Gear Review: JMT Saber Single Stage Drop-in Trigger

The drop-in trigger kerfuffle of last year all but halted the flood of new drop-in triggers for the MSR platform. Some companies scrapped their plans for new triggers. Others, like James Madison Tactical (JMT) kept pushing on, determined to see their original design (not a re-brand of another trigger) become a commercial reality . . .

In late 2016 JMT released their first premium single stage drop-in trigger for the MSR/AR-15 platform, the Saber. I remember Rainier Arms offered the trigger at the promotional price of $89 – a hell of a deal. I know a few folks who bought the trigger blindly at that price and they’re quite happy. But even without a sale tag, the trigger comes in at a bargain price of just $99.95 MSRP.

JMT adamantly advises the use of anti-rotation pins. To promote this practice, the Saber now ships with a set of pins and an Allen key. Keep in mind, it helps to have a second 1/64-inch hex key when installing the pins and be sure to use blue thread locker.

In-hand, it was tough to come to terms with the fact that I was holding a sub-$100 drop-in. At that price you won’t find many critical firearm components with machining as nice as the Sabers’, let alone an entire trigger pack. The guys at JMT come from the aerospace industry and the required level of attention to detail and quality shine through with this trigger – both figuratively and literally.

JMT’s “signature” metallic silver anodized aluminum housing snuggly contains all components. The hammer, disconnector, and Sabretooth tiger-esque skeletonized trigger shoe are precision-cut 17-4, super-shiny stainless steel specimens of premium CNC/EDM machining.

The trigger shoe’s design not only helps save weight (3.456 oz. without pins), it feels fantastic. Sporting a vertically convex contact surface and precision edges, the trigger finds your finger faster and lets you know its boundaries without biting.

Before installation, I sent the trigger to Jeremy S. for due diligence with the Dvorak TriggerScan, which produces a graphical representation of the mechanics of the trigger. If you’ve seen Jeremy’s highly-popular AR-15 Drop-in Trigger Rounds-up, you’re already familiar with the format. If you haven’t, check it out or you’re missing out.

TriggerScan profile for JMT’s Saber, a single stage AR platform drop-in trigger.

As you can see above, the TriggerScan graph for the Saber depicts characteristics of a quality trigger. The user’s experience with the trigger will begin with rock-solid, absolute-zero take-up reminiscent of the highest-quality triggers. With 3.66 pounds of pull by way of the barely noticeable 0.05 inches of glassy creep, the Saber rapidly rolls-over and breaks very crisply. The trigger’s over-travel was recorded at a very respectable 0.03 inches, and may well be the one of only a few areas JMT could improve on their design.

Admittedly, I have a sensitive trigger finger. During reset I felt something I hadn’t felt in any other drop-in. At first I mistook it for a “sticky” or slow reset, which can be caused by the tension screw backing out. And after talking to JMT and trying several other Sabers, I was unable to put my finger on what I was experiencing. Finally, after comparing the TriggerScan to Jeremy’s library of graphs, I have my answer.

All but one graph I compared the Saber to showed reset points well after their break point. The JMT Saber, however, is the only trigger with its reset point very close to its break point. For the record, it’s slightly after the break point (distance indicated in red in image above). So I believe what I was feeling was the later than “normal” reset.

So is this good or bad? I believe this is a great characteristic! Closer distance between break and reset points, combined with zero take-up and short creep is an excellent recipe for super-fast shooting. The trade-off? Over-travel really matters. So, just like with any trigger, it may take some time at the range to dial-in the correct muscle memory to beat that slight over-travel. On paper, however, the JMT Saber is an excellent prospect for, say, 3-gun or that bucket-list helicopter hog hunt rifle.

What’s more; because Jeremy has built that nice library of TriggerProfiles, we can overlay them against other triggers on the market.

JMT Saber (blue) vs. CMC Single Stage (red).

A popular competitor in the AR-15 drop-in marketplace is the CMC Single Stage trigger (red line in graph above). When we overlay the JMT and CMC TriggerScans, the differences become crystal clear. The CMC breaks with less applied force, but has more creep. The Saber tops the CMC at the starting line and also breaks the finish line first. Noticeably, the Saber requires increased force throughout the majority of its short creep, while the CMC hits its stride early and coasts downhill to its break point.

JMT Saber (blue) vs. Elftmann ELF Match (red).

When we look at the Saber versus the ultra-premium Elftmann Match trigger ($259 MSRP, red line in graph above), they nearly match each other step-for-step out of the blocks, which is impressive. The Elftmann finishes the race before the Saber can even break, but JMT’s trigger passes the line just three-hundredths of an inch later. That’s darn good for a trigger that costs a little more than a third of the price of one of the best drop-ins on the market.

To date, I have upwards of five hundred rounds downrange across five different Saber triggers in five different builds – three friend’s firearms and two of my own. My experience with the trigger has been pleasantly consistent and impressive. Each of the five triggers exhibited the characteristics depicted in the TriggerScan graphs; zero take-up, no grit just a smooth roll-to-break, and near break-point reset after minuscule over-travel.

JMT has leveraged their aerospace industry expertise to create a fast, reliable performance trigger at a price that is tough to pass up. After talking to the guys at JMT for the past half-year, it is strongly apparent that they are dedicated to continually improving their current products while developing new ones. I am happy to enjoy the Saber while I wait to see what they put out next.

Specifications: JMT Saber Single Stage Drop-in Trigger

Price as reviewed (one trigger shoe only): $99.95 MSRP

Ratings (out of five stars):

Ease of Installation: * * * * *
The Saber has fit well into every lower receiver I have tried it in. I have encountered zero issues with regard to pinhole alignment. Although anti-rotation pins are recommended, the set screw installation option works just as well.

Design: * * * * *
With a near-saturated drop-in trigger market there wasn’t a lot of room for innovation when JMT brought the Saber to the party. Yet, they delivered a high-quality trigger design that exhibits an outstanding balance of performance features and price, while closing the gap between the break and reset point.

Performance: * * * * *
Zero take-up. Minimal, but glass-smooth creep. Reset point just after break point. The JMT Saber’s performance plainly outpaces its price tag.

Trigger Shoe: * * * * *
The skeletonized sabretooth-style trigger shoe is top-notch and a great marriage of function, aesthetics, and weight-saving measures. It is extremely well-machined and finished. The convex face of the trigger is very comfortable.

Overall: * * * * *
The JMT Saber single stage drop-in trigger is a performance trigger at a bargain price, wrapped in a sharp aesthetic. This trigger will remain on my list of go-to triggers for builds of any type. It is definitely worth a look (and feel) for your next AR-15/MSR/PDW project.

comments

  1. avatar No one of consequence says:

    Re blue thread locker … As some companies differ in their color coding, when you say “blue” do you mean low, high, or Harley strength?

    (I’d presume low, based on the location and size of the fastener, but better to ask etc.)

    1. avatar kevin says:

      “Blue” generally refers to Loctite 242. It resists loosening, but can still be removed with normal tools, not requiring heat.

    2. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      blue = temporary. Removable via the normal disassembly process and without heat, etc…

    3. avatar Conner W. says:

      Thanks, Jeremy S. and kevin! Yes, I am referring to non-permanent thread locker. Loctite formula 242 is what I currently use.

  2. avatar James says:

    Where’s this in comparison to the ALG ACT? That’s been my go-to recommendation for a trigger replacement for the under $100 trigger crowd

    1. avatar Conner W. says:

      James, thanks for the comparison request! I believe Jeremy S.’s library of TriggerScans only includes drop-in triggers at this time.

      Jeremy S. – Are you collecting TriggerScan data on triggers other than drop-ins? Happen to have the ALG ACT on file?

      1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        I’m slowly starting the work on doing a component trigger (standard AR ones comprised of multiple, separate pieces held in place by the trigger and hammer pins) round-up, yes. Have only scanned a few so far, but one of them does happen to be the ALG ACT. CLICK HERE to see it, but note that the scale is different from the ones in Conner’s post here! The ALG ACT takes about 0.065″ before it breaks while the JMT takes about 0.056″, and the pull weight is about 5.94 lbs to the JMT’s 3.68 lbs. The ALG ACT is actually a fairly spectacular component trigger. Maybe a little on the heavy side, but the lack of creep and the crispness of it are very very good.

        1. avatar Conner W. says:

          Well, how about that – excellent! Thanks, Jeremy!

        2. avatar mm1046256 says:

          Will you be able to include the Jard ARJ with 1.5# spring in the next trigger round-up? It’s an incredible trigger for the price. I’ve tried the ACT style Nickel-teflon coated triggers w/regular and JP yellow springs along with the Geissele SD-E and prefer the Jard to both.

          http://www.jardinc.com/jard-arj-trigger/
          Spring 1012 – http://www.jardinc.com/springs/

          http://imgur.com/a/1ZyDV

        3. avatar Justsomeguy says:

          Midways website says that the ACT trigger comes with two springs, one @ 6lbs and one @ 4.5lbs. It seems to me that this fact makes that trigger a screaming deal.

  3. avatar Joe R. says:

    Great review, thanks!

    Gotta say…
    1) The 4th Picture above is the one (angle view) that’s going to sell me on a trigger. Not sure why. But it’s definitely better marketing to my brain, by a lot.
    2) Again, CAN I TAKE IT TO WAR??? TTAG IS quickly also making me into drop-in trigger fan, BUT (i know, there’s a but) we talk about prepper quality and qualification on all the stuff that’s meant to, or seems to warrant it, SO if SHTF, am I going to miss my ~ reliable mil-spec if I can “never go home again@?

    1. avatar Conner W. says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Joe R.! Glad to hear you enjoyed the review and that TTAG’s continued coverage of drop-in triggers is opening up your list of options.

      In terms of, “Taking it to war,” if I understand correctly what you’re driving at, you’re asking about its durability in adverse conditions. So far this drop-in seem so be solid as a rock. It is extremely well-built with zero slop anywhere in the assembled unit. I have not done any “torture” testing on this unit (dirt, sand, etc.) but I will be happy to post follow-up comments if get the chance to put the trigger through those types of conditions in the near future.

      1. avatar Joe R. says:

        Thanks again, I think everyone (even, or especially, all the purposeful un-snobs out there that say they don’t, or the “purists” who’d say “not on my daddy’s AR” or “not on the M-16 I carried in Iraq” [of which I’m one – of those types]) would appreciate a better trigger (or be/do/shoot better with one) BUT we gotta be able to IGNORE it like we do every single other one we have. We can’t train-up to a chem-milled two stage comp trigger (to make it ‘old hat’) while wondering what to do when the Ferrari trigger needs a new fan belt (or worse, a clutch). So, ya, thanks, an endurance test would be good, a torture test ??? Don’t know. I like Geiselle’s (claims ?) that they’re making theirs (some models) for SOCOM operators, and the hi-speed dudes definitely do not tolerate bad kit, but if they abuse it they draw another for the next mission.
        I want a better trigger, I am not a huge fan of the tick-fart-to-break-the-shot low pound-pulls that the OP keeps hunting, but I first noticed the bettererness of a CMMG set in a build, and it made me take an Arkansas stone to every exposed edge-of-trigger material I own. I like the idea of a binary trigger, but don’t want to have to start over if we get full auto ban reapeal (I’ll pause for the sniggering to die down).
        The above review only took a short skid when the OP mentioned that the body of the trigger group was Aluminum, and I was immediately turned off, until I remembered that the whole damn lower is usually aluminum, so, ok, but do I need to have three spares in my pocket? for the Judge Dredd Long Walk? I want to be able to have St. Peter ask me if I’d like to rack my weapon for St. Michael the armorer to “look it over”, when I die of old age, and me just have to say, ‘Nope, thank you Sir, I’m good, but I will take one of those slings’. Again, good review, I know it’s just a trigger review, but ANY range report is welcome. I suffer from serious RDR addiction.

  4. avatar John in TX (Was CT) says:

    It’s cool the way their anti-rotation pins have that cutout to support the BAD lever.

    For my part, I went with the POF 4.5# single-stage trigger for my AR, and I’ve been fairly happy with it. If this had been around at the time I purchased, though, I might have gone with that.

    If I build another AR, I’m almost certainly going to do some manner of two-stage doohickey, though, for precision 6.5Grendel type stuff, though.

  5. avatar Mr. Woodcock says:

    Is it just me or does anyone else think the JMT logo on the trigger looks like they ripped off Thundercats….dating myself by that comment of course.

    1. avatar Anthony says:

      Yup. I was thinking that too

    2. avatar Brick says:

      I was thinking about how closely the JMT logo matches Floyd Mayweather’s TMT.

  6. avatar JB says:

    This trigger looks like a very good deal. It is a handsome unit as well. Nicely done. I will pick one of these up for my next build for sure.

  7. avatar James says:

    How is this compared to the velocity 3 lb drop in trigger?

  8. avatar Guardiano says:

    I missed the “drop-in trigger kerfuffle” last year. Does this mean I better buy any drop-ins I want ASAP, pending the Mossberg suit resolution? Or should I just not worry about it?

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      I wouldn’t worry about it. Even if Mossy wins, which doesn’t look likely the last time I checked, worst case is companies will have to pay a licensing fee to Mossy for every trigger they manufacture. I don’t believe that’s likely to be high enough to cause any drop-in trigger makers to shut down shop. I suppose it could raise the prices a few bucks. But, again, due to prior art and various other things, the lawsuit doesn’t look good for Mossberg.

  9. avatar BLAMMO says:

    The drop-in trigger kerfuffle of last year …

    Of what kerfuffle do you speak?

    There mus be a TTAG article on such a kerfuffle.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      The “drop-in trigger kerfuffle” part of “The drop-in trigger kerfuffle of last year” is a hyperlink to the primary article… 😉

  10. avatar Erik V. says:

    I have a good amount of take up on my JMT Saber trigger. It’s bothers me enough to have relegated it to an AR-22 build and I’m actively looking to replace it even in that application. The review sample may indeed have “zero take-up”, but I’m not convinced there is enough manufacturing consistency with these triggers. I wouldn’t buy one again. For a budget trigger I’d still choose the Rise, POF, or Velocity triggers.

    1. avatar Conner W. says:

      Erik – It does sound like the trigger you have is out of spec. I’ve been tried or own about eight Sabers and none of them had any take-up. I could call JMT and explain the issue; they have very good customer service.

      1. avatar Erik says:

        Hi Connor – I’ll do that. I’ve seen reports from other purchaser’s of the same behavior however, so I just assumed it was normal behavior for the trigger. I don’t know what their warranty term is, but I bought mine from Brownells 5 months ago.

        1. avatar Robert Foy says:

          Glad to see your truthful comment Erik, my JMT has no travel aside from when the trigger breaks. My problem has been repeated light strikes. Running it in three Roger AR556, factory buffer and spring. It ran better
          With the RB5000 hydronic buffer and factory spring. Best results have been with the gies…. super24 braided
          December recoil spring and the RB5000. Still shot 16 was a light strike. I have yet to run the trigger with the super24 and it’s h1 buffer. It may not be corrected without adding weight to the hammer. The factory hammer spring has one more coil per side than the JMT.
          If I have so much as one light strike than the trigger is junk!!!

  11. avatar Robert Foy says:

    That’s the Roger AR556, don’t know where the he’ll December came in there you get the idea, no you cannot relie on this trigger to detonate the primers

  12. avatar Robert Foy says:

    JMT responded to my first email, but??? Still waiting for a follow up after telling customer service nothing will help their trigger run flawless. YES, I expect my weapon to run flwless.

    1. avatar Erik says:

      Well it will have been a week tomorrow since I emailed James Madison Tactical about the trigger. No response.

      Compare that to an exchange I had last week with Mission First Tactical to ask them if they sell parts to convert a Restricted State Stock back to a Free State Stock. MFT responded immediately and went over and above by providing me parts without charge when they didn’t have to. I offered to pay for them, but MFT simply wouldn’t hear about it. I received those parts today. That’s why I own five MFT stocks.

      1. avatar Robert Foy says:

        Sorry to hear your still waiting for a response. I went to the website, called the number provided. Scott at JMT was more than helpful. However before I go any further, the light strikes I was having was operator error. This Sunday I ran the trigger with a completely different technique; the rifle and trigger ran flawless.

        This trigger has some of the tightest tolerances of travel for the reset of the trigger; still with the light pull weight I found it easy to not allow the trigger full return after the break. I believe this led to bolt follow due to operator error. I worked with the trigger being more conscious of my press and release of the trigger to accomplish the desired result.

        what I discovered is that the trigger functions without error if the operator dose not cause a malfunction of the trigger reset. Being the reset is so tight the trigger required me to reevaluate my stroke on the release of the trigger allowing for the trigger to fully return so the reset prevented bolt follow mimicking a light strike.

        I will let you know of my further testing of this trigger.

  13. avatar Robert Foy says:

    Fucking Ruger, not roger

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