The best AR-15 triggers rarely come on off-the-shelf rifles. Fortunately there’s a ton of after market options and I’m here to help you sort through the sea of options.
Hopefully this article will help you find the right trigger the first time. 🙂
(NOTE: This article is part of my "Best in Class" series where I list the top choices for various parts of your AR-15. You can find the other parts here: Best in Class Articles.)
The Best AR-15 Triggers
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BTW, most of the Product links on this page go to Brownells because of their 100% Forever Satisfaction guarantee. That's a guarantee I can live with. 🙂
If you aren’t completely, 100% satisfied with any purchase you receive from Brownells, for any reason, at any time, return it for a full refund or exchange. No hassle, no problem. And, we won’t bog you down in endless paperwork. Your complete satisfaction with each and every product we sell is what’s most important to us.
#1. Flitz Polish and a Q-tip ($10)
Okay, this one is for the ultra cheap among my readers. It’s perfect those who are attached to their Mil-spec triggers or just don’t want spend much on upgrades.
For those who don’t know, Flitz Metal Polish is a non-abrasive polishing compound. Before you hit the comments section saying there is no such things as a non-abrasive polish, I’m just repeating what it says on the tube. Also, thousands of Glock fans have used it on their triggers to improve them without ill effect.
The basic idea is this: Remove the trigger from your rifle, then polish the sear surfaces with some flitz on the Q-tip.
It will take some elbow grease and time.
This won’t give you the best AR-15 trigger on the market. However, you should be able to remove much of the rough/gritty feeling on your Mil-spec trigger. And as long as you just use Flitz and a Q-tip, you’re perfectly safe.
One important disclaimer: DO NOT USE A DREMEL. (even with a cloth/felt polishing wheel)
Seriously, just say no to drugs – uh, I mean dremels unless you polish things professionally and know exactly what you’re doing. The danger with any power tool is that you will go too far and polish through the (very thin) case hardening.
That’s also the reason you should NEVER use a stone or (God forbid) sandpaper on your trigger. You’ll go right through the case hardening and create a VERY unsafe trigger, effectively ruining it.
Seriously guys, just don’t do it.
Flitz plus a Q-tip is safe. Dremels, sandpaper and stones aren’t. Please be safe.
If you don’t know where to polish, this youtube video I found should give you a good idea. (plus it’s a great and simple explanation of how a Mil-Spec AR-15 trigger works.)
#2. ALG Defense QMS & ACT ($49 – $69)
(The ACT is a plated version of the QMS.)
The ALG Defense Quality Mil-Spec (QMS) trigger wins the “best AR-15 trigger for the money” award. It’s basically a standard military trigger with a complete (and professional) trigger job. ALG starts with some of the highest quality Mil-Spec triggers currently made. Then they improve it by precision polishing all the contact surfaces. This results in a very smooth trigger that is much better than a standard Mil-Spec trigger.
The Mil-Spec AR-15 triggers may be horrible, but they are very reliable. The QMS preserves this reliable design lineage, but removes all the negatives that go with Mil-Spec.
The QMS gives a 5.5-6 pound trigger pull, and comes with very high quality springs too.
The ALG Defense Advanced Combat Trigger (ACT) is exactly like the QMS, only with the added benefit of Nickel Boron and Nickel Teflon plating. Nickel Boron and Nickel Teflon plating both make the triggers even smoother and more resistant to wear and corrosion. In the case of Nickel Teflon, it’s almost corrosion proof. (almost)
The result feels much like the QMS, but slightly smoother. Additionally, the ACT is virtually impervious to the elements thanks to the plating.
I would use this trigger for combat, self defense, or even a hunting rifle where I didn’t have the funds to use a Geissele SSA.
#3. Ruger Elite 452 ($140)
This is a relative newcomer to the Ar-15 trigger market, but it’s already making some waves. The Ruger Elite 452 Trigger is a two-stage trigger with an advertised 4.5 pound trigger pull. The actual trigger pull seems to be around 4 pounds. (based on a lot of googling to get a larger sample size.)
It also features a 30% faster lock time than a Standard AR-15 trigger. (The lock time, measured in milliseconds, is the time from when the trigger is pulled until the firing pin strikes the primer.)
Another cool thing is it comes in the assembly you see in the picture. The assembly has a real AR-15 grip and was designed to be safely dry-fired all day long. Plus, it gives you a cool look at how the trigger actually works for those who care.
This is an excellent “I can’t afford a Geissele yet, but want something pretty good.” trigger. It’s not a Geissele, but it’s one of the best AR-15 triggers for mid-level budgets.
#4. Geissele SSA and SSA-E ($240)
In my opinion, it doesn’t get any better than the Geissele Super Semi-Automatic (SSA) trigger.
This is the trigger that’s currently sitting in my $2400 AR-15. For those who don’t know, I am EXTREMELY picky about what I put in my fighting weapons. I will use nothing but the absolute best. (Which usually means saving up for months. It took over a year to finish it.)
In my opinion, the Giessele SSA is arguably the best AR-15 trigger money can buy.
I agonized over the price tag for a few months before I pulled the trigger. I’m glad I did. I have literally never been sorry I bought it. In my mind, it’s the perfect trigger and–
I’ll be right back…
…Okay I just checked it again. Still perfect. 😉
It’s a two-stage trigger with a 2 1/2 pound first stage and a 2 pound second stage. (4 1/2 pounds total) The pull is perfect throughout. It’s smooth as silk and the second stage breaks like glass. Plus, to quote from the Giessele website:
“The SSA is safety certified by Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center. It is recommended for demanding applications such as Law Enforcement use, Close Quarters Battle (CQB) and mid-range carbine work.”
And to quote from an interview with Bill Geissele on Ammoland.com. (The interview is worth a read, and the emphasis below is mine.)
Q: For some of our troops deploying abroad, are they allowed to use your products in their weapon (officially or unofficially)?
All the ‘Tier 1’ SOF units use our triggers. Our SSF and SSA were safety certified by Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center which helps those in big SOCOM who shoot the Mk11 and Mk12 weapons.
By the way, I’ve never seen a bad review for this trigger. It might exist, but I haven’t seen it.
If you prefer lighter than 4.5 pounds, the Geissele SSA-E is almost exactly the same as the SSA, except the total pull weight is 3.5 pounds. The first stage is 2.3 pounds, the second stage is 1.2 pounds. If you prefer long range target shooting or lighter triggers, then I would get it instead. (I prefer the 4.5lb SSA even for longer range work)
#5. Geissele Super 3 Gun (S3G) & Super Dynamic 3 Gun (SD3G) Trigger
For those of you looking for a a hyper-fast and accurate trigger for competition shooting, the Geissele S3G (or the flat trigger SD3G version) is the best AR-15 Trigger money can buy. Seriously, I’ve seen people shooting a Geissele SD3G with near full auto speed and insane accuracy. (I actually had a really cool video embedded below so you could see, but YouTube has been slapping down gun videos lately. 🙁 You can see the fire rate in this 8 second video)
The Geissele S3G is a single stage trigger with a very short reset, which enables the insane firing rate you just saw. You can set it up with either a 4 pound or 3.25 pound pull depending on the spring you use.
For people who are running an AR-15 in a competition (like 3 gun) it’s probably the best choice.
I would say more, but I think the video speaks volumes.
(A quick note about the Tac-Con 3MR trigger. I have never used one, but it’s claim to fame is speed. However in a head-to-head matchup, the Geissele S3G is just plain old faster. No gimmicks, just Geissele.)
Timney Drop In Skeleton Trigger ($280 -$290)
Timney makes some of the best AR-15 triggers for those who like ultralight single stage triggers. This version fits that mold.
It’s a single stage trigger with basically zero creep. It comes in three different pull weights of 3lbs, 4lbs, and 4.5 lbs. It’s also a drop in module, so installation is easier than the most of the other options on this page.
I would only use one of these in a benchrest rifle, and in that arena they can do well. However, I certainly wouldn’t take one hunting or use it for self defense/combat.
Confession: I do not like single stage triggers at all. I almost didn’t put this trigger in the list here because I dislike the zero-creep single-stage triggers so much. However, I realize that some shooters love them. This is here for them.
(BTW, my issue is the lack of sear engagement on a crisp single stage trigger. In order to prevent creep, the sear engagement is less than I like. On a good two-stage trigger, there’s plenty of sear engagement through the first stage while still having a crisp break on the second stage. I also find two-stage easier to shoot, but that’s me.)
#6. Fostech Echo Trigger system
Okay, this one is here because it’s so Freakin’ cool!
If coolness was included, then this would be the best AR-15 trigger on the market. The Fostech Echo Trigger will give you the firing rate of a fully-automatic rifle with a civilian legal Semi-automatic trigger.
Because of it’s third position “echo mode”. The “echo mode” makes the weapon fire when you pull the trigger and again when you release it. You can check out the Military Arms Channel’s range test on youtube. It’s pretty cool.
Franklin Amory’s Binary trigger does the same thing, but you can “outrun” the gun. That is, you can reset too fast and the hammer will follow the bolt down, but won’t have enough force to fire the round. That means you end up with a live round in the chamber and dead trigger. When that happens, you have to charge the weapon again to continue firing.
The Fostech Echo doesn’t share that problem.
I don’t see the Echo trigger as purely a gimmick or just a way to throw lead down range either. It’s an excellent and very fast way to fire a controlled pair. (commonly and incorrectly called a “double tap”.) This trigger could allow you to fire a controlled pair even faster without sacrificing accuracy.
And as I’ve said before, you can’t miss fast enough to win a gunfight.
Rock River Arms National Match Two-Stage Trigger
This is one to AVOID.
You could put one into a match/target rifle, but you couldn’t pay me enough to take one into combat. I would rather take a bone-stock Mil-Spec Ar-15 trigger into combat instead.
They wear out after a few thousand rounds. (or sooner)
A quick Google search will reveal a load of people who’s RRA NM two-stage triggers have pooped out. A few died after only a few hundred rounds. Some have fired many thousand. Most get 1000-3000 before they have issues.
Not long ago, a local police department brought two RRA AR-15s with these triggers into the gun shop I manage. They had serious function issues, including double and triple firing.
I installed one for a buddy of mine and it took some serious filing before it would even fire. (and no I didn’t touch the sear engagement areas. I filed the top rear of the trigger so it could be pulled far enough back to let the hammer fall)
Long story short, this is NOT one of the best AR-15 triggers ever made. I would AVOID installing one. If you have one on your rifle, I would either use it only at the range or swap it out for something more reliable.
Those are some of the best AR-15 triggers on the market. You should be able to find a bang switch that’ll fit your needs among them. If you’re not sure which one would work, I recommend either the Geissele SSA on the high end or ALG QMS for a budget trigger. The SSA is perfect for almost any application, and the QMS is a darn good trigger for the money.