There’s no denying that the AR-15 is an incredible gun.
It’s America’s favorite rifle for good reason, after all. When it comes to excellence, the AR-15 ticks all the boxes. It’s accurate, dependable, and able to be used in virtually every kind of scenario.
But the AR-15’s awesome design isn’t the only thing that makes it an awesome gun. It’s also a favorite because of customizability – it’s easy to modify, meaning that it’s able to adapt to the needs of all types of shooters.
Part of the fun of being an AR-15 owner is being able to customize your gun. And whatever you need, there’s guaranteed to be a wide selection of aftermarket AR-15 parts to choose from. So when you want to tweak the way your AR-15 shoots by adding a new trigger, finding the right piece is a relatively easy process.
Today, we’re going to learn a little bit about various drop-in AR-15 triggers. If you’re doing a little bit of consumer research and aren’t part of the AR-15 owner’s club yet, be sure to check out our in-depth guide to buying an AR-15 as well.
*UPDATE* 2018: Even more in February after SHOT Show!
And for those of you who can’t wait, here are the trigger systems that we’re going to be looking at today:
- TriggerTech ($219.00)
- Timney ($230.00)
- CMC ($179)
- Velocity Trigger ($149.00)
- Elftmann ELF Match ($259.00)
Let’s Talk Triggers
The drop-in trigger is a type of trigger that houses all of the trigger’s internal component in a single case. The trigger itself (where you put your finger), sear, hammer, springs, and disconnector are all contained in this case rather than assembled as loose pieces.
The benefit of going the drop-in route is that installation is much easier than standard AR triggers. Once you’ve disassembled your AR-15 and taken the old trigger out, installing a drop-in trigger is as simple as dropping the case into the lower receiver and securing the trigger case with your trigger pins. A piece of cake, eh?
So, let’s look at some of the more popular drop-in AR-15 triggers out there.
TriggerTech TT-AR-15 ($219)
The TriggerTech drop-in trigger ($219) can be adjusted from 2.5 to 5 pounds. Its Frictionless Release Technology (FRT) means that the trigger should give a good, clean break with every pull.
What makes the TriggerTech great is that its FRT technology is able to optimize performance without sacrificing safety. In other words, it’s able to reduce pull distance without the need to decrease sear engagement. Every shot successfully gives a clean break with minimal trigger reset (approximately 1mm) without the worry of accidental discharge.
The roller bearing system is another interesting aspect about the TriggerTech design. Not only did this system contribute to TriggerTech’s high-end performance, it’s also designed to decrease wear-and-tear over time. In fact, even after 50,000 shots, scans showed that the TriggerTech drop-in trigger experienced minimal wear and tear on its engagement surfaces.
Overall, much of the trigger’s longevity can be attributed to the roller system. Instead of trapping in dirt and debris where it grinds it into the engagement surfaces, the roller actually sweeps contaminants away.
So what can you expect with TriggerTech’s drop-in AR-15 trigger? Durability and performance. Its casing is made from aluminum and the rest of the working parts are constructed with hardened, corrosion-resistant stainless steel.
Timney AR-15 Drop-In Trigger ($230.00)
If you know one thing about Timney, it’s that they’re passionate about triggers. Whether you agree or not, they often advertise themselves as the makers of “the world’s finest triggers” for a reason, and the Timney drop-in trigger (approximately $230) for the AR-15 is no different.
So, what makes this relatively expensive trigger system so great?
For starters, the Timney trigger provides very little resistance. Every time you squeeze a shot off, you’ll notice that you get a crisp, clean break that eliminates the need to jerk the trigger – a very important aspect for anyone that dabbles in competition shooting.
Where some triggers require a bit more force, the Timney trigger feels smooth and easy. Timney claims that the very slightly curved design of the trigger is what makes it feel so natural to pull. Whatever the case, this drop-in AR-15 trigger definitely gives you a straighter pull with every squeeze.
Overall, if you don’t mind the price, Timney’s drop-in trigger system is one of the top-performing triggers on the market. After using it for a little while, you’ll probably start to feel like it was designed specifically for your finger.
CMC Drop-in Trigger ($179.00)
The CMC trigger module ($179) comes in two variations: the curved trigger shoe and the flat trigger shoe. Some of the popular features about this drop-in trigger system are its nearly nonexistent overtravel and trigger reset of roughly 2mm.
The pull weight of the CMC trigger comes a 3.5 and is engineered to give a clean break with every pull. But what makes the CMC especially incredible is the sticker price. One of the more affordable drop-in AR-15 triggers on the market, this CMC trigger is able to deliver the same level of accuracy when taking slow shots or shooting rapidly.
With that said, the CMC trigger isn’t perfect. There have been some complaints from shooters claiming that the CMC doesn’t fit the AR-15 receiver a well as it should, causing the trigger to wiggle slightly.
Aside from that complaint, however, the CMC is a well-rounded trigger – especially for people who’re looking for a suitable upgrade from the mil-spec trigger.
You may be wondering why it made the list with such an annoying complaint as wiggling. The truth is that the CMC, despite its fault, is a great all-around piece for the price.
AR-15 Velocity Trigger ($149.00)
Another high-quality trigger maker breaking into the low-cost market is Velocity Trigger ($149). Arguably one of CMC’s largest competitors, Velocity Trigger provides top-notch curved and flat drop-in AR-15 triggers cheap. Seriously, they’re a fraction of the price that some other trigger systems go for.
You’re probably wondering what makes Velocity Triggers so good. For starters, they’ve been carefully designed by Tom Vehr – a trigger designer with 27 years of experience with companies like Knight Rifles and Timney. Second, there’s no wiggling and take-up with the Velocity Trigger, making it an attractive competitor to the CMC trigger.
You can also buy Velocity Triggers in the following pull weights: 3 pounds, 4 pounds, and 4.5 pounds.
But how does the Velocity Trigger compare to the CMC? Well, it’s cheaper and just as effective – definitely a plus. It also doesn’t have the same wiggling problem as well.
But I wouldn’t say that the Velocity Trigger trumps the CMC completely just because it’s cheaper. It does have a slight bit more creep and overtravel. With that said, the chances that you find a trigger as precise and smooth as the Velocity Trigger for less than $150 is unlikely. If you do, go ahead and play the lottery!
Elftmann Tactical ELF Match ($259.00)
Elftmann is a trusted name when it comes to competition-grade triggers, and the ELF Match Trigger ($259) is no exception. Designed to meet the fast-paced shooting style of 3-gun shooters, the ELF Match Trigger is a drop-in system that’s worth every penny.
Like the TriggerTech, Elftmann’s ELF Match Trigger uses a roller bearing system for maximum smoothness. This helps make the trigger design better optimized for fast shooting without worrying about jerking and choppy performance.
Another benefit of roller bearing is safety. Because of the trigger’s design, the ELF is praised for being able to turn your AR-15 into a completely drop-safe gun. This is in part attributed to the ELF Match’s half-cock hammer notch function, which was designed not to strike the firing pin upon impact.
In terms of performance, the ELF Match is worth its high sticker value. The amount of overtravel you can expect from this trigger is minimal and its trigger reset feels like it’s only a couple of millimeters. The smoothness of the design means that you’re able to get off a clean shot without sacrificing your aim – something that’s incredibly important if you’re a competitive shooter.
Overall, the ELF Match is a great trigger system, even for its price. And if you’re someone who needs a drop-in trigger that maximizes your speed and stability, you can’t go wrong with an Elftmann.
Upgrading Your AR-15
There you have it. Those are five of my favorite AR-15 drop-in triggers on the market. Don’t forget to also take a look at our write-up on Hiperfire triggers as well.
What’s important to keep in mind when customizing your AR-15 is that you want to build a rifle that works best for you. For some people, that’s a fancy Geissele or Timney trigger system. But for others, the mil-spec does just enough to get the job done. So play around at the gun range until you find something that you like.
Do you have a favorite drop-in trigger? Do you see one on this list you want to try? Let us know in the comments below!