Timney Triggers has been in the business of making replacement triggers for decades. Started in 1946, the company made its reputation by providing quality replacement triggers for rifles brought home form WWII. From Arisaka rifles to Remington 700s, Timney has made replacement triggers for every popular rifle on the market today. While the core values and work ethic at Timney is right out of the 1940’s, the machinery that makes those triggers definitely is not.
When John Vehr took over Timney Triggers, the equipment was a little dated. “We still had milling machines that had ‘Property of the War Department’ stamped on them. Not Department of Defense — War Department. That’s how old they were.” John invested heavily in the tools and machines the company uses, and the results are paying off. Precision and quality seem to be the goals with Timney, and as a result they use some really cool processes that may take longer but result in a better end product.
According to John, new triggers start their journey one of two ways.
The first step in getting a new trigger made John deciding that the gun is really cool. With the Tavor trigger, for example, John was given an early copy of the rifle to play with and immediately wanted to produce a trigger for it. The same thing is happening right now with the Beretta ARX-100 — John liked it and asked his engineer to make it happen.
The second way triggers get made is that customers ask for it. Timney prides itself on responding to customer feedback and being customer oriented, so when a critical mass of customers start asking for the same trigger John takes notice.
When the trigger green-lighted, the first stop is a silver haired engineer named Calvin. From his computer, he creates and constantly improves the trigger design until it’s ready for full production. As you can tell from looking at his desk, that process can sometimes take more than one prototype to finish the process.
Once Calvin is happy, trigger production starts.
Most machine shops rely heavily on CNC machines to knock out everything from their small parts to their huge chassis systems. CNC parts are good, but they weren’t accurate enough for John and Timney. Instead of simply milling the internal parts, they decided to cut out the internal components for their triggers using a wire EDM process. I had only seen that process used in one place before Timney — Advanced Armament. I knew it was an incredibly slow process, but the end results are hard to ignore. The lack of tool marks on the parts is part of what makes the Timney triggers so damned good, and it’s only really possible with this process.
While the internals get the EDM treatment, most of the trigger blades are made on more traditional CNC machines. The intricate cuts needed to make the trigger blade feel just right can’t be done with the EDM process, so instead Timney individually cuts each trigger from a solid block of metal.
EDM cuts can be made at the same time on multiple stacked parts, but CNC work is done one at a time. It’s a much more time-consuming process, and as a result Timney has invested a ton of money into both new CNC machines and some interesting accessories.
While the new CNC machines are still on their way, John found a way to make the most out of the machines he has to fill orders. The machine shop itself might be a 9-to-5 operation, but the CNC machines run all night long. John takes particular pride in pointing out that the shop is truly a “lights out” manufacturing facility, meaning that there are no staff watching the machines while they whirr and buzz and make new triggers while everyone is sleeping. The machines are tended by sets of robotic arms, constantly feeding a steady stream of pre-cut metal blocks that arrive on a motorized conveyor belt ready to be milled. When the crew comes in the next morning, a bucket of triggers awaits them.
The housings are made the same way with CNC machines, just from bigger blocks.
The overall concept is that John wants as few instances along the manufacturing process where an actual human touches anything. Humans make mistakes, but computers and robots can perform he same monotonous task repeatedly (almost) forever without tiring or messing up. It’s a model that not only reduces cost and waste due to mistakes, but improves quality.
When the parts are finished, they make their way to a holding room and then are pulled out for assembly. A dedicated staff hand-assemble each and every trigger, and then immediately hand them off to the testing staff to set each trigger and test it by hand.
While mechanically setting the trigger to be “just right” is important, the human factor in testing the triggers is essential. “When I first started, John would come in and re-test every trigger I had set that day” one employee told me. “If I had done 100 triggers, he would re-check all 100 triggers. At first, only about 40 out of the 100 would pass. He’d hand it back and tell me ‘it doesn’t feel like a Timney.’ At first I didn’t understand, but then one day it just clicked. Now they all pass.” That relentless hands-on attention to detail is something that John Vehr seems very good at.
Once the triggers are assembled and tested, they head off to be packaged and stored before shipping. The big push at the factory right now is to get to the “red line” — a metric that means they have a certain number of triggers of each type available in the factory. Some triggers have low red lines (one old rifle design with less demand had a red line of 10), others are in the hundreds. When an order comes in to the factory it’s immediately processed and shipped out, but not before a small addition is included.
I asked John Vehr about the sweet inclusion to the standard shipment, especially since it was something I touched on in my very first review of their trigger back when I lived in Virginia. “I ordered something and it came with a Tootsie Roll in the box, and I thought that was pretty cool” John replied. “Some people think it means we’re calling them a sucker, but I just thought it was a nice idea.” The Tootsie Pop has been a staple of Timney packaging ever since.
For most products, that would be the end of the line. Once it’s made, they just keep cranking them out again and again. But for Timney, every trigger is constantly changing. Every time they run into an issue or find a better way to make their triggers, they roll that change out to all future versions of that trigger and keep on trucking. It’s not something they advertise, especially since their triggers don’t have version numbers associated with them. But if your old Timney trigger ever has a problem, Timney makes it a point to fix it no matter how old the trigger.
Just be aware that they might swap out your old Timney for a new one, and put the old one in their display case.