A release trigger is a trigger that fires when you let it go, not when your pull it. Sounds obvious but scary. Why on earth would anyone want such a thing. The answer is a little more complicated. Many shooters, especially Trap shooters, suffer from a flinch. For more information see my earlier post – Flinching.
Pulling a trigger is in many ways the opposite to what is natural. Think about it; when we throw a stone, a ball, a dart or any other object, we release the object to send it on its way to the target. Using a bow, the weapon the English, and Welsh, were once famed for, the arrow is fired by releasing. Logically, firing a gun by releasing is more natural. I used a release myself for many years and found it amazing. The gun seemed to fire automatically as the target was acquired and it was like firing by thought. The trigger is pulled to set and held. When you move to the target you do not have to let the trigger go, just stop pulling it. The tiny relaxation of the finger muscle is enough to allow the gun to fire and there is no physical movement required. I loved it!
So, how does a release work. Take a look at the picture following, showing the internals of a Krieghoff K-80.
You can see the hammer is held in the cocked position by the sear. The tail of the sear is lifted by the trigger, and the nose of the sear is forced out of the bent in the hammer (“bent” is gun making terminology for the notch that the nose of the sear drops into). Released from the sear, the hammer falls, striking the firing pin. Compare this with the second picture showing the same K-80 with a release trigger fitted.
You can see the release plate fitted alongside the hammer/sear arrangement with the front of the release plate hook shaped to catch the hammer. When the trigger is pulled the release plate is cammed forward at the same time as the sear disengages from the bent. The hook catches the U-shaped cutout in the back of the hammer preventing it from falling and striking the firing pin. So long as the trigger is held in the pulled position the hammer cannot fall. Holding the trigger back requires the finger to exert a certain weight, known as the hold weight. As soon as the hold weight is reduced the power of the mainspring takes over and the hammer falls. It is not necessary to release the trigger fully, only to reduce the hold weight until the mainspring takes over. This particular trigger is very well designed and requires only a low hold weight. To the best of my knowledg, the K-80 is the only factory designed and supported release available.
The release works so well that many shooters use it in preference to a Pull trigger, finding that it is smoother to shoot and more consistent in timing. I cannot argue with that.
Release triggers come in two flavours – Release/Pull, the first barrel fired by releasing the trigger and the second by pulling it, and Release/Release which needs to be set and released for each barrel. The RP is the most common of the two because most shooters are able to fire the second barrel without problem.
Is a release trigger dangerous? No more so than any loaded gun. The trigger is not set until the shooter is ready to fire, at which time it will be pointing down range. If the gun is accidentally fired, perhaps through cold, wet fingers – it happens, the shot will be down range and no risk to any other shooter. The French do not allow use of the release in competition and, with all respect to our French friends, I see no logic in that decision. Those afflicted by a flinch cannot shoot a normal pull trigger. Prohibiting its use only penalises those who may have had many more years of competitive sport remaining.
We have fitted many release triggers here in the UK and there are many more in use than is commonly thought. I know of no accident caused by the use of a release trigger here and if there had been I am sure I would have heard about it. There is the occasional accidental discharge, not as often as there is with a pull trigger but it can happen. The release trigger is not dangerous, only the person using it and a dangerous shot is dangerous whatever he or she uses.