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The trigger -- the vital link between shooter and bullet

That short piece of curved metal, known as the trigger, that projects from the underside is the vital link between you and the delivery of a bullet or a charge of pellets, down the gun barrel. When that big moment finally arrives, it's up to you to squeeze off a shot accurately enough to place the charge or the bullet exactly where you were aiming.

With the stakes riding high on its performance, it seems reasonable that an awful lot of attention should be placed on the trigger by the shooter. But, more often than not, little thought and less practice is given to the trigger. If, in a big game rifle, the let off isn't crisp and positive, the shot may go awry and the instant of let-off doesn't coincide with your sight picture. If its let off isn't exactly at the time your aim was right, a miss will result.

A trigger that lets off in spits and starts, places the shooter at a disadvantage indeed.

Rifles and handguns come with adjusting screws that can alter the performance, but most marksmen do not have the ability to make those adjustments. Let me say right here, that most factory triggers are very satisfactory and have adjusting screws that will permit adjustments if the let off isn't crisp and sure.

And, if they're not, the adjustments should be left to a pro, like a gunsmith, to make, or if you don't have the knowledge or skills to get the job done safely.

And that's because fooling around with a trigger can cause unintentional discharge, that is, the gun fires unexpectedly.

Most factory triggers can be adjusted. They're intentionally set with a high pull. That is, they will not fire unless considerable effort, or pressure is used. Supposedly, this manes a trigger more "safe."

Almost all triggers capable of being adjusted safely can be done so by a gunsmith. But a factory trigger should be adjusted to your liking, as a typical rifleman. You should be able to regulate the amount of finger pressure and adjust the travel. You shouldn't mess around with a file, stone, or whatever. It can get dangerous. Some triggers are simple, others quite complex.

Most bolt-action rifles, domestic or imported, have triggers that are pretty good. Factory adjusted, you should probably use it as is.

Sometimes a rifle comes onto the market with an adjustable, adequate trigger. Owners began working on them. While doing repairs on the kitchen table, or the basement shop, a couple fingers get shot off, or a serious accident befalls an owner or bystander. Bingo! Product liability and the gun and trigger is withdrawn from the market. Gun companies have been burned repeatedly by lawsuits after, through no fault of the manufacturer, a shooting tragedy results. The potential for this is always there.

A really good trigger pull is what a rifleman wants. There are a number of patented, reliable, safe trigger systems, sold as a replaceable unit that will fit existing factory rifles. One is the Canjar; Viggo Miller in Omaha makes another. Roy Dunlap is a gunsmith who has a book out, which discusses triggers, and other adjustments. Dayton-Traister, Timney, and Paul Jaeger all make affordable replacement triggers that you can install yourself. Lever action guns and semi-automatics don't have a trigger that's adjustable for amount of pull or length of travel. If you really want to get the optimum results from your trigger, resulting in accurate marksmanship, have a professional do the job for you.

The changing fortunes in ammunition retailing

Most all factory cartridges and shot shells are pretty fair. The ammunition made in some South American companies often leaves the gun very dirty with carbon, often requiring frequent cleaning stoppages. The wealthy sportsmen who go duck, dove or perdiz hunting there will attest to that.

After smokeless powder replaced black, the Western Cartridge Company invented Super X. This company was on a roll during the days of the great depression and bought the assets of Winchester. With their own brass mills, scads of patents, it became the world's largest producer of bombs and bullets, with hundreds of foreign and domestic plants. In 1950, Olin-Winchester developed a plastic shotgun shell, plastic wads, replacing paper tubes, and cardboard and felt wadding. Again, it was far ahead of whatever was in second place.

In 1910, Charles Horn of Anoka, Minn., began making 12 gauge shotgun shells, and 22 long rifle cartridges. A slow start at first, but such retailers as Sears, Wards, Kresge and others stocked low cost Federals and the company here in Minnesota is now one of the big three, along with Remington. The 1950 blockbuster was the AA shell, instantly a favorite with trap shooters who saw a good thing, with reloadable qualities as well. But Federal has continued to enjoy success with retaining waxed paper tubes and a very complete line of excellent center fire cartridges. Remington was right in there with a new shotshell, their STS load, which has replaced the AA in reloadable quality. So the popularity wave bends with the fickle loyalties of shooters. Each of the big three has come on the market with a less costly line of shells and cartridges. They're pretty good too, and for informal league trap or skeet, or sporting clays rounds, reloading shells has taken a hit, and shooters buy the factory loaded cheaper brands, using them with success.

Military contracts are extremely important, and each concern has some of this work for our armed forces and for foreign governments. ATK is the name of the Federal branch that makes civilian and military ammunition. All are available at your favorite gun store or hardware. It is best for a hunter-sportsman-shooter to acquaint himself with the specifications of each. You may be able to find a discernable difference that will make you happy.