I test several ARs over the course of any given year, which provides an opportunity to use all kinds of triggers. They range from dismal to game-changing. Much of my focus is tactical or self-defense use, but I’ve also tested several competition rifles. Combined with the fact that I’ve built numerous ARs for various uses, I’ve established a solid baseline of what makes a good trigger.
Swapping a standard or “mil-spec” trigger for an aftermarket often facilitates better accuracy. They won’t make your rifle more accurate but they will allow most people to shoot more accurately. Dropping a nice trigger in a MOBD (minute of barn door) rifle will not turn it into a tack driver. It will allow you to shoot to its limits, though, and it’s just more fun to shoot. With that in mind, here are my top trigger upgrades.
An affordable option
If you’re a law enforcement officer, you may be restricted when it comes to customizing your rifle. If you’re not in law enforcement, you may just not have $300 to upgrade your trigger. Adding expensive “trick” triggers can be impractical for a number of reasons. If you want a reliable and proven trigger that won’t break the bank, there’s still a solid option.
The best design to-date that combines affordability, performance, and reliability is the ALG Defense Advanced Combat Trigger (ACT). Its pull weight is around 5.5 pounds, and it’s crisp with less grit and creep while maintaining factory sear engagement. It’s a noticeable improvement while remaining simple, reliable, and robust. Many mid- and high-range ARs include this trigger for duty applications. At only $66 retail, they are not much more than a standard trigger and AR armorers can install them while remaining “in policy.” Installation is easy and requires no adjustments making, it an excellent replacement for just about any mil-spec trigger.
Upgraded and competition triggers
Geissele Automatics remains my first choice for an AR trigger. Every personally-owned or frequently-used AR in my shop has one. Just to be clear, all were paid for out of pocket with the exception of one select-fire M16. None are in use because they were free.
With the exception of a dedicated competition rifle, they all carry Super Dynamic Combat (SD-C) triggers. The flat, two-stage SD-C has no adjustments with a 4.5-pound combined trigger pull. The SD-C allows me to produce precision accuracy, shoot plenty fast up close, and remain completely reliable.
If you prefer a standard (not flat) trigger, the Super Semi-Automatic (SSA) has the same specifications. For those preferring a single-stage trigger, the Super 3 Gun (S3G) is a great choice. It can be configured to have a four-pound trigger pull, and is incredibly crisp with no adjustments.
The only dedicated 3-gun rifle in my house uses the Super Dynamic Enhanced (SD-E). Using the same flat trigger as the SD-C, it has a very short reset and 3.5-pound pull. This trigger is fast, allowing for short split times. It’s a bit light for me for a working gun, it remains very popular for many.
Another brand I use with frequency is the HIPERFIRE line of triggers. One of the newer entries into the duty-rifle trigger world, their HIPERTOUCH EDT offers either a 4.5- or 5.5-pound pull. It’s single-stage with a bit less travel, minimal creep, and a positive reset. It is proving an excellent trigger. A retail price of $89 keeps it within reach of most shooters.
The HIPERTOUCH 24 has proven very reliable with mil-spec ammunition using hard primers. Creep is minimal, it breaks clean, and can be set up with a four-pound pull. Performance triggers can and often suffer from light primer strikes, and this trigger does not seem to suffer that issue.
Moving up to the HIPERTOUCH 24C gets you a flat trigger, crisp single stage, and very fast split times. All of their triggers offer fast reset, fast hammers, and increased hammer fall, all conducive to accuracy and fast split times without sacrificing reliability. I’ve used all three of these triggers over the past year, and none have failed. Its only my preference for a two-stage trigger that keeps them out of my personal rifles.
When it comes to complete drop-in competition triggers, Timney Triggers remains an industry leader. Their triggers come fully assembled in an aluminum housing in the trigger weight of your choice. Fitting in most mil-spec lowers, they are available in trigger weights ranging from three to 4.5 pounds with either short or long pins. Many competitors favor these triggers, with some choosing the skeletonized version.
Timneys can be used with a factory safety or aftermarket safeties that offer 45-degree operation and ambidextrous controls. Having used a couple of ARs that have proprietary safeties, I find this aspect of the Timney units unappealing. They can be a bit sensitive to some ammunition (light primer strikes), but that has been my experience with just about every self-contained trigger. Such triggers also seem to be more susceptible to debris in the works.
Wilson Combat offers one of the most reliable self-contained triggers I’ve ever used. My favorite has been the TR-TTU H2 two-stage unit. Its trigger pull is in the 4.5- to five-pound weight, with a very crisp pull.
Their single-stage units are also crisp, reliable, and never seem to suffer from light primer strikes. They also seem to fit in most lowers, which is not always the case with many self-contained triggers. Their TR-TTU-MIL gets you a five- to 5.75-pound pull, where policies require it. Move to the 3G model and you get down to 3.5 pounds. Bill Wilson always stays focused on reliability, so super-light weights are not in the cards, but these triggers have held up very well and remained reliable in my experience.
There are a few other triggers I’ve used sparingly lately that have so far been rather impressive.
LaRue Tactical offers a two-stage unit called the MBT (Meticulously Built Trigger) that has been performing very well. It’s the only trigger I’ve used to date that has matched or even exceeded in some cases the feel of my preferred two-stage. It’s built from solid S7 tool steel to very high standards. It breaks cleanly at 4.5 pounds, with a 2.5-pound first stage and two-pound second stage). Its reset is positive and it is incredibly rugged. With a retail price of $199, it is a tad less then the Geissele and is proving a solid competitor, although it is not always easy to get (like everything LaRue). It looks to be a very promising two-stage trigger for those wanting solid reliability.
Another well-made mil-spec trigger is the LWRC International Enhanced Fire Control Group found in their rifles. My group measures in the six- to seven-pound range but is smooth, crisp, and predictable with very little creep. Available for $115, it’s a great option for duty rifles that require a mil-spec trigger weight.
This is anything but a comprehensive compilation of AR triggers, and my bias towards two-piece (not self-contained) triggers is obvious. Having had too many not fit, suffer light primer strikes, or lock up with minimal debris, they are not my first choice. But my life does not revolve around competitions or precision accuracy with an AR. That being said, there are dozens of triggers out there and I certainly have not tested them all. These are nothing more than triggers proven reliable under various conditions during my field testing.
My opinion on a trigger is most critical when it comes to reliability—even the cleanest trigger is useless if it suffers light primer strikes or fails to reset when dirty. Lighter is not always better depending on what you do. Like everything in this business, marketing is a huge part of the equation and not always valuable or practical. Just consider this, the best, most accurate, reliable, and battle-tested rifle is a big stick if the trigger does not work when you need it, so choose wisely!
Images courtesy Dave Bahde