Preview Review: AR-15 Trigger Upgrade Review

GearReport logo Round AR15“What is the best AR-15 trigger?”
“Should I get a drop-in trigger for my AR?”
“How do I upgrade my mil-spec trigger?”
“Are premium AR triggers worth the money?”
“Do I need an upgraded fire control group for hunting?”

These are just some of the questions we will address in our massive AR platform aftermarket trigger test.

*This is the preview article. The final results may surprise you. CLICK HERE for the results.

Gear Report is pulling out all the stops and bringing in a diverse team of experts, veterans and recreational shooters to put at least 9 different AR platform triggers through their paces. All of these triggers are marketed as able to be DIY installed by most users. Although most suggest that if the user is not comfortable doing so, that they have the AR fire control group installed by a gunsmith.

As of this writing, we are nearly one month away from the range test, and already, we know this is going to be an incredibly informative review.

The Triggers: (In the order that they committed to send triggers… and images are below)

That is 10 triggers in this massive AR-15 trigger upgrade throw-down, and there is still time for more manufacturers to send their premium AR platform triggers.

Products supplied by manufacturers and retailers for this test:

  • 9 AR Fire Control Groups from Hiperfire, Anderson, JP Enterprises, WMD Guns and Timney, with more trigger manufacturers expected.
  • 8 lowers with and buffer/stock assemblies from Anderson, JP Enterprises and WMD Guns
  • JP Enterprises Carbine Silent Captured buffer system
  • 1500 rounds of 5.56 & 500 rounds of .300 Blackout and a shooting sled from Ammunition Supply Company
  • 2 shooting sleds & a bench from Hyskore
  • .224 bulk projectiles for reloading from Sierra Bullets

**Manufacturers: if you have products you would like included in this test or in later tests, please contact jeff@gear-report.com to discuss. We can still work in a variety of sights/optics, and AR uppers in specific configurations. All products supplied of this review will be noted in the trigger review series, as well as in featured product reviews.**

The tests:

We want to know if there is a sufficient difference in premium triggers to justify the cost. Seriously, I have purchased a brand new, brand name semi-automatic pistol for less than the cost of some of these AR-15 trigger upgrades. We will focus on two distinctly different types of shooting in the first phase of this test:

  • Long range
  • Up close and personal in the shooting pit (CQB, barricades, plate rack)

The AR-15 triggers in this test tend toward the light pull weight side, but ranges from sub 2 Lb to a high of whatever the stock Mil-Spec trigger pull is (still waiting on the trigger pull gauge to be delivered. Often reported to be 7+ Lb). Similarly, pull distances vary.

Each AR-15 trigger has been designed with distinct characteristics to address perceived deficiencies in prior designs, or improve function in specific areas. We will test the triggers in different environments and usage patterns in order to discern which features are valuable in which situations.

Some of the different characteristics of triggers in this test:

  • straight triggers
  • bowed triggers
  • roller trigger
  • adjustable trigger shoe
  • pre-assembled cassette trigger groups
  • user-assembled trigger groups
  • long take-up
  • short take-up
  • nearly non-existent take-up
  • quick reset
  • increased hammer speed
  • increased/decreased hammer energy

Test Protocols:

Setup:

Each AR trigger will be installed in a dedicated lower receiver (thank you Anderson Manufacturing for stepping up with 6 lowers and Lower Parts Kits, and JP Enterprises for sending the Armageddon Gear Revolution Roller Trigger pre-installed in a JP-15 lower). Each shooter in the test will be assigned a complete upper receiver and will swap lower receivers with installed AR fire control groups throughout the tests. The lowers will be set up and verified by our FFL and tactical specialist, to ensure that all are correct before testing. Adjustable AR triggers are likely to be set at the mid-range setting, although we may ask each manufacturer what setting they would like their trigger group tested at. The Anderson lowers are marked as follows: 2 as multi cal, 2 as pistol, 2 as .300 blackout. We have 5.56 rifle uppers and are soliciting manufacturers to provide a pistol upper in 5.56 and .300 blackout, and a rifle upper in .300 blackout.

Bench testing:

Our goal is to get to know the feel of each trigger via dry firing on the bench prior to heading to the range to burn through ammo. Each AR fire control group will first be tested on the bench without the upper installed, using a hammer drop block. We may also use snap caps with uppers installed for dry fire testing.

Hiperfire prototype trigger drop block installed

Hammer resting on drop block

Hiperfire prototype trigger drop block

Hammer drop block installed, hammer back

 

Long Range:

Each tester will fire 5 shots with each trigger group at a clean target while seated at a heavy shooting bench at 200 yards. This is not as far as we would like, but will be far enough to force long distance shooting practices given the bulk 5.56 ammo we will use. Shooters will use a shooting sled, bipod or sand bag for stabilization. We will record distance from intended impact point and group size for each trigger group for each shooter to see which trigger performs best for each shooter. Very interested to see if we find any lateral deflection issues, like the type the JP roller trigger is designed to mitigate. Each shooter will record a variety of subjective attributes about each Fire Control Group immediately after shooting it.

The Pit:

Chris from Three Pillars Shooting, LLC has been given free reign to design a cool 1.5 – 2 hours course of fire for one of the the pit ranges. Chris will run all shooters through his choice of close quarters and timed firing drills, around barricades, the plate rack, etc. Each shooter will record a variety of subjective attributes about each Fire Control Group immediately after shooting it.

Ranking the triggers:

We will collect each shooter’s feedback, timing, accuracy and group size data for each test segment and analyze, publishing the results. We will also rank the fire control groups for specific purposes like:

  • Personal Defense
  • Hunting
  • Duty
  • 3gun
  • mid range bench
  • long range bench
  • value
  • overall

Shooter’s choice:

Each shooter in the test will pick their favorite AR trigger and… well, we will leave the last part as a surprise.

Please let us know in the comments if there is anything in the review plan that we missed or we should consider doing differently.

 

Gallery of trigger images:

About Jeff

Jeff is the Editor in Chief of Gear Report and a National Shooting Sports Foundation Media member. He reports on the outdoor industry, reviews gear for camping, hiking, shooting, hunting, paddling, backpacking and other active pursuits. A USAF veteran, Jeff earned a MBA in Marketing and Health Services. He specializes in consultative selling and internet marketing. As the VP of BD & Marketing, Jeff provides sales and marketing leadership to MGECOM, Inc. and helps http://MGECOM.com acquire new clients in need of solutions for online merchants in need of Affiliate Marketing program management. Jeff founded and manages Cress Sales & Marketing LLC, offering online sales and marketing consulting and services to online merchants and service providers.