Top Five Best AR15 Triggers
Article first appeared at Ammoland.com
The trigger “tells” the gun when to fire the shot. The more control and confidence a shooter has in a trigger, the more likely the shooter is to get hits. And as one old saying goes, “only hits count.”
Gunsmiths have probably been doing trigger jobs for about as long as guns have had triggers. And for most types of firearms, it’s probably best to leave trigger jobs to the professionals for all sorts of reasons. But the modularity of the AR-15 means that just about anyone can easily install a brand new, specialized trigger by simply pushing out a couple of pins, removing the original trigger group, dropping in the new trigger group, and pushing the pins back in.
The ease with which AR-15 triggers can be changed is both wonderful and awful – wonderful because it’s so easy to get whatever the trigger you want, and awful because there are so many triggers out there, it’s hard to know which trigger you actually need.
The type of shooting you intend to do the most with your Black Rifle matters a lot when it comes to choosing the best trigger. If you’re shooting High Power or other mid- or long-range targets, a two-stage match trigger might work great. If you’re shooting 3Gun, you probably want a sport-specific trigger with a short reset and a light, but not too-light single-stage pull to help you burn through the close targets quickly, keep your stage time down, but still give you enough control to connect with shots farther out. And if your type of shooting is mostly of the tactical or military variety, with lives at stake, a robust, proven and non-adjustable combat-style trigger might be the best.
And that’s just three kinds of shooting. There are many, many more. And just about as many triggers to consider. For example, if you look at the Brownells website, you’ll around 15 different models ( http://goo.gl/zBHPf6 ) of Geiselle triggers alone.
So how do you make sense of it all? By reading and researching, and trying guns with different types of triggers, and finally getting some triggers, installing them, and shooting them a lot.
With all that to think about (whew!) I’ve made my own personal list of my five favorite AR-15 triggers. But remember, this is my list, and based around the type of shooting I prefer to do. Your list might be totally different for all sorts of good reasons. And there are lots of probably great triggers out there that I just don’t have any experience with, and thus cannot say anything about, like the very popular AR Gold Modular Triggers ( http://goo.gl/8mljyI ) . They get great reviews, and shooters seem to love them – I’ve just never had a chance to try one out in person.
So here are my personal Top 5 favorite AR-15 triggers, with a few reasons as to why I rank them in this particular order.
5. Original Mil-Spec Factory Trigger.
Even though lots of AR shooters can’t wait to drop in a new trigger, there’s a lot to be said for the plain-Jane, factory original. Yes, sometimes you get a creepy or gritty one, especially if you go with a manufacturer that’s not known for mil-spec parts. It works well enough, and there’s very little that can go wrong, as the design has been proven many times over. There’s not much chance it will be so light that you fire it before you intend to due to excitement or stress or adrenaline in a serious situation.
Plus, it’s non-adjustable, and many shooters fall prey to the siren call of the adjustable trigger and adjust themselves into unnecessary problems. There’s always the chance that a perfectly-adjusted trigger somehow slips out of adjustment, exactly when you need it most. Currently, I have three guns with factory original triggers and plans for some more of the same in the future.
These triggers are included with standard lower parts set ( http://goo.gl/y6DIua ) , so when you’re building a rifle, they really save you some cash. And for many kinds of shooting, they work well enough.
4. ALG Defense Enhanced Triggers
None of my guns wear ALG Defense Enhanced Triggers ( http://goo.gl/oX7kWM ) ,,, yet. But I’ve fired guns with these triggers and really like them. They are not match triggers, but are the perfected version of the standard, non-adjustable mil-spec original trigger. They have the same geometry, but are made to higher quality standards, and come with a specially hardened and smoothed-out sear contact surface to eliminate all grittiness. There’s also a nickle-boron coated version that adds a bit of built-in lubricity to further smooth everything out for a really nice predictable, repeatable trigger.
If you want the absolute best factory-original type trigger on your AR-15, this is a great choice. Of course it’s great, because ALG Defense is a spin-off from Geiselle.
If you dig around on the Internet, you’ll find plenty of positive comments from happy ALG Defense Enhanced Trigger users.
These triggers are a bit more pricey than standard factory original triggers, but can be had for less than $70.
3. Timney Drop-In Module
I have one rifle with a Timney Drop-In Module ( http://goo.gl/4o1ids ), and I really like it. This trigger has two things going for it that the factory original and ALG Enhanced triggers don’t offer. First, it’s a single-stage trigger. There’s no movement or take-up at all. I press against the trigger, and when I reach the amount of pressure required to trip the trigger, it breaks cleanly and crisply. Second, this trigger is modular, meaning that the trigger, sear, hammer and spring are all encased in a bright shiny yellow aluminum housing.
It’s stupid-easy to install. With a mil-spec type trigger, you have to fiddle a bit, and get all the pieces-parts aligned just so, and then push in the pins. With the Timney, all the pieces-parts are in one self-contained unit that just drops right into place. And the Timney uses your gun’s original hammer and trigger pins, whereas some other modular AR triggers require special pins.
The Timney is non-adjustable, and comes with a preset pull weight of 4 or 4.5 pounds, significantly lighter than the standard original trigger pull weight, usually around 6.5 to 7 pounds, with pulls as high as 8.5 pounds being considered “within spec.” It also has a very short, fast reset, meaning you can quickly fire a lot of rounds without much movement in your trigger finger. Timney Modular triggers cost around $220 up to almost $300, quite a bit more than ALG Enhanced triggers.
2. Geiselle SSA and Variants
Bill Geiselle is one of the true wizards of the AR-15 trigger. (FYI, it’s pronounced “guys-lee,” not “juh-zell.) His SSA or “Super Semi Auto” is one of the most popular aftermarket triggers for the AR-15. This one is a two-stage trigger, unlike the Timney. With a two-stage trigger, there are two separate stages. There’s the first stage, in which the trigger comes back a bit and then you feel a distinct stopping point. Apply more pressue at this stopping point, and the trigger breaks, which is the second stage.
While I enjoy good single-stage triggers, my favorite type of shooting is usually on my belly with either a sling or a bipod. And I find that good two-stage triggers give me the most control over the exact moment the shot breaks. I can take up the first stage, make final checks on my breathing, position and wind, and when everything is just right, I simply press a bit more and let that shot go at the precise moment of my choosing. If I’m in position too long, and conditions never get “just right,” I can let off that first stage, relax and breathe some more before repeating the process.
One of my scoped, bipod-equipped ARs has a Geiselle Super Dynamic Enhanced Trigger ( http://goo.gl/dRk6Lo ) , which is pretty much a Geiselle SSA only with a funky-shaped flat-faced trigger blade. It looks like a tiny chopping implement sticking down from the receiver. The flat surface is very easy to press against, and both stages are light and very distinct. I really enjoy shooting at little bitty targets, far away with my scoped, bipod-ed AR with this trigger in it.
Of course, two-stage triggers can slow you down a bit if you’re trying to shoot a lot of rounds very quickly, such as on a 3Gun stage. But I enjoy precision shooting the most.
Geiselles will run you from just over $200 to over $300, depending on the model.
1. Rock River Arms National Match Two-Stage
The very first trigger upgrade that I personally performed on any AR-style rifle was to drop a Rock River Arms National Match Two-Stage trigger ( http://goo.gl/Ml8vur ) into my DPMS LR-308. All these years later, I still love that trigger. Again, I went with a two-stage because of the type of shooting I prefer to do with the LR-308 – on my belly, with a bipod or sandbags, at little targets a long way off. The Rock River feels a little heavier than the Geiselle SDE in both stages, and has a standard-shaped trigger blade. But for a match-style two-stage trigger, it works plenty good, and costs around half of what a Geiselle does.
The RRA Two-Stage trigger I installed was even less expensive, as I bought it for under $100 from another shooter who tried it, didn’t like it that much, and opted for a more expensive trigger. If you’re a newbie when it comes to installing aftermarket triggers, and want a target-style trigger in your AR, this might be the way to go. It’s not the best match-style trigger out there, but it’s plenty good especially for the money. If you install it, and like it, you can keep shooting it while you research and try out other types of triggers. And if you decide to sell it, you’ll always find somebody else happy to buy your second-hand Rock River two-stage trigger.
Make Informed Choices
When upgrading your AR-15’s trigger, don’t just go out and drop a couple of hundred bucks on the trigger that everybody else seems to like. Carefully consider what kind of shooting you intend to do the most, and think about what type of trigger would best suit it. If possible, shoot your friends’ rifles that have different types of triggers, and get a feel for what works for you.
Then, go out and get that trigger, install it, and spend as much time as you can at the range and in field, enjoying every single shot.
Thomas Conroy is a firearms aficionado and writer who lives in the Midwest.