Your AR15 trigger needs to be 100% reliable and consistent if you want to shoot accurately.
In fact, if you're trying to improve the accuracy of your rifle, a trigger upgrade is the best place to start.
The best triggers will "break" without any warning - this increases accuracy because you cannot flinch to anticipate the recoil of the shot. Also, if you are not thinking about the trigger break, it means you have greater focus on the task at hand and makes you a better operator.
A good trigger doesn't have to be pulled back a long way before it "breaks" and fires a shot. This very short travel prevents application of excessive force which can lead to inaccurate shots fired. The short travel also means that resetting for a next shot is quicker so you can put more accurate rounds downrange.
Single Stage vs. Dual Stage Triggers
- Dual-stage triggers have 2 different stages when pulling the trigger - usually the first stage has a stronger trigger pull, followed by an intermediate area of travel with slight resistance (stage 2), followed by trigger break. Basically the trigger has a section of gentle resistance before it "breaks".
- Single stage triggers have no intermediate area - you just pull until the trigger "breaks"
- This choice really comes down to personal preference, but many people believe that dual stage is better for long range accuracy, and single stage is better for close-quarters or fast firing, because it resets more quickly
Trigger Pull Weight
The desired trigger pull weight truly depends on the application. For competitive shooting, you may want to go with a "match grade" trigger that has very light trigger pull, but for uses like close-quarters combat it's better to go with an all-around trigger with a little more pull weight. Why is this? Because a lighter trigger is easier to accidentally fire, especially in stressful situations or while moving.
- Trigger Pull measures how many pounds of force have to be applied to pull the trigger. The higher the number, the harder it is to pull the trigger
- Lighter trigger pull can result in more accuracy (you don't have to try as hard to pull the trigger), but it can also result in accidental discharges if you aren't careful. Light triggers are often referred to as "match triggers" because they are typically used for competitive shooting matches, or long distance shooting.
- Typical trigger pull is between 3 to 6 pounds. Around 4 pounds is the best choice for a multi-purpose rifle setup, or you can go lighter for a match-grade trigger
Curved vs flat triggers
Most triggers have a curved area that fits your finger, but on some triggers it's flat. This is personal preference - some people swear by flat triggers, some like curved. It's up to you.
Ease of install
While changing to a new trigger is beneficial, not all triggers are made the same and the kits they come in can be simple or complicated. When you get a trigger upgrade, try to find a "drop-in" kit - they can be installed in minutes. You don't want a kit with loose parts working with the tiny trigger springs will drive you nuts.
Lower Receiver Type - Small pin vs Large pin Lowers
The type of receiver will dictate the trigger type. The VAST majority AR-15 receivers are "small pin" receivers (this is mil-spec), but some older Colt AR's are "large pin" receivers. This refers to the size of the FRONT takedown pin hole.
If you have any question, just measure the front takedown pin hole. If it's .25", then you have a small pin receiver. .315" is the large pin. (Note: AT3 Tactical only carries small-pin triggers because the large-pin receivers are so rare these days)
AT3 Tactical Recommendations: The Best Triggers for Your AR 15
Below are our trigger recommendations based on trigger type. You can't go wrong with any of these products, it just depends what you're looking for!
Best Combat Trigger for All-Around Use: The Geissele SSA (Super Semi Automatic)
We recommend Geissele SSA for all-around use on an AR, as well as combat applications. It is a 2-stage trigger with a 4.5# pull weight, which means that it is light enough to shoot accurately, but heavy enough to prevent accidental discharge.
This trigger is the semi-automatic civilian version of the legendary Geissele SSF trigger that is used extensively in the U.S. Special Operations community.
Geissele makes some of the best triggers on the market - their manufacturing and quality control is second to none.
Best Overall Value in a Trigger: AT3™ Enhanced Nickel Teflon AR-15 Trigger Assembly
The AT3 Enhanced Nickel Teflon AR-15 Trigger Assembly is one of the best bargain you will find (about 1/4 the price of a Geissele SSA). The Enhanced Nickel Teflon trigger assembly features smooth, precision-machined engagement surfaces and Nickel Teflon coating that removes the grittiness found in mil-spec triggers and provides a cleaner "break".
The trigger is made in the USA and has a lifetime warranty.
One other thing to note - you can also get this trigger as part of a lower receiver parts kit - perfect for a new AR-15 build.
Best Dual Stage Match Trigger - The Geissele SSA-E Trigger
Another Geissele makes the list! (we told you these were great triggers!). The Geissele SSA-E is essentially a modified version of the SSA trigger, with reduced trigger pull. This makes it an excellent match trigger - easy pull and quick reset. This trigger is also commonly used in sniper applications where accuracy and reliability are an absolute must.
One Last Tip
If there's anyone that knows the AR-15 platform, it's the US military. As a special offer for our readers, you can get the Official US Army Manual for AR-15/M4/M16 right now – for free. Click here to snag a copy.