391 RELEASE TRIGGERS
A factor in the popularity of the 300 Series Beretta semi-automatic shotguns is how easily and inexpensively the trigger can be converted to a “release trigger.”
Popular with trap shooters for years, release triggers are now gaining acceptance among skeet and sporting clays shooters as well.
With a release trigger, the gun does not fire when the trigger is pulled. Instead the trigger is pulled and held- an action that “sets” the trigger until the shooter wants to fire. Releasing the trigger then fires the gun.
Though this may seem strange to some, it quickly becomes a very natural way to shoot. Shooters afflicted with a “flinch ” claim the release trigger has allowed them to continue shooting competitively.
To understand how the release conversion takes place, you need to understand how a 391 (or 390, 303, etc.) trigger works. On the trigger are two hooks. One is on the front of the trigger (call it hook #1) and that hook faces the rear. The other is a separate hook in the back of the trigger which faces forward (really called the sear but we'll refer to it as hook#2). If you look at the hammer, you will see notches on both sides. Since the trigger is on a pivot, when the forward hook (#1) engages, the rear hook (hook #2) disengages, and vice- versa. When the hammer is cocked, the hammer is being held by hook #1. Pulling the trigger causes hook #1 to disengage the notch on the hammer and the hammer is released and fires the gun. After the gun fires, the bolt moves rearward, forcing the hammer back to it’s fully cocked position. Except now the hammer is caught by hook #2, which locks it back in a cocked position. Notice it is now hook #2 that has caught the hammer, even though hook #1 is the one that released it. That is because the bolt pushed the hammer back before the shooter had time to release the trigger, and, hook #1 had not moved back into position. . Without hook #2, the gun would become fully automatic and fire successive shots with one pull of the trigger.
Now to the conversion part. If you replace hook #2, with a specially designed release hook, the trigger will now work as a release trigger. The release hook is longer and set at a slightly different angle than hook #2, but otherwise is similar. When the trigger is pulled hook #1 moves forward and disengages the hammer. The hammer begins to fall, but the release hook has now also moved forward and catches the notch on the other side of the hammer-- stopping its travel and holding it in a cocked position. As longer as the trigger is held, the hammer will not drop. When the shooter wants to fire, he releases the pressure on the trigger, allowing the trigger to move forward. That action disengages the release hook from the hammer, and it continues its movement forward, firing the gun. When the gun fires and the bolt pushes the hammer back, hook #1 will now catch it because the trigger is still in the forward position, the opposite of what occured with the pull trigger.
If the trigger is "set" and the shooter wants to unset it, he pulls back the bolt just a half inch or so- while still applying pressure to the trigger. If he is right handed, that means reaching around with his left hand.
If he accidentally relaxes the pressure on the trigger, the gun will fire. The gun should always be pointed downrange, away from the traphouse or any trap machines in case this should occur.
Release triggers can be adjusted to release very quickly, or to slightly delay the firing sequence.
For trap I prefer a very fast release, almost instantaneous, as I release the trigger.
This is done by having to just slightly let off the pressure holding the trigger before the gun fires. You will hear that described as the difference between the set weight and the release weight. Measured in ounces, when the difference between the weights is less, the release is considered fast - a greater difference is considered slower. When the shooter has to totally let go of the trigger before the gun fires, the release weight is zero - that is as slow as you can get..
For trap I make one relatively fast move to the target, and I like the gun to fire as soon as
it reaches the target.
For sporting clays a slower release allows me to measure the leads I need for different
target presentations, and possibly make a correction at the last instant.
You can see that there is more to converting a 391 trigger than just putting in a hook.
Not mentioned is the fact that the hooks are spring loaded to allow the hammer to push them aside, and then snap back to catch the hammer.
That's not desireable with the release hook, which is more precise when it is rigid.
This is done by replacing the spring with a small rod. Also, the contact between the hook and the hammer must be secure, but without unnecessary friction or "creep."
For these reasons, the conversion should be done by a competent gunsmith who understands release triggers.
A sticker is generally put on the gun showing that you are using a release trigger. This
is required for sporting clays, but is a good idea in general.
Like pull triggers, release triggers are as safe as the people using them. The most common complaint by shooters using them is that they waited so long.