Adjusting a Winchester Trigger

First, the disclaimer:

In the U.S.A., we live in a litigious society, and for those of you who live in Rio Linda, this means that fools will do really stupid things, and then sue someone else, because “It’s their fault, they told me I could do it!”.

For those of you that don’t know what you’re doing, STAY AWAY FROM TRIGGERS! You can hurt someone… usually someone else.

Adjusting the trigger of a new rifle was once an expected job of the owner of a new gun, just like adjusting the seats in your new car.

Remington forbids adjustment of their triggers, and doing so will void your warranty.

However, Winchester has no concerns about you adjusting their trigger, and adjusting the Winchester trigger WON’T void your warranty.

And finally, your mileage may vary according to road conditions. If you are new at guns, and lack experience to do minor internal repairs and parts replacement, then this project may not be for you.

Do not do the following unless you are skilled enough to work on guns, and responsible enough to handle them safely. I am presenting the following article as “For Information Purposes Only”.

It is SOLELY your decision whether you have the skill and ability to use this information. If you have ANY doubts as to your ability to do what is described here, then take the rifle to a qualified gunsmith!

If you have an accident, it means that you weren’t skilled enough, or responsible enough, so you shouldn’t have done the following. So, it’s not my fault, nor the fault of Sniper Country!

Winchester triggers are a piece of cake.

You will need a tiny 1/4″, open ended wrench, (better to have two), and a very small screwdriver. Also, have a bottle of nail polish (pink;) handy to lock the screw and nuts in place after you have finished all the adjustments.

Pull the action out. There are three nuts on the trigger… the two nuts that are together, hold and lock the spring that controls the “pull weight”. The single nut locks the over-travel screw in it’s setting.

The engagement setting is machined into the trigger bar with a gauge, and I’ve never had one that had an engagement problem. If your trigger has excessive creep, don’t try to file it. This is a job for a very skilled trigger ‘smith, and for the cost of the labor, you are better off getting an after-market trigger like the “Jewel”!

OK…

Lay the barreled action out on a clean work space (tell your wife you’ll be finished before dinner).

With the 1/4″ wrench(s), loosen all three nuts.

Start by adjusting the pull weight. Move the nut “pair” down to contact the trigger, and try the weight… if it’s too light, move them up towards the action, and try again, repeating as necessary until you like it.

If the pull is too heavy when the two nuts are down on the trigger, then unscrew and remove the trigger stop.
Remove the spring, and cut off one coil. Then replace the spring, and start over again.
When you have the pull weight as you like it, lock the two nuts against each other.

Next, using the small screwdriver, adjust the over-travel screw to your liking, and lock the nut against the trigger bar.

Now, put a dab of nail polish on the nuts to hold them tight.

Don’t put Loctite on triggers… use women’s nail polish on triggers (pink works best 😉 to hold the screws or nuts in place… Loctite can seize the small screws and nuts used in triggers, making them impossible to adjust or remove.

The Winchester nuts won’t shoot loose if properly tightened, but the Remington screws WILL slowly work themselves loose over time, so they MUST have nail polish on the heads.

Finally, put it back together. Remember that the two end bolts hold the action into the stock, and require 65 inch pounds of torque (if you have a torque wrench), or to be very tight, if you just have a screwdriver.

But also remember that the middle screw is just to secure the front of the trigger guard, and hold the magazine box in place, so have it snug, but not over tight… the middle screw does NOT hold the action in place.

Adjusting Savage Trigger

This involves reducing the trigger’s “weight of pull” and “sear engagement” adjustment from that which is set by the Savage factory. You must decide if this is safe for your intended use. The following is how I adjust the trigger on a Savage bolt action rifle for target shooting — what this means is that I never have a round chambered until I am ready to shoot, and if the rifle ever fired unexpectedly, I would be surprised (and perhaps lose points in a rifle match), but no one would be hurt (and for what it’s worth, this is how I handle a rifle in the field, so I would not hesitate to take such a rifle hunting).

I own two target rifles, one is a Winchester Model 70 with a single stage Jewell trigger (set to 3.5 lbs, as required for Canadian Target Rifle shooting) (and it cost me $175 in U.S. currency), the other is a Savage 110 with a factory trigger. With the adjustment below, the Savage provides at least a comparable quality trigger pull.

Take your rifle out of the stock. The trigger spring is a more or less straight piece of fairly thick music wire, that rests against a screw with a shallow notch ground in it. This notch engages the music wire spring every half turn. Turn the adjustment screw such that the spring pressure is reduced; this will lighten the trigger pull. At a certain point, the music wire will no longer exert any pressure at all on the screw — at this point you’ve gone too far (jarring the rifle may cause it to fire). Be sure to have at least one (preferably two) half-turns worth of compression on this spring. This will give about two pounds of trigger force.

The other adjustment available is sear engagement. This is the “other” adjustment (I’ve forgotten now exactly where it is — but it is horizontally oriented, whereas the pull-weight screw just discussed is vertical). With the bolt closed and cocked (chamber empty), you can adjust this screw until the trigger fires — this is the point of zero sear engagement. From this point, back out the screw 1/8 to 1/4 of a turn. This will give minimum safe engagement. If you have too much engagement, you’ll have excessive creep — the trigger will move a fair bit before firing. Too little engagement makes the rifle quite shock sensitive (i.e., it may fire from a jolt), and some people also argue that the greater resultant pressure on the sear’s face may lead to chipping.

After any trigger work, you should check for safe operation. The rifle should remain cocked, even when the bolt handle is slammed shut. The Savage 110 series uses a “trigger block” safety. That is, engaging the safety prevents the trigger from being pulled far enough to fire the rifle. The adjustments I mention above, principally the sear engagement adjustment, may prevent engaging the safety, or the rifle may fire with the safety engaged. This is not a concern to me, since I never use a safety — the rifle is unloaded until I’m ready to fire. If you need to use the safety, you should understand how it works (prevents the trigger from moving), and the implications on its operation of the adjustments you’ll be making. In order to engage the safety, some small amount of trigger clearance is required; to slide the safety “on”, you need clearance — this means that you can also pull the trigger a minute amount. If your sear engagement is minimal, this may be enough to allow the sear to disengage. Reliable and assured operation of the safety will probably require increasing sear engagement beyond what would be otherwise preferred for target shooting.
One important note about Savages and “trigger jobs.”

The trigger (and its face that engages the sear) are sintered (made from powdered metal). This process results in a part that has a very hard, thin outer surface, yet is soft and ductile inside (both these properties are desirable). However, a gunsmith that does not know this may attempt to “stone” or polish this part, in an effort to “clean it up” and reduce friction.

This exposes the soft, underlying metal, which will cause this part to rapidly wear (and the soft underlying metal will have higher friction!

By knowing this (and avoiding this mistake), you can get good performance from your Savage trigger. (By the way, the weight-of-pull adjustment screw gives about 6 ounces per half-turn of adjustment). The trigger-pull adjustment screw may be modified by grinding a shallow slot perpendicular to the one ground by the factory. This then makes it possible to adjust the trigger tension in 1/4 turn increments (or about 3 ounces per “click”).

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