Best AR-15 Triggers: Improve Performance & Accuracy!

by Travis Pike

August 8, 2022

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So you own an AR 15! Congrats, you’ve now got your hands on the most modular rifles on the market. Every little part of the gun can be swipped-swapped and upgraded. One of the more interesting options for AR upgrades is the trigger. Upgrading the trigger is one of the most purpose-driven upgrades you can make to your rifle. There are tons of triggers, each with a specific purpose and user in mind. 

It can be downright confusing. So we will act as your guide into the world of AR 15 triggers. We’ll provide you with what we think are the best triggers, as well as a little knowledge on how these triggers work and how to pick the right trigger for your rifle. 

Squeeze, Don’t Pull 

What’s wrong with the trigger currently in your rifle? Well, it’s probably perfectly serviceable. The AR-15 platform’s MIL-SPEC trigger has always been an above-average trigger. When compared to its contemporaries, the worst AR 15 trigger scores high. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be better. 

The AR 15’s modularity allows your rifle to be exactly what you need it to be. It can be an accurate sub MOA competition rifle, an easy-to-control action sports shooting rifle, home defense or duty rifle, or whatever else you want. Your choice of trigger can greatly influence how the weapon is used. 

An upgraded trigger can help increase your accuracy and even reduce your time between shots. These upgraded triggers allow you to refine your rifle and its purpose. 

Best AR-15 Trigger

RMT Nomad
  • Pivoting Trigger Design 
  • Excellent Ergonomics
  • Drop-In Design
Check Price
Timney Calvin-Elite
  • Completely Customizable
  • Perfect for Competition 
  • Superbly Light Pull
Check Price
Geissele SSA X Trigger
  • The Duty Trigger to Beat
  • Smooth and Crisp 
  • Perfect For Home Defense
Check Price
PSA Custom AR Single-Stage Drop-In Trigger
  • Affordable 
  • Consistent
  • Perfect Budget Upgrade to a MIL-SPEC Trigger
Check Price
Rise Armament Iconic
  • Independent Two-Stage Trigger
  • Excellent Trigger Pull 
  • Innovative Design
Check Price
CMC PCC Trigger
  • Can Take PCC Abuse
  • Easy to Install
  • Works With Most All PCC BCGs
Check Price
Let Freedom Ring - FRT 15 Trigger
  • Force Reset Trigger
  • Super Fast Fire Rate
  • Fights for Freedom
Check Price

Best AR-15 Trigger

  1. RMT Nomad
  2. Timney Calvin-Elite
  3. Geissele SSA X Trigger
  4. PSA Custom AR Single-Stage Drop-In Trigger
  5. Rise Armament Iconic
  6. CMC PCC Trigger
  7. Let Freedom Ring – FRT 15 Trigger

AR-15 Trigger Specifications

Below is a list of our Best AR-15 Trigger. Here we can compare and line up the specs from each of the products and help you make the best decision possible.

Best AR-15 TriggerTrigger TypeTrigger WeightInstallation Method
RMT NomadSingle Stage3 poundsDrop-In
Timney Calvin EliteSingle Stage1.5 to 2 poundsDrop-In
Geissele SSA X TriggerSingle Stage4.25 to 4.75 poundsStandard
PSA Custom AR Single-Stage Drop-In TriggerSingle Stage3.5 poundsDrop-In
Rise Armament IconicTwo-Stage1 lb first stage 2lbs second stageDrop-In
CMC PCC TriggerSingle Stage3.5 poundsDrop-In
Let Freedom Ring - FRT 15 TriggerForced Reset5 poundsDrop-In

Best AR-15 Trigger Reviews

Now we’ve had an overview look at our list, let us take the time to individually review each item. In this section we’ll be revisiting our specs, speaking into the product and looking at the pros and cons.

RMT Nomad Specs

  • Trigger Type Single Stage
  • Trigger Weight 3 pounds
  • Installation Method Drop-In

RMT Nomad Review

The RMT Nomad does the basics right while excelling at producing a fairly innovative trigger system. What’s it get right? Well, it’s smooth, with an excellent and light trigger pull. We get a positive reset and easy installation due to the drop-in design. It also moves right to left and back again. What’s that mean? Let’s dive in and figure it out.

Nomad is a proper name for a trigger that doesn’t sit still. Most triggers move backward and forwards. With the Nomad, the trigger can also move and pivot six degrees, three to each side.

This allows your trigger finger to find the most comfortable position, regardless of its size. It’s neat, but it’s more than just neat.

It allows you to find the right position for your hand every time you grab the gun. The RMT Nomad does allow your rifle to match your hand size, especially if you are on the fringes of both large and small hands. As mentioned, you don’t just get a pivoting trigger.

The trigger is a single-stage design that slides rearward and breaks at 3 pounds. The pull is so short, slight, and excellent that it delivers an awesome trigger for a rifle designed to provide the utmost accuracy. The trigger pull eliminates creep, grip, and any kind of stiffness you might face.

The reset is quite positive and very short. This makes it easy to launch rounds accurately and quickly on the range. The main downside for most will be the price. Innovative triggers are rarely cheap.

If price isn’t a concern, then the RMT Nomad might be for you. People with exceptionally small or large hands will greatly appreciate the pivoting trigger. Everyone else will most certainly enjoy the crisp trigger and its positive reset.

RMT Nomad Pros and Cons

  • Drop-In Design
  • Pivoting Design
  • Excellent and Smooth Trigger Pull
  • Expensive

RMT Nomad Deals

Timney Calvin Elite Spes

  • Trigger Type Single Stage
  • Trigger Weight 1.5 to 2 pounds
  • Installation Method Drop-In

Timney Calvin-Elite Review

Oh boy, do you want to customize every part of your AR 15 trigger? Well, good, as long as money isn’t a problem, then Timney has you covered with the Calvin Elite trigger. Timney let their lead designer make the trigger of his dreams, and Calvin went wild. We benefit by getting what’s likely the best competition trigger on the market.

The Calvin Elite provides a trigger pull that ranges from 1.5 to 2 pounds, making it one of the lighter triggers on the market. When you aim to eliminate trigger movement, then the lighter the pull, the better. You can also typically fire faster with a lighter trigger with fewer accuracy issues. The Calvin Elite trigger is absurdly light. If you’ve never handled a trigger at 1.5 or even 2 pounds, it’s spooky light.

Timney’s basic drop-in design is preserved, so installation isn’t tough. What’s interesting is the fact the shooter can adjust the shoe height, the trigger’s horizontal position, and the angle it sits at. This requires careful adjustments and does need the end-user to Loc Tite some screws when the right fit is found.

Being able to adjust every aspect of this trigger makes it the most customizable trigger out there. It allows shooters to really refine their weapons and makes them as accurate as possible. Reliability won’t be a concern, and Calvin Elite can handle your fancy hand loads or those mass-produced Lake City rounds with hard military primers.

While Timney made a great trigger, we need to make sure we establish it’s really made for specific use cases. Namely competition. The trigger is a bit too light for duty use and aims at the competitive market. I’d use a little heavier trigger for duty use. With that said, Timney offers you the most custom trigger possible for the end-user, and that’s tough to beat.

Timney Calvin-Elite Pros and Cons

  • Super Light
  • Unbeatable Adjustability
  • Easy To Install
  • Only useful for competition.

Timney Calvin-Elite Deals

Geissele SSA X Trigger Specs

  • Trigger Type Single Stage
  • Trigger Weight 4.25 to 4.75 pounds
  • Installation Method Standard

Geissele SSA X Trigger Review

When Geissele released the Super Duty series of firearms, they came packed with a number of features we couldn’t get elsewhere. One of the best features was the SSA X triggers. Sadly, those triggers were not available for upgrading your own AR…until now. Geissele now produces the SSA X trigger as a stand-alone product.

The name Super Duty clues you in on the purpose of the rifles and should clue you in on the purpose of that trigger. The SSA X is designed for the duty rifle, the home defense gun, and in general, AR 15s used for combat applications. It provides a non-adjustable trigger pull that’s incredibly consistent and so clean.

The break is like, relatively grit-free and provides a smooth, two-stage trigger design. It’s not too light for duty use, but not heavy and creepy like a MIL-SPEC trigger. Shooters can go from close-quarters combat to long-range precision shots without much difficulty. It’s a trigger certified by NSWC-Crane, you know, the guys that pick and choose weapons for the SEALs.

One of the best features of the trigger is the fact you will not run into failures to fire with this trigger system. It’s not a picky, sensitive little thing that can’t handle hard primers. It will eat the cheapest, crappiest Russian ammo on the market and not complain. NATO spec ammo will most certainly go bang, and so will your favorite Black Hills premium loads.

As you’d imagine, a duty trigger isn’t the lightest trigger on the market, but it’s a very clean trigger pull. Another downside is the price point. Boy, oh boy, is it a pricey little trigger. Even so, it’s one of the most dependable and most robust triggers on the market. Geissele never disappoints.

Geissele SSA X Trigger Pros and Cons

  • Duty Ready
  • NSWC Approved
  • Reliable
  • Pricey

Geissele SSA X Trigger Deals

PSA Custom Trigger Specs

  • Trigger Type Single Stage
  • Trigger Weight 3.5 pounds
  • Installation Method Drop-In

PSA Custom AR Single-Stage Trigger Review

A lot of these triggers cost an arm and a leg. Heck, some of these triggers cost more than my BCM complete lower receiver! So, do you have to spend a small fortune on a good trigger? Of course not! Palmetto State Armory, a huge AR manufacturer, produces a rather affordable drop-in trigger system that grants you a solid single-stage trigger for your budget build.

This setup will outperform any MIL-SPEC trigger system on the market. It’s a light, reliable trigger that breaks at 3.5 pounds. Palmetto State Armory cleans up your standard AR trigger to an exceptional degree, and it breaks cleanly and crisply. Installation is fairly simple, and modern versions of the trigger are designed for reliability.

In fact, this trigger will drop into your KS-47, an AR that fires the 7.62x39mm round. These have notoriously hard primers, and the PSA Custom AR Single Stage Drop-In trigger ignites those primers without issue. In your AR 15, you’ll have an affordable, sub-100 trigger that will be tough to beat.

The downside is that the trigger doesn’t offer adjustability and isn’t as smooth as brands like Timney or Geissele. However, for the price point, good luck getting a better trigger than the PSA design. The PSA trigger packs a lot of punch for its price point and delivers a nice single-stage trigger. It’s just a bit more than a standard trigger, so why not?

PSA Custom AR Trigger Pros and Cons

  • Affordable
  • Easy to Install
  • Clean and Crisp Trigger Pull
  • Not as smooth as higher-tier brands

PSA Custom AR Trigger Deals

Rise Armament Iconic Specs

  • Trigger Type Two-Stage
  • Trigger Weight 1 lb first stage 2lbs second stage
  • Installation Method Drop-In

Rise Armament Iconic Review

I’m not a huge fan of two-stage triggers, so maybe when I went looking for a good two-stage trigger, I settled on the Iconic. The Iconic is unlike any other two-stage trigger on the market. Beyond its innovative two-stage design, we have the always awesome Rise Armament trigger design, which always provides a reliable, clean, and light pull with minimal takeup and over travel.

The Iconic’s two-stage design is unlike any other. Even looking at the trigger might render some confusion among shooters. It appears to be two triggers; in reality, it’s two trigger blades, but one. Unlike other two-stage triggers, the Rise Armament trigger utilizes two separate and independent stages of trigger pull. The first trigger blade provides a 1-pound pull that locks rearward into the second blade.

The second blade provides 2 pounds of resistance before a clean break. This independent stage design eliminates the mushiness and creep associated with two-stage triggers. It’s a two-stage with all the benefits of a two-stage without the downsides. It’s a two-stage trigger that handles a lot like a single-stage trigger.

The pull is smooth and crisp, and the reset is tactile and audible to make both fast and accurate shots possible. Rise Armament’s Iconic trigger uses a contained, drop-in trigger design that makes installation a breeze. Drop it in, pin it, and call it a day. Rise Armament uses their StrongArm hammer springs to make sure light hammer strikes aren’t a thing, and even the worst steel case ammo will cycle.

The Rise Armament Iconic trigger is quite different than your typical AR 15 two-stage trigger. This might turn off two-stage aficionados, but for me, it’s the ultimate solution. It’s an expensive solution, but innovation is an investment.

Rise Armament Iconic Pros and Cons

  • Super Smooth Trigger Design
  • Independent Two-Stage Trigger Design
  • Ultra-Reliable
  • Expensive

Rise Armament Iconic Deals

CMC PCC Trigger Specs

  • Trigger Type Single Stage
  • Trigger Weight 3.5 pounds
  • Installation Method Drop-In

CMC PCC Trigger Review

Pistol caliber carbines are exceptionally popular, especially in the AR 15 platform. Anyone who loves AR 15s loves to tinker and dropping a trigger in seems simple. However, most AR 15 PCCs are blowback operated, which tends to destroy and break drop-in, super smooth triggers due to the blowback design and various bolt designs used in PCCs. The CMC PCC trigger aims to fix that.

The CMC PCC trigger was designed from the ground up to provide PCC shooters with an exceptional trigger that won’t get beaten, broken, or destroyed and can be used with all the various PCC bolt designs out there. This single-stage trigger gives you a 3.5-pound trigger pull that’s crisp, light, and delivers reliable primer ignition with every shot. Plus, you can pick between curved and flat triggers. Beyond a PCC, you can even drop this trigger in an M&P 15/22.

The CMC PCC trigger eliminates trigger grittiness and does a great job with limited pre-travel and over-travel. If you are competing in USPSA PCC competitions, then this trigger will help you clean up different courses. Speed and accuracy matter, and you get a combination of both with the CMC PCC trigger. This way, you get those rapid shots with the lighter pull and positive reset, and when it comes time to cook off a very accurate round at a small target.

The drop-in design makes installation take no time at all. I dropped mine in my Aero EPC in about five minutes while watching TV. CMC uses rocket wire hammer springs to make sure the primer gets that ignition regardless of how hard it is. If you want to shoot MILSPEC ammo or cheap steel, then you’re covered.

The main downside was the fact the trigger isn’t adjustable weight-wise. Sadly CMC’s website is a little confusing and says you can adjust it from 2.5 to 6.6 pounds, but another portion says it’s non-adjustable. So read carefully and don’t be a skim reader like me. If adjustability isn’t a concern, then the CMC PCC trigger is perfect for your AR PCC, your S&W 15-22, and even your MPX.

CMC PCC Trigger Pros and Cons

  • Proven PCC Compatible
  • Easy to Install
  • Great Trigger Pull
  • Nonadjustable

CMC PCC Trigger Deals

FRT 15 Trigger Specs

  • Trigger Type Forced Reset
  • Trigger Weight 5 pounds
  • Installation Method Drop-In

Let Freedom Ring – FRT 15 Trigger Review

The National Firearms Act imposed a heavy burden on the ownership of certain firearms, including fully automatic weapons. In 1986 the Hughes Amendment prohibited the registration of new full-auto firearms making existing examples extremely expensive. That doesn’t mean the American people don’t have a want for full-auto fire. While it’s tough to get, the FRT-15 offers us a fun alternative for full-auto fire for your AR-15.

FRT stands for Forced Reset Trigger. This is not a full auto-trigger. It doesn’t meet the definition and doesn’t even function similarly to real full-auto fire. Instead, the trigger forcefully resets and makes it easier to pull faster. Essentially the trigger makes it easy for you to fire the weapon in semi-automatic and allows it to be much faster than your normal semi-auto trigger.

The FRT-15 trigger drops in, and installation is relatively simple but not as simple as most triggers. You’ll likely need a heavy buffer to keep things running. Users can swap between a standard semi-auto trigger and the forced reset mode with ease. Plugging away with the Forced Reset Trigger is a ton of fun and satisfies that full auto itch very well.

Currently, the FRT-15 is being challenged by the ATF because tyrants are tyrants. Rare Breed Triggers is fighting the ATF tooth and nail to ensure the legality of the device. They can be tough to get and are expensive, but your purchase helps support the fight for gun rights!

Admittedly beyond the Forced Reset capability, the FRT-15 might be lacking in some departments as a trigger. The pull is five pounds, and you’ll need a heavy buffer. Other than that, it’s a decent trigger and a lot of fun. For almost 400 bucks, you can certainly get a high-end trigger, but you can’t get one than gives you such a fast fire rate.

Supporting Rare Breed and the FRT-15 is admittedly supporting gun rights. So that’s why we get a nod to the FRT-15. Plus, it’s an absolute ton of fun.

Let Freedom Ring – FRT 15 Trigger Pros and Cons

  • Fast Firing Rate
  • Buying it helps fight the ATF
  • Tons of fun
  • Somewhat heavy
  • Expensive

Let Freedom Ring – FRT 15 Trigger Deals

Best AR-15 Triggers – Buyers Guide

Beyond the measurements of trigger pull, trigger weight, and trigger distance, there are a few factors we need to consider in choosing the best AR 15 trigger for our needs.

The Stages of a Trigger

AR 15 triggers come in one of two forms, a single-stage and a two-stage trigger. Is one better than the other? That’s largely up for debate and down to personnel preference. It’s smart to know the difference and will at least give you an idea of which trigger does what.

Single Stage

Single-stage triggers have a consistent trigger pull weight throughout the entire length of travel. This represents one stage and generally provides a more consistent trigger feeling but also a lighter, shorter trigger pull.

Single-stage triggers provide minimal trigger creep, with most of the length of pull being defeating the wall before the trigger breaks. This makes them one of the more preferred triggers for competition shooters. Long-range shooters benefit from a lighter trigger, and action sports shooters can hit the trigger faster with less disruption.

Two-Stage

With a two-stage trigger, you get a certain amount of takeup, which acts as the first stage. This first stage often provides you with a light trigger pull weight. Once the first stage is defeated, the weight increases as you enter the second stage. The second stage is often a cleaner and more consistent trigger with minimal takeup.

Two-stage triggers are popular for the ability to stage the trigger by defeating the first stage and resting at the second stage before taking the shot. The slightly longer trigger pull is also often credited with being safer for defensive shooting due to the longer, heavier trigger pull protecting against negligent discharge.

Standard or Drop-In

There are two distinct types of AR triggers. The standard AR-15 trigger is a series of components known as the fire control group that must be assembled by the installer. The standard trigger might be more labor-intensive, but installing a fire control group is one of the easier parts of AR construction.

Drop-In triggers remove some of the labor involved in installing firearms. The drop-in design preassembles all the parts and pieces into one piece. All the user has to do is drop the trigger into the lower receiver and install your pins as required.

The Glossary of AR 15 Trigger Terms

Let’s clear up a few terms you might not recognize. I’ve likely used them throughout this entire article, and I think a few terms need to be clearly defined so you can not only understand this article better but recognize the terms when you begin shopping for your AR 15 trigger.

Wall – The wall is the hard point where the weight of the trigger culminates. The wall is the last bit of resistance a trigger offers before it breaks and the weapon fires.

Take-Up – Take-up is the movement of the trigger that occurs before the trigger hits the wall. With a single-stage trigger, less takeup is typically wanted. With a two-stage trigger, it’s a selling point. Sometimes known as ‘slack.’

Creep – After takeup, you run into creep. Creep is the space between takeup and the wall of the trigger. Creep is the amount of movement the trigger has once it reaches the wall. Less creep is better when it comes to accurate shooting. This is also sometimes known as stacking.

Overtravel – If the trigger continues to travel rearward after the weapon fires, this is known as overtravel. Overtravel can increase the time between shots and is generally something you want very little of.

Reset – Trigger reset is the trigger traveling forward enough to reset to prime for the next shot. A good reset should be short, and limiting overtravel often helps here. Another feature of a good reset is a tactile and audible signal. You can feel and hear it click into place, making it obvious that the trigger has reset.

Pull Weight – We’ve talked a lot about pounds and triggers and what that represents is the amount of force required to make the weapon fire. The weight of a trigger varies greatly, and the desired weight often depends on your task. Duty triggers tend to be heavier than competition triggers. Competition triggers tend to be extremely light, down to as light as 1.5 pounds. A lower weight can help with accuracy but isn’t the most important feature of a good trigger.

Getting Triggered

The AR 15’s extreme amount of modularity has extended well into triggers. If you stick with a MIL-SPEC trigger in 2022, you are making an odd choice.

These days there is a trigger for anything and any purpose and finding the right one for you and your rifle is fairly easy.

These are my favorite triggers, but please sound off in the comments about what triggers you think should make the list.

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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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