AR 15 Triggers: Stock vs Upgraded
Whether you’re a new or experienced AR 15 owner, chances are you are not very impressed with the rifle’s stock trigger – don’t worry, you’re not alone! A simple search of “AR 15 Trigger” will return article after article outlining the frustrations of unpredictable trigger breaks and unreliable trigger pulls that effect your ability to maintain a good sight picture when firing.
For these reasons and more, AR 15 upgrades (specifically AR trigger upgrades) have seen a surge in popularity over the years. Ask any owner that has upgraded their trigger and they’ll tell you how much they can feel the difference in both feel and performance – not to mention how relativity easy they are to install and how much more enjoyable it is not having to worry about an unpredictable AR trigger.
Single-Stage AR 15 Triggers
Once you've made the decision to upgrade your AR 15 trigger, the next hurdle you'll want to tackle is choosing which TYPE of trigger to purchase. Keep in mind there are numerous brands to choose from, all with different functionality - in this article we'll be focusing on the two main options single stage and two stage triggers.
A single stage trigger setup will have a smooth, simple range of motion and will usually have a comfortably fast trigger break. Many owners claim that single stage triggers are much more reliable for self-defense, but of course, that's not always the case and often comes down to personal preference.
Single stage triggers usually come in an anodized aluminum housing that is super easy to install. Set it in the lower receiver, tap the trigger and hammer pins back in place, install the safety selector and you’re back in business. Going back to personal preference, I believe there is no beating a single-stage trigger when it comes to overall convenience.
The main problem with single stage AR triggers that come in aluminum housings is the difficulty in removing foreign debris that will often accumulate in the housing after extended use. Fire enough ammunition that doesn’t have a crimped primer (most don’t), and sooner or later the primer will fall out of the fired case and get lodged somewhere in the trigger group. If it gets under the trigger inside the housing, it’ll take some time, effort, and profanity to get the expended primer dislodged.
Two-Stage AR 15 Triggers
Although similar at first glance, a two stage trigger is uniquely different in that your finger engages the triggers until you reach a 'breaking point' before firing. Due to their more complex and precise nature, two stage AR 15 triggers have become very popular with long-distance and competitive shooters. *They're also known to be easier to fix in the field.
When it comes to installation, I can say from experience that sometimes it feels like three hands are necessary to hold the hammer and get the spring in just the right spot, and then get the hammer-pin back in the receiver. However, aside from that one step in the process, installation is as simple as the single stage trigger. Put the hammer and hammer pin in first, then put the trigger in the lower receiver and drive the trigger pin back in place.
The main advantage of the two stage trigger is the multiple components that require some finger dexterity to install and also allow for easy debris removal. The two stage trigger components don’t have a housing, so the worst that can happen with a loose primer is it gets lodged under the trigger. Remove the trigger from the lower receiver and the primer falls out. The aluminum housing of the single stage trigger is convenient until it comes time to tease a primer out that’s locked up the unit. Two stage triggers will never have this concern.
Final Thoughts on AR 15 Trigger Upgrades
As stated previously (more than once), whether or not you decided to upgrade your AR 15 trigger and if so, which type will ultimately come down to personal preference. Decide which style is best for you and your needs and go for it!
Both the single stage and two stage trigger types have their applications, so it really does come down to what the rifle's primary use will be. There are numerous options and price points to choose from, ranging from the low $100s to the high $400s. Take the time, do the research, and you'll find the trigger that's right for you.
I like single stage triggers for all the times I want to shoot fat to impress all my friends or when I’m competing. They are crisp, break cleanly, and don’t require much movement to reset for the next round. Two stage triggers get the nod when durability and reliability are prime considerations. If the apocalypse ever starts, I’ll be running around with a two stage trigger in a AR 15.
Bonus - How to Remove AR Trigger
So you've done your research, made your decision, and have just purchased an upgraded AR 15 trigger. The big question you might be asking yourself now is "How do I remove my stock trigger?" Not to worry, we've got you covered!
Removing the old trigger begins by separating the upper and lower receiver groups. There can be a lot of different “first” steps, but mine is to use a screwdriver or Allen key to loosen the pistol grip without completely removing it. Loosen the grip and pull it far enough away from the lower receiver to remove the spring tension it places in the safety selector.
There is a small spring hidden in the lower receiver and pistol grip that pushes a detent into the safety selector to hold it in place and that makes the safety “click” when rotated. There is no need to completely remove it, just put some distance between the grip and the receiver to ease the spring tension. Once the spring tension is gone, the safety selector slides out of the lower receiver.
Next, ease the hammer forward to remove some of the hammer spring tension. Use the 1/8-inch pin punch and hammer to tap the hammer pin (above and left of the trigger pin) out of the receiver, keeping hold of the hammer to prevent the remaining spring tension from launching it out of the receiver. Once the hammer is out, tap the trigger pin out and remove the trigger.