Dwell Time And Your Trigger

By Darrell Holland

We all indulge in flights of fancy during the quiet moments in our life. One popular indulgence is that we are a shooting machine and that we NEVER flinch. Hmmm, I wish that were a reality...

In most cultures men can do 3 things "Really" well! Those being: drive like Michael Schumacher, make love better than Casanova and out shoot Daniel Boone in 3 out of 5 matches! Unfortunately, when the lights dim, when we buckle up or grab our trusty rifle, the results are less than admirable.

By understanding the workings of our trigger and dwell time, we can turn in a better performance in the shooting game at least! For the other 2 items you are on your own...

Dwell time may be best described as the amount of time the bullet is in the barrel after the trigger breaks and we have ignition. This critical time is around .025 thousands of a second and the rifle will recoil rearward approximately .250 -.375 inches before the bullet exits the barrel. Variables being the weight of the rifle, muzzle velocity and bullet weight. For all practical purposes we'll stick with the above numbers in explaining dwell time and the hazards of too little over-travel.

Most serious shooters have installed Jewell triggers in their long range rifles, if not, you may be missing something? Having a light trigger pull weight in your rifle is an important asset when it comes to precise long range shooting. The exact weight is indeed a bone of contention with many shooters and many campfire stories have gotten out of hand regarding the subject. I like a pull weight of around 1-1.5 lbs in most of my hunting rifles, this allows a safe and feel-able trigger weight under cold hunting conditions, at least for me. Jewell triggers can be adjusted to ounces safely, but this is mainly necessary in target and varmint rifles that are shot from the bench. Each shooter needs to feel comfortable with his or her pull weight; shoot as light of a pull weight as you are comfortable with.

Dwell Time And Your Trigger

Having a heavy trigger pull weight on your rifle can lead to errant shots, especially if the over-travel is not adjusted properly. Jewell triggers are really quite easy to adjust, for those of you that are not familiar with those adjustment screws, "Listen Up".


Screw #1 is for sear engagement! With an unloaded rifle, cock the gun and turn this screw clockwise until the gun fires. Note the location of your allen wrench (clock face setting) and turn counterclockwise 6 hours or half a revolution. This properly sets your sear engagement.

Screw # 2 is for over travel! The meat and potatoes of this article for improving your shooting. Most of us have over the years adjusted or had our over-travel adjusted to the most imperceptible movement possible. We touted and showed the rifle to our friends and absorbed the ooh's and ahh's when they tried the trigger pull. It was great balm for our ego and we thought we had done the right thing? Oh really?

Humor me for a minute and kick-back in the sofa chair while I explain. With an over-travel adjusted so tight, as soon as the trigger breaks the force required to discharge the rifle is now imparted directly into the rifle while the bullet is still in the barrel! Hmmm?

If we are shooting the "NEW" 300 Testosterone Magnum in an 8 lb. rifle the results are going to be less than desirable, especially when shooting in a field position. Very few shooters can give a perfect trigger squeeze with such a violent recoiling rifle. We usually yank, slap or jerk the trigger keeping in mind the horrendous noise and recoil that are soon to follow. If our trigger pull was adjusted to 3.5 lbs and our yank, slap or jerk (commonly referred to as a trigger [email protected] in higher social circles) to discharge the rifle was 5-7 pounds, and immediately we come up against the over-travel stop, we are imparting that energy into the rifle! An errant shot is guaranteed! Those extra forces we impart into the rifle with a heavy trigger pull and minimal over-travel can and do affect the shot. These errors are magnified the farther the target.

Dwell Time And Your Trigger - 3

The "CURE" being to screw the over-travel screw in tight, providing the maximum amount of over-travel allowing the bullet to exit the barrel before our "trigger squeeze" can affect the shot! This gives us the extra edge needed to improve our scores and make more consistent hits at long range. It may also save you the embarrassment of the gun not discharging when the trophy of a lifetime is standing 100 yards away and the gun won't go off due to crud, grit or debris between the trigger and over-travel adjustment, preventing the sear from disengaging.

To complete our story let's go to Screw # 3.

Screw # 3 is trigger pull weight. Jewell triggers come with several springs that go under this screw to change pull weights. Turning the screw "clockwise" increases the pull weight and "counterclockwise" reduces the pull weight of our given spring. Adjust to a pull weight that you are comfortable and safe with!

Note these adjustments apply to JEWELL TRIGGERS ONLY ( Remington and Winchester rifles) This article pertains to rifles and shooters who have JEWELL TRIGGERS installed.

In future articles we'll explore cures for man's other flights of fancy. In the meantime, be safe and shoot straight!

Darrell Holland is a Custom Riflesmith and designer of Advanced Reticle Technology in Leupold, Schmidt & Bender and NIGHTFORCE rifle scopes. Darrell offers an intense 4 day shooting school that is ideal for long range hunters and tactical enthusiasts.
Advanced Reticle Technology

Holland's Shooters Supply