Choosing the best AR-15 trigger is important for getting the most accuracy and performance from your rifle.
However, not all AR triggers are made equally, or even very well.
Cheap, gritty “mil-spec” triggers are common, and little more than functional.
On the other end, are extremely expensive competition triggers that are hand polished and fitted, with light, easy pulls.
What is an AR-15 Trigger Kit?
All guns use a trigger to fire.
They use a few other parts that can vary slightly depending on design and type of action, and when these parts are combined, you get what is called a trigger group, or a trigger kit.
In an AR-15, you have the trigger itself, which when pulled releases a sear, which in turn allows the hammer to fall, and strike the firing pin in the bolt, which fires the round.
There are also some springs involved, and a couple of pins that hold the hole trigger group in the receiver.
Not all standard AR-15 trigger kits will include all parts. Many shooters, even with the best AR-15 triggers, don’t need to replace the stock trigger pins, or springs.
In other cases, springs are carefully chosen and purchased apart from the rest of the trigger group.
These springs will vary in how much force is needed to move them- a lighter spring will release quicker and with less effort, but might not have enough force to drive the hammer hard enough to fire all primer types.
What Parts Are Included?
Typically a normal AR-15 trigger kit will include the hammer, sear and trigger, and may include hammer springs, trigger return spring, and disconnector spring.
They may also ship with the hammer and trigger pins, which again, are the pins which hold those parts in the receiver.
There are premium “anti-walk” pins that are designed to reduce or eliminate the chance of pins working their way out of the receiver when in use.
But that is mostly a solution in search of a problem, although some competition shooters, or people who just have to have the absolute best of everything will find value in them.
However, there is a second form of AR-15 trigger kit, and that is the drop in trigger kit.
What is a Drop in Trigger?
We saw earlier that many of the best AR-15 triggers include pretty common three piece triggers.
These have to be carefully lined up and installed in the gun using two pins, three springs and sometimes a few dirty words as you try to get the whole mess to work together while installing them.
There is nothing wrong with this sort of AR-15 trigger, but there is a better way.
These are a single unit assembled, tuned and fitted at the factory for optimal performance.
Designed to be super easy for shooters to install, these true drop in kits only take a few seconds to install, and do away with all the problems that come with installing a traditional AR-15 trigger kit
All springs are attached and in place, the hammer, trigger and sear are all installed, and the only thing you have to do is literally just line up the drop in trigger with the trigger pin holes in your receiver, and press in the pins.
In fact it took longer to type this paragraph than it does to install a drop in trigger group.
The advantages in installation are quickly apparent, as is the fact that your entire trigger group is now a single unit that is better protected from grime, dirt and fouling, which means you spend less time maintaining your gun and more time shooting it.
First Choice: Straight Vs Curved Trigger?
Traditional firearm triggers are curved in shape. This offers a natural point of engagement, and are firmly ingrained in the minds and muscle memory of pretty much everyone who has ever handled a gun.
However, there is another choice in the form of straight triggers. Straight triggers are designed to make firing rounds faster than normal, as it is quicker to get your finger on the trigger.
Many gun owners report that the trigger feels lighter, and easier to let off due to how the force of the trigger pull is distributed over the trigger face.
In other words, it’s just a bit easier to pull a flat trigger than a curved one.
However, this is strictly a matter of personal choice, and there is no right or wrong answer here. Many curved triggers provide great accuracy, as do many flat triggers.
If nothing else, you might consider that flat triggers are pretty much only used by certain kinds of competition shooters, and people looking for something “different”, while even elite military snipers use normal curved triggers.
Try them both and decided for yourself.
Second Choice: Single Stage Vs Two Stage Trigger?
There are two basic forms of trigger operation. Single stage and two stage.
They differ in how they feel and operate when in use. A single stage trigger requires you to squeeze the trigger back, and keep squeezing until it “breaks” or releases and fires the gun.
There is no logical place to stop as you start pulling the trigger, and it can be difficult to take slow, careful aimed shots with a single stage trigger. You’ll better see why in a moment.
Two stage triggers however, work differently. While you are pulling on a single stage trigger, you are slowly applying more and more pressure to the trigger until it breaks.
It is a single movement that normally will get harder the closer you are to the trigger release.
With a two stage trigger, you have two distinct sets of movement in the trigger.
The first stage allows you to draw back the trigger with little effort until you suddenly stop having easy movement. At this point you can either hold your finger there, release it, or keep pulling back.
However, the trigger is currently “half pulled” and you can take your time focusing on your target, and now have much less movement on the trigger to fire it. Less movement means more stability, which means greater accuracy.
But does it really matter? For basic shooting, not really.
Single stage triggers are common not only because they are cheaper to make, but because they work really well.
Most folks are fine with them, and never have to do the kind of shooting that requires the added level of precision that comes with a two stage trigger.
But a good, accurate trigger is important, and if you are ready to move your shooting up to the next level, or want to start improving your groups at the range, or feel more confident taking a shot when hunting- or if you have to use your rifle in a self defense situation, then you’ll really want to put a two stage trigger in your gun.
Best Two Stage Drop In Triggers
Timney builds some of the best AR-15 triggers and their two stage, Targa drop in trigger is no exception.
With two pound first, and second stages, a semi curved trigger design, you’ll be amazed at how pleasant, and easy shooting this trigger is.
Timney has been building high end triggers for decades, and their legacy shines through in the Targa AR-15 drop in trigger.
This trigger quickly installs with standard pins, and Timney claims there is no need to use anti-walk pins due to their unique trigger group design.
The most notable “shortcoming” of this particular AR-15 trigger is that it isn’t adjustable.
However, that isn’t really a big deal either, as the consistent light 2 pound pull is more than suitable for match target shooting.
You’ll probably want something a bit heavier for hunting or home defense just for safety reasons, but for the range, you’ll love the Timney Targa.
Now this unique trigger certainly qualifies as one of the best AR-15 triggers we’ve looked at.
A rock solid single two drop in trigger, with an eye catching gold finish, this unique trigger includes special built in safety features that even further reduce the chance of accidental discharge if the gun should be dropped- a feature we really love.
But that’s not all that American Trigger Corporation built into this gem of an AR-15 trigger group.
Being a drop in trigger, installation of course is very easy. With an adjustable sear engagement of as little as six ounces, and a takeup half that of a standard mil-spec trigger, you can shoot faster than ever before, which is important in timed competitions.
A built in secondary sear catches the hammer in case of an accidental hammer drop, and requires a deliberate trigger pull to fire the gun.
This is a lovely safety feature on a lightweight trigger, because they can sometimes fire from a hard impact on the gun.
Modestly priced, accurate, and very safe, what isn’t to love?
Best Single Stage Drop In Triggers
Elftmann makes an amazing trigger.
One of the best lightweight, non adjustable AR-15 triggers we’ve looked at, the AR-15 SE Curved Trigger is actually a budget priced version of Elftmann’s premium, sealed bearing model.
With a non adjustable 3.5 pound pull, and easy drop in installation, you’ll find this trigger blows your stock factory AR-15 trigger out of the water.
It’s very affordable too, in fact it is one of the most affordable match target triggers on the market, and until you need something better, this will more than do the job for you.
Perhaps the only real objection to it is one we have for pretty much all of these precision match triggers- they may be too light for safely hunting in difficult terrain.
But on the other hand, that is what your safety switch and common sense is for.
This extremely affordable AR-15 trigger is another 3.5 pound single stage trigger that exists to fulfill the market demand for a drop in, match grade single stage trigger that won’t break the bank.
Advertised as “one of the most cost effective” of its type, Rise Armament doesn’t sacrifice quality or performance for price point.
By now, you’ve probably noticed middle and entry level drop in AR-15 target triggers have similar design and use similar technology.
There is nothing wrong with this, and it in fact proves that you are working with a mature, stable design that will stand up to regular use.
Rise Armament offers a no frills, no gimmicks lightweight trigger, and it is just what you need to turn your stock AR-15 into a more accurate target rifle.
Is this the best single stage AR-15 trigger?
Well, that’s something only you can really decide, but Rise Armament did an amazing thing by combining traditional curved trigger technology with the performance and function of a flat trigger.
You get all the speed of firing, and all the control of both types of triggers in one easy shooting, 3.5 pound drop in trigger kit.
Shipping with anti rotation pins, and built using heat treated tool steel and premium aluminum alloy, there are few easier ways to quickly upgrade your AR-15 in a meaningful fashion and notice a difference in performance and accuracy right away.
Reasonably priced, built to last and easy to install. You really need this trigger.
An early innovator in the world of drop in AR-15 triggers, the CMC AR-15 Tactical Trigger Group was intended to be a simple drop in replacement for a factory trigger, and not require any user adjustment or modification to perform at a match grade level.
CMC hand tunes each trigger at the factory before shipping them out in order to ensure optimal performance and ships a special set of anti-walk trigger pins.
What we have here is a bit of a throwback among the best AR-15 triggers.
Largely handcrafted and hand finished, these lack the nearly boring predictability of a CNC machined trigger group, and instead bring a bit of real craftsmanship and artistry to a drop in AR trigger, while still being surprisingly affordable.
CMC Two-stage models also available.
Available in 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5 pull weights, Timney delivers a fantastic drop in AR-15 trigger module at an equally fantastic price.
Designed to be an easy to install, direct drop in trigger group, there isn’t even a need to install anti-walk trigger pins.
There isn’t much that can be said for this trigger that hasn’t already been said for competing models, as it is a highly functional single stage drop in trigger, which is a really self explanatory concept.
What we really liked though is the fact you can order it in several different pull weights.
This is ideal for somebody who might want a light competition trigger, or maybe just wants something nicer than a factory stock trigger, but still heavy enough to safely take into the woods without worrying about a super light trigger going off if the rifle is bumped hard enough.
Regardless, the consumer has choices, which is a bit uncommon in the drop in trigger world.
There are a number of different AR-15 triggers. Choosing the best AR-15 trigger can be a bit like like voodoo, as each gun and each shooter are different, and will respond differently to different things.
Plus each person will have their own unique tastes, preferences and even brand identity they wish to stick with. The end result is a sometimes confusing array of triggers on the market.
However, they are easy to break down into basic types, and from there it is only a question of what feels best to you and what you can afford.
So go ahead, get rid of that boring factory trigger and grab something a lot nicer!