Instant Marksman, Just Squeeze Trigger

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

The use of guns is, of course, a standard of certain genres, and many a trope has been dedicated to analyzing their use and the various Stock Phrases that they bring.

In this case, you have two characters: one is an experienced marksman, and one is inexperienced. At some point in the story, the need for the inexperienced individual to use a gun comes along. Sometimes the training takes place on a simplified Shooting Gallery, perhaps during a montage of some type. It may also work as a moment for the relationship between the two characters to be showcased: sometimes as parent and offspring, sometimes as mentor and student.

During this scene, the inexperienced shooter is having difficulty hitting his or her targets. At this point, the experienced marksman approaches, and gives one piece of advice:

"Don't pull the trigger. Squeeze the trigger."

Sometimes this particular stock phrase is followed up by further advice, the most common being a breathing method (such as "take a deep breath"). Often, this advice is shown as the only thing the novice needed, as he or she now hits the targets with relative ease.

Real expertise in this field, of course, can take years of training and practice. Plus, it may not be clear to an amateur gun user what, specifically, the distinction between "pulling" and "squeezing" a trigger may be. These are issues that are generally not addressed when these scenes take place, but this is somewhat justified in that a lengthy scene featuring detailed instructions on how to fire a gun might be boring. This is, of course, Truth in Television: many first-time shooters yank on the trigger and thus pull their gun way off.

A subtrope of Instant Expert.

Examples of Instant Marksman, Just Squeeze Trigger include:

Film -- Animated

  • In Pocahontas, John Smith gives the inexperienced Thomas advice on how to handle his gun, including a gentle reminder to "keep both eyes open". This becomes an Ironic Echo when Thomas shoots Kocoum.

Film -- Live Action

  • In Zombieland, Tallahassee gives this bit of advice to Little Rock, something that comes in handy later when she and Wichita are under attack by a horde of zombies.
    • Little Rock, a 12 year old, had brandished firearms before this, but had not fired except into the air while brandishing. She was unable to hit a large vase with a long arm at twenty yards, a feat which would be considered laughably easy by most youth shooting programs. As soon as she hears Tallahassee's advice, she hits the target, playing this trope straight.
  • Bangkok Dangerous, or, at least, the American version of the movie, has a scene in which Joe (Nicolas Cage) gives this advice to his student Kang.
  • The Movie version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen shows Quartermain giving this advice to Tom Sawyer.
    • Quartermain has Improbable Aiming Skills in this film (he can fire an ordinary rifle at a great distance without aiming for the center of mass), which he passes to Sawyer after one session (in which the latter fails to hit the target).
  • In Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, the Marlboro Man says "Squeeze the trigger, Harley. Don't yank it, it's not your dick. Squeeze it." In this case, however, there's no training taking place; the Marlboro Man is making a snarky comment on Harley's piss-poor shooting skills.
    • Later, when the two eponymous heroes are facing the Big Bad and his legion of bulletproof henchmen, Marlboro Man says it again as sort of crash course training: "Don't yank. Don't pull. Squeeze." The trope is partially averted in this case, though, because no matter how many times he hears this advice, Harley Davidson's gun skills never get better.
  • From Woody Allen's Love and Death:

Sonya: I'm not leaving here until we shoot Napoleon. Here. (Hands Boris a pistol)
Boris: Oh, I see. Thanks. I'm the hit man.
Sonya: Remember, you can't take any chances. Now, make sure the barrel of the gun is pressed against his head or his chest. And don't pull the trigger, Boris. Squeeze it.
Boris: Where did you go to finishing school? On a pirate ship?

Live-Action TV

  • Used in the Criminal Minds episode "L.D.S.K.", wherein resident geekboy Reid is trying to pass his firearms qualification test, and resident sharpshooter Hotch is giving him lessons, telling him "front sight, trigger press, follow through". Hotch also mentions the "squeeze, don't pull" advice. Reid fails his test twice, even with Hotch's help, but proves his competence in the climax of the episode, where he gets a perfect headshot to the UnSub via Hotch's distraction gambit and his spare gun. He went on to joke that he was actually aiming for the leg (or at least, we think it was a joke).
  • In the Masters of Horror episode titled Joe Dante's The Screwfly Solution, this advice is given from mother to daughter, with the usual effect.
  • Played with in an episode of Ultimate Force when Henno gives a pistol to an ambassador he is protecting with the titular instructions. However, he then reveals he was actually suggesting a suicide method.
  • In one episode of Numb3rs, Charlie, in order to understand how a criminal sniper operates in the field, tries to learn what shooting a gun feels like because his usual math-heavy approach was failing to give him the whole picture. After struggling with a rifle in the shooting range, Don gives Charlie a few pointers; relax his hands, fire the shot in-between breaths, etc. It works; Charlie's next shot is a lot closer to the bullseye, and his prediction on where the suspect will set up his sniper nest is off by only one window.
  • Jack teaches Gwen how to fire a gun in the second episode of Torchwood. She becomes an expert after that one session. Oh, and Gwen is a cop who has never handled a firearm. Justified, as she was only a PC (constable), who are not issued guns.


And all you have to do is squeeze your little finger
Ease your little finger back

You can change the world . . .

Video Games


Liz: It seems that hat grants him some sort of magic shield...

Western Animation

  • In The Simpsons, Marge is shown how to shoot by former neighbor Ruth Powers in Marge on the Lam. Ruth tells Marge to squeeze the trigger, although she does not mention the part about not pulling the trigger. Marge does show immediate skill as a marksman.

My cans! My precious antique cans! Aw, look what ya done to 'em...