FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!
Brian Willis

Brian Willis

Brian Willis is a retired officer, trainer and author who now serves as deputy executive director for the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA).

William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.

Handgun Trigger-Pull Assessments for Recruits

A trigger-pull assessment will give you valuable information about the skill-level of recruits.

September 14, 2011  |  by Bruce Cameron

Those who don't do well may have a weakness with those students in the class such as poor firearm fundamentals, carpal-tunnel syndrome, nerve damage, or lack of strength. If students can't pull the trigger a certain amount of times with an empty weapon, how do you expect them to do it with a "live weapon?"

These people will have to practice, and you'll need to inform them of that fact. You should also give them exercises to do to strengthen their grip. It also may give people time enough to improve. The trigger-pull assessment is to be conducted by members of your training staff. However, it should be expected that students should be able to complete Assessment #1 with no problem.

Based on our current research, students should score a minimum of 50 with the strong hand and 35-40 with the weak hand on Assessment #2. Average scores should range much higher (70s and 80s), and you may see some in the 100s. This has proved to be good data so far but please keep in mind there have been no scientific studies done on this yet. If they score in the 40s or lower, it may mean you have to come up with a plan for them. It is also a good idea to provide warm-up periods (to stretch, shake out the hands) and a small break between the tests. Departments should use their own courses of fire and times and adjust things that best suit them. Try it yourselves and see how you do.

Assessment #1

To establish a baseline, the new candidate should be required to safely pull the trigger X-amount of times (x=2, 3, 4, or 6 rounds fired) within the allotted time limits (such as 3, 5, 10, or 20 seconds) for each stage of fire on your qualification course. You should use your own departmental handgun course of fire when you do this. The assessment should be patterned after your course and conducted in the same series of stages and intervals as you would on the range.

The time frames involved may be modified to account for position changes or when you are simulating reloading. The training officer will call the course out loud and the candidate will respond to the directions by pulling the trigger the appropriate amount of times for each stage. The candidate should use the right, left, or both hands (as dictated by the course) and they should use the position that is specified (such as kneeling, standing, or prone).

An example of a quick and easy score sheet is listed below. The candidate will be given a break between the first and second assessment. All stages will begin from the low ready. Most people will not have any problems with this, so use it as a warm up. If you have available holsters, please feel free to use them as well.

Here's an example of a template you can use to track the assessment. You can call it, "Sample Course of Fire," and set it up with these headings: Stage(s) of Fire, Times, Number of Rounds, and Position.

EXAMPLE: "Your first stage of fire will be at the three-yard line. From the low-ready, you'll move into the standing position and fire two rounds center mass in three seconds. Then go back into the low ready. Is the line ready? The line is ready, fire."

Insert Your Departmental Course of Fire Here

Assessment #1 Score Sheet:

Completed All Stages of Fire                    

Did Not Complete:                    

(Annotate number of rounds fired for each stage).

Stage I



Stage II




Stage III




Stage IV




Stage V




Stage VI




Comments: One example would be, "Shooter has problem with weak hand. And can only pull trigger 10 times."

Assessment #2

To gauge strength and endurance, each candidate will be asked to pull the trigger as many times as he or she can within a time period of 60 seconds. This exercise will be done twice.

Each hand will be used with one hand only  will be used. The amount of times the trigger is pulled for each hand will be counted and recorded (indicated below). The trainer will do the timing. In addition, you can have an additional trainer do the counting or, if done in relay groups, have a partner of one of the students do it.

Number of Right Hand Trigger Pulls: Enter number.

Number of Left Handed Trigger Pulls: Enter number.

Comments: Enter here.

I hope this little exercise during the pre-screening process for new hires will help. In the long run, we have found here, that it is a very valuable tool for detecting firearm related problems before they begin. At the same time, it is a process that will benefit the trainer and the student for the future in meeting the demands of the times.

Col. Bruce Cameron is the training manager and commandant of the Department of Energy's Hanford Patrol Training Academy in Richland, Wash. He is also trained as a firearm and tactical instructor and safety officer. 

Previous Page   Page 2 of 2   Next Page

Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Gordon Beck @ 9/11/2016 5:03 PM

I guess I have some questions more than comments. What if your department handgun is a single action Glock? It's trigger cannot be pressed over and over? I have observed this process to be done in the Academy setting not at the Agency? It could be a part of the FTO process. What are your expectations as a LE Exec.? Does the perspective recruit have to have a certain amount of experience. I have been an FTO, taught at the Academy, my agency, at the Comm. Coll., and in the private sector. Seems somewhat overkill in the hiring or assessment process? I can see this being an FTO and Range Trainers responsibility. I have worked in medium and small dept's, maybe this is for large dept's. I'm just trying to understand the need for something like this in the process as you describe it. I would like to recommend it. Got me thinking.

Join the Discussion

POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Blog Posts

My Memories of R. Lee Ermey
It was at the SOG booth in 2010 that I had the opportunity to interview "Gunny." We talked...
Proposed California Use-of-Force Bill Won't Make Anyone Safer
If a police officer’s use of deadly force is deemed to be unnecessary to them and to...

Police Magazine