Best AR-15 Trigger: AR Upgrade Fire Control Group Options Test Review and Ranking
- What is the best AR-15 trigger?
- Which AR trigger is best for Hunting?
- What qualities should I look for in an AR15 trigger?
- What is the best AR15 trigger for the money?
- Should I upgrade the trigger in my duty rifle?
Yep, we hear those questions a lot. Heck, we have ASKED those questions more than once, over the years. This review explores AR trigger DIY upgrade options, addresses the questions above, and reveals a few surprises.
AR15 trigger options
While the tried and true “mil-spec” trigger group common to M-16 and AR-15 rifles has served well over the years, it is far from optimized for, well, much of anything. The Gear Report team set out to narrow the field of AR platform Fire Control Group upgrades through bench and field testing to help you sort out what to look for in an AR-15/AR-10 trigger, and evaluate a range of options in various price ranges. (FCG = the actual trigger and the associated parts that translate the shooter’s finger motion into the strike of the firing pin)
Countless hours later our 5 man range test team put over 2,000 rounds down a combined 6 AR uppers paired with 9 different AR lowers. Eight brand new lowers were equipped with freshly installed AR trigger upgrades. The ninth was an existing lower with a mil-spec trigger that was added to the test group as the control to remind us what a stock AR trigger felt like.
The price range is pretty broad in this test, which will make things more interesting as we progress. 🙂
*Not included in this test was the Hiperfire Hipertouch 24TH, the 24 TarHeel 3-Gun sponsored trigger, which had not yet been released at the time of this test. The 24TH is actually just one of the new Hiperfire Hipertouch 24 Eclipse (24ECL) triggers with a Carolina Blue trigger shoe. Here is our review of the Hiperfire Hipertouch 24 Eclipse / 24TH .
We received the JP Enterprises and WMD Guns triggers already installed in lowers. S0, we can’t comment specifically on them, although it should be a safe assumption that the WMD Guns NiB-X trigger installation would be about the same as the Palmetto State Armory trigger, which is also a mil-spec trigger design. All 5 Hiperfire triggers and the Timney Triggers Competition AR Trigger were DIY installs prior to testing.
Click Here for Josejuan’s video on how to install the Timney Triggers Competition AR Trigger.
Click Here for my detailed video on installing the 24C, which is the same method as all Hiperfire Hipertouch 24 triggers.
Click Here for directions on how to install the Hiperfire Hipertouch EDT trigger.
A huge thanks goes to Anderson Manufacturing for supplying 6 complete AR-15 lower receivers that we used for the 5 Hiperfire triggers and the Timney trigger. Look for a review soon on the Anderson Manufacturing AR15 Lower receivers (model AM-15). In short, they all worked perfectly during testing. Jason, or resident FFL and AR builder, commented that he had avoided Anderson because many associate their low cost with low quality. However, based on what he saw during our rigorous testing, he would likely start using Anderson Manufacturing lowers on future builds.
2) Hammer drop block
After all triggers were installed in their own brand new lowers we put the hammer drop block in each lower receiver magazine well to test the triggers for proper operation and assess the trigger’s feel. This allowed each tester to rapidly switch the hammer drop block to different lowers and test the trigger feel for accurate comparison.
To provide an objective measure of the force required to fully pull each trigger and release the hammer we used a G.P.S. Aluminum Firearm Trigger Scale and the following procedure:
- clamp the magazine well block in the vise,
- slide the upper onto the magazine well block. So, the upper is completely stable and not subject to movement during trigger testing,
- cock the hammer by hand,
- reset the peak weight ring on the trigger pull scale,
- place the trigger pull scale test arm on the trigger in the location that you will place your finger when shooting,
- pull smoothly and gently aft on the trigger pull scale until the trigger releases,
- record the peak weight from the trigger pull scale
- lather, rinse, repeat 2 more times
- average the 3 pull weights
Results… For the data junkies:
And for the more visually oriented:
There were a couple of surprises from the trigger pull test.
- First and most surprising is that the Timney Triggers Competition AR Trigger averaged over 4Lb, when this model is supposed to be pre-set for a 3 Lb pull.
- The WMD Guns NiB-X fire control group came in at under 5 Lb with stock mil-spec springs. We were pleasantly surprised, as we expected closer to 7 Lb.
Why does trigger pull weight matter?
Generally, we tend to think of a light trigger as being more conducive to accuracy because very little effort is required to pull the trigger. Conversely, a heavy trigger requires more muscle exertion from the trigger hand, which can cause the gun to be shifted off of the aim point during the trigger squeeze.
However, pull weight is not the whole story. Other factors influencing trigger feel and fitness for any specific use include:
- length of trigger pull
- how slowly or abruptly the full weight of the trigger pull is felt
- how smooth or rough the triggers motion is
- how much or how little creep or pre-travel there is before the trigger breaks
- how firm or infirm the break of the trigger is
- how far the trigger moves past the break point (over-travel)
- how far the trigger must move forward after a shot to reset
- how quickly the mechanical parts of the trigger move when actuated, both on the shot and in resetting for the next shot
What does it all mean?
While we won’t dissect every one of the above trigger characteristics in detail, we can generalize our desired attributes for the following activities:
|Hunting||mid/long pre-travel, mid/heavy pull, drop safe|
|Personal Defense||mid/long pre-travel, mid/heavy pull, drop safe|
|Duty / Service Rifle||mid/long pre-travel, mid/heavy pull, drop safe|
|3 Gun competition||little/no pre-travel, light/very light pull, quick reset, crisp break|
|Long range||long pre-travel, light pull, surprise break|
|All around||drop safe, mid pre-travel, mid pull, quick reset|
Much of these attributes are personal preferences, although any activity that involves walking with a firearm should have a trigger that will not fire when dropped.
4) Creep & Overtravel and Reset
|JP Enterprises||Armageddon Gear Roller Trigger||~0″||~1/16″||~1/16″|
|Timney Triggers||Competition AR Trigger 667-S||~0″||~1/16″||~1/16″|
|WMD Guns||NiB-X Fire Control Group||~1/16″||~1/16″||~1/8″|
|Hiperfire||Hipertouch 24 E (Enhanced)||<=1/16″||~1/16″||~<=1/8″|
|Hiperfire||Hipertouch 24 3G (3 Gun)||~0″||~1/16″||~1/16″|
|Palmetto State Armory||“mil-spec” from PSA LPK||~1/16″||~1/16″||~1/8″|
These measurements were not as exact as I would have liked, due to the inability to track down a TriggerScan unit… hence the ~ to indicate “about”, as in “about 1/16th of an inch).
All 5 of our Test Team members shot each of the 9 triggers in each of the following scenarios:
100 yards – slow fire for accuracy
- Short range tactical carbine – quick acquire target, shoot, reload, acquire target, shoot drills at 5-15 yards
- 40 yard plate rack – two person duel to see who could knock down the most plates
- 40 yard steel silhouettes – informal two person duel to see who could put the most shots on their silhouette most rapidly
How each trigger performed in each range test has been discussed at length in each trigger’s written review. I encourage you to read the ones that interest you and CLICK HERE to watch our review video series as well.
After the 4 primary range tests we took an informal vote to determine the top 3 triggers in the test and pitted them against each other in a 10 round mag dump test with a shot timer recording split times. The same shooter shot all 3 triggers as fast as possible. And as the Editor I took the honors on this test.
Again, another very interesting data set, with statistically identical averages for the 2 top triggers, the JP Enterprises Armageddon Gear Roller Trigger and the Timney Triggers AR Competition trigger model 667-S. Averaging split times over 10 shots, each with a very different standard deviation. I bet I could shoot 10 round splits all day with those two triggers an not get another set of average split times that were identical. It appears that the Timney trigger had the edge with the lower standard deviation… meaning a more consistent split time. However, I hesitate to read too much into this data, as I suspect that the real limiting factor here is my finger. I don’t think I could pull the triggers fast enough to see if one really is faster than the others.
All of the above is interesting, but what did the testers think?
After shooting with each trigger on each stage of the test a ranking was recorded for the trigger by each of the Gear Report Test Team.
Yep. Thats a LOT of data.
Test Team Picks
Here is what it looked like when we averaged the rankings across all testers (stacked columns on top, raw numbers on bottom):
Too many numbers for you? Here is the same data presented as a vertical column graph:
From the prior 2 charts it is clear that the Test Team Liked the hard-core competition triggers. How about we cut to the chase?
When I averaged the votes of all 5 testers across each category, then averaged the category averages to come up with an overall average rank… ONE number to represent how each trigger fared against the competition. Here is how the triggers ranked:
And the winner(s) is… or are?
It was no surprise that the JP Enterprises Armageddon Gear Roller trigger and the Hiperfire Hipertouch 24C were favorites in the test. They were the most expensive triggers in the test and, arguably, the most highly tuned for a specific task. It is surprising that it was a statistical dead heat between the two, both scoring an identical 4.708333333 average score. We also expected the Timney Triggers AR Competition trigger model 667-S to be in the hunt, and it sure was.
Also not surprising is the PSA LPK mil-spec trigger bringing up the rear with a rather embarrassing 2.27 out of 5 average. Even more embarrassing is that this turd was my primary AR trigger for the year prior to this test. I knew it was a bad trigger. The terrible feel of the trigger is what inspired this review series, actually.
In the surprising results category we have the WMD Guns NiB-X Fire Control Group. This trigger started life as a sock mil-spec trigger, but the NiB-X coating, polishing and spring tuning performed by WMD proved that you can, in fact, polish a turd. The NiB-X trigger scored about 4.o on a 5 point scale, vs 2.27 for the unmolested mil-spec trigger in the group. This is a HUGE improvement and make clear why the Test Team universally voted the WMD Guns NiB-X trigger the best value of the bunch.
This can’t be right?
Personally, I was surprised that the Hiperfire Hipertouch 24E Elite trigger was voted #7 in our rankings. To me, the Hiperfire Hipertouch 24E Elite trigger is the “jack of all trades” of the group. It may not have been the best at any of the shooting tests in our evaluation, but it was very good at all of them. Contrast this to the highly specialized competition triggers that took the top 4 spots in the rankings. I also liked the Hiperfire Hipertouch EDT trigger and think it would make an excellent choice for a hunting rifle, a duty or service rifle, or personal defense rifle. However, I might prefer the 24E in each of those roles. Maybe configured with a slightly heavier trigger pull to get it in the 3.5 – 4 Lb range.
2 stage trigger, but not really
The other surprise of the test was the Hiperfire Hipertouch 24. After emailing Terry at Hiperfire and explaining what we felt from the trigger, Terry basically said… “yes, that is how it is supposed to feel”. As the only trigger in the test that felt like a 2 stage trigger, I suspect that the Test Team may have reacted too strongly and ranked the 24 lower than it deserved. After all, it is designed to have a long, very light, smooth pull with a surprise break. Every other trigger in the test was designed for a crisp, predictable break.
“Rank the triggers in order from what you would most like to own, to least like to own”
Sounds similar to the voting we did before, but this time it had a twist. Instead of ranking each trigger immediately after shooting it in each stage of the test, I asked each tester to rank order what they would most like to own after they had a week or two to think about it. This was a big picture question that would naturally be skewed by each tester’s personal arsenal, shooting habits, and preferences. With a list of 9 items from each person I assigned 10 points to the top pick, 9 points to the next item on the list, and continued to deduct one point for each step down the list, so that the least desired item on the list would be worth 2 points. Here is how it shook out:
Notice that only one person chose to rank the JP trigger by itself. Everyone else said they wanted it as it was delivered from JP, in the JP-15 lower. Same for the WMD trigger… everyone wanted it installed in the WMD Beast NiB-X lower, as delivered. While these skewed the votes a bit, we see much of the same results from the individual tests, with the EDT falling in the list, as the WMD Lower surged up a few spots.
The Testing Team
|Josejuan||Structural designer, outdoorsman|
|Jason||AR builder, FFL|
|Chris||NRA instructor, RSO,US Army vet, Three Pillars Traing LLC President|
|Bob||NRA instructor, NC CCH Instructor, RSO|
|Brian||Mechanical Engineer, hunting guru (consulting, not at range test)|
|Jeff||Gear Report editor, USAF Vet|
Huge thanks to Ammunition Supply Company, who kicked in 2,000 rounds of bulk 55 grain ammo for this test.