The Best AR 15 Trigger Reviews to Up Your Game in 2021

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Last Updated on September 11, 2021.

You’re in the right place. A good trigger is one of the most cost-efficient upgrades you can make to your AR-15. Few upgrades improve the shooting experience and maximize the effect of good shooting fundamentals as much as getting the best AR-15 trigger for your rifle.

Fortunately, there are tons of options at every price point. It can be tough to sort out all the jargon on product pages. And that gives you no information about how the trigger will actually feel when you’re shooting.

Thankfully, I work at a range with a gunsmithing shop and a gun rental counter. And I have quite a few AR-15 triggers of my own.

And, although I don’t personally own all of these triggers, these are the best AR-15 triggers I’ve found in my years of installing, fixing, and shooting with different triggers as they come through the range.

First, let me sort out some of the product info you’ll see in your AR-15 trigger shopping.

Mil-spec triggers

Drop-in triggers

The Best AR-15 Trigger on the Market Today

What’s the best AR-15 trigger type?

However, there are a few differences that affect how each type of trigger feels when you shoot it and what precautions you must take when you install each type of trigger.

There are two types of AR-15 triggers. Both types can be good triggers. And you can confidently use either type.

Mil-spec triggers

“Mil-spec trigger” simply describes a trigger that’s based on the original trigger designed by Eugene Stoner for the original Armalite rifle.

A mil-spec trigger has three parts:

  1. Trigger
  2. Disconnector
  3. Hammer

These parts are separate. And the entire mil-spec trigger assembly is held in by two pins. This can make mil-spec triggers a bit tedious to install. But it’s easy enough that anyone can do it.

Mil-spec triggers are incredibly reliable. However, the design makes it difficult to achieve a super smooth trigger press and clean reset (more on reset in a moment).

Drop-in AR-15 triggers

Drop-in triggers are constructed as a single unit, rather than three separate components. And many shooters regard drop-in as being better triggers, overall.

While it’s true that many drop-in triggers feature a proprietary design that can deliver a superb trigger press and release, drop-in triggers can present reliability issues (this is rare with modern drop-in triggers).

Also, you often must use anti-walk trigger pins when you use a drop-in trigger. There are no springs on the trigger to retain the pins. Anti-walk pins prevent your trigger pins from sliding out while you shoot.

How to decipher AR-15 trigger specs

If you’ve done some AR-15 trigger shopping, you’ve probably encountered a few numbers and terms on product pages. Here’s what all those specs mean.

Pull weight

This is the amount of pressure it takes to get the trigger to fire the rifle.

A pull weight between 4.5 and 6.5 pounds is good for most recreational, defensive, and duty guns.

Many competition shooters prefer a pull weight between 2.5 and 3.5 pounds

Single-stage vs 2-stage AR-15 trigger

Single stage triggers have one point of resistance. You’ll have to apply the entire pull weight of the trigger to push through that resistance (often called the “wall”) and get the gun to fire.

2-stage triggers have two points of resistance that break up the total pull weight into two lighter stages. This can produce a smoother trigger press. Though some 2-stage triggers require more physical trigger movement to fire than single-stage triggers.

Precision shooters often prefer 2-stage triggers because they feel a 2-stage trigger makes it easier to control muzzle movement during the trigger press.

Non-adjustable vs adjustable AR-15 trigger

Pretty straightforward:

Non-adjustable triggers have a fixed pull weight. Adjustable triggers have a pull weight that can be adjusted within a certain range.

Phosphate vs nitride vs nickel boron finishes

The most common trigger finishes are phosphate and nickel boron finishes. Though you’ll occasionally see triggers with a nitride finish.

Phosphate is the original mil-spec finish. It’s durable, but not tremendously smooth. Triggers with a phosphate finish sometimes have a gritty feel in the trigger movement.

Nickel boron is much smoother than nitride. Many manufacturers use it to make their mil-spec triggers move more smoothly. Nickel boron is also silver. So it looks cool.

Nitride is the least common trigger finish. But it’s a good finish. It’s smoother than the phosphate finish and delivers smooth trigger movement. It’s also black, which might be a better match for your rifle’s aesthetic.

Reset

The reset is how much movement it takes for the trigger to return to its original position so that it will fire the rifle again when you press it. They mention this on product pages because it’s best if your trigger’s reset isn’t ridiculously long or stiff.

AR-15 trigger reviews (12 best mil-spec and drop-in triggers)

With that, these are the best AR-15 triggers, based on my trigger finger’s experience. 

Mil-spec triggers

If you’re into proven designs and maximum reliability, these will give you the best mil-spec trigger press.

The Ultimate AR-15 Triggers Review

1. ALG Defense Quality Mil-Spec Trigger (QMS)

ALG Defense Quality Mil-Spec Trigger

This is one of my favorite triggers. The ALG Defense QMS is affordable. And it’s a good trigger.

It’s not an amazing trigger. But, at just under $60, it’s hard to beat for the price.

Check on OpticsPlanet

ALG honed the key friction surfaces to make the trigger press smoother and more consistent than a standard mil-spec trigger. And the trigger and hammer pins are a tiny bit oversized (0.001 inch larger) to remove any wiggle in the components.

On average, the ALG QMS produces a 6lb trigger press. Though some QMS triggers come in closer to 6.5lbs.

ar15 trigger test shot

Either way, it’s totally suitable for defensive and tactical shooting. And, with a little practice, you can get excellent precision with a QMS in your rifle.

The reset can be a little bit gritty, because of the phosphate finish on the hammer. You can see in this video how a new QMS trigger creeps a bit when it resets.

However, the reset gets smoother the more you shoot because the disconnector naturally polishes the hammer finish.

Even with a short break-in period, the ALG Defense QMS is one of the best triggers you can get.


2. ALG Defense Advanced Combat Trigger (ACT)

ALG Defense Advanced Combat Trigger (ACT)

If you’d like an even better trigger press without giving up your mil-spec reliability, the ALG Defense ACT is the way to go.

This trigger is similar to the ALG QMS. But the ACT has nickel boron and ALG HardLube surface coatings to ensure a consistently lower pull weight and smoother movement.

Check on OpticsPlanet

The ACT trigger press usually comes in between 5.5lbs and 6lbs, which makes it a tad better for precision shooting than a standard mil-spec trigger or the QMS.

The nice thing about this trigger is that the trigger movement is the same as a standard mil-spec trigger. Everything is just smoother. It’s an excellent trigger if you’re accustomed to the mil-spec trigger press, but want something a little more refined.


3. HIPERFIRE Hipertouch EDT2 Heavy Gunner

HIPERFIRE Hipertouch EDT2 Heavy Gunner

The HIPERFIRE Hipertouch EDT2 Heavy Gunner is probably the trigger that I use most, because I have two rifles with the EDT2. I think it’s the best trigger for the money.It’s technically a mil-spec trigger, because it retains the three-piece design and doesn’t require any anti-walk pins. But all the parts in the EDT2 have been modified from the original mil-spec design to shorten the takeup and reset.

Check on OpticsPlanet

There are also two hammer springs: one for a 4.5lbs trigger press and one for a 5.5lbs trigger press. I found that the pull weights tend to come in closer to 5lbs and 6lbs on a new trigger. But the pull weight eases up as the trigger breaks in.

I know a few competition shooters who swear by these triggers. And I find that the shorter trigger movement and medium pull weight are the best all-around combination if you want one trigger that will work for almost any context.

One thing to note: the Heavy Gunner model works great for rifle rounds. However, the standard HIPERFIRE EDT Trigger is best for pistol caliber carbines. The Heavy Gunner hammer strike can be too strong for some pistol primers.


4. HIPERFIRE Hipertouch Genesis

HIPERFIRE Hipertouch Genesis

Some of the competition guys who like HIPERFIRE triggers use the HIPERFIRE Hipertouch Genesis in their competition guns, because it offers a lighter trigger press than the EDT series.

The spring options on the Genesis offer a 2.5lbs and 3.5lbs pull weights.

Check  on Palmetto

Personally, I like this trigger a lot (even though all of my guns are setup in more of a duty gun fashion). The trigger press is excellent, especially considering this is just a redesigned mil-spec trigger.

My only beef with this trigger is that it’s a bit expensive. And I’ve noticed that most of the people who prefer this trigger are those who want a single-stage trigger that’s really good for competition and precision shooting.


5. Geissele 2-Stage Trigger

Geissele 2-Stage Trigger

If you want an excellent trigger and you’re not partial to the single-stage trigger press, the Geissele 2-Stage Trigger is easily the best value. Geissele might make the best 2-stage AR-15 triggers you can get.

This is probably Geissele’s most popular trigger simply because it’s the most affordable. And it’s a great trigger.

Check on Palmetto

The trigger press comes in at about 4.5 pounds. The transition between the two stages is almost unnoticeable. And the break is super crisp.

I’ve seen a lot of people use this trigger in all their AR-15 rifles—precision, competition, or otherwise—and get great results.

It’s certainly not a budget trigger. But the Geissele 2-Stage is probably the best value you can get from a 2-stage trigger.


6. Geissele Super Semi-Automatic Enhanced

Geissele Super Semi-Automatic Enhanced

The Geissele Super Semi-Automatic Enhanced trigger probably comes in second place for popularity among Geissele triggers. It would probably be the most popular Geissele trigger, if not for the price, because everybody who uses it loves it.

The overall pull weight is lower than the standard Geissele 2-stage trigger, at about 3.5lbs total. And the hammer pin is retained differently than the standard 2-stage trigger.

Check on Palmetto

The overall pull weight is lower than the standard Geissele 2-stage trigger, at about 3.5lbs total. And the hammer pin is retained differently than the standard 2-stage trigger.

The hammer geometry is also slightly different, which seems to smooth out the transition between the two stages even more. Then there’s the sharp break that Geissele is known for.

This trigger is hugely popular with the competition crowd who are more discerning about their trigger press. And a lot of people really like using this trigger on their precision rifles.


Drop-in triggers

If performance and ease of installation is your game, these drop-in triggers will (literally) drop right into your rifle.

7. RISE Armament RAVE 140

RISE Armament RAVE 140

Personally, this isn’t my favorite RISE Armament trigger (the one I like is further down).However, the RISE Armament RAVE 140 is a beloved drop-in trigger. And I understand why so many people like it.

Check on OpticsPlanet

It’s available with either a curved or a flat trigger. The trigger press is reasonably light (3.5lbs). And it’s not all that expensive, as drop-in triggers go. Also, it comes with anti-walk pins.

Overall, it’s a complete package that delivers solid performance.

My beef with it is that the curved trigger feels kind of weird to me. And I prefer curved triggers. So the flat trigger doesn’t do a whole lot for me.

But the trigger press is top notch. Maybe I’ll borrow one and give it another try.


8. Timney Triggers AR-15 Competition Trigger

Timney Triggers AR-15 Competition Trigger

Timney is a bit of a household among competition shooters and hunters. But it’s still impressive how many competitors use the Timney Triggers AR-15 Competition Trigger.

This isn’t a cheap trigger. People aren’t buying it for the price. They’re buying it for the trigger press. Actually, I think people might be buying it for the reset.

Check on OpticsPlanet

While the trigger press is super smooth and consistently breaks at about 3.5 pounds, the reset is kind of a standout feature for competition shooters.

The reset is short. But it’s also incredibly positive. It gives a nice tactile snap when the trigger resets. Competitive shooters like it because it’s easy to feel the reset even when you’re shooting fast.

The thing that people complain about most is that this trigger doesn’t come with anti-walk pins. But that doesn’t seem to stop anyone from buying it.


9. PSA Custom AR Match Grade Drop-In Trigger

PSA Custom AR Match Grade Drop-In Trigger

The PSA Custom AR Match Grade Drop-In Trigger is another one that shows up at the range a lot. I suspect that’s because the price is really good.

However, it’s a decent enough trigger. The overall movement is surprisingly short. The take up is nearly non-existent. And the reset is short, but relatively noticeable, for those that are into that.

Check on Palmetto

The break is also surprisingly clean, and hits 3.5lbs pretty consistently. All in all, this trigger delivers a better trigger press than you might expect for the price.

There are a couple areas where the price point shows, though. The most noticeable area is the finish on the trigger bow. The finish is a bit gritty, kind of like cast iron.

It’s not painful or anything. But it might bother you if you prefer a smooth finish.

The finish on the internal components is sometimes a little bit rough, too. But it doesn’t seem to affect the function. So not a huge issue.

Still, this is a strong trigger for the money.


10. RISE Armament LE145 Tactical Trigger

RISE Armament LE145 Tactical Trigger

As promised, this is my favorite RISE Armament trigger: the RISE Armament LE145 Tactical Trigger.

As I mentioned earlier, most of my rifles are set up like duty guns. So I tend to stick with more traditional triggers. That’s why I prefer this trigger over the RAVE 140.

Check on OpticsPlanet

The LE145 has a more traditional trigger shape, with nicely rounded edges. And the trigger press breaks at about 4.5lbs, which is where I want it.

Though, after seeing a few of these, it seems that the break usually happens between 4.5lbs and 5lbs. RISE Armament probably errs on the side of heavier when they select their springs, since this is a tactical trigger.

The pull weight tends to settle closer to 4.5lbs as the trigger breaks in, though.

There’s less movement in the trigger press than a mil-spec trigger. But I will admit that the Timney triggers have less overall travel.

The LE145 costs a little more than half of what you’d pay for a Timney drop-in trigger, though. So I think this trigger is a better value for the money.


11. CMC Triggers Duty Patrol Single-Stage Trigger

CMC Triggers Duty Patrol Single-Stage Trigger

The CMC Triggers Tactical Flat Trigger is more popular than this trigger, according to the internet. But I prefer the CMC Triggers Duty Patrol Single-Stage Trigger. The tactical flat trigger has a spike on the trigger bow that stabs my finger.

Check on OpticsPlanet

The Duty Patrol trigger has a standard curved trigger bow, which works better for me. If you’re into the spiky trigger, have at it.

Moving on, the Duty Patrol trigger has a beautiful trigger press. I’m not really a trigger snob. And even I appreciate the minimal and smooth movement.

Also, the break comes in pretty close to 5.5lbs every time. But, to me, the break feels lighter than my mil-spec triggers with a 5.5lbs pull. This trigger is well-designed.

Lastly, the housing is steel. This makes the trigger unit a little bit heavier. But it’s durable as heck. This is a tough trigger to beat, period.


12. CMC Triggers AR-15 Tactical Single-Stage Trigger

CMC Triggers AR-15 Tactical Single-Stage Trigger

If you like the CMC Duty Patrol trigger, but want a lighter trigger press, get the CMC Triggers AR-15 Tactical Single-Stage Trigger. As far as I can tell, the only differences between the two are the springs and the trigger bow.

Check on Palmetto

I suspect that they may have changed the internal geometry of the trigger piece to help reduce the pull weight to 3.5lbs. But I couldn’t tell with a simple visual inspection.

Regardless of the differences, the CMC Triggers Tactical trigger feels just as nice as the Duty Patrol trigger. It just takes a tad less effort to make your gun shoot.


13. Triggertech AR-15 Combat Trigger

Triggertech AR-15 Combat Trigger

The Triggertech AR-15 Combat Trigger is designed to feel like a 1911 trigger, and it does a pretty good job. Plenty of triggers attempt to recreate the 1911 trigger press. But it’s a tough thing to do.

I would say that this trigger feels a whole lot more like a 1911 trigger than most other triggers. Though I’m sure a 1911 enthusiast would disagree.

Check on OpticsPlanet

However, this trigger is really good. It moves just fractions of an inch, total. The break is just about the snappiest you can get. And the trigger bow has vertical serrations, just like a 1911 trigger.

This trigger is probably best for competition or hunting. To me, it seems a bit too short and crisp for a duty setup. Although, the trigger breaks at 5.5lbs, which is just about right for a tactical trigger.

If you like super short trigger movement and a break that snaps clean, this might be worth the price for you.


The Final Shot

Can you get things done with a standard mil-spec trigger? Absolutely.

Is it easier to get things done with a better trigger? Also yes.

Additionally, upgrading your AR-15 trigger can be quite affordable (or not, if you want something really good). And there’s a trigger for every budget.

All in all, upgrading your trigger is one of the most cost efficient ways to fine tune your AR-15 to suit your rifle’s primary purpose. Find what you need and get to shooting.