Trigger Finger Placement: Tip, Pad, or Power Crease?

Editor’s note: An age-old question: When it comes to shooting, where exactly do you put your finger on the trigger?  Do you use the tip, the pad or the power crease to pull the trigger?  

Have no fear, Clay is here to give you the lowdown.

As it pertains to almost all shooting technique and philosophy, different people have different opinions.  So, if you disagree with Clay’s approach, you can politely tell him why and share your opinion in the comment section below.  

About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website,

{ 30 comments… add one }
  • Tim July 11, 2018, 10:20 am

    Nicely said. Whatever’s comfortable. It depends on pistol size, hand size, etc. etc. Just make sure you’re comfortable and hitting your target.

  • Mike38 June 9, 2018, 12:33 pm

    Good advise. I recently switched from “center of pad” to “power crease”. My scores in competition jumped 20+ points instantly. There is no etched in stone rule for trigger finger placement. Try them all and use what works for you. 11 time National Bullseye champion Brian Zins uses the “power crease”. Proof the “center of pad” is not mandatory.

    • Mike38 June 9, 2018, 12:42 pm

      And I should add, Bullseye Pistol is shot at 25 and 50 yards, one handed, with a X-ring of 1.7 inches in diameter. So the earlier comments about being so close to the target don’t really change things. Try different trigger finger placements and use what’s best for you.

  • Jim May 6, 2018, 7:35 pm

    You should do this video again without using the word “retarded.” Other than that you had great points.

  • Greg October 17, 2017, 7:02 pm

    It depends on hand size also. If you have small hands and are shooting a full size Glock, your finger placement will effect your shot placement on target. Clay is wrong. Everyone has different hand size and all guns are made with a different size grip. Sure the gun will fire regardless of what part of your finger is used, but shot placement will be effected. Of all people I wish Clay would acknowledge that. I enjoy his videos.

    • Tim July 11, 2018, 10:23 am

      It will “affect” your shot placement.

  • Bill December 17, 2016, 11:58 am

    You talk’n target shootin or defensive shootin? Defensive shootin is not done at 25 yards. In a defensive situation, if your bad guy is 25 yards away…RUN YOU FOOL. As to finger placement argument, so what! Choose any finger, pad, or crease. BULLET PLACEMENT is the only thing that counts.

    • Bruce Dilgard November 4, 2017, 7:59 pm

      Bill…you got this double-tapped! Your advise and logic is the most sound. As hard as it is to hit anything moving with a hand gun, especially by an untrained shooter, one’s best defense (at 25 yards) is a 50 yard zig-zagging dash away from the bad guy; macho be damned! Put some trees and/or bushes between you and him if you can. And, as you state, bullet placement trumps finger placement any day. Practice shooting skills often enough that you don’t have to think about finger placement. By the time you actually need shooting accuracy, you’d better not have to think “mechanics” of the process. The muscle memory of an often-practiced good guy (that’s you) should get you through. Unless you’re really fat, always stand sideways; make as small a target as possible. Well said, my friend!

  • AsgardBeast December 16, 2016, 7:03 pm

    Another video providing proof to what I’ve been saying for YEARS. YOUR way isn’t the ONLY way. I do not agree that there is a “right” way or a “wrong” way to use a firearm. There is simply what works and what doesn’t. And that variable will be different with EVERY shooter. Unless your intention is “marksman” or “sport” shooting where “survival” is NOT the primary objective, I will agree that most training is simply “basic” firearms training. But even “basic” firearms training can be summarized into what “works” and what “doesn’t” for EACH INDIVIDUAL. Proper control of the firearm (SAFETY) is ALWAYS more important than “finger placement”. If you are moving the firearm around while your pulling the trigger, accuracy will be effected. It isn’t so much WHERE you place your finger on the trigger as it is the WAY it effects your ability to CONTROL the firearm during a shot. I’ve discovered that the best way to use a firearm is whatever is most comfortable for YOU. But unfortunately there are far too many “Professionals” that think they have all the answers, and only THEIR way is the “RIGHT” way to do things. The only RIGHT way is the SAFE, and COMFORTABLE way. SAFETY can be taught, but COMFORT must be identified, and developed. Then only EXPERIENCE can improve your skills. So by all means get lots of advice and training from other people, but then figure out what works BEST for YOU, and PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. The only RULES to remember are SAFETY.

  • allen December 16, 2016, 6:11 pm

    I have been shooting guns since I was too young to remember when I started. Like so many other things, after I got married and had children the opportunities to shoot and hunt went almost completely away. But, I practiced some and got my CCL in Texas and scored a perfect 250 with a full size Glock 9mm. I did not shoot that pistol again for four years and when I renewed my license, I scored only a 235. My bad – on many levels. Several years later I let my CCL expire for so long that I had to re-apply, take the classroom and proficiency tests again. One reason for my failings is that I found the big Glock very inconvenient to carry. So, with plans of renewing my CCL I purchase a little compact P238 Sig .380. A delight to carry. And I practiced by shooting about 100 rounds through it and then took my test. My groupings were good but an inch or so left of the bullseye. About halfway through the shooting test, my instructor suggested I quit using the tip of my finger and instead use the crease. I was pushing the gun to the left by using the tip of my finger, he thought. It made a difference – my groupings then settled all around and on the bullseye. Well, at that last long distance round of shots, I pulled a couple of wild ones outside the best score lines and ended up with a 248 out of 250. My instructor said, “That’s pretty good for a little mouse gun!” He had teased me about it as soon as he saw it. But, bottom line is, changing the position of my trigger finger changed the outcome. It may be that the bigger the gun frame, the less finger should be placed through the trigger guard. If that is not true, could it still be true that the smaller the pistol frame, the more finger should go through the trigger guard? Everybody is different – same gun with different length and girth of fingers may require different finger placement by different people on the same gun. My 14 year old daughter may do just fine with the tip of her finger on the trigger of the P238. We are not looking for a “Theory of Everything” here as they search for in physics. Everyone should just try it different ways and see what works. The important thing is, articles like this make bring it to peoples’ attention. Something I had never considered in a lifetime of shooting. That’s the value of stories and videos like this.

  • Maresleg December 16, 2016, 2:55 pm

    Carter got it right. Single action only, double action only and DA/SA may all require a different finger placement on the trigger from one shooter. As long as the sight is on target and your trigger pull does not move the gun off target all is well. Merry Christmas all!

  • BT December 16, 2016, 12:18 pm

    When you’re built like Clay, have shot as much as Clay and your target is close enough to hit with a rock any fingering will do. As with several other excellent comments made here by others that focus on the top three #1, Consistency #2, A lot depends on SA vs. DA and #3, a combination of experience through practice: However only after we acknowledge that most people are shooting novests, and as a fact even the most experienced find themselves forgetting one or more important things when faced with a life threatening situation, Just imagine how little ‘finger placement’ will com into play for that 90-pound female that has only shot her SA/DA pocket .380 for less than a box of ammo. OH! That assumes that its not locked up for safety, or that it has the safety on, or that it has a round in the chamber, or it was left in the car because because of the threat of getting caught with one. Dead is Dead for all in the wrong place at the wrong time unprepared during a critical threat situation.
    GO SEARCH “NWFA PISTOL FLINCH CAUSE & EFFECT DATA” involving thousands from High-school age to Seniors, and special agencies training around the world. LINK:

  • Gregory Gadberry December 16, 2016, 10:22 am

    Move it back 25 yards or more and see what happens.

    • Bill December 17, 2016, 11:38 am

      Did that with the same type Glock he used. At 25 yards I scored 239 of 250. (64 above CHL qualification )
      It is bullet placement not finger placement !

  • KimberproSS December 16, 2016, 10:06 am

    Use the pad of your finger. You get a straight pull, no torquing as with the crease of the knuckle and you can feel the trigger more accurately. (In my opinion) Do it the same with all your firearms unless it is really physically impossible and practice, practice, practice to be good.

  • carter December 16, 2016, 9:11 am

    It took me longer than it should have to learn this. i once tried to make one finger placement work for every gun. when i stopped doing that, my accuract improved on every gun. I use first digit pad on glocks, most DA/SA double stack handguns, and AK’s. i use just the tip on AR’s and 1911’s. I use the “power crease” on DA revolvers and M&P’s, and i use the second pad (after the first knuckle) for little pocket pistols like kahr, lcp, tcp, etc.

    • Juan Martinez December 23, 2016, 9:06 pm

      I agree with Carter – and a number of others for that matter. But I’d like to add a point, that a proficient shooter should instinctively know what kind of trigger they are pulling and use their intuition to squeeze it straight back.
      I know the ghastly long pull on my wife’s Ruger LC9 requires I start inside the knuckle, and I will go through the pad and eventually the tip before it goes ‘bang’! But if I shoot my P938 with a somewhat stiff single action I know using the tip can cause me to push left so I use the pad. My 1911, Sako A7, and P220 SAO have no problems with a finger tip control.
      But the real point I’m trying to make is – I INSTINCTIVELY KNOW what I’ve got in my hands – by tactile feel and memorization. And I use the part of the finger that I know will keep the point of aim where it needs to stay. For me to be proficient my finger placement needs to change based on what I’m shooting. But it just happens without thinking about it.

  • Ken December 16, 2016, 8:52 am

    The Big name in training is pushing that myth about finger placement in their NEW on line basic pistol course.
    It does nothing but give the shooter one more step to distract him or her from concentrating on the things that really matter like sight picture and trigger stroke.
    This guy in my opinion is RIGHT.
    Where your finger falls on the trigger will be naturally selected by the size of your gun and the size of your hand..
    I think this man is correct in his assumption as far as trigger placement is concerned.
    Lighten up! Worry about the Russians hacking Billery.

    • DEANBOB December 16, 2016, 12:34 pm

      Since a British magazine writer said he was handed the (hacked?) emails, ….

  • Josh December 16, 2016, 8:25 am

    I have to say I’m pretty disappointed but not shocked that this even made it to my email. I’ve found GunsAmerica to have less than legitimate videos at times. So Clay, you want to tell me that the United States Army is training their soldiers poor marksmanship techniques and are over analyzing their techniques?! I’ve taught many infantryman how to shoot, and you started off your video on the right foot- Basic fundamentals are everything. Consistency in those basic fundamentals is what makes consistent shot placement, period. But seriously? You could have just said that- it really doesn’t matter what you do as long as you are consistent. Might not be ideal or the most efficient way to do things but yeah, be consistent and you’ll eventually get there. You have essentially made a video that says just pull the trigger and nothing else matters. Thank You for confirming my suspicion that anything GunsAmerica posts is to be heavily scrutinized…

  • Tripwire December 16, 2016, 8:19 am

    I can’t believe how many people make stupid comments when it comes to shooting guns, or driving cars or schmoozing hot chicks, there’s always somebody who gets butt hurt over something.
    Clay simply showed in a simple way that what he said was right, you can go out an prove him wrong if your panties are in such a wad over this,
    Here’s what I know, I have big hands and long fingers, to hold my handguns properly and use the tip of my finger requires a completely wrong hold “FOR ME”! YMMV, hold you weapon the way you want, all he was saying is that it really don’t matter that much, if you’re drawing and firing as fast as you can in a real situation I assure you that you will not be worrying about how far your finger is in the trigger guard.
    If you are on sand bags doing load development sure take your time, do what it takes to get the most out of the gun and the load but in a real life situation don’t over think it, it might get you killed.

  • Jay December 16, 2016, 8:07 am

    I think most will agree that exact finger placement is determined by how well your hand fits any particular firearm. There are many shapes and sizes for a reason. Buy one that fits your hand well and allow you to comfortably manipulate the trigger for proper aim in an instant! Which by the way means Practice. Like others I have several different carry options for differing situations and each has it’s own feel and if you don’t Practice with that particular firearm you might get yourself hurt of dead!

  • Patrick December 16, 2016, 7:53 am

    Not sure why so much negativity about this video. What I heard was , get comfortable with shooting and the exact trigger finger placement is not critical. As far as shooting at distance, it is annoying to me to hear people talk about practicing at 25 yards. For hunting that makes sense but for self defense it’s all about 7 yards or less, 90% of firefights are inside 7 yards. Think about it, if you are in a firefight at 25 yards you are more than likely in an offensive position.

    So my position is, get great at 7 yards or less then worry about ranges that compromise your legal stance of self defense.

  • Dave December 16, 2016, 7:38 am

    Why is everyone always so hard on this dude. When I watch videos like this, if I am able to take something away from it, great, if not, oh well. Never thought to rip the messenger to pieces because I disagree or have a technique that’s different. In my mind, if this guy provides feedback that helps one person, he’s doing a great job. If he inspires someone to think about what they’re doing and train more, even better. Sounds like many of you watch his videos looking for shit to disagree with. Why don’t you stop watching??? Better for you, and better for those of us that are tired of reading your complaints on why Clay isn’t doing things the way you do them.

    • Smitty December 17, 2016, 2:32 pm

      Way to go Dave! This is why I don’t like to socialize at the range. I just go there to shoot. I watch Clay’s videos because he takes an open approach and is entertaining. If he says something that makes my head tilt, I process it, take what I want, discard the rest and move on. Keep on keepin’ on Clay.

  • M. Atkinson December 16, 2016, 5:28 am

    I guess every idiot who puts out a video on YouTube thinks he’s an effing expert.
    Critical thinking and commonsense trump this video.

    • Robert December 16, 2016, 8:32 am

      “commonsense trump this video”


      Ins’t that what he demonstrated?

      If your finger presses the trigger the gun will fire where you point it?

    • Smitty December 17, 2016, 2:33 pm

      Where did you say yours was?

  • Dixie Jones December 10, 2016, 9:27 am

    Having seen a few of Clay’s other videos on non firearm things that could also injure you, I pretty much discount anything he might have to say on anything.
    If you have a firearm, go to the range and practice with it, stay home, make sure your weapon is unloaded, and practice drawing, aiming, cocking and de-cocking. The practice is what makes for accuracy and safety. Taking a class with a certified instructor will always be a win.
    Watching videos like this may be fun, but find a better source, hopefully face to face, for good shooting techniques.

  • Will Drider December 8, 2016, 12:41 pm

    Techniques do not matter if your tagret also gets muzzle flash burn. If your only interested in shooting minute of bad guy, you also have room for poor marksmanship out a few yards. As the distance increases so does the potential to totally miss. In a gunfight, your going to grab and go hot not thinking about trigger finger placement. But you will grab it and shoot as you have trained (+-snafu). Your “Basics” is really focused on a man size target, shooting basics for handgun accurately (smaller grouping, percise shot placement) is totally different.

    Please support your position with part two vid with target at 25 yards, same time allotment as shots in this vid: then walk up and show the results. Minute of bad guy, maybe? Tight grouping like this vid? Highly doubtful. Just as we can train to overcome a crappy 12lb NYC-2 trigger, we can learn to shoot with crappy trigger finger placement; but why in the hell would you WANT TO mentally and physically ingrain a shooting handicap?

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