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.
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.
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.
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.