etc make. The side walls in their grips seem quite thin and the magazine bodies somewhat flexible.

        My idea of a subcompact polymer pistol is a Glock 26 so no such problems have reared their ugly head in my polymer pistol experiences.

      11. While I appreciate you attempt at helping the fool, he is just someone that likes to talk without any knowledge!
        My suspicion is he has less problem with using a “crush grip” and more likely a limp wrist with the firearm.
        I have not seen any of these firearms have any problem with someone causing a malfunction by using too strong a grip.
        If this was any kind of real problem, it would be all over the forums.
        Heck the ugliest pistol made, at least to me it is, the Hi-Point, is remarkably reliable any more. It is a zinc wonder and yet they stepped up, fixed their early issues and while it is still an ugly, clunky firearm, it goes bang all the time now.
        It is easy to find out that it was a problem child at one time and now has one of the best warranties in the business and is a very reliable firearm.
        It would be no different if any of the poly guns had a problem like he claims.
        I have yet to shoot any of the newer Kel-tecs that were less than reliable. The PF9 is about as small as you can get with a 9 mm and it always goes bang!!

  3. Use your support hand to do most of the gripping. That leaves the gun hand “looser” which allows better control over just the trigger finger.

    1. Ideally, yes but if you carry a pistol to defend yourself with then you should practice shooting one handed with both your weak and strong hand and not wipe your hands dry if practicing on a hot day so you are used to gripping it and using it well regardless of your state of readiness when the “moment of truth” comes.

  4. Once you have a proper firm grip, the focus should be on the front sight and your trigger press. Your eye is on the sight and your mental concentration is on the trigger finger. If done properly the ” milking” issue will not be a concern. Basic pistol 101. I use a video camera on my students and myself to watch for and help correct these problems.

    1. Video cameras reveal all manner of problems, wonderful items to use in training!
      I agree, the “milking” issue is more of a made up one for people with poor training than anything else.

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