Let’s face it, the market is completely flooded with AR-15 triggers so it’s hard to know where to start. In the world of marksmanship your trigger pull/squeeze is incredibly important and having a good trigger will help ensure you accurately put rounds on target. The purpose of this guide is to give you a few things to think about when shopping around for a trigger.
If you’re looking for the long and the short of it we strongly recommend replacing your AR-15’s stock trigger. Replacing the trigger is arguably more important than getting an upgraded barrel, bolt carrier group or other enhanced parts because it’s such a huge piece to good marksmanship.
Table of Contents
- How we Rate the Triggers
- Types of AR-15 Triggers
- Best Mil-Spec Triggers
- Best 1 Stage Triggers
- Best 2 Stage Triggers
- Best Drop-In Triggers
- Best Competition Triggers
- Best AR-15 Trigger for the Money
- How an AR-15 Trigger Works
- Single-Stage vs Dual-Stage Triggers
- The Best AR-15 Trigger for YOU
How we Rate the Triggers
When setting out to find the best AR-15 Trigger we wanted to create a few pieces of criteria.
It’s easy to overspend on trigger upgrades and a lot of companies out there are pumping out some pretty mediocre triggers at super higher price points. In the trigger world, cost does NOT always equal quality.
Triggers take some serious abuse, so it’s important to spend your money on one that will hold up. Trigger wells often get caked in dust, moisture, carbon and other debris that can keep the trigger from properly functioning; this is really important if you’re using the trigger in a duty AR-15.
Ease of Installation
Installing an AR-15 trigger can be a serious pain so we wanted to put this on our rating scale. Many triggers are now drop-in triggers and can be installed in minutes while others take some advanced tooling. It’s important to roll this into your cost because if you can’t install a trigger on your own you will need to hire a gunsmith to do it for you.
Interested in adding a red dot sight to your AR-15, check out our blog, Best Red Dot Sights| 2019 Buyers’ Guide
Overall Trigger Pull
The overall trigger pull is very important when deciding what trigger you’d like to purchase. The pull should be smooth with a crisp sear break and a rapid reset. The amount of play/creep in a trigger is also a deciding factor. Some shooters prefer some slack when pulling the trigger while others want no slack at all.
Need new targets to test your trigger on? Check out our blog, The Best Rifle Targets for your next Range Day
Trigger Pull Weight
We personally prefer triggers with variable trigger weights. This allows the shooter to adjust the trigger weight to meet their shooting needs. While lower trigger weights are enticing they can also be dangerous for unskilled shooters. A lighter trigger can sometimes lead to negligent discharges.
Types of AR-15 Triggers
Mil-Spec is one of those terms that’s thrown around a lot but doesn’t really mean much. There is no actual Mil-Spec on triggers or really anything for that matter so if you see the term being used to justify a product’s quality make sure you proceed cautiously. In the world of triggers, Mil-Spec triggers tend to be stock triggers that come with most off-the-shelf AR-15s. These triggers tend to have a heavier, less consistent trigger pull with a lot of slack or creep. Most Mil-spec AR-15 triggers have around a 6-9lb trigger pull.
Best Mil-Spec Triggers
ALG Defense Quality Mil-Spec (QMS) Trigger
The ALG Defense Quality Mil-Spec (QMS) trigger is a very standard trigger with very standard features. It’s a curved trigger with a 6.5lb trigger pull which is fairly normal for the Mil-Spec range. The trigger itself is a non-adjustable single-stage trigger that won’t give you many options to tailor it to your specific shooting needs. That being said it offers a fairly solid trigger pull for a basic trigger.
Trigger pull weight: 6.5lbs
AR Gold Adjustable Trigger (curved or flat)
AR Gold is an adjustable trigger, both the curved and flat, coming in at .375 lbs. and only a 3.5 trigger pull weight. The trigger is also a drop-in module, making it an easy installation. The AR Gold was intended to work as a military, LE, competition and hunting trigger according to American Trigger. Their triggers are also made in the USA, which you know we like.
Trigger pull weight: 3.5 lbs
Trigger weight: .375 lbs.
FailZero Mil-Spec Single Stage EXO
FailZero has made a trigger intended to replace that stock mil-spec triggers that came in your AR. Assembled according to AS9100 aerospace standards, this trigger is meant to be reliable, in some of the harshest environments.
This is a single-stage trigger with a short reset and a trigger pull of only 3. 5 lbs. However, while it fits most AR-style platforms, it is not intended for use in a Sig MPX.
Trigger weight: 2.6 oz.
Best 1 Stage Triggers
Hiperfire Hipertouch® Reflex
Intended for the everyman (or woman) shooter, this trigger is adjustable from 2.5-3.5 lbs. Of course, made in the USA, this trigger has a positive reset you can both feel and hear. It also has a crisp and clean trigger break per HiperFire and was created with a Cam-Over Toggle Engine™.
Trigger pull weight: 2.5-3.5 lbs
Lantac CMC E-CT1
Built on the original Super Match concept, this drop-in trigger group was made for control and accuracy—keep in mind, a good trigger won’t fix bad shooting habits—it was also intended to stand up to the rugged shooting life and reliability you’d expect in a quality trigger. This trigger comes at a pre-set of 3 to 3.5 lbs of trigger pull weight. Also, it’s made in the USA.
Trigger pull weight: 3-3.5 lbs
Rise Armament Super Sporting
Yet another trigger intended to replace your factory mil-spec, this trigger comes with a 3.5 lb. trigger pull. This trigger is made from high quality, heat-treated tool steel and aluminum per the company and is a precision CNC machined drop-in trigger.
Trigger weight: 2.6 oz
Best 2 Stage Triggers
LMT Defense 2 Stage Trigger
If you’re looking for a two-stage trigger, this one has been in development for over 20 years. Each of the triggers is individually tested before they make it to your front steps. They are tested at the 2lb first stage and 5 lb. second stage.
Trigger pull weight: 7 lbs.
CMC AR-15 2-Stage Trigger Curved
A little pricier than some triggers out there—you can find it on various sites for cheaper—but still a quality trigger. This trigger comes with an initial pull weight of 1 lb, followed by a second pull weight of 3 lbs., for a total pull weight of 4 lbs. It’s also in accordance with mil-spec and comes as a drop-in for easy installation.
Trigger pull weight: 4 lbs.
LaRu Tactical MBT-2S Trigger
On the much cheaper end, but not in terms of quality is the LaRu Tactical MBT-2S Trigger. This trigger is made out of solid S7 tool steel plate. It has a 4.5 lb. trigger pull with 2.5 lbs. in the first stage and 2 lbs. in the second stage. You also have the option of increasing your pull weight to 6 lbs. with an additional (included if purchased through LaRu) trigger spring.
Trigger pull weight: 4.5 lbs.
Best Drop-In Triggers
This trigger is non-adjustable, but it is made of an ultra-light housing unit, coming in at only 2.3 oz. It was created to be drop safe with a double double wound hammer spring. The trigger is made of aircraft-grade aluminum and hardened steel. And, it’s made completely in America with a lifetime guarantee when you purchase it through Elftmann.
Trigger Pull weight: 3.5 lbs.
Trigger weight: 2.30 oz.
Made with an aluminum alloy housing and intended to be used in a small-pin AR, this single stage trigger requires nothing more than a simple drop-in install. You can choose between a 3, 4 and 4.5 lb. trigger pull weight without compromising reliability. Made in the USA.
Trigger pull weight: 3-4.5 lbs.
KE Arms SLT-1
This single-stage drop-in trigger that’s intended to improve safety and reliability was created to stand the test of time. The makers claim an ultra-crisp break, an improved tactile reset, reduced split times and of course an easy install. This trigger is not compatible with the Combloc 7.62x39mm Ammo, Sig Sauer MCX with Firing Pin Safety Features, and some .22 Rimfire AR15s and conversions.
Trigger pull weight: 4.5 lbs.
Best Competition Triggers
Triggertech Competitive AR Primary Trigger
This particular trigger is non-adjustable, can be purchased as a curved or straight trigger and comes as a short two-stage action. It is intended to stand up to the harsh environments of 3 Gun, competition, high-speed shooting, long range hunting, precision shooting, target shooting, and varmint hunting.
Trigger pull weight: 3.5 lbs.
CMC Triggers-Competition Trigger
CMC triggers, created by a competitive shooter for competitive shooters. These triggers are intended to maintain a consistent trigger pull weight. You’ll find the triggers come with oversized center pins. This will help prevent wear, reduce friction and prevent trigger wobble.
Trigger pull weight: 2.5 lbs
This particular trigger was made not only to be easily installed as a drop-in unit but also to be easily adjusted. You can adjust it from a 4 lb. trigger pull to 2.75 lbs. without removing it from your lower receiver. Made with aircraft-grade aluminum and hardened steel, this 2 oz. trigger is built with a full-power hammer spring and double double wound hammer spring.
Trigger pull weight: 2.75-4 lbs.
Trigger weight: 2 oz.
Best AR-15 Trigger for the Money
The best AR-15 trigger for your money will depend on what you’re looking for. If you’re competing, the Triggertech is great in the long run, and the material is meant to last against wear. If you’re planning on going into combat, the ALG Defense Quality Mil-Spec (QMS) Trigger for only $49 would be a good choice. Keep in mind, the amount you spend doesn’t always equal quality of the product. Sometimes you’re paying for the name. So, when you’re looking to upgrade your trigger, first decide how you plan to use your weapon, how often you’ll be using it and if you have a preference in one or two-stage triggers. You want a trigger that not only does its job, but one that won’t fall apart or break after a few hundred pulls.
How an AR-15 Trigger Works
AR-15 triggers come in a variety of options. Single-stage or two-stage, curved or flat—also known as straight—drop-in or assembly required. How you select the trigger for you will depend on the intended use. For instance, if you’re planning to compete in long range, you might select a flat, two-stage trigger with a light trigger pull weight. Or if you were competing for time, a single-stage trigger might work best.
However, no matter which option you select, they all pretty much work the same way. The biggest difference is how much trigger pull is needed and if there will be any resistance in your pull. When you pull the trigger, the hammer is released, it then strikes the firing pin, which strikes the primer. The type of trigger you select will determine how much effort you have to put into pulling the trigger, which puts into motion the movement of your round. If you select one needing more trigger pull, you’ll need to place more weight on the trigger before your rifle goes off. If you select a dual-stage trigger, you’ll have some resistance before you hit the second stage and your rifle goes off.
Single-Stage vs Dual-Stage Triggers
The stage of your trigger refers to the resistance between trigger weight. If your trigger is a single-stage, there is no resistance, you simply pull the trigger and it will smoothy pull to the rear. However, if you have a dual-stage, also known as a two-stage trigger, there will be some resistance in your pull. For example, the first stage may take 2 lbs. of trigger pull weight, then you’ll feel a slight resistance, followed by a second stage, which might be 2.5 lbs of trigger pull weight.
Want to improve your marksmanship with your new trigger? Check out our blog, 5 Gun Targets to Increase your Marksmanship
The Best AR-15 Trigger for YOU
Something to keep in mind, while there are triggers out there made of better quality, better price, better anything, what makes it best is how you work with it. Everyone will have a “best for me” trigger. So, while the above is our list, know that it will vary from person to person. Make sure you test some of these—in the field—if possible before you buy. Some triggers are better for combat, some competition, and others just everyday use. So, select a trigger that works best for your weapon’s use and how well you can work with the tool given.