Triggers are an important upgrade whenever you care for precision. Yes, placing your shot precisely and timing your breathing is important, but if you want to get that perfect shot in the perfect moment with minimum movement, you need to know exactly when the shot will come.
That’s why a shoddy trigger that surprises you when you shoot or, worse, changes the actual point of impact with every pull is not worth your time. What your AR-15 deserves is a clean and crisp trigger that releases your bullet when your aiming point is in exactly the right position.
So, let’s take a look at the best AR-15 triggers out there on offer for you.
Split Times and Trigger Pull Weight
As much as upgrading the trigger system is a less expensive way to improve your overall shooting experience, it’s also confusing due to the proliferation of triggers on the market today. With so many different designs and options available, how are you supposed to make a choice that will work well for you?
One of the first things you’ll need to do before picking a trigger system is to establish a baseline of requirements you’ll want the trigger to accomplish. Two things you’ll want to satisfy first are how much split time you’re willing to tolerate and how much weight pressure you’re comfortable with when pulling the trigger.
Split time is the time expanse between shots. Typically measured in less than a second, most standard AR15 trigger configurations offer approximately less than a quarter of a second before the trigger resets, which is industry-acceptable. This same industry standard AR15 trigger requires about six pounds and nine ounces before the break, which may be good in most scenarios.
Most AR15 enthusiasts don’t give a split time of less than a quarter of a second and an average trigger pull weight of just under seven pounds a second thought. While these features may work well for the average AR15 enthusiast, the trigger and fire system will be one of the first things replaced in the world of competition shooting.
But then you also need a clear trigger reset to get a fast follow-up shot. You need to know when to travel forward enough so that a new pole brings you a new shot. Every movement counts and you need to have the right feeling, which means you need a clear crisp trigger with an equally clear reset.
Now, while this list of quality triggers is not exhaustive, each has a few features you’ll want to consider when choosing the one that will suit your needs. Let’s dive into them.
Many traditional AR15 owners prefer everything Mil-Spec on their rifle, including the trigger and fire control systems. When searching for a trigger that continues to perform better than a factory-installed one, ALG Defense offers the ALG ACT trigger system.
For less than one hundred dollars, the ALG ACT represents a Mil-Spec solution that mirrors the trigger systems approved by the military. However, ALG Defense coats the entire assembly with Boron on the ACT, and all exposed surfaces are polished. What this means to you is a much smoother trigger pull.
Even though the trigger sear is polished, ALG manufactures the sear to achieve a perfect angle for maximum reliability. While this Mil-Spec trigger from ALG Defense is rated to provide a six-pound pull at the break, you may experience a slightly higher pull weight.
Still, the extra weight required is only a few additional ounces and is wholly offset by how smooth the entire trigger system operates. When you factor in a split time of only .20 seconds, and that this trigger system costs less than one hundred dollars, the ACT will undoubtedly be an excellent upgrade for your AR15.
Elftmann 3 Gun Trigger
The Elftmann 3 Gun Trigger is Elfmann’s comes at 270 dollars but it has an adjustable trigger pull and a super crisp break. With two set screws, it is locked tightly into place so that there is no wiggle at all. Another screw is to be used to adjust the pull weight, every pull is a special experience.
There is no creep at all and the trigger breaks at 2 pounds and change or up to 4 pounds according to your setting. A strong reset allows you a fast follow-up, the split time confirms it with 0.14 seconds.
A better model is the Hiperfire Reflex but it comes at a price. In this case, the price stands at a little bit over 210 dollars. It is not a real drop in which makes it a little bit more complicated to install.
However, if you follow the instructions, it is relatively easy. It has a low trigger pull of a little bit more than 3 pounds. It comes with 3 different springs that you can swap out to change the pull weight.
The strike of the hammer is very strong that makes it quite reliable, it has a little bit of pre-travel, no post-travel, and a good reset that allows for a split time of only 0.15 seconds.
Hiperfire Sharp Shooter
The Hiperfire Sharp Shooter convinces with its price of only 94 dollars. It comes with a trigger pull of 5 pounds and 6 ounces which can be adjusted by swapping the spring.
With the other one, it comes down to 4 pounds and changes the brake is very strong. But there is a little bit of pre-travel before that after the break, there is rather long travel before the reset. This makes it not easy to do some rapid follow-ups. The split time stands at 0.23 seconds.
In today’s market, purchasing some drop-in trigger systems doesn’t always mean you’ll be able to drop it into your lower receiver and head out to the range. Some of these so-called drop-ins require spring and sear adjustments to work correctly and several rounds of additional adjustments until the action finally satisfies your shooting requirements.
Remember that not all drop-in triggers are alike, so rather than wasting your time and money on inferior designs or triggers, you may want to consider a few of these recommendations first.
Rise Armament Super Sporting Trigger
When it comes to a quality drop-in trigger system, Rise Armament offers its Super Sporting trigger at a competitive price point of just over one hundred dollars.
One great feature of the Super Sporting trigger is that it has no take-up travel due to modern advances in technology and advanced engineering enhancement. The result is nothing but a smooth, clean pull to the break and a trigger reset you can feel.
Rise Armament features the Super Sporting with your choice of a flat or curved trigger blade. Installation is straightforward and includes “walk-in” pins instead of more traditional set screws that need adjustment to keep the trigger in place.
The Super Sporting trigger sports an astounding single-stage, three-and-a-half trigger pound pull weight that places it in the competitive class of trigger systems.
Suppose you’re looking for a highly durable drop-in trigger. In that case, consider purchasing a Rise Armament trigger since the entire trigger system is housed in a solid block of 6061 aerospace-grade aluminum. This feature alone guarantees enhanced corrosion resistance and far better strength than most drop-in triggers on the market today.
Sporting an unbelievable .16 of a second split time, Rise Armament offers undoubtedly one of the best triggers you can find and features a lighter trigger system than most Mil-Spec solutions and yet consistently outperforms most.
With a Super Sporting trigger, you’ll get a clean break, minimal make-up, reduced trigger pull weight, and an excellent reset at a very affordable price.
The Elf SE, short for Elftmann’s drop-in trigger systems, represents a favored pick for single-stage drop-in triggers. While the ELF SE is drop-in safe, one of the best features is the silky-smooth operation made possible with indestructible ball bearings sealed inside the trigger system.
Suppose you’re not sure this trigger from Elftmann will fit your AR15 rifle. Not to worry, because Elftmann manufactures the SE to accommodate any Mil-Spec AR15 types, and Elftmann also has a large pin accessory available for Colt-style rifles.
After installation, you’ll discover that this ELF SE trigger outperforms a standard AR15 trigger, all the while at an overall weight that’s fifty percent less than most trigger systems. While this single-stage trigger is not adjustable, it does provide an advertised pull weight of only three pounds and five ounces.
With the ELF SE, you can choose either a flat or curved trigger, and the physical weight of the entire housing is only 2.3 ounces.
The ELF SE trigger system sports a mid-weight hammer and a polished piano wire hammer spring that promotes consistent and reliable ignition and an extremely swift locking time. When rapid follow-up shots are necessary, the ELF SE features short pulls and resets that allow far better accuracy.
Made from EDM machined hardened A2 tool steel combined with aircraft-grade aluminum, the ELF is a competitively priced, lightweight fire system that’s affordable, accurate, and dependable.
Protective shims are typically something you rarely see with many single-stage drop-in trigger systems. Still, Elftmann packages a shim for your lower because of the two set screws you’ll need to tighten to keep the trigger in place.
CMC Single Stage
CMC Triggers, based in Texas, has been producing unique trigger systems and accessories for over three decades. CMC was also the first to offer drop-in trigger systems for AR15 customers. Choosing to forgo esthetics with their blockish sheet-metal look, CMC provides a single-stage trigger in your choice of a curved or flat trigger blade.
This single-stage trigger from CMC also features a trigger pull of only two pounds and five ounces. It’s also a fantastic purchase, providing excellent performance at just under two hundred dollars.
While this trigger from CMC may wiggle a bit in the lower receiver, it consistently provides a clean break with no perceptible creep and a fantastic .125 second split time. CMC’s Single Stage 2.5-pound trigger also has minimal post-fire travel and offers a robust discernable reset and is undoubtedly one of the lightest trigger drop-in solutions on the market today.
Timney Competition AR-15 Trigger
The Timney Competition AR-15 Trigger has different versions with different trigger pulls. I recommend something in the area of three pounds so that it is light enough yet not too light.
The installation is very easy as it comes with tools that allow you to avoid the springs and make the screws very tight.
The trigger breaks almost immediately as there is no creep and very little travel before the bang, with no post-travel after the shot too. However, being a competition trigger, it is not made for spray and pray. It comes with a split time of 0.20 seconds.
While it is decent, there are triggers with better times out there, so if you are aiming for the best of the Timney triggers, go for the Timney Calvin Elite below – the price is just a bit higher. Its position is fully adjustable in the vertical as well as the horizontal plane, with a pull of only one pound and a few ounces – you have to be careful not to pull too early.
There is absolutely no creep and a very clear and loud reset, the split time is amazing at .09 seconds. The only downside is that it’s adjustable. There are things that might get loose if abused too much.
Timney Calvin Elite
There are few competitive shooters on the circuit today who don’t know of or don’t use a Timney competition trigger system. Although most Timney trigger systems hover at the high end of the cost spectrum, the benefits of a Timney trigger, especially the Calvin Elite, priced at just under three hundred dollars, far outweigh the cost.
With a look that doesn’t resemble any drop-in triggers on the market today and fully adjustable settings in both horizontal and vertical positions, the Calvin Elite represents a high-end trigger system. Installation of the Calvin Elite will undoubtedly improve your overall AR15 shooting experience.
Named after the designer, the Calvin Elite promises an unbelievable hair-trigger pull weight of only one pound eight ounces, and the reset click is unmistakable. The Calvin Elite sports a competition-tested split time of only .115 seconds and no perceptible travel creep.
Rated to be one of the most lightweight, dependable, and fastest trigger systems, you can’t go wrong when you drop a Calvin Elite in your AR15 lower receiver.
Single Versus Double Stage
Although most of the earlier-mentioned trigger systems have been single-stage, there are a few quality double-stage triggers on the market to consider. If you’re not entirely sure about the difference between single and double-stage triggers, think of it this way.
The first part of a double-stage trigger is the movement of the trigger blade and sear, hopefully with little creep. In most double-staged trigger systems, you should expect about ten ounces of pull weight. The rest of the pull occurs in the second stage, which can be around three pounds two ounces to approximately seven pounds two ounces of total pull weight.
One great thing about double-stage trigger systems is the adjustability of first and second-stage operations. For the competitor or the precision shooter, adjusting the trigger pull depending on the shooting scenario helps provide an essential advantage.
TriggerTech Two Stage
TriggerTech features a double-stage trigger for the AR15 that uses a roller with patented frictionless release technology that improves overall feel and accuracy for just under two hundred and fifty dollars.
Not only does this trigger system from TriggerTech provide unparalleled performance, but its adjustable capabilities allow you to vary trigger pull travel and overall pull weight. With the TriggerTech Two-Stage, you can alter your trigger on the fly to meet the shooting scenario or your style.
With most double-staged triggers, it’s about taking that precise shot, so the split time of about .24 seconds may not be the trigger system for a rapid-fire situation. However, for those more accurate shot placements of around one thousand yards, an adjustable trigger system such as TriggerTech’s Adaptable AR Primary is undoubtedly the one to consider.
Not all double-stage trigger systems will break the bank when you decide to upgrade your AR15 trigger system. For under one hundred dollars and less than seventy when on sale, the PSA 2-stage trigger assembly offers incredible accuracy and durability for both the AR15 and AR10 platforms.
Manufactured with a Nickel Boron finish, the PSA 2-Stage features a near-level stage pull weight of two pounds at the first stage and two and a half pounds at the second. Although not adjustable, the PSA 2-Stage features a total pull weight of four and a half pounds and sports negligible take-up travel and no noticeable overtravel after the trigger breaks.
The trigger action and split time of the PSA-2 Stage trigger is almost average run-of-the-mill with the noted exception of a three-pound eight-ounce trigger pull weight. What makes the PSA-2 Stage an exception is it’s a high-performance trigger system. Not only will it perform to expectations, but typically at a much lower price than you would expect to see.
Adaptable AR Primary
We go on with the Adaptable AR Primary from trigger tech. There is a two-stage trigger with a first stage without any creep and a consistent pull of 10 ounces. The second stage has a lighter pull and goes to the break with a pull of 3 pounds and 3 ounces and up to 7 pounds.
You can adjust the pull to your personal needs, for the adjustment you use the receiver set screws. Also, there are no springs blocking the screws after the break.
There is only minimal travel, for a two-stage trigger the split time of 0.22 is also very decent. The advantage of the two stage is more precision at the cost of speed for follow-ups. With this trigger, you’ll get on target out to 1000 yards.
ALG Defense ACT
The ALG Defense ACT comes with a nickel boron coating and is polished, which gives it a nice feeling and also some better properties.
It comes in matte gray, the polishing does not influence the angle of the trigger so that you get the best reliability.
This trigger will always get you the bang at the right moment. You get a pull of 6 pounds and some ounces and very little creep at the beginning. Very important is that it comes with a very clean break so that you know when it is going to happen.
When it comes to speed you get a split time of 0.20 seconds out of this one, this makes it not so right if you want to go for spray and pray. However, thanks to the clean break, it does support every accurate shot.
Choose What Works for You
As mentioned earlier, many more triggers are available on the market to choose from that will probably fit your shooting style and requirements. While some may be considerably more expensive, you don’t need to blow your entire budget on a tricked-out trigger system to get the desired results.
Remember that most reviews are subjective based on perception and use, so the best thing to do is set your requirements and expectations to meet your needs. Of course, budget limits are just as important when purchasing a trigger system advertised to meet most, if not all, of what you need the trigger to accomplish.
Split times between shots may be the most critical item to you, or it may be a combination of split time and total trigger pull weight. You may want a trigger system that performs better than what you have but weighs much less.
Another thing to consider is the trigger pull, as you do not want to have a trigger with a too-heavy weight or one with a too-light one. The too-heavy one will make it hard to pull without moving the rifle. The too-light one might break before you’re right on target.
Whatever improvement you need, it’s possible to upgrade your AR15 trigger system and quickly turn your rifle into a much better-performing semi-automatic for a nominal cost. All it takes is a little research, a few dollars, and a quality trigger upgrade to make an excellent AR15 rifle an even better one.
Many AR15 enthusiasts will probably offer suggestions you can or should consider when contemplating ways to improve the upper receiver of your rifle. These suggestions typically involve barrels, handguards, and even a few offset red dots systems.
You can spend thousands of dollars purchasing the latest types of ammunition or spend hours taking multiple training courses to upgrade your shooting experience. However, an improved trigger in the lower receiver of your AR15 is one of the best and least expensive upgrades you can make.
For More: Best AR-15 Calibers for Home Defense
If you’re interested in reading more, take a look at our article on the best AR-15 caliber for home defense. We cover the specific considerations you need to take into account for stopping a home intruder.
Dakota Potts is a gunsmith, armorer, and gun rights advocate with nearly 10 years of experience. He is well respected in the industry and his work has appeared on various industry leading firearm publications. He enjoys learning about firearm history and technology. You can follow Dakota Potts on Youtube or see his Facebook.