Hello, my name is Kat and I am a trigger snob.
It’s true. After years of using all manner of triggers in every platform imaginable I’ve developed the kind of tastes that drain wallets and involve occasional grumbling – okay, cursing – at grit and stacking (no matter how slight). Earlier today it was a handgun; I was writing it up for [publication withheld by…me] and although I’d already shot the gun at length I always dry fire repeatedly before writing up the trigger. So I dry fired.
The pull was long – okay, it’s a double-action – but it was also wobbly. Yes, wobbly. There’s no clearer description for the way it jiggled side-to-side as I pressed it, finally discovered the sticky break, and waited endlessly for the reset (spoiler alert: the reset took so long I had time to brew coffee and send snarky texts).
When it comes to AR-15 rifle triggers it’s the same story. Of course, it’s also a purpose-driven story because I own a number of ARs for different purposes including home defense, hunting, and PRS.
Since this is meant to be a post about the best triger for AR-15 rifles and it’s preferable that it doesn’t stretch into several thousand words I thought we’d stick to one: a precision trigger. The trigger you want on the range but not necessarily during a hunt or on your home defense rifle. The trigger you adore for its lightness while simultaneously wishing, at times, it was not quite so sensitive (hey, we’ve all been there).
What do you look for in a light, precise AR trigger? Obviously it needs to be capable of a light pull weight, the definition of which varies from shooter so shooter. My definition of the ideal light trigger is going to rustle some jimmies, but you all will somehow survive and go on to comment another day. This trigger should have a smooth, short pull and a glass-rod crisp break with a reset so brief you could blink and miss it. Bonus points if said trigger assembly has interchangeable (curved, flat) shoes and is a drop-in.
Some of you know where this is going already. Good for you, fellow trigger sn…lovers.
Meet the Timney Triggers Calvin Elite AR Trigger.
Timney Triggers is a well-established part of the gun world. Allen Timney founded the company in 1946 and current owner John Vehr both works hard himself and staffs the company with awesome guys obsessed with creating high-quality triggers. I first laid hands – and trigger finger – on the Calvin Elite AR trigger at SHOT Show 2017 and was immediately intrigued.
Okay, I was half in love with it right there on the show floor. The Calvin Elite AR is a single-stage trigger named for Timney designer Calvin Motley and designed for AR-15/10-platform rifles. It’s also American made which is a significant plus for me, personally.
As is the familiar Timney trademark the Calvin Elite AR is manufactured in a yellow drop-in housing. It comes with four interchangeable shoes – curved, flat, heeled, and knurled – and has a slew of features to recommend it. Not only is the factory-promised pull an ultra-lightweight 1 pound, 5 ounces, the shoes are adjustable for length of pull, cast, and height. This is a highly customizable trigger assembly to say the least.
Over time I’ve run this trigger in several rifles, both AR-15 and AR-10 platforms. I find I prefer using the curved shoe which is easily adjusted to precisely fit my trigger finger but all the shoes work well. According to my Lyman Digital Trigger Pull Gauge – you can get one from Brownells’ here – the pull weight measures 1 pound, 4 ounces.
It delivered a nearly impossibly smooth pull and clean, crisp break; breathe heavily and risk sending a round down-range. PSA: take care with light triggers and do not “play with the trigger” ever, for any reason, with any trigger (I’ve had guys tell me they won’t use light triggers because they like to “play” with their triggers during hunts…so. Much. No.).
Rounds fired using the Calvin Elite AR trigger sailed down-range with a best five-shot group of .383-inches through my Axelson Combat Series .308 Win. The trigger is equally at home in my Mossberg MMR 5.56 NATO, Bushmaster Minimalist in .300 BLK, and Remington New Mexico 5.56 NATO. The awesome thing about a drop-in trigger is the ability to swap it among guns without too much fuss; simply pop open the lower receiver, drop, pin, and go.
Side note: I do cross my trigger-related brands by using Elftmann anti-walk trigger pins with many of my trigger installations whether drop-in triggers or not.
If you enjoy ultra-light triggers, the Calvin Elite AR is the one for you. With this trigger installed an already-accurate rifles have the edge to become surgically precise – assuming the person behind the trigger is equally up to the task. This trigger has been the star of my trigger tests since the day it launched. If you want to know what other options there are from Timney, well, they also have kick-ass triggers for the Remington 700, CZ 452, TAVOR, and Weatherby Vanguard, among others.
Is this the best AR-15 trigger currently on the market? That’s a rather broad statement considering the vast uses for ARs. Let’s call it the best trigger for this particular purpose and my personal favorite when it comes to AR-15 drop-in triggers (okay, AR triggers in general).
We all have different tastes and needs for our guns. Two things I look for in an AR trigger are light trigger pull weight and a clean break. Adjustable triggers have their pros and cons; I do enjoy being able to find the sweet spot for myself with a simple turn of set screws rather than always relying on the manufacturer.
There are certainly some decent stock triggers out there, but when I’m able to do as I please with a rifle it often ends up being Timney. They seem to have a gift with triggers of all kinds. Single-stage triggers, 2-stage triggers, competition match triggers – they’ve got it down to a science.
What’s your favorite AR-15 trigger? (Just don’t say “MIL-SPEC” and leave it at that because we all know what that means…)