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There’s little doubt that the AR-15 is the most popular rifle design around. Everyone seems to have one, and while the design is solid it can definitely be improved. As a 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?

The trigger.

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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 completely cheap out on the trigger. Just about every AR-15 I’ve tested in the last couple months 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 that much of a difference. A better stock is appreciated, but the “mil-spec” crap 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 impact accuracy much 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 yesterday on this same subject.

Trigger control is critical to making a good shot. 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 instantly 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.

What specific triggers would I recommend? There’s no single “best” trigger for the AR-15, but there 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.

There are some who believe that upgrading a rifle is a waste of time, that money could be better spent on ammo and range time. I agree 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 awful stock trigger and make a huge improvement in your AR’s shootability. So what are you waiting for?