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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).

(Author image.)

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.

When a trigger makes even your groups smile. (Author image.)

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.

The curved red shoe is the author’s favorite of the available options from Timney. (Author image.)

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.

The USA-made Timney Triggers Calvin Elite AR trigger offers a lightweight pull, clean break, and extremely brief reset. (Author image.)

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…)

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  1. Interesting design! In the Bottom Photo, does the Trigger “Pull Back” to induce Action or “Slide Back” for said same…

  2. Geissele SSA-E two stage…
    Followed by mil spec…

    #1 because I’ve yet to get my fingers on anything better…
    #2 because I know what I’m getting, its a consistent “quality”, and usually inexpensive.

    I hate Ruger triggers… heavy, heavy gravel pit grind grind GRIND…

    • You hate Ru ger triggers or R uger AR triggers? I’ve got a No.1 and a Hawkeye that both have pretty decent triggers. They’re not adjustable, but unless you’re looking for a dedicated range toy they’re plenty light and crisp.

    • I’m a big fan of the Ruger 452 trigger. Not as good as some but for half the price it’s a very good investment.

    • If you bought an AR-15 platform rifle from Ruger, it’s a safe bet that Ruger didn’t make the trigger. They buy off-the-shelf parts like most sellers of budget-priced ARs.

  3. I’m building a precision AR-15 in .224 Valkyrie over the winter. Currently I’m running the Elftmann that I bought for my AR PCC, where it didn’t work properly. I love the Timney in my Remington 700 precision rifle, so this one is at the top of my list for the Valkyrie.

  4. I’ve got their two stage in my AR. It’s supposed to be 2#+2# but feels more like 1#+3#. Did the trick though, the stock ‘mil-spec’ trigger must have had a 9# pull.

  5. Kat, your humor is boorish and your articles could be written buy an 8th grader.

    I used to be a real Timney single stage guy, before I tried the SSA-E. Now THAT is my favorite followed by the La Rue MBT.

    There are a lot of really good aftermarket triggers and trigger packages out there. Triggers are idiomatic.

        • “But you had to explain that so esoteric inanity became the emptiness of the concept.”

          Such is this one’s nature. A brief anecdote to edify: Esoteric Inanity was once asked by a nigh copacetic potential paramour (not quite detached but divorce papers pending; hence the nigh copacetic descriptor) to describe himself in one word. To this he responded “Axiomatic”. Although, in hindsight, cryptic or paradoxical may have been a much more appropriate response. The confusion resulted from apophenia brought about by this one’s subjective understanding of modern paradigms regarding courting etiquette(one lies to get sex). Esoteric Inanity believed that she merely wanted a relationship in a neoteric sense(sex, sex and……….messy breakup), hence the obfuscation of any attempted connection on an emotional level. Axiomatic, no. Exoteric, again no. Redundant, perhaps depending on the syntax. Is it Esoteric Inanity, maybe, after all this one transcribed it.

          For any inquiries regarding the above comment, please see Illeism in the dictionary(a.k.a. Under a Bridge With Dick and Harry). Although, the Fornaldarsaga is also a good read.

    • “Kat, your humor is boorish and your articles could be written buy an 8th grader.”

      Hey, ‘Yarbles’?

      Rule #1 when trashing someone’s writing –

      Make sure you don’t cram your foot in your own mouth by doing the same damn thing.

      What a fuckwit…

  6. A custom $150 trigger may be a big improvement over milspec but a $270 trigger is HOW much “better”? Sure it is,

    • I think once you hit $150 for a drop in trigger, the differences between brands is imperceptible. The only $150+ trigger I say is lower quality than others priced higher than it is the CMC trigger and the reason I think that is the body of the unit is sheet metal. Does that mean it’s a POS junk trigger? Hell no, I just feel that the CMC’s durability under hard conditions will not be there while other triggers, like Timney (which I got on sale for $190), is worth the little extra in price because they have a machined body.

      That’s for single stage triggers, for two stage, I’m gonna have to take a good look at what the drop in triggers that, at the low end, go for $250+ have over Ruger’s MSR two stage that can be got for $100 on sale and comes with a nice pistol grip.

  7. Hands down, the “Jard” trigger.
    I bought the 8 ounce trigger for my Ruger precision rifle and I love it.
    It beat out the 9 ounce Jewell I had on the McMillan .50 BMG.
    I didn’t think it could get better.

  8. I have a Geissle SSA, but if I were getting another trigger it would be a Velocity drop-in. Almost a hundred bucks cheaper and an excellent trigger.

  9. The Geissle SSA-E is the best AR trigger going!
    I’ve not liked a single article that Kat has ever written for TTAG.
    I miss the articles written by Robert F.

  10. The Timney that came in the Les Baer AR is great for what it is intended to do. If you know Les at all, he’ll also tell you Timney’s the best and be prepared for no argument…

    On a whim I bought a couple Rise Armament 140 drop-ins, put one in an AR 15 I built up from an old pre-ban Eagle Arms receiver and also in an AR10 .308 I just finished. For the ease and money they’re really quite good. Think they were $79 at Dvor a while back.

    I had to do quite a bit of cutting down on the trigger housing to get it into the Eagle Arms receiver- talked to the Rise factory guys and they agreed that would be more simple than opening up the trigger pocket in the receiver. Drop in was a good fit in the .308. I also used anti-walk pins, for the drop-ins you might consider those. WTH? It’s only money anyway. I’ve never worried much about spending money for a good trigger on anything, after one learns to hold and shoot the trigger may account for 80% of accuracy after that.

    • I put the Rise in a .308 that I am building, and it is very clean and crisp with an amazingly short reset. Not having the funds to try out the Timneys, Geissles, or Eftmann, I have no basis to compare it to anything. I do know though that I do not have enough precision experience to much care for the very light triggers; the target trigger on my brother’s Anschutz seemed to fire just by touching it. I prefer something a bit more deliberate, about 2.5 to 3 pounds.

  11. Unless you have tried all available triggers in a side by side shooting test and put them all through destructive testing, your opinion is invalid.

    • Like the exhaustive test on AR triggers that TTAG did just a year or so ago? That was an actual service to oerform that test – this is just an opinion, by a gun writer with credentials that are no better than most of us readers.

    • There is no such thing as an invalid “OPINION”, You probably think there are “stupid” questions too. FYI opinions are like a$%^oles, everybody’s got one or they are full of ##it. There are NO stupid questions even though they are occasionally asked by halfwits… So what’s YOUR bogle??

  12. I’ve got a Geissle SSA-E in my AR-10 and love it for the sale price I got it at ($180). Would I pay the full $240 for it again? No. First AR15 I bought came with a velocity trigger which I love as well. Switched springs on a milspec trigger for a lightweight build, it’s nowhere near the quality of the others, but manageable with the WAY lighter pull (has to be 4lbs), and only cost $12.

    All my other builds I’ve went with Rise Armament drop in triggers. You can find them on sale for $80, and they’re EXCELLENT triggers for the money. It’s not a $200 trigger, but it’s quality for price is phenomenal and I’d argue 9/10 people would be more than pleased with it.

  13. I probably have more guns with Timney triggers than any other choice. The exception to that was 10-22s, where I’ve defaulted to Volquartsen. I’ve got a high-end target 10-22 build on a PMACA chassis, and for the hell of it I’ll try a Calvin Elite. Thanks, and yiu and I need to have asit down meeting at SHOT…

    Michael B

  14. I don’t know, what I don’t know. But I do know that I like the stock trigger on my Daniel Defense AR-15.

  15. I love my Calvin elite as well. But I think geissle makes the better triggers.


  16. I’ll take my Geissele super dynamic flat faced 2 stage or a Triggertech Adaptable AR 2 stage trigger over the Timney any day of the week. Not to say Timney doesn’t make great triggers, they do… but they are no the end all/be all of the trigger game.

  17. A few years ago I tried the TriggerTech trigger for the AR…love it…smooth, adjustable, no creep, infinitesimally small reset and a decent price at Brownell’s when they have one of their coupon codes for a percentage off or free shipping. Tried my son’s AR with the AR Gold trigger…no comparison, the TriggerTech is smoother (he offered to swap my Canadian-built trigger for his more expensive one…I told him: only when it snows in Hades).

    Liked it so much that I now own several TriggerTech triggers for AR’s and an old M700 in 30-06 that I’ve had for 45+ years.

    What the heck…over. First time I’ve received the “Awaiting Moderation” flag on this site….Moderator, care to explain what is wrong with my comment?

    [Not sure what it is about this comment that caused it to require moderation. WordPress can be a mystery sometimes. – DZ]

  18. Timney triggers are good triggers for most rifles. When you start getting into triggers with less than 2 lbs of force to break the trigger, things start getting more complicated. When people want an improvement on a milsurp bolt gun, I invariably direct them to Timney triggers. They’re a huge improvement over the trigger mechanisms of 100+ years ago.

    But when we get to match rifles… it’s a different game. As I’ve stated several times here, I have rifles with triggers down in the sub-8oz. range. My Anschuetz has a 6oz (or so) trigger. It is, hands-down, one of the best triggers available in the industry, because it is a true two-stage trigger that will be safe (you can bounce the gun off the ground with the safety off and the sear will not slip off), at very low break weights.

    The Canjar and Kenyon triggers of old were similarly light, two-stage triggers. PTG is selling a reproduction Kenyon trigger for M70 and 700 bolt guns. Here’s a diagram of the Annie 5018 trigger, and you can see how the sear engagement is protected by the first stage:

    Today, there are triggers that will be reliable down to even less than 6 oz. break weights – but they will cost you money, and they’re typically not made for an AR.

    That said, most after-market AR triggers are better than the “mil-spec” trigger, which is an atrocious waste of time and money. Most other crappy triggers can be improved by a gunsmith. Not so, the mil-spec AR trigger. The mil-spec AR trigger has a thin case hardened layer on the mating surfaces. As soon as you try to stone these mating surfaces, you are through the case on at least one side, and then you feel what it is like to have a trigger made of soft metal: horrible, that’s what.

  19. LaRue MBTs on sale till Christmas is the best bang for the buck at the moment. $87
    SSA-Es are awesome.
    For the budget minded, a Palmetto EPT and a set of light springs does the trick. Less than $40.

    • I bought two LaRue triggers on sale last year. Very pleased with the results in the rifles I built using them. That’s a great price if anyone is in the market for a solid trigger. 😎👍🏼

  20. I use whatever comes in the rifle. Most smooth out when you shoot the piss out of them. I’m simple like that.☺️

    • I’m with you. My Smith & Wesson M&P AR rifle came with a decent trigger in it, at least decent enough that I’m not going to replace it. The only firearm that I ever had trigger work done on was a 1911 that I had accurized by Austin Behlert (God rest his soul) back in the late 1970’s for bullseye shooting.

  21. Its confession time. I, too, used to be a trigger snob. I was so bad that in pistols I shot only custom 1911 with the famous “three pound icicle” break. But somewhere along my six decade timeline I realized that, if I was to be well rounded, I needed to shoot everything at least passably well. Who knows what weapon one might need to pick off the ground in a real gunfight?
    So I started to shoot with the worst triggers I could find. Don’t expect to do as well with the poorer triggers, esp. at first. Strive for “acceptable” (hit a man size target at, say, 10-15 yards. What more does one want from a plastic ‘fantastic’, or a derringer sized firearm?) accuracy, rather than the best possible. To squeeze the very best obviously requires a better gun, but that’s no reason to not be able to hit a barn with whatever happens to be available.

    • Exactly K…. gotta be able to hit it with whatever is handy, not to mention loaded. I practice with cheap arms in stock configurations because you never know WHAT you’re going to have available in the field. Being able to use what’s there to accomplish the task is what it’s all about. Being able to shoot well with “The Best” equipment does not translate to hitting the mark with factory “stuff”, good or bad. I have a shooting bud who is almost 80, has “tremors” that would seemingly make it impossible to hit the broad side of a barn, from the inside, yet he does a respectable job on man sized targets out to 15 yards… amazing dedication and composure. Old Vets never quit, we just have to practice more often!

  22. I haven’t found a bad drop-in trigger. I have a CMC and a couple Velocity’s. We AR owners are lucky that there is so much to choose from nowadays. Much of it is good stuff, too. Some of the earlier non-drop-ins were junk. I had one from Bushmaster. Cost me more than a hundred bucks. Adjusting it was a nightmare. It was either too loose or too tight. The difference was about a tenth of a turn on the Allen wrench. Worst part was it let the rifle double several times.

  23. I have shot Jards and Geisseles and then discovered Hiperfire triggers. I have the EDT in both defense weapons and their 24C in a target version. I have never looked back. The EDT’s are set at 4.5 lbs. and are clean, crisp, and fast resetting. The 24C is set at 2 lbs. and has an adjustable shoe on a flat bow. VERY clean and accurate. The price break on these is also a great plus.

  24. Using CMC trigger drop in . Nice 3 1/2 lbs. trigger pull. For me it is great. If I went out to the range every weekend and shot a thousand rounds, possibly it wouldn’t hold up as well as Timney.

  25. • For long-range ‘target’ applications: Geissele Hi-Speed National Match – Match Trigger

    • For Home Defense, or anything I might be walking about with: CMC Single-Stage 4.5#

  26. SSA-E on my defense/hunt/truck guns- love it for that purpose
    KAC comes with a great trigger
    PRS- a The Geissele Hi-Speed National Match Trigger

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