[ED: A Foghorn classic from back in the day. The advice is still every bit as good, though there are more options out there now.]
There’s little doubt that the AR-15 is the most popular rifle design around. It’s been called America’s rifle. Just about everyone seems to have one. But while the design is solid, it can definitely be improved.
As a more than 60-year-old design, it has aged extremely well, but there’s one specific improvement that can be made to the average AR-15 pattern rifle that costs less than $50, is easy to install, and yet can make all the difference in terms of the accuracy and usefulness of the firearm. What is this improvement I’m talking about?
There’s a depressing trend in AR-15 builds these days where manufacturers use top-shelf, state-of-the-art parts to build most of the gun, and then cheap-out on the trigger. Just about every AR-15 I’ve tested recently suffers from this malady, namely using a “mil-spec” trigger that probably costs about $10 to finish off a $1,000+ rifle.
With a modern sporting rifle, there are definitely some parts you can skimp on and get away with it. A better bolt carrier is nice, but won’t really make much of a difference in performance. A better stock is appreciated, but the “mil-spec” stuff that gets mass produced gets the job done just fine.
One place where scrimping really hurts performance, though, is the trigger. The reason is that while a substandard bolt carrier or stock might not affect accuracy much (if at all), a better trigger can cut group sizes in half all by itself — something my one-time roommate Tom McHale proved once more in his article on this same topic.
Trigger control is critical to accuracy. An inconsistent or excessively stacking trigger will lead to inconsistent shot placement. But a consistent, clean trigger will allow the shooter to make that precisely-aimed shot much easier.
A new trigger won’t make every rifle and rifleman into a Carlos Hathcock clone — only training and practice can do that. But the difference between a stock trigger and a match grade trigger will be like night and day, no matter the skill level.
I can anticipate the next question. What’s the best drop-in trigger for the AR? There’s no single “best” trigger for the AR-15, but here are a few I prefer.
- ALG Defense QMS Trigger – $45
An excellent replacement that provides a stiff, yet crisp single stage trigger at an amazing price.
- Timney Trigger – $209.95
No mucking around with pins and springs, this one-piece trigger drops straight into your receiver and provides the crispest single stage pull on the market.
- Hiperfire 24E – $215
The main claim to fame is the adjustability — you can set the trigger pull weight to suit your style. Also it’s extremely reliable.
- Geissele 2-Stage (G2S) Trigger – $165
The best 2-stage trigger at the best price.
Also see Jeremy’s drop-in trigger round-up post.
There are some who believe that upgrading a rifle is a waste of time, that the money could be better spent on ammo and range time. That’s true to an extent. There’s no substitute for practice when it comes to shooting accurately.
But when your equipment is working against you, it makes the training process exponentially harder. For as little as $50, a new shooter can swap out their mediocre-at-best stock trigger and make a huge improvement in an AR’s shootability.
So what are you waiting for?