Comparing AR-15 Trigger Options

AR-15 Trigger Options

This will not be a definitive take on the topic of AR-15 trigger options and I doubt there ever will be. (This is for several reasons, not the least of which is the length of the article and the fact someone is always bringing a new idea or product to the market.)

Having said that, let’s look at some basics and how some of the variants may be better for your use than some of the others.

AR-15 Trigger Variants

Here are some of the most common AR trigger varients:

Mil-Spec Triggers

This is the trigger that comes in most factory guns that compete on price more than on performance level. This is targeted to be a 6-8# trigger and speed of manufacture is primary to all things other than pull weight.

This is a functional trigger, but its best use is cost savings. Now, there is an upstart in the “mil-spec” ranks known as the ALG ACT. It is what can best be described as a “Mil-Spec trigger done properly.”

The trigger pull range is the same, but, being nickel boron-coated and running the milling machine at a slower production rate takes away most of the gravel road effect.

The coating enhances the durability, aids in faster cleaning and less fouling of the trigger and makes for a much slicker feel. This makes the heavy pull weight seem much lighter. This is done for a very reasonable MSRP of $75.

AR-15 Trigger Option - ALG ACT
The ACT Advanced Combat Trigger by ALG Defense is a solid Mil-Spec option.

Drop-In Triggers

Drop-in triggers are made by companies like CMC Triggers and Timney. The hallmark of this type is a true drop-in trigger, which does not require assembly in the gun.

The trigger group is encased in a housing and comes complete with the sear, hammer and springs all pre-assembled. The options include bow or flat triggers, as well as single- and dual-stage options. Some offer allow for user adjustment of trigger pull via an adjusting screw.

As an example, the CMC Single Stage Flat Match option MSRP is around $275 and has a 3.5# nominal trigger pull.

CMC AR-15 Drop-In Single-Stage Flat Trigger
The CMC AR-15 Drop-In Single-Stage Flat Trigger requires no gunsmithing and can be installed in just a few short minutes

Precision Triggers

Geissele has made a mark with specifically producing triggers aimed at a specific task. Their Super 3-Gun (SG3) trigger is a single-stage trigger at 3-4.5# depending on springs installed.

This method of trigger weight adjustment is much less likely to go out of adjustment, but offers less customization. The SG3 is not designed to be the most precise when it comes to shooting, but it has a very quick solid reset and can be run very quickly.

Geissele Super 3 gun trigger ar-15
Geissele’s Super 3-Gun Trigger has a quick reset and runs quickly.

The High-Speed National Match is significantly different, as precision is its main goal. It is designed as a two-stage trigger for deliberate slow fire and high-precision results.

In its most precise configuration (Match Rifle configuration) it has a first stage pull of roughly 2# and a second stage pull of approximately 10 ounces. This trigger comes with three variations of spring set to adjust the pull weight to the desired resistance.

Geissele hi-speed national match trigger
The Hi-Speed National Match trigger features the M4 Curved Trigger Shoe profile.

An in-between option is the Super Semi-Automatic Enhanced (SSA-E). This trigger is also a two-stage with a combined pull weight of roughly 3#. It has a much faster reset than the National Match, but gives up some of the precision.

This is the trigger I default to with my more precision-oriented builds that may need to do other jobs on occasion. If you want a curved trigger bow or a flat one, Geissele has an option for you. The above triggers range from $240 to $280 MSRP.

Geissele ar-15 ssa-e trigger
The SSA-E is ideal for use in precision DMR-type rifles where accuracy and reliability are critical with a non-adjustable drop in trigger.

Boutique Triggers

There are also boutique trigger manufacturers like Art Neergaard at Shooting Sight. His RPS triggers are made of harder steel for longevity (hardened rolled tool steel).

They are nickel boron-coated for an even harder exterior, self-lubrication and smoothness of trigger pull that feels a lot less than the nominal 4.5# weight.

His two-stage triggers also have the fastest, most consistent lock time, which means a break to hammer fall comes in at less than 5 ms. As a boutique shop, MSRP and street price are the same at $195.


As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, I have barely scratched the surface of the AR-15 trigger options out there.

Whether you want a cheap Mil-Spec trigger, a way to upgrade your duty weapon or something specifically tuned for your 3-Gun or Prairie Dog hunting rig, it is out there.

The only real downside is that you will have to do research to sift through the hundreds of options.

What’s your go-to AR-15 trigger? Why? Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author:

John Bibby

John Bibby is an American gun writer who had the misfortune of being born in the occupied territory of New Jersey. His parents moved to the much freer state of Florida when he was 3. This allowed his father start teaching him about shooting prior to age 6. By age 8, he was regularly shooting with his father and parents of his friends. At age 12, despite the strong suggestions that he shouldn’t, he shot a neighbor’s “elephant rifle."

The rifle was a .375 H&H Magnum and, as such, precautions were taken. He had to shoot from prone. The recoil-induced, grass-stained shirt was a badge of honor. Shooting has been a constant in his life, as has cooking.

He is an (early) retired Executive Chef. Food is his other great passion. Currently, he is a semi-frequent 3-Gun competitor, with a solid weak spot on shotgun stages. When his business and travel schedule allow, you will often find him, ringing steel out well past 600 yards. In order to be consistent while going long, reloading is fairly mandatory. The 3-Gun matches work his progressive presses with volume work. Precision loading for long-range shooting and whitetail hunting keeps the single-stage presses from getting dusty.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (11)

  1. Here’s another option: Get a high quality Mil-Spec trigger that is made from good tool steel and properly heat treated. Then take your gun to a gunsmith that knows AR-15’s, and have him do a trigger job. He should charge you for about an hour of labor plus test ammo. He may also elect to change the trigger and connector springs because after polishing the proper surfaces, the “grit” will be gone and all that spring tension is not required. You will have your 3.5 to 4 pound trigger pull without the creep & grit. And, it won’t go out of adjustment, nor will you need to spend an arm and a leg to get it.

  2. Well, i am more in the precision shooting arena. I prefer a single stage trigger for repeatability and all of my guns have single stage triggers so i dont have to learn or remember. On Ars i like a 2 or 2.25# trigger. Forever difficult to find. So i went with timney because they are usually great and the standard and skeletonized triggers are awesome at around 3#. I use my 3g gun for hunting and prairie dog shooting so i really wanted a 2# trigger. Then hiperfire came about . Part of the problem with light AR triggers is a light primer strike. HIPERFIRE solved this. The lighter you make the trigger pull the heavier the firing pin strike. The trigger has a decent feel but not as crisp and clean and short as Timney. I think the hiperfire hammer is getting prematurely worn , but i did have it in a 9PCC for several hundred rounds before i noticed the wear. I am monitoring another ECL only used in an AR so i am monitoring that. I guess its been about a year and Timney came out with a 2# Calvin elite trigger and it seems to be everything ive ever wanted in an AR trigger. The trigger face is fully adjustable for height and angle. It is at 2# and i have had no problem with light strikes using federal AE, Remington umc, or Fiocchi hunting ammo. The trigger break is so clean and crisp it feels like a benchrest trigger. Their 700 calvin elite trigger is also amazing, adjustable from 8 oz to 2#.

  3. Milspec AR triggers are all easily polished and greatly improved ! Every bit as fine as a much higher dollar trigger, just takes a little effort to polish, no big deal at all and great improvements to silky smooth.

  4. When I built my first AR-15 I used a Geissele G2S 2-stage trigger. My recollection is that it was around $150, quite a bit less than their National Match and SSA-E, but a lot better than what comes on most off-the-shelf ARs. The G2S has come down in price substantially since I did my build nearly 6 years ago, and I’ve seen this trigger on gear sites as low as $99. The pull measures at a little over 4 lbs., quick and precise with a short reset. I just shoot for fun, not competitively, and the GS2 is more than adequate. Coupled with a Daniel Defense barrel and upper and an EOTech 1 MOA holographic sight, I can usually shoot 1″ groups at 50 yards and 3″ groups at 100. I’ve put two rounds through the same hole at 50 yards more times than I can count.

  5. The ALG trigger is sold by ALG but not made by ALG. As you can clearly see in the picture, it is marked with an “S” in a square which is Schmid Tool’s logo. Schmid has been selling their high quality triggers to OEMS for a long time. You will see the same trigger sold by FTM, Brownells, PSA, etc. Basically a quality trigger with a Nickle Boron finish and a Teflon coating.

    Schmid Tool has begun selling the triggers under their new retail name, 1001 Tactical.

  6. I recently bought an AR with a 9MM upper. Do you have a drop in trigger in 3# range that will work with the 9 MM upper? I was told that the 9MM requires a different trigger than what is specified for 223 ammo.
    Thanks George

  7. I have a 308 AR build that I included a few things on… aside from the Luth-AR MB-A3 stock and Miculek compensator… I added a Timney 2 stage…2# and 2# pull. Love it. My other ARs… 2 5.56 and one 300 AAC have various levels of Mil-Spec. I may buy a few more drop-ins for them at a later date..

    All in all…use what fits your wallet and what feels good for you and single or 2 stage for your purposes. We all are different and one isn’t BETTER than the other if it is what each of us wants. Sort of the Ford vs Chevy vs Mopar arguments. LOL

  8. I’m a fan of the Bravo Company triggers for my custom builds. They seem smooth, reliable and consistent. And they’re not too expensive.

    I’ve also used custom trigger jobs on standard mil-spec triggers done by the guy who does the triggers for the Air Force Academy’s shooting team. He charges around $25 to modify a trigger. I can’t remember his name offhand, but an internet search should find him. So if you’re accustomed to a standard trigger, his fine-tuning can make it smoother and less “crunchy”.

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