Featured Best AR-15 Triggers [2023 Buyer’s Guide] Recoil Staff August 9, 2022 Join the Conversation A VERITABLE BUFFET OF REPLACEMENT TRIGGERS FOR YOUR AR-15 By Steve Kuo & David Lane, Photography by Jorge Nuñez One of the most effective upgrades you can make to your AR-15 is an aftermarket trigger. Many folks are keen on building ARs that are built to Mil-spec standards. But a true Mil-spec trigger is generally rated to come in at a pull weight of anywhere between 5.5 and 9.5 pounds, with no particular requirements for feel, crispness, or other qualitative characteristics. Besides pleasing the bean counters with reduced unit costs, the stock triggers, with their heavy-pull weights, are also a crutch to reduce negligent discharges. Now, many AR manufacturers offer premium models with improved triggers, and certain end users, such as designated marksmen, avail themselves of precision triggers. One of the beauties of the AR platform is its LEGO-like modularity. The fire control system in an AR is relatively simple to work on, and there are a variety of aftermarket triggers on the market — from systems that provide replacements for all of the stock components (trigger, hammer, disconnector, springs, and even pins) to no-fuss-no-muss totally self-contained drop-in units. One very fancy suppressed AR-15 SBR Replacement systems feature a wide range of enhancements, including superior materials, improved geometry, and choices of single-stage, two-stage, and even hybrid systems. Some can be adjusted to fine tune them exactly, and others cannot — to be as bombproof as possible. Trigger preferences can be intensely personal from one shooter to the next and desired characteristics are heavily dependent on your intended applications, so think carefully before you buy. Get hands-on experience with as many triggers as you can. But that isn't always possible, so we've done the next best thing by providing you with a guide to the bounty of great triggers out there. NOTE: Trigger pull weight was measured with a Lyman trigger-pull gauge and triggers lubricated per manufacturer instructions. For two-stage triggers, the measurement recorded represents the total weight across both stages. As a baseline, we tested two stock Stag Mil-spec triggers, which delivered notchy and gritty 6.75- and 7-pound trigger pulls, respectively, with minimal over-travel. Reset was long, but very positive, and their trigger bows measured 0.29 inches wide. TRIGGER GLOSSARY Break: The moment when the sear surface releases the hammer as you are pressing the trigger. Creep: Generally refers to undesirable take-up or slack in a single-stage trigger, or more specifically, when the movement of the sear surface against the hammer hook can be felt (in an unpleasant way). Disconnector: The part that holds the hammer back after the trigger has been pulled and the action cycles. It will release the hammer to the sear mechanism once the trigger is allowed to move back forward. AR-15 disconnector Hammer: The part, under spring tension, that falls forward once released to strike the firing pin and detonate the primer in the chambered cartridge. Lock time: The time that elapses between the sear surface releasing the hammer and the cartridge primer igniting after being struck by the firing pin. Over-travel: The distance the trigger bow continues to move rearward (unnecessarily) after the sear has already been released. Reset: If you continue to hold the trigger back after discharging the firearm, the hammer will be captured by the disconnector so that it doesn't follow the bolt forward. As you slowly ease the trigger back forward, the hammer will be released back to the sear (usually with an audible and tactile click), at which point you can press the trigger again to break another shot. This is referred to as the reset. If you do not release the trigger far enough forward to the reset point, you will not be able to fire another shot. Generally speaking, the shorter the reset, the easier it is to quickly shoot successive shots. Sear: The part or surface that releases the hammer to fall forward and strike the firing pin once the prescribed amount of pressure has been applied to the trigger. Drop-in trigger Single-stage: Trigger system in which you must overcome all the resistance at once. Stacking: A largely undesirable phenomenon in which the trigger-pull weight feels as if it is increasing right before the trigger breaks. Take-up (slack): Rearward movement of the trigger prior to sear engagement. Trigger bow: The portion of the trigger that extends out and that you actually press to discharge the weapon. Two-stage: Trigger system in which there is an initial stage where the trigger moves to the rear with some amount of resistance (often referred to as “taking up the slack”), followed by a distinct second stage where the trigger breaks after applying an additional amount of force. BEST AR-15 TRIGGERS ALG Defense Quality Mil-Spec Trigger Single-StagePull Weight: 6.2lbBow Width: 0.29″ MSRP $45 Essentially the same as the ACT trigger, but without the slick coatings. The Quality Mil-Spec (QMS) was not quite as refined with a bit of creep, but it broke cleanly with minimal over-travel. Reset was also long but distinct. Sear geometry is unchanged from stock triggers. Trigger pull is rated at 5.5 pounds or higher, with most expected to be around 6.5 pounds – ours was just under that. The QMS is no match trigger, but it's a marked improvement over a stock trigger for just $45. Comes with replacement pins. American Trigger Corporation AR Gold Single Stage with Take-upPull Weight: 2.38lbBow Width: 0.19″ MSRP $300 Not cheap but revered by many three-gunners. The ATC AR Gold is reminiscent of a tuned 1911 or 2011, with short and extremely light take-up followed by a crisp and light break. Trigger bow is narrow. Reset was absurdly short, but rather subtle. Unlike the other two-stage triggers in this guide, the reset returns to the second stage rather than a full stroke through the first. Mechanically, the trigger system is safe with an additional interceptor, but you better do your part because our sample tested lower than rated at 2.4 pounds. CMC Triggers Single-StagePull Weight: 3.5lbBow Width: 0.31″ MSRP $210 This self-contained, drop-in trigger had a light, crisp break with no creep. Afterward, if you release the trigger very slowly it can sometimes feel a bit rough before it resets. C-clips secure the included hammer and trigger pins. The clips are tiny and we promptly lost one; fortunately, CMC provides extras in the package. Geissele Automatics 2 Stage Trigger (G2S) Two-StagePull Weight: 3.9lbBow Width: 0.29″ MSRP $165 The G2S is basically a cheaper version of Geissele's popular SSA trigger – it uses clips to secure the hammer pin, comes with different pins, is only spot MP checked, and lacks laser markings. But otherwise, it's an SSA and from behind the gun, it was nearly indistinguishable. It had a smooth first stage followed by a crisp second stage break and minimal over-travel. The reset was on the long side but positive. Comes with replacement pins. Geissele Automatics Super 3 Gun (S3G) Hybrid Single-StagePull Weight: 3.1lbBow Width: 0.29″ MSRP $250 Designed for fast and furious 3-gun matches, this hybrid trigger rolls smoothly and just breaks, followed by some overtravel. It has a short and positive reset, for quick follow up shots. Our sample was a bit lighter than the rated 3.5 pounds and was super smooth — it felt like it was rolling on ball bearings. Includes replacement pins. Geissele Automatics Super Semi-Automatic (SSA) Two-Stage Pull Weight: 4lbBow Width: 0.29″ MSRP $210 This classic from Geissele has a smooth first stage and a clean, crisp second stage break with minimal over-travel. Reset is on the long side but positive and distinct. The SSA boasts a Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Safety Certification and is in service with Special Operations troops. A hard use trigger, it is non-adjustable and made of tool steel with sear surfaces cut by a wire EDM machine. Its full-power hammer spring ensures ignition with all types of ammo. The Super Semi-Automatic Enhanced model ($230) is similar with a lighter measured pull weight of 3.4 pounds. Hiperfire Competition Single-StagePull Weight: 2.4, 3.1, or 3.4lbBow Width: 0.3″, 0.5″ with trigger shoeMSRP $235 Hiperfire doesn't mind thinking outside the box. Comes with three sets of springs to set desired trigger pull weight without any adjustable screws. It has a crisp light break with no over-travel, as well as a short trigger stroke and reset. The straight trigger has an optional red finger pad that clips on to the trigger bow in one of five positions. Some liked it, finding it helped with indexing the trigger finger and providing extra leverage, but it needn't be installed for those who didn't. The trigger on safe is nice and tight. Includes three sets of springs, replacement pins and the trigger shoe. Hiperfire Elite Single-StagePull Weight: 2.75, 3.56, or 4lbBow Width: 0.3″ MSRP $215 Its unique geometry allows users to set desired trigger pull weight by simply switching out sets of springs, with no adjustable screws. It has a crisp break with no over-travel, as well as a short trigger stroke and reset. The trigger on safe is snug as a bug. Includes three sets of springs and replacement pins. JP Enterprises EZ Trigger Single-StagePull Weight: 3.75lb, 4.5lbBow Width: 0.29″ MSRP $200 Long considered a benchmark for single-stage triggers, JP released the JP EZ system for a much easier installation than its classic trigger. By adjusting a few set screws, you end up with the trademark crisp JP feel – short travel, perfect break, and short positive reset. The included adjustable safety removes all slop when on safe. Also comes with two hammer springs and oversize anti-walk pins. JP Enterprises Original Fire Control Kit Single-StagePull Weight: 3.3lb, 4lbBow Width: 0.29″ MSRP $120 This is the original JP trigger that set the benchmark for single-stage AR triggers. There's a reason JP has a devoted following. If you're willing to spend some time and effort to install and fit it, this kit will reward you with short travel, a crisp break, and short positive reset – for a reasonable price. Comes with two hammer springs to set the pull weight. Does not include replacement hammer (the JP Speed Hammer pictured here is an additional $60). LWRCI Enhanced Fire Control Group Single-StagePull Weight: 6.75lbBow Width: 0.29″ MSRP $120 This affordable option has nickel-Teflon-coated components. Trigger feel was just a bit improved from stock, featuring a long trigger stroke with some notchy creep. It had a long but strong reset and minimal over-travel. Includes pins and safety selector, spring, and detent. Patriot Ordnance Factory Drop-In Trigger System Single-StagePull Weight: 4lbBow Width: 0.25″ MSRP $200 Drop-in unit was simple to install. Single stage trigger broke cleanly with no pre- or over-travel. Reset was moderate in length but felt a bit scratchy during the return stroke. The trigger bow was less rounded than others, with noticeable corners. Nitride heat-treated and comes with KNS Precision anti-walk pins. Rock River Arms Two-Stage Match Trigger Two-Stage Pull Weight: 5.44lbBow Width: 0.3″ MSRP $120 An economical trigger, but its first stage was not as smooth as others, though the heavier second stage broke cleanly. Reset was on the long side, but distinct. Pull weight was heavier than we like in a match trigger. Trigger bow is wider than most. Disconnector is captured, making it easy to install. Includes replacement pins. Timney Triggers AR-15 Competition Single-StagePull Weight: 4.125lbBow Width: 0.25″ MSRP $220 Easily installed drop-in, single-stage trigger, with set screws that butt against the floor of your lower to secure the trigger and hammer pins. The trigger broke crisply with no take-up or over-travel. It had a hint of travel through the single stage if you were very deliberate. Reset is positive and relatively short. Trigger bow is very flat and corners are a bit sharp. Wilson Combat Tactical Trigger Unit Single-StagePull Weight: 3.3lbBow Width: 0.27″ MSRP $190 This drop-in trigger had a great single-stage feel, with no take-up at all, a crisp break, and no over-travel. The reset was a relatively short and distinct. The trigger is rated at 4 pounds, but our test trigger was much lighter. Springs on the bottom of the cassette keep the trigger tight. Made of solid bar stock with steel bushings for the hammer and trigger pins. The hammer features a half-cock reminiscent of Wilson's 1911s as an extra measure of safety. Comes with replacement pins. Wilson Combat TTU MIL/LE Single-StagePull Weight: 4.5lbBow Width: 0.28″ MSRP $190 Intended for duty use, this version of Wilson's drop-in trigger features a single-stage trigger that is rated for 5 to 5.5 pounds. Ours measured at 4.5 pounds. The trigger had a hint of travel through the single stage but broke cleanly with no over-travel. The reset was relatively short and distinct. Made of solid bar stock with steel bushings for the hammer and trigger pins. The hammer features a half-cock reminiscent of Wilson's 1911s as an extra safety measure. Comes with replacement pins. KE Arms SLT-1 Single-StagePull Weight: 4.5lbMSRP: $220 A drop-in trigger that features an incredibly crisp break and tiny take-up that finishes with minimal overtravel. While those aspects of the SLT-1 are nice, the real innovation is in the design of the trigger internally. Because of the geometry of the trigger, a normal AR-15 safety can be engaged with the hammer forward or backward. This ability to set your rifle to safe at all times is a nice little safety addition. The SLT-1 is also encased in an improved housing that prevents dirt and debris from clogging the trigger. While kind of rare, if you’ve ever had your trigger jam because of a blown primer – you know how aggravating this is to fix. The SLT-1’s design prevents that from ever happening. LaRue Tactical MBT-2S Two-StagePull Weight: 4.5lbMSRP: $99 Broadly considered the least expensive trigger that feels amazing, the MBT-2S is a two-stage trigger with a sharp break and incredibly small overtravel. Easy to install and a massive upgrade from a standard trigger, this might be the best value you can find in the AR-15 trigger world. Each MBT-2S also ships with a set of “heavy” springs that raises the pull weight to 6lbs, perfect for a more duty style of trigger pull. LOOSE ROUNDS A new trigger is going to make any rifle feel better right off the bat. This is the primary way you interact with your AR, and the difference between a good trigger and a bad one will stun you cold. While a precision trigger won't make your rifle mechanically more accurate, it will almost always make you more accurate with it. If there is one upgrade that I require for any rifle I own, it's a good trigger. READY FOR MORE? 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