Guns.com was out at the Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot this weekend and spotted something nifty on one of the tables. A new company has developed an electronic trigger for the AR-15 rifle platform, and it boasts some interesting improvements — mainly for military users, though. The trigger is programmable, meaning that those with a registered machine gun can tinker with everything from how many rounds are fired per burst to the cyclic rate of the gun (the trigger is timed, not mechanically tripped). For those without a registered full auto device there will be a semi-auto version coming out soon, but my bet is that it will be on the market for 24 hours before someone figures out a way to make it fire more than one round per trigger pull.

Guns.com calls this the “wave of the future,” but I don’t see it just yet. Geissele has a similar trigger with similar characteristics (no break and no creep) on the market already but you don’t see that fitted into every new rifle. Add in the fact that gun owners are already weary of electronic firearms and you have a product that has a great potential for a niche market but might not have a lot of broad appeal. Remember that Remington has gone down this road before and thought they had a slam dunk with their Etronix rifle system (electronically fired primers), but that proved to be about a big a success as the R51.

The good news is that there’s a mechanical backup to the electronic system, but until we see how it actually works and if it has any impact on reliability that could go either way.

It’s a nifty concept, but I don’t really see any benefit for the average consumer. Unless you start pairing this with a palm scanner or RFID chip and then turn it into a smart gun somehow. Even then, it still suffers from the same malady that killed Remington’s Etronix: batteries and compatibility.

69 Responses to Coming Soon: Electronic AR-15 Trigger

    • I think it sounds fun. Paintball markers went this way a while ago because you can fire rapidly with more precision and less finger fatigue. Trigger pull, as stated in some comments below, is more like clicking a computer mouse button. An electronic toggle on/off switch. I’d like to give it a shot and see how it feels. The fact that it apparently leaves a fully functional mechanical trigger in place should the electronics fail for any reason should help for the folks who wouldn’t want a battery to determine if their firearm works or interference or EMP or whatever to shut it down. Until it’s all tested and vetted, though, I wouldn’t run it on a “serious” firearm, just a range use one or competition or otherwise not on one that may be used for life&death stuff. I’d be more than happy to install it on an AR and test it out though!!!

        • Yeah! Let’s add bluetooth so that we can remotely control the trigger. Soldier in the field doesn’t have the guts to pull the trigger on those innocent civilians cowering on the ground? No problem, we’ll just take control of the gun and spray them down.

          A bluetooth module would be loads of chuckles for hackers too. Imagine the fun when moments before Podunk U.S.A.’s, SWAT team queues of for a dynamic entry on some guy with one pot plant in his bedroom and their guns all start firing on their own.

          It would however finally make the statement, “the gun fired” somewhat true.

        • An improperly mantained purely mechanical weapon can jamor go full auto too. The point is just overall reliability.

      • “Paintball markers went this way a while ago because you can fire rapidly with more precision and less finger fatigue.” Dude, really? Paint ball markers are toys, though I will give a nod to the fact that they can be very useful and valuable training aids. Precision will come from having a properly built firearm and incorporating the user’s skill and discipline in bringing it to bear. The trigger is indeed an important part of the the whole experience/equation but it’s not nearly the most important part. Position/stance, grip, sight picture, breathing, especially where your head is at as it collates all of the environmental, situational and self-awareness/physiological data, trigger squeeze and follow-through are all essential to make the shot break the way you intend it too. I know plenty of guys and gals who can run just about any mediocre gun with a crappy trigger and run it with alacrity and aplomb, sub minute of bad guy under pressure. That boils down to training and mindset and skills mastered. As far as finger fatigue goes; say what? I’ve been shooting for fifty years and finger fatigue has never even crossed my event horizon, let alone being a concern that has entered my conscious mind.

        There are plenty of purely mechanical triggers that are positively exquisite in their function and at the same time are absolutely, without a doubt, robust and reliable. If one wants to tinker with all of this bleeding edge falderal then I say God bless, have at it and knock yourself out. I might even be tempted to mess about with it too. But I would never, ever put it into a firearm that I’m going to stake my or my family’s life on.

      • One thing about electronics in paintball is that it does more than provide fire control. A good electro marker has a wide variety of other solenoids and valves, and by tweaking with the dwell times and timing you can have huge gains in accuracy, consistency and efficiency. On an actual firearm, all and electronic trigger provides is fire control.

    • No, apparently not. It never breaks:

      Geissele has a similar trigger with similar characteristics (no break and no creep) on the market already but you don’t see that fitted into every new rifle.

      Perhaps Geissele’s trigger has:

      (no break take-up and no creep)

      I use the one with no take-up and no creep, the S3G/SD3G….but if there’s one with no break, I’m not buying.

    • From the looks of it the trigger has a light take up, then a pressure sensor to determine when to fire. Once you take up the slack the trigger no longer moves, but it measures the pressure on the trigger and once the pressure tops a certain point it releases the hammer.

      You’ll still have to apply a certain amount of pressure to the trigger to fire, so it’s not going to go off just from being brushed up against. This kind of setup also means that the “break weight” of the trigger can be adjusted simply through programming the electronic system, and it should be adjustable with a very high degree of precision and consistency.

    • Because all the cool ‘Operators’ will have ’em.

      I twinged when i typed that…

      Side note –

      Having no AR platform rifle, I never realized the trigger group was a drop-in. That should be real popular with the criminal element for smuggling small full-auto capable trigger groups. No need for the whole gun, just a small assembly.

      • That’s the way it is now with the mechanical trigger for the AR rifles. All you need is a “full auto” bolt carrier (which is legal and common) and a small extra bit of metal (the auto sear) that is a drop in piece to make it full giggle.

        • Is that right? I thought the lower receiver needed another hole, for the “drop-in” sear’s mounting pin. ie, machining, which is coincidentally illegal. Also, I think the trigger group is different, ie semi-auto will not work. Are you certain any semi-auto lower will work without modification?

  1. Looks like they gutted the electronics from an old Spyder Pilot, not exactly state of the art in terms of paintball markers. But hell, its still pretty cool.

    • I was thinking they same thing. I bet you could easily take an aftermarket oled board for a Spyker and drop it right in.

  2. This basically works like an electronic airsoft gun.
    The ‘break’ is literally a wall because it is the two electric conducts connecting. Having a mechanical backup is a very smart idea too…

    I would actually love to try one in semi auto but I think it would feel weird for a lot of people.

  3. The select fire option seems interesting. However, I can see a lot, and by a lot I mean thousands, of friendly fire incidents because of the touch fire portion of this. A little creep is always good, lets y know you are about to fire.
    And good God can you see this in the hands of the police?

  4. Paintball guns have had these for 15 years. trigger pull like a mouse click, but all it takes is a few dollars from radio shack and you have a full auto board. If by some miracle these do not get banned you will see full auto mods within months.

    • Speaking as someone who’s actually built and coded a paintball marker electronic board, *minutes* is the word you’re looking for, not months.

  5. I don’t know, if you were selling one of those, wouldn’t you do a ‘thumb-web’ grip with some texture, and go “hey” it’s just like regular, only better.”

  6. This could potentially cause lawmakers to 180 on smart guns. Imagine that someone gets a civilian only version, hacks the programing so it can be fired full auto. ATF would reject it for sale to civilians and may even sweep up smart guns. Pipe dream?

    • As an electrical engineer specializing in embedded systems, I can attest to how easy it would be for a hardware hacker to turn this into a selective fire weapon.

      • That looks exactly like the display spyder uses on their paintball markers. Most likely it’s two wires operating some sort of actuator instead of a solenoid. I’m betting if it wasn’t a direct board swap one could be retro fitted, I mean children are doing it with paintball markers it’s not hard.

  7. There’s no law (yet, in the free world anyway) that says you have to put this on your home defense rig. It could be cool on a range toy or hog sniper. Just sayin’ …

  8. I can see this becoming a thing. It will pick up for competitors first and then make its way to the public after. The mechanical backup will seal the deal for many consumers. I also think it will have a high potential to be banned by states since it will be surely be easy to override the function on a semi auto to make it auto.

  9. Sigh. Not this nonsense again.

    Those of us a tad older and more technical have seen this “electronic trigger” nonsense again… and again… and again in the firearms world since, oh, the 1960’s.

    • Well, aside from the fact it hasn’t managed adoption, any of those times, can you tell us a bit more about how they marketed them and what made them fail?

      I’m putting ten to one odds on the whole gunshot residue and gunk rendering the electronic contacts useless.

      • That’s part of it.

        The issue of “hang on, my gun won’t fire because the battery is dead” really cuts the adoption rate down, because, let’s face it: one of the last things gun owners want on a gun is an issue of “it won’t work because the battery is dead.” Gun people are like that. When they want a gun to work, they want a gun to work with absolutely no excuses.

        The nut of the issue comes down to this: If you’re seeking to ignite a conventionally primed cartridge (ie, metallic Boxer or Berdan primer), which requires mechanical shock, you find out that electronic triggers don’t improve on many aspects of the mechanical trigger system. In order to deliver substantial improvements, you typically need larger batteries than a single 9V or similar battery, and if you’re doing much mechanical activation, you have unreasonably short battery life.

        In order to improve on the current state of the mechanical art, you need to start getting into an electrically ignited primer system, much as Remington has/had on their Etronx Model 700 rifle. As a gun guy and a EE, am I going to suddenly shift my entire shooting equipment investment, all those cases, all those primers, all those parts and skills I have for working on conventional rifles to an electrically ignited priming system to achieve their very fast lock times?

        Uh, no.

        Especially now that, once you introduce electronics into a gun, you just know the busybody fussbudgets are going to try to shoehorn a “smart” trigger mechanism on top of any electronic trigger in a gun.

        Overall, it is an idea that keeps coming around and around… and around… in firearms circles. It just seems so attractive – if we could just do “X,” we’d get our lock times down, our consistency of ignition up, etc, etc. Trouble is, the current priming/ignition/trigger systems are wheels that are very, very round and roll down the road perfectly well.

        I was asked to work on one such idea with some serious gun people. The idea was not only an electrical trigger, but also an electromagnetic firing pin that would replace a conventional 700-style rifle bolt/pin/etc. I went off and did my homework on the issue and came back to the group and said “I don’t see a substantial upside here – exactly what problem are we seeking to solve, and at what price/profit/margin?”

        Keeping the mechanical ignition meant that we didn’t really improve that much on mechanical triggers for lock times, and perhaps the only real improvement we could deliver was more consistent firing pin striking force on the primer, which would result in lower spreads of muzzle velocities from the rifle.

        The other people in the group were die-hard gun people, I was the only EE, and when it was all over and done, you’d think I stomped on a bunch of newborn puppies, they were so disgusted with me.

        But… engineers have been giving bad news to dreamers for hundreds of years now. That’s part of the job, I guess.

        Famous engineering responses:

        – There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch
        – perpetual motion isn’t and won’t be
        – the Second Law of Thermo is iron clad law in the universe,

        and

        – yes, she’s out of your league.

        • As an Electrical engineer as well, I too am not interested in electronics on my firearm. The best solution is the simplest most efficient one and that is the most reliable one as well. I don’t want to rely on batteries. I don’t want to rely on clean electrically conductive switch contacts. I don’t like the idea that my firearm would go full auto if the temperature of the handle exceeded 185 deg F. I don’t want to rely on electromechanical actuation when my finger is right there. My finger doesn’t need batteries.

        • I swear, if you ever wrote a book, instructional or otherwise, I’d buy it in a heart beat. You got a sense of humor like my best friend. Dry as a bone, crude as oil, but as appropriate as I’ll ever see.

          And she’s always out of my league. Taken man problems….

        • Brilliant, thank you DG. To your list I add that “if it works well, don’t fix it, you’ll probably just screw it up”.

    • I heard that nifty things have happened to electronics since the ’60s, but maybe it’s just a rumor. I’ll go check it.

  10. I can’t see how this is even close to good for the military.

    Soldier wades through a stream…
    It rains…
    It gets dropped…
    Battery dies…
    Wire breaks…
    Battery slips out of connection…

    All of these mean that it’s not going to fire. Mechanical back may work, but I want my gun to go off when I touch the trigger.

    • Each and every one of your critiques applys to mechanical weapon of sufficiently poor quality of that has been improperly mantained. Maybe this time too it won’t be the right time, but there will be one day when old weirdos that lovingly mantain their AR15’s scavenging on-line auctions or buying outrageously expensive handmade parts will be seen in the same light that today is reserved for Fudds.

      • Twice you’ve use the term “improperly maintained” when applied to guns.

        Any mechanical device that’s not properly maintained will eventually fail.

        But here’s the puzzling thing…

        I’m not required to do any routine maintenance on my electronic gadgets (laptop, hard drives, phones, DVD player, etc.), but for some reason they keep failing.

        I wonder why.

        • Last week, my PS3 died without warning, completely and irrevocably dead. It was irritating. If it had been a firearm, it might have been a lot worse than irritating. More to the point, again, as DG said, “why?” What is the problem being addressed? Only thing I can think of is a need to invent something which might make you rich.

        • When has been the last time you have operated maintenance on your television? Your personal computer? Your cellphone? To say something you have to trust your lofe on: on your GPS navigator? Chance is never. The only problem with electronics in firearms is that you have to couple them with the sudden accelerations of the cartridge detonation, but non-moving parts are inherently superior.

        • When was the last time I operated maintenance on my TV? When I had to change out the cheap-assed burst electrolytic caps the ChiComs used in my Vizio TV set, that’s when.

          When before that? Oh, when I had to replace the tuner in our Sony TV set. Let’s see, and I had to have the hard drive replaced in my iMac two years ago, I have an entire motherboard for a late 2007 era Macbook Pro on order that I need to replace.

          I’ve repaired a half-dozen switching power supplies for our own PC’s, changed caps on any number of larger computer power supplies in my career, made wiring changes to backplanes (back when backplanes were wire-wrapped), replaced dead active components on so many sub-assemblies I can’t remember them all, replaced cheap-assed relays, switches and connectors on everything from farm tractors to hot tubs. Matter of fact, I need to replace some cheap-assed relay on my diesel-driven arc welder this winter. That pisses me off as well.

          The problem you have in arguing with me is that I’m a retired EE. My EE career spanned the electronic eras from vacuum tubes to surface mount technology components, and the one thing I’ve learned through four eras of electronic components is this universal truth:

          With the exception of the US military, the vast majority of people are simply unwilling to pay what it takes to make electronics “reliable.”

          The joke in consumer electronics is that the electronics are designed to fail right after the end of the warranty period.

          I’ve worked in military contractor electronics too, and I’ve seen reliable (actually reliable, not just marketing buzzword “reliable”) electronics. I also know the attached price tag to those actual-reliable electronics – more than you’re willing to spend, by a factor of about 10 to 20. To make a reliable switch (just a mechanical switch) that will work every time, and is guaranteed to do so… (that’s the rub) for a million cycles, takes a fair bit of work and testing.

          Even on other high-priced consumer items, electronics often have reliability issues. Consider the hit that German high-end automobiles took in the JD Powers’ ratings about 10 years ago – mostly due to problems with their electronic gee-gaws. I’m sure that RF can speak more to this, with his background in car reviews and rides. Even Benz and BMW had big consumer issues with electronics in their cars – we’re talking cars with price tags of $60K and up. There was enough money and profit in the price tag to allow the Germans to “do the job right.” And Germans generally do the job right, as I’m sure many can agree. And still, they had reliability issues.

          The above-mentioned pistols with electronic triggers have price tags from, oh, $1700 on up, up and up. That’s a price class where the manufactures of those competition handguns are able to recoup the cost of making something that is “reliable.” Those handguns also never, ever have someone’s life on the line, and they’re used by people who have very specific issues they’re trying to address. Further, the way an Olympic-level shooting team will address issues of reliability is to have backup pistols (as well as parts, component groups – like entire trigger groups, and other gear) for their shooters. Olympic shooters have a level of support that few shooters will ever enjoy, so they can deal with issues of reliability with inventories and wholesale replacement in order to get the desirable characteristics of an electronic trigger.

          As I said before: The shooting world has been down the electronic trigger road before. Several times. The attractions are sooooo high. You could get rid of all creep. You could adjust your trigger pull weight to within a couple of grams – and it would be repeatable. You could, if you wanted, get rid of physical electrical contacts and use an optical beam interruption to break your trigger. Lots of things are possible. And every time… the market ends up looking at the net:net result after they bought it and saying “Oh, crap, I was sucked in again.”

          Now, here’s one more perspective you won’t find some someone who isn’t a EE: Parts replacement.

          The electronics market is relentless in their parts churn. If you have a design that used a component that wasn’t produced in huge numbers, once time passes, you will find it difficult to obtain replacement components to repair something. This is something I’ve seen especially in electronics on things like industrial and farm equipment. Farmers are like gun owners – notoriously conservative in wanting things to be reliable as a rock – because when the weather allows them to plant or harvest, they have everything riding on their equipment working.

          I’ve seen no small number of very high-dollar ag machines sidelined by electronic failures – and the solution to those failures has sometimes been to simply go rent a whole new machine to get the job done while the parts are obtained for the down machine from somewhere far, far back up the supply chain to repair the electronic assemblies.

          Guns can work for a century – or more. I guarantee you that if the electronics in a trigger group fail in 20 years, you won’t be able to find the electronic components to replace them – the market will have moved on. You will have to scour surplus dealers and make calls to the junker markets to find used/usable components or “new old stock” of components that were just boxed up and surplused out of inventories here and there.

          I’m not buying the idea of electronic triggers because I know fair bit about electronics. I know more about electronics than I know about guns, in fact.

        • @Dyspeptic Gunsmith

          Thanks for lending your formidable expertise to the discussion.

          Excellent post.

  11. All this guy did was take the circutrity out of a electronic paintball marker, my buddy has the exact same LED board in his marker. This could get crazy

  12. I didn’t see anything in the video about what actually trips the sear. I’m assuming there’s an electro magnet that either pushes or pulls the sear, once contact is made.
    Also, I didn’t see anything about adjustable trigger pull. Are these things set up at the factory for a certain trigger pull, such as 3 lbs or so??
    I’m thinking these might be useful on varmint rifles as well as bench rest guns, although I doubt that they would bring anything to the table that a benchrester doesn’t already have, and probably for less money.

    • Many of the early electronic paintball marker designs and most (maybe all) of the manual to electronic conversions used a simple solenoid.

  13. Shot Buffering.

    So we have one shot per pull, yes? What if I pulled the trigger 29 times, then on the 30th pull at any time later I can release all those pre-pulled shots? Just trying to remember rule skirting hacks from paintball a decade ago.

    I’d say “life will be interesting when it comes out,” but these asanine regulations and cheats are getting too interesting as it is.

  14. Nick I enjoy your articles but I keep running into a disconnect between what you write and what I and probably others experience.

    The Geissele may be the best trigger, but it has a flaw preventing widespread adoption. This flaw is the price; I am by no means a wealthy individual, but I manage to feed a hobby of building and shooting ar15 style rifles on my meager paycheck because I can buy a part at a time and never have to spend more than ~$150 on any part. The price range on a normal fire control group is about $30 and to pay over six times that figure just to solve, what is for me a non-issue, makes no sense to me.

    Something like electronic triggers has a lot of potential outside of producing a great trigger pull or personalizing to prevent unauthorized users. You could have a trigger that requires a 2-5 second hold before firing to help reduce the impact of flinching, you could have a integrated shot counter, you could relocate the trigger to produce a bullpup without needing a linkage system besides a non moving wire. There is a lot of potential in bringing electronics into the firearm industry.

  15. You can set it to fire in 3 round burst or full auto? But the civilian version will be semi-auto only?
    hackhackhackhackhackhackhack

    • I can already see from here the “jailbreak” hack to turn your semi-auto civilian electronic trigger to a full auto/burst mode 😉

  16. As other have said, this has been around in paintball a long time, and it was my understanding that the ATF had basically laid down a blanket prohibition on electromechanical triggers for the also mentioned by others reason of the ease of conversions to select fire. I mean, not a lot of people can machine an auto-sear and mill out a receiver to accept it, let alone any kind of burst counter, but anyone can swap out a circuit board, especially with the functionally identical paintball versions already out there.

    I’m reminded of the old “Kentucky Electric Rifle” idea from one of the Poor Man’s James Bond books, where a solenoid is clamped to the trigger guard of a rifle with a reciprocating bolt handle, a momentary contact switch is attached where it will be stuck by said bolt handle during the firing cycle, and the gun is actually fired by depressing a second switch that connects the whole circuit. Aside from full auto, the idea with that was that it could be triggered remotely, I believe it was even suggested that it could be attached to a security camera gimbal and essentially used as a remote controlled turret. This thing looks way more practical, but the concept is not new.

  17. Once this technology matures I plan on getting one. Anything can be well engineered or poorly engineered.

    – The benefits are exactly in the ease and possibility of modification that comes with electronics.
    – Electronics should be embraced in firearms – imagine removing the entire concept of a trigger, move the firing mechanism to a button off gun (precision rifle applications?).
    – The crisp trigger in your Geiselle can be matched at 5% the cost of a mechanical trigger. My mouse click feels pretty good and it costs way less than my geiselle.

    Honestly all this “I’ll never adopt this because I’m a serious manly man and serious about my gunfighting” reminds me of the bias against polymers and is a major turnoff. In 20 years you’ll have electronic triggers that are just as reliable as mechanical ones.

    • @custom7

      I’m all for embracing new technology. However, I respectfully disagree with the following:

      In 20 years you’ll have electronic triggers that are just as reliable as mechanical ones.

      No electronic device I’ve have ever owned has been as reliable as any mechanical device.

      Electronics are subject to g-forces, ambient humidity, temperature, direct moisture, inherent circuit failure, etc. in ways that mechanical devices aren’t.

      Plus electronics require a power source. And batteries die. And they leak.

      I love my super-lumen LED pocket flashlight, but when the battery goes, I’m SOL. However, I can start a signal fire under almost any condition with matches, no batteries required.

  18. I’ve said it before. Sometimes it is fine for a gun to be just a toy. You can buy something just because it’s fucking cool. Not everything has to be war ready.

  19. Seems interesting solely because it can slow down rate of fire on full auto. Imagine the controlability and practicality of a 180 RPM machinegun. + the ammo would last much longer then.

  20. Pssht. A gun won’t work if you run out of bullets, that’s why I train every other day with my shortsword. This “gun” thing is just a passing fad: cold steel is forever. -_-
    Come on guys, be real.

      • I wasn’t drawing a parallelism with malfunctions, but with ammunition: running out of battery charge is exactly the same thing as running out of ammunition. I concede that batteries have shorter shelf life than standard portable weapons ammunition.

  21. yup, before long people could unlock it on you tube…and go full rock-n-roll.. If that happened I would predicted 5.56/223 rnds to fly off the shelves.. again

  22. About 4 years ago I installed a trigger group from the Tippmann A5 into a Marlin .22. It was so easy, the grip frame practically slid onto the receiver, just had to make a linkage rod and bam, fun .22. It’s frustrating to see people marketing stuff acting like its some great new idea, when its been tried over and over again. For a .22, its actually a lot of fun. No interest for an AR.

  23. I think it would be interesting to see something like this, except with a piezoelectric material behind the trigger itself… Pulling the trigger would compress that material, produce a spark, and the spark would release the hammer… Not sure how practical it is though

  24. um, why buy this? you can easily make this with an Arduino nano. or just take it out of a paintball marker. With a 3d printer or a dremel tool, it would be easy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *