Top 5 AR Triggers: Aftermarket Upgrades

Whether your AR came straight from the factory or you decided to build one, you’ve probably spent time considering different triggers. It’s unusual for an AR platform rifle to come out of the box with an ideal trigger, and that means finding an aftermarket model that suits your needs. And if you’re building your gun, you’re going to have to choose a trigger. It’s definitely not a great plan to just grab a cheap MIL-SPEC option, either. Triggers matter and that means taking the time to select the correct one for the purpose. The good news is, we have some suggestions to get you started. Check out our top five picks for aftermarket AR triggers (in no particular order).

Timney Triggers AR Calvin Elite Drop In

timney triggers ar trigger
The AR Calvin Elite is an excellent option if you want a truly lightweight trigger pull. (Photo credit: Timney Triggers)

If you want a high-end trigger that delivers a glass rod crisp break and ultra-light pull weight, you want the Timney Triggers AR Calvine Elite Drop In. This is a cassette-style trigger, meaning all the tiny moving parts are contained within the yellow Timney case. All you have to do is drop it in, place your trigger pins, and adjust the set screws so it’s snug within the lower. This trigger ships with a variety of shoes so you can choose which to use and is ridiculously adjustable. Let’s get into that.

This trigger is designed to be adjusted for length of pull, cast, and height. You can fine-tune this trigger so it fits your finger to perfection. It has a pull weight between 1.5 and 2.0 pounds, so it’s what you want if you’re interested in having a trigger in your AR that only requires a breath of pressure. Of course, that might make it less than ideal for other uses, so take that into consideration. It’s incredibly easy to install and adjust. It’s a fantastic option for various applications and it’s made by a respected company that’s known for producing high-quality triggers.

Elftmann Tactical ELF Service Trigger (FA)

elftmann trigger
The ELF Service Trigger is a good option for most uses. (Photo credit: Efltmann Tactical)

Elftmann Tactical manufactures well-made triggers for a variety of purposes and offers a full line of aftermarket AR triggers. Their ELF Service Trigger (FA) is a nice choice for gun owners looking to upgrade their basic trigger to one with a smoother pull and clean break. This model is available with either a straight or curved trigger blade, and both are skeletonized to further reduce overall weight. Aerospace-grade sealed bearings are used for a nice, smooth pull. In addition, Elftmann’s .043 double-wound polished piano wire is used for the hammer spring. This is a pull-weight adjustable trigger that can be set with a pull weight from four pounds to seven pounds. Adjustments can be made without removing the drop-in trigger from the gun’s receiver. That’s possible thanks to an adjustment knob that can be moved with your finger or a coin.

This is a great option for pretty much all applications. Because the pull weight is not ultra-light, the user doesn’t need to worry about it being overly sensitive. And since it’s adjustable, it can be changed to the pull weight the user prefers. It’s an extremely well-made trigger that’s wire EDM machined and made from aircraft-grade aluminum and hardened steel.

CMC Triggers AR-15/10 Single Stage Trigger (Flat Southern Teal)

cmc triggers AR trigger
CMC Triggers AR-15/10 Single Stage Trigger is offered in different colors. (Photo credit: CMC Triggers)

CMC Triggers manufactures their products in the Lone Star State and their entire line is known for being good quality. Their AR-15/10 Single Stage Trigger, pictured above in Flat Southern Teal, is a nice aftermarket trigger for those who want an easy-to-install, beautifully performing option. This trigger offers a smooth pull with no stacking and no grit and a crisp break with minimal reset. It’s a self-contained, cassette-style drop-in trigger, which is great for simplicity and also reliability of function. According to CMC, this trigger works reliably with both commercial and military-grade ammunition.

To simplify things, this isn’t a user-adjustable pull-weight trigger. The weight is set at the factory, so there’s no need to worry about slipping or adjustments. Available weights include 2.5 pounds, 3.5 pounds. 4.5 pounds, 5.5 pounds, and 6.6 pounds. That gives users a broad range of pull weights to choose from. This particular model is offered with either a curved, straight, or combat-curved bow. It’s made from 8620 Alloy Steel and S7 Tool Steel with machined tolerances of +/- .001″. Triggers are hand assembled and tested by hand. Each trigger ships with CMC’s anti-walk pins.

Geissele SSA-E X Trigger with Lightning Bow

geissele ssa-e x trigger
The Geissele SSA-E X is excellent for people unconcerned about getting a cassette-style drop-in trigger. (Photo credit: Geissele)

Of the companies that manufacture aftermarket triggers that aren’t drop-in style, Geissele is certainly among the best. The Geissele SSA-E X Trigger with Lightning Bow is an exceptional trigger that would make an excellent addition to your AR-15. The trigger and hammer are nanocoated and the disconnect is Chrome Nitride. Coatings function to deliver resistance to wear and to enhance smooth performance even when the trigger gets dirty. This is a two-stage trigger and, according to Geissele, offers a light first-stage take-up and a “candy cane like” second-stage break.  It’s a non-adjustable drop-in trigger.

The first stage pull weight is set at the factory between 2.0 and 2.5 pounds while the second stage is set at 0.9 to 1.3 pounds. That means the total pull weight is between 2.9 and 3.8 pounds. This is a good option for shooters who prefer not to use cassette-style triggers but do want a drop-in design. Geissele manufactures wonderful triggers that perform at what can only be described as superior levels.

Wilson Combat Tactical Trigger Unit (TTU)

wilson combat trigger
The Wilson Combat Tactical Trigger Unit is a great self-contained, modular unit. (Photo credit: Wilson Combat)

Wilson Combat is incredibly well known for their high-end firearms, but did you know they also design and manufacture triggers? The Wilson Combat Tactical Trigger Unit (TTU) is a modular trigger made for drop-in simplicity and top-level performance. No fine-tuning or adjustments are required to use this trigger. It is precision CNC machined from bar stock and features a hammer, trigger, and disconnector made from H13 steel that’s been heat treated for resistance to wear. It’s set at the factory for a four-pound trigger pull weight and made for a crisp, clean break. And, of course, there’s no grit in the pull itself.

Features include a positive trigger reset, 1911-style half-cock notch, and impressive durability. The TTU is what Wilson Combat refers to as being their Bullet Proof Design and was created by shooters, for shooters. It’s a nice option for shooters who like the clean aesthetic of MIL-SPEC triggers but demand far more from a trigger’s actual performance. Wilson Combat states the hammer is designed to perform reliably with military and surplus ammunition, too. This is a single-stage trigger.

What do you think we left out? Share your favorite aftermarket AR trigger in the comments section.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

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