The #1 Most Important Upgrade for Your New AR-15

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There’s little doubt that the AR-15 is the most popular rifle design around. Everyone seems to have one, and while the design is solid it can definitely be improved. As a 60+ year old design it has aged extremely well, but there’s one specific improvement that can be made to the average AR-15 pattern rifle that costs less than $50, is easy to install, and yet can make all the difference in terms of the accuracy and usefulness of the firearm. What is this improvement I’m talking about?

The trigger.

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There’s a depressing trend in AR-15 builds these days where manufacturers use top-shelf, state-of-the-art parts to build most of the gun, and then completely cheap out on the trigger. Just about every AR-15 I’ve tested in the last couple months suffers from this malady, namely using a “mil-spec” trigger that probably costs about $10 to finish off a $1,000+ rifle.

With a modern sporting rifle, there are definitely some parts you can skimp on and get away with it. A better bolt carrier is nice, but won’t really make that much of a difference. A better stock is appreciated, but the “mil-spec” crap that gets mass produced gets the job done just fine. One place where scrimping really hurts performance, though, is the trigger. The reason is that while a substandard bolt carrier or stock might not impact accuracy much at all, a better trigger can cut group sizes in half all by itself — something my one-time roommate Tom McHale proved once more in his article yesterday on this same subject.

Trigger control is critical to making a good shot. An inconsistent or excessively stacking trigger will lead to inconsistent shot placement, but a consistent, clean trigger will allow the shooter to make that precisely aimed shot much easier. A new trigger won’t instantly make every rifle and rifleman into a Carlos Hathcock clone — only training and practice can do that. But the difference between a stock trigger and a match grade trigger will be like night and day, no matter the skill level.

What specific triggers would I recommend? There’s no single “best” trigger for the AR-15, but there are a few I prefer.

  • ALG Defense QMS Trigger – $45
    An excellent replacement that provides a stiff, yet crisp single stage trigger at an amazing price.
  • Timney Trigger – $209.95
    No mucking around with pins and springs, this one-piece trigger drops straight into your receiver and provides the crispest single stage pull on the market.
  • Hiperfire 24E – $215
    The main claim to fame is the adjustability — you can set the trigger pull weight to suit your style. Also it’s extremely reliable.
  • Geissele 2-Stage (G2S) Trigger – $165
    The best 2-stage trigger at the best price.

There are some who believe that upgrading a rifle is a waste of time, that money could be better spent on ammo and range time. I agree to an extent. There’s no substitute for practice when it comes to shooting accurately. But when your equipment is working against you, it makes the training process exponentially harder. For as little as $50, a new shooter can swap out their awful stock trigger and make a huge improvement in your AR’s shootability. So what are you waiting for?

comments

  1. avatar Jim R says:

    It’s lkinda like a good set of tires for your car. Bad tires will make even a great car perform badly.

    1. avatar Steve says:

      Partially, but bad tyres + fast car = a whole lot of sideways fun.

      1. avatar tacocat says:

        Or you can get in a wreck like Paul Walker and his friend.

  2. avatar Craig says:

    Tassels! The ultimate accessory for pre-teen girls and Harley riders!

    But yeah, a trigger (or smoothing the trigger) is #1 for all guns. Lighter trigger = more potential for easy accuracy.

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      I was thinking Spike’s Tactical 37mm Flare Launcher.

      But tassels? Tactical Tassels maybe… yeah, gun-ghilli

      1. avatar Todd S says:

        M-203. The only way to fly.

        1. avatar Hal says:

          As much as I love the M203, the M320 (no, not a joke that’s the number) we’re using now blows it out of the water. No pun intended.

        2. avatar Joe R. says:

          +^ ^ + firing from attached to a TOA weapon from turret while rolling HOOOORAH

          Hmmmn M320 hunh? Gotta call Spike’s see what’s on the burner.

    2. avatar JasonM says:

      The only girls I’ve seen with tassels were all over 18. They had to be to work there.
      I guess it depends on where you stick the tassels.

    3. avatar 16V says:

      Sell the POS and replace it with a rifle that works, in a caliber that will do some damage.

  3. avatar Harley Weewax says:

    I am familiar with the gains that can be had by polishing (lightly) the internals of a revolver. My S&W Model 10s shoot appreciably better with a little work with a fine Arkansas stone.

    Will such polishing help a stock AR trigger? Or is the ‘problem’ with stock mil-spec triggers something a little polishing won’t help?

    1. avatar Ron says:

      Yes it will

    2. avatar TTACer says:

      According to an article by Phil Arrington in a 2010 issue of Shotgun News, honing a mil spec trigger is a bad idea because they are only surface hardened. (P 180 of the Treasury, don’t know which one it was originally published in)

      1. avatar Steve Day says:

        I’ve heard that over and over again, but from working on a couple of CMMG milspec AR triggers it was clearly an “old wives tale” (or perhaps used to be relevant before modern manufacturing methods?)

        I wanted to install an adjustment screw into a trigger to take-up pre-travel. I mangled several drill bits and two brand-new solid carbide end mills while trying to drill out the first one! The steel was just as hard deep inside [juvenile snickers] as it was on the surface.

        Eventually I learned an old gunsmiths trick – to spot-anneal the steel before drilling…
        1) You dismantle a cheap AAA battery and remove the carbon annode.
        2) Shave/file the tip of the carbon annode to a snarp point.
        3) Connect the negative lead from a 12V car charger and clamp the positive lead to the blunt end of the carbon annode.
        4) Touch the annode point to the exact point where you need to drill, then switch on the charger.
        My charger is high current, 3A minimum (which is the setting I used), and has built-in overload and thermal shut-off.
        5) Let the annode tip glow white hot, but don’t let the trigger get too hot. You want the drilling point to glow red, but the surrounding area not change color. This was the point where my charger shuts off and it has to cool down for a while.
        6) Drill/mill with cutting fluid until it stops making progress – then go back to step #4 and repeat until you’re through.

        My triggers had to be annealed all the way through the depth of the hole! I was only able to remove around 1/32 to 1/16″ at a time before reaching tough steel again, which required annealing-drilling-annealing-drilling etc. They are made from some very hard metal.

        Apparently it’s done all the time when installing scope mounts onto old rifles.

    3. avatar Marcus Aurelius Payne says:

      Yes, but it’s easy to overdue it and grind through the Orr hardened layer of the steel if you start involving stones.

    4. avatar Tex300BLK says:

      Thats basically what ALG does with their QMS triggers. They take the top 10% (or somethin like that) of raw unfinished pieces (so basically a stock trigger that would already feel pretty OK if you just popped it into a gun and went). Then ALG polishes every contact surface to perfection. the QMS is a good deal, and for the price fo a cheap Dremel and some polishing compount you have a whole trigger already set up probably way better than any shade tree gunsmith could do on their own,

  4. avatar Robert Seddon says:

    A lot of the triggers you are speaking of have a very light hard finishing of the metal on them, that can wear through rapidly with disastrous results. If your trigger goes boingo all of a sudden, check the mating faces of the two pieces for abnormal pitting .. this can lead to double fires .The new replacements come with a thick hardening layer that does NOT wear through. Other than the triggers mentioned in the article, I can personally attest to the design of the Wilson Combat triggers, as I have one of them in all 6 of my AR’s.
    Robert Seddon

    1. avatar Hal says:

      I also own the Wilson Combat TTU. It is excellent. My only issue is that sometimes… not all the time, this particular trigger will allow me to put the weapon on safe with the hammer in the up position. Not cool, because I instinctively want to put it on safe when not firing so when this happens and you try to pull the bolt back to the rear it jams up the rifle for a few seconds while you figure ou the problem. Wilson was kind enough to send me a replacement safety that they claim will mitigate the issue, though I still need to install it.

      All other triggers are ALG. Can’t beat the price. That having been said, I don’t throw the mil spec triggers away. If nice triggers fail, mil spec triggers won’t. I don’t remember who I need to attribute this quote to, but I agree with it:

      “If you can’t shoot within the confines of a milspec trigger and surplus ammunition then the problem is you, not the equipment.”

      Of course once you CAN shoot well, better triggers and beter ammo can allow you to move beyond what surplus ammo and milspec triggers aren’t capable of.

  5. avatar neiowa says:

    What’s with the appearance of these BS autorun video popups on the right margin (Outlook)?

  6. avatar Scrubula says:

    I don’t know how any court could rule that the AR15 isn’t in common use… Walk into a gun store, what are the walls covered in? Sure isn’t hunting rifles. Go to the rifle range? More than half the people there are shooting AR15s…

    1. avatar Yellow Devil says:

      Idiology trumps reality in the minds of the ruling class everytime.

  7. avatar George says:

    Spent the money and put a Timney on mine. I’ll admit that one attraction was the “drop in” aspect of it. Since the safety has to come out at the same time, did an ambi safety, too.

    What a huge difference!!! I agree, best upgrade, of course I don’t like a lot of “stuff” on my gun (have a red dot and a sling, and that’s it), so I can’t comment to the utility of bipods, lights, laser range finders, cupholders….

    1. avatar jsallison says:

      Cupholder and toilet paper dispenser mount are must have accessories for the tactikewly operating operational operator. Golf ball launcher adapter is fun for post operational down time. Fore!

  8. avatar Kory says:

    RRA 2-stage trigger anyone?

    1. avatar styrgwillidar says:

      My son has one in his build that he did a couple months ago and really likes it. It is a substantial improvement over the stock trigger, but I don’t know if it has any long term issues. For the price, it is a great option.

    2. avatar notalima says:

      If you like 2-stage triggers that is an affordable way to go. I have a bit of variance from RRANM2S that I own, in both weight and smoothness of pull. I have several in various lowers. Pull and break feels about the same as the 2 G2S’s that I have, but both G2S are on the smoother side.

      I prefer a nice 2 stage in my scoped ARs (SSA-E’s are my goto there) and CMC 4.5# single stage for other applications (carry, RDS, irons)

      I’ld like to try a Geissele National Match, but I need to stop building other things and give my wallet a break 😉

      1. avatar Matt in Maine says:

        +1 on the CMC.

    3. avatar RightYouAreKen says:

      I’ve got a RRA 2 stage trigger on my AR, and like it so far. I’ve heard bad things about them turning mushy over time, but mine is still nice and crisp and way better than the stock trigger. I also considered the Geissele, but decided to go cheaper and have been happy with the decision so far.

    4. The Rock River Arms 2-stage national match trigger is my “baseline” AR trigger now. For a little over $100, you can’t beat it compared to the stock triggers.

      I’ve got some guns with AR Golds (a very sweet trigger) and a Timney – both nicer than the RRA trigger but the improvement from the standard mil-spec trigger to the RRA trigger is a very big jump in quality. You can’t go wrong with this one.

      1. avatar styrgwillidar says:

        If you’re in the market, link below to a place selling it for 95…

      2. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

        Dumped the RRA in favor of a Wilson. Much happier!

        1. avatar Tex300BLK says:

          Yeah no thanks, I could nearly buy a case of XM193 for the price of their TTU. If I’m dropping two bills on a trigger it would probably be a Geisselle.

        2. avatar styrgwillidar says:

          Were there specific issues with the RRA 2 stage? What about the Wilson was an improvement?

        3. avatar Jame T Kirk says:

          Tex300blkout

          Wilsons feel better than Geissele, the only one that I think might be superior (and that is by a cock hair) to the TTU is the National Match DMR. I thought the Hi Power was too light. The Wilson’s have less movement, and the two stage Geissele (not the base model, the nice one) I demoed felt weird on the reset.

          Honestly though, I have the TTU in my 20-inch AR and all my others have mil-specs in them that I have polished up. I put two set screws in them for 8 cent a piece and a JP spring and they are very nice triggers. I do plan to try an ALG Defense at some point but all this hubub about polishing away the hardness blah blah is bullshit. The first AR I ever bought (DPMS off the shelf) has had a polished trigger group in it for 10,000 rounds, no issue.

  9. avatar styrgwillidar says:

    My son put a Rock River Arms 2 stage trigger in his build and it’s very good thus far for the price.
    I have the ALG ACT trigger in a carbine setup and it is a big improvement over the mil-spec PSA trigger which came with the build kit.
    I have the Gieselle National Match trigger, in a long range setup, and while it has a fantastic feel and is fully adjustable– for a shooter of my limited capability it was probably more than I really needed to spend. But it comes with some parts/tools (a push pin and an alignment pin) which make installation far easier which was much appreciated. Hardest part of getting my first build done was installing the trigger.

    1. avatar notalima says:

      I love those little helper pins that they put in with their triggers. I have kept mine and use them when installing other manufacturer’s triggers. Makes getting that ‘far side’ alignment so much easier (and less money in the swearing jar).

      1. avatar styrgwillidar says:

        Yep, I’ve done the same. My first trigger was the PSA that came with my lower build kit– much, much swearing lining up the disconnect with the trigger holes against the spring pressure while trying to keep it all lined up with the holes in the lower, while driving the pin through. Almost gave up. Then did the Gieselle and I’ve kept the pin and push rod tool and used them on several other triggers– what a difference the right tool makes.

        For the Gieselle I had to machine out a bit of the lower and off the safety in accordance with their directions. Would have been reluctant except it was an 80% lower, so what the heck, machine out a little more. The have great videos posted on Youtube showing installation and describing the difference between their triggers, and info on the ALG triggers (ALG is their sister company).

        1. avatar Cole Johnson says:

          I installed the ALG trigger in my Ar and did not notice a difference at all. I personally thought it was a waste of time. I tried the new Hiperfire EDT trigger in my friends AR and I like it a lot. Almost no creep with a very clean break. you can put in a 4 1/2LB or 5 1/2 lb spring. Very nice design and at $89.00, What a deal. I thought it worked as well as my CMC trigger.

  10. avatar Tex300BLK says:

    Nick, what do you think of the ALG ACT when compared to the QMS? Is it $20 better than the QMS? Does its increased performance make it 50% better value ($65 vs $120) than say a RRA 2stage National Match trigger?

    Where would you place something like a Geisselle SSA-E in your list above?

  11. avatar Roll says:

    Hmmm the ALG Combat trigger didnt make the list? I like that trigger, although I’ll have to give the QMS a try on my next build

  12. avatar Peter says:

    I prefer the SSA-E on anything with a magnifying optic, expensive but well worth it.
    On red dot or iron sights the ALG offerings seem to work well.

  13. avatar johnb says:

    Some slow and careful work with a dremel using abrasive impregnated rubber polishing bits will make a huge difference on just about any OEM trigger. Care must be taken that you don’t break any sharp edges that make up the release, or change angles of mating faces (most parts have at least a hardened case, so going slowly its hard to screw up). On my budget AR build, this cost me $5…but the bits did 3 different sets of triggers.

    1. avatar Wes says:

      Dremel is definitely not the optimal tool for the job. A surface plate of some sort (even a thick pane of glass will do) and some emery cloth will do a much better, safer job.

      Oh, and the biggest problem with milspec triggers is not surface finish, but geometry. It is hard to have a decent trigger pull when the sear is further cocking the hammer.

      Wes

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      If you’re using a Dremel to polish trigger mating surfaces, you’re doing it wrong, wrong, wrong. You’re going to change the geometry in ways you can’t repeat.

    3. avatar LC says:

      What is it with gun owners and dremels? jesus H facking crist…

      screw it, im going to flute my own barrel. Everybody’s doing it.

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        The reason why Dremels (and their big brother, the Foredom tool) became so popular among shade-tree gunsmiths, gun abusers and wreckers is that these people are too lazy to buy, and then learn how to use the real tools of the trade.

        Since we’re talking about doing trigger jobs, here’s how a trained gunsmith does trigger jobs:

        1. You need a fixture or jig to hold the parts to be polished. Here is a selection that includes some of the jigs and fixtures I use:

        http://www.brownells.com/gunsmith-tools-supplies/general-gunsmith-tools/trigger-job-tools/stoning-fixtures/index.htm

        If you don’t use a fixture, you’ll be in real danger of changing angles you don’t want, rounding off edges (which you really don’t want), making faces crooked, etc.

        2. OK, you have a fixture. Now you need some stones of varying grits. You’ll want them in the 6″x1/2″x1/2″ size.

        Brownells, MSC and other machinist supply places will have these stones. They’re made by Norton, 3M, Gesswein and others.

        3. Then you need some very, very fine ceramic or ruby stones. You’ll need to bring your wallet for these, and look to typically only one source: Gesswein.

        My total investment for tools to do hand-stoned/polished trigger jobs? Over $600, easily. About $300 on fixtures and such, about $300+ on varying stones.

        Those stones are used for trigger jobs only. I have duplicates of the coarser stones which I use for lots of other purposes on guns, and multiple sets of Gesswein polishing sticks/stones/etc. I probably have over $1K invested in tools and materials for polishing metal on guns.

        1. avatar LC says:

          That is interesting, and it definitely is an investment rather than a half-hearted, good idea fairy moment…by a trained gunsmith…

  14. avatar ropingdown says:

    Agree completely. I ordered my sole AR a few years ago with a Geissele SD3G trigger. Bliss.

    I’d also recommend an 18″ barrel with a rifle-length gas system, but no one would listen. Laugh.

  15. avatar dracon1201 says:

    I disagree with this. The best I’m upgrade is obviously ammo. I don’t care what trigger you have in your rifle, it is 90% you in the end.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      I actually thought that for some time after I had a 2-stage installed, don’t even know the type, but it was clear to me it made no difference. Until I actually went to the range and shot a target instead of plinking. Group size with the same ammo I always used was right on half the size I’d ever seen before. I am sold, but we each spend our money as we please. Borrow your buddy’s lower with the trick trigger for a session with your own upper. Ain’t much else makes a difference in a lower except the trigger. Should make an obvious difference, if you are seriously shooting from a bench, at a target, at a consistent range. A real test, IOW.

    2. avatar TT says:

      It’s not so much upgrading ammo as it is finding the ammo your rifle shoots well. My AR shoots $13 a box ammo as well or better than $20+ a box stuff out to at least 200 yards.

  16. avatar Mark N. says:

    I wanted the Timney (which I’ve seen on sale recently for $168), but my wallet could only handle the ALG QMS. Your description is spot on–stiff but crisp single stage trigger. No slack at all, which I like.

  17. avatar Model 31 says:

    The most important AR upgrade is a second AR just like the first. The principle is sound as it applies to ammo as well.

  18. avatar TravisP says:

    The number one upgrade after buying any AR 15?, Selling it for a Tavor

    1. avatar ropingdown says:

      That seems like an expensive way to eliminate the question, whether you should go from an adequate to a very good trigger.

    2. avatar Jeff says:

      sell your AR for a niche faddish bullpup with nearly zero aftermarket support, no spare parts availability, and a terrible factory trigger that will need to be replaced any way. sounds great.

  19. avatar ValleyForge77 says:

    I thought the Geissele G2S is just a ‘less inspected’ version of the SSA?

    I have a G2S, SSA and RRA 2 stage NM and love them all. Can’t say the RRA is any less good than the Geissele’s. Pretty darn surprising for a ‘stock’ trigger on a relatively cheap AR. Especially considering a $1500 DD M4V7 comes with a mil spec POS (which quickly got swapped out).

  20. avatar Rifle says:

    The trigger on my SIG716 (7.62 NATO) actually made crunching sounds. Sounded and felt full of sand. Worst trigger I ever felt by a good margin even after all the cleanup I dared. Timney unit dropped right in and all is good. It’s as good as the Geissele in my Bushmaster.

  21. avatar Ralph says:

    It’s a rare firearm indeed that wouldn’t benefit from an improved trigger, whether such improvement consists of a full replacement or just a gunsmith’s touch-up. Since most OEM AR triggers are so horrid, the replacement payoff is much greater.

    Personally, I don’t like single stage triggers on ARs (or anything else). I don’t always upgrade, but when I do, I prefer Dos Etapas.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      Ralph, the problem with most OEM AR triggers is that they’re case hardened, and the case is perhaps only 0.001 thick. As soon as you start to try to polish the infinitely crappy finish off the outside of the trigger (let’s leave the hammer surface out of things for a moment), you’re through the case.

      This now means that the hardened surface of the hammer will gouge into the soft metal that lays under the cased layer of the hammer. What you get is a sensation of pulling a garden rake through peanut butter.

      OEM AR triggers are good for one thing: throwing away. I now order AR LPK’s without triggers, because I never use the triggers in LPK’s any more. I putt in a Geissele and I’m done with it.

  22. avatar dwb says:

    In many places, the most important upgrade you can give your gun is a Senator and local elected official that respects your rights to own said gun.

    1. avatar LarryinTX says:

      I sure can’t argue with that.

    2. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

      Hear hear!

  23. avatar John Boch says:

    Or you could just get a RRA 2-stage match trigger and instead put the $50 towards night sights.

    I’ve gone through a lot of ammo in a lot of ARs before they were lost in boating accidents.

    I’ve never had a RRA 2-stage fail.

    John

    1. avatar ValleyForge77 says:

      + 1. I can honestly endorse the RRA 2 Stage NM trigger, with a couple thousand rounds through mine. Not really losing anything/much over a Geissele G2 (or SSA). My first AR was a RRA (quite a while ago), and I just (naively) thought that was how every AR trigger was. Until I got my second AR, third AR, etc – and had to upgrade the triggers immediately, because I was almost offended at how bad a cheap ‘mil spec’ trigger is and what a different it makes. I went with Geisseles, but I cant say they are really noticeably any better than the RRA.

  24. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

    It’s always good to hear of other people’s experiences and perceptions on these types of performance issues. It goes a long way toward improving our own performance, as well as making more informed decisions about equipment priorities and purchases. Overall, though, unless you’re an operator, competitor, or perfectionist, there’s probably more low hanging fruit to be picked with weapon handling, tactics and training, than there is with component upgrades.

    I’m of the school of thought that once a basic level of quality firearm is attained, which runs effectively and safely, then subsequent efforts should focus first on exhausting improvements in ability, rather than tinkering with the tool. I’m more about developing skill than trying to buy solutions. That said, some minor tweaks along the way are fine, so long as one doesn’t lose sight of the fact that ultimately you’re the shooter, the rifle isn’t, and success depends on you.

  25. avatar Wrex says:

    $45?

    Hell, less than $10. New, lighter springs and a little filing and polishing and set your reset with a 1/4-28 screw, will go very far.

  26. avatar lolinski says:

    How to avoid AR problems:

    -Get a VZ58 or AKM
    -???
    -profit

    Just kidding, I just don’t like changing out many parts.

    1. avatar ValleyForge77 says:

      Ahhhh, that’s half the fun. You can make it exactly how you like it – and ‘mod as you go’, or as your budget allows.

      Although I will admit, there is something about not having to change much on an AK that is refreshing.

      Besides, who can find a VZ58 these days (not a vz 2008)

      1. avatar LC says:

        You want the Czechpoint VZ58s and they’re getting hard to find, not to mention expensive.

        I had one a couple years ago and sold it to a friend of mine after the panic so he could have a fighting rifle (and he got a pre-panic price for it, which was already decent). A part of me wishes I would have kept it.

      2. avatar lolinski says:

        I can’t hear you over the sound of how awesome my AK is.

        After I modified it… crap.

  27. avatar Eric says:

    I always thought that the upgrade that would make it most effective at eliminating targets was the shoulder thing that goes up…

  28. avatar Avid Reader says:

    I think I’ll stick with the Hello Kitty decal.
    Thanks anyway.

  29. avatar LC says:

    You’re worried about the fucking trigger when you dont have a white light mounted on it first? then a viable combat optic?

    youve got to be kidding me…

    The military-spec trigger is fine and I doubt most of you gain any advantage from anything more.

    1.) Quality white light on a quality mount
    2.) Quality optic
    3.) Quality sling

    Trigger is last on the list of priorities, under ammunition, magazines, and TRAINING!

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      As someone who owns a bunch of AR’s (six and counting) as well as a bunch of other rifles, and being a gunsmith and someone who has trained a bunch of people to shoot rifles… I have to disagree with you vehemently.

      A white light is useless for training people. It’s a “combat” fad, quite frankly.

      Optical sights are completely optional. I’ve taught people to shoot 2″ groups at 100 yards with all manner of rifles with iron sights on everything from hunting rifles to Garands and .22’s in between. The type of iron sights that are “standard” on an AR are perfectly acceptable. They’re not as good as the national match front post/rear sight set on a Garand or M1A, but AR sights are good enough.

      A real 1907 sling is a very good thing to have on any rifle. Sadly, most people today don’t know how to properly use a 1907 sling.

      But for most shooters who cannot coach themselves through bad triggers, a better trigger is going to yield huge improvements in their group size. NB that I’m talking about putting rounds into a tight group as my preferred training. I’m not a fan of training people on reactive or steel targets to train them out to shoot. Unless and until people can lay down a group, they don’t know whether they’re getting consistency in their breathing control and trigger control or not.

      The most accurate rifle I own is a Anschuetz 1807. Why is it so accurate? Well, it has a $400 set of iron sights on it, and they’re quite repeatable and made for the task of shooting at round black targets. Anschuetz barrels are pretty nice, but I’ll bet I could buy better quality barrels made here in the US. The Anschuetz action is pretty nice, but the action has little to do with accuracy, and again, I could buy a better action from here in the US or perhaps New Zealand.

      The real reason why my 1807 is the most accurate rifle I own is because Anschuetz rifles have a trigger second to none in the world. Those triggers are the reason why Anschuetz owns the competition market at the Olympic level, whether for position shooting or biathlon.

      AR style rifles dream of having a two-stage trigger as nice as a Anschuetz.

      1. avatar LC says:

        “A white light is useless for training people. It’s a “combat” fad, quite frankly.”

        And what is your light infantry experience? or experience in close quarters combat training?

        Im not trying to be a snarky as shat, but its important to note that “2nd amendment/unorganized militia/light infantry” is the context in which I use a white light, in addition to home defense (you know, to identify targets at night and keep from shooting a relative???) This needs repetition, “identifying targets to avoid shooting someone or something I dont want to shoot? like a relative?”

        Target ID is NOT a “combat fad”. It is common sense. My ARs are not competition guns, they’re not investments, they’re not safe queens. they’re tools intended to fvck up some very bad people in the most efficient manner possible.

        “Optical sights are completely optional”.

        I disagree. Again, this is from a “2nd amendment/militia/light infantry” context.

        In the priciple of fire and maneuver, you will not have the ideal stability or perfect firing position like you do on a one way range sitting in the shade, firing at competition targets standing out in the open in front of you; no timers, no pressure.

        If you are wearing your battle belt or chest rig, and sustainment load, your firing position will not be perfect. Hence, the reason why a optical sight is advantageous, especially a magnified one that can be used to identify potential targets or non-targets, be a STANO tool, etc. From a combat perspective, optical sights are the new KISS. You will engage targets much faster than with irons, guaranteed. and there is that pesky priority of home defense AGAIN, where a red dot is miles superior to irons to avoid missing and sending rounds where they aren’t supposed to be.

        “A real 1907 sling is a very good thing to have on any rifle. Sadly, most people today don’t know how to properly use a 1907 sling.”

        Slings are a PITA and no infantryman walks around with it slung over your body. It is merely there in case you need to accomplish a task requiring both of your hands.

        Yes, nice triggers are luxuries that can help novice shooters. The reason im opposed to them is because

        1.) it makes no sense to invest in a trigger when you dont have a flashlight to properly identify adversaries or friendlies at night.
        2.) it makes no sense to invest in a trigger when you dont have a quality optic, which measurably improves your accuracy under combat conditions.
        3.) match triggers often fail (the exception seems to be geissele or timney) due to them being more fragile than military specification triggers. Adjustable ones are even more problematic as far as durability goes.

        Anschuetz rifles are gorgeous, but again, my context is different than yours. I dont collect guns or have them as “investments/futures” as much as i’d like to.

        1. avatar lolinski says:

          IMO a sling is the most important thing.

          In my opinion the most important things are:

          – A good sling (don’t know what you call them but they are leather and you tie them around your arm).
          – A good trigger.
          – A suppressor (kinda hard to get in the US, I am not in the US)
          – sights aren’t that important as long as they hold zero and you can get a sight picture. I have used diopter, AK sights, and some others. They all work fine (but I like the diopter ones for simplicity of use, wish someone would make a tritium front insert).
          – A light is nice but not strictly necessary, go for something lightweight and small.

        2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          What’s my infantry experience? None. I live in the private sector, as does everyone whom I’ve trained, which includes children as young as 10 or 11, both girls and boys, as well as adults up to older folks in their 50’s and 60’s. I’m not training these people for combat; I’m training them how to shoot a rifle competently and safely, and since the question was about an AR-15, which is a civilian, not military, rifle, I’m fully expecting that we’re talking about civilian training and operation here.

          Optical sights are indeed nice, and might be necessary for some older folks who are starting to have eye issues, but on most any rifle, most people, even with corrective lenses, can focus on the front sight and make iron sights work just fine. For training new people, I prefer iron sights because optical sights introduce a whole new bunch of issues for the new shooter – eye relief, focus, etc. AR iron sights, properly adjusted, work pretty well.

          If you think a 1907 sling is just for carrying a rifle, you need to learn a lot more about rifle shooting. Buy a 1907 sling, go read up on how to use it – a good place to start are older USMC TM’s. When I’m using a 1907 sling on a rifle, it is there to help me shoot better first, and carry the rifle as an afterthought. You appear to be thinking of carrying straps as slings. They’re not. If I have a real sling on a rifle, my shooting improves in all positions: prone, kneeling and (especially) off-hand. #1 thing I see younger shooters not aware of in rifle shooting is the importance of a proper sling.

          A source for real slings is Turner Saddlery, in Clay, Alabama. They make modern versions of the 1907, in both leather and biothane (a synthetic all-weather leather substitute). They have better keepers and optional brass frogs. Nice stuff. There are other sources for high quality leather 1907 slings out there as well, Turner is just one of the most common.

  30. avatar publius2 says:

    Great tip Nick, on triggers and makes a LOT of sense.
    After the training and range time, that I agree comes first on any basic weapon.

    Now I’m just waiting for your “One AR To Rule Them All” review so I can decide to buy the rest.

  31. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    AR-15 the most popular rifle design around?

    No, sorry, try again.

    The AK-47 design or AK-family rifles only recently surpassed the total number of Mauser-patent rifles built, at over 100 million.

    There need to be a lot more AR’s built to approach the total numbers of a really popular rifle design like the AK or Mauser.

  32. avatar Chris says:

    Any thoughts on JP Enterprises spring kit? It was about 10 bucks. After 20 test fires on the Lyman Trigger Gauge the average was 5.5lbs.

  33. avatar DJ says:

    I use RRA triggers on the lowers I’ve built. I’ve heard they can have issues at high round counts, but I haven’t seen any.

  34. avatar DJ says:

    Actually, this thread made me think of something. Is full auto worth it if the only way to get it is to install that crappy military trigger?

    1. avatar ropingdown says:

      Geissele makes a superb trigger for selective-fire AR designs, the SSF trigger. I don’t own a SF AR design, but have used them. The SSF trigger (only when the safety is set to Auto) feels like Geissele’s S3G single-stage trigger for semi-autos. I can’t think of a reason to bother with a select-fire weapon, though acquaintances think otherwise.

      1. avatar DJ says:

        I agree with you regarding select fire. I just don’t have an application for it. It’s a blast to shoot when someone else pays for the ammo, and fixes the wear and tear on the weapon.

        I didn’t know Geissele made a select-fire trigger. Good info. Thx.

  35. avatar J O E says:

    The trigger should not be the most important; it should be the flashlight. You can shoot a rifle accurately all day with any trigger on it. Can’t shoot it accurately at night without proper lighting.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      And just how much shooting do you intend to do at night, and at what distances?

      1. avatar LC says:

        Why does it matter? how often do defensive gun uses occur?

        I’d rather deal with the encumbrance of a flashlight, knowning that the odds of me using it to identify a potential bad guy are VERY low, than to find myself in the same exceptional situation unable to identify a potential bad guy or family member.

        There are numerous incidents of gun owners accidentally shooting people like relatives, spouses, etc (one was a police officer recently). While it violates the 4 rules itself, not to mention common sense rules of engagement, a white light in such situations would turn a tragedy into just a fright with a bit of swearing and relief.

        1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          A rifle in my world is for long(er) range engagements. I don’t use a rifle in my house. I might use a shotgun within my house, but not a rifle. Every round that goes out of my walls and downrange is my legal responsibility, and using a rifle inside a house is the fastest possible way to jack up my legal liability to absurdly high levels.

          So a flashlight on a rifle? If the flashlight has a beam that lights up my target 100 to 200+ yards away at night, OK, it might be worth my time. If I’m hunting coyotes with an AR, I might agree that putting a light on an AR is an important detail. Most of the coyotes I’ve nailed at night have, in fact, been with an AR, but I’ve shot them during bright, moonlit nights, and the iron sights on an AR set to the wide rear aperture have done perfectly well for me.

        2. avatar LC says:

          Thats why I load 50 gr TSX in a home defense magazine…and a surefire optic. 300 lumens is good for 150 meters. Wouldn’t go with anything less than that honestly (or deviate outside surefire). But a home defense gun without a quality flashlight is just asking for a tragedy. Sadly, one can just do a google search and pick one.

          Neither the TSK or surefire is cheap, but the carbine fills a variety of roles outside the realm of HD. If I wasn’t into guns, just strictly owning one for HD only, I would have a youth 20 gauge.

  36. avatar Crunkleross says:

    The Hiperfire trigger doesn’t belong on that list IMO. It’s an expensive gimmick to encourage bump fire.

    1. avatar Cole Johnson says:

      You have your triggers mixed up. The trigger you describe is the hellfire, or the hypergat trigger. Although slidefire does make a Slidefire trigger to go with their stock, it is a different trigger. The Hiperfire trigger is a semi auto duty trigger with either a 4.5 lb or 5.5 lb trigger pull. It does belong on the list and is a great trigger.

  37. avatar Logez says:

    The upgrade I’ve put off the longest! Thanks for writing this and giving several recommendations at the end, definitely helpful!

  38. avatar Ian T says:

    I seem to be in the minority of actually preferring mil-spec triggers. I don’t see the need to have the super light trigger. Heavier mil spec do fine and unless you suck you can still hit anything you need out to a few hundred meters on the stock trigger. There are tons of things I would change out before a trigger.

    1. avatar Gary says:

      Ian, I’ll join your minority. I don’t mind Nick’s article until he says “mil-spec crap”. 24 years in Army SOF, my trigger led to a bang every time. I love my RRA trigger on my AR, but mil-spec is generally rugged and designed to work through various conditions. Civilians, I know you probably don’t mean any disrespect, but please don’t call our mil-spec firearms “crap”.

      1. avatar LC says:

        yeah i dont get it either. the mil-spec triggers work fine and I haven’t had any problems with them (the same cannot be said about match triggers).

        After all, I have a fighting rifle that is intended to be used in nasty conditions, lubricated by motor oil or grease, and covered in scratches and camo paint. not a safe queen to be taken out bi annually to be used on the 180 degree range.

  39. Rather partial to the JP Enterprises single-stage AR trigger, myself. It breaks like the proverbial glass rod.

  40. avatar Don from CT says:

    A couple of thoughts on Nicks suggestions. Hes left out perhaps the best deal in a 2 stage trigger there is. The Rock River Arms Match trigger.

    If you have an 03 C&R FFL you can get one for $65 from RRA. This is a great trigger. Is it a Geissele? No. But its a great trigger.

    Also, the Geissele G2S was recently available at Aimsurplus for $110. Its sold out now, but get on the notification list.

    Other than that, Nick hits it right on the head. There’s nothing worse than waiting through what seems like an inch of creep when you are trying to make a precise shot with a mil spec trigger

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