Rifle Trigger Upgrades: Flipping The Switch

Rifle Trigger Upgrades: Flipping The Switch

Rifle trigger upgrades are one of the easiest ways to improve performance, so here we cover some of the best bolt-action and semi-auto triggers on the market.

There are more options out there than ever before when it comes to trigger upgrades. There’s so much variety, in fact, that it’s easy to get lost in the minutia of just what you’re getting for the money. To make things easier and less triggering, let’s take a look at just what you get for your hard-earned dollars these days.

Trigger Basics

The gun, as we know it, is a tube that launches a projectile. The rest is essentially human interface with said pipe. The earliest notions of a gun were just that: a metal pipe or tube attached to a stock ignited by a lit piece of fuse. That fuse was originally carried separately, but eventually more advanced means of ignition were used; arguably, the earliest was the matchlock.

This simple device was state-of-the-art at its inception, and with the pull of a trigger—which, in those days, resembled the long lever trigger of a medieval crossbow—the lit match was lowered into a pan of powder. This mechanical action later evolved into the flintlock, then the percussion lock and then the metallic cartridge.

Heavier bolt guns are usually best with single-stage triggers that offer a clean break without the anticipation of a second stage. As a rule, the author treats a gun he walks and hunts with a two-stage, and a stationary or positional shooting rifle with a single-stage.

Triggers have come a long way from a smoldering piece of string; however, the creation of newer and better triggers didn’t stop with the advent of modern guns. Luckily for us, in our modern era, we can look back at our history of invention, take what we’ve learned and apply it to new things.

The thing is, trigger design today is limited to what’s selling … as far as guns go. There are very few, if any, guns designed around the trigger; instead, triggers and their advancements center around upgrading popular designs and are often drop-in. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find gunsmith-only triggers, wherein just a generation prior it was the norm to have your trigger worked over by a professional.

Modularity has its advantage, though. I’d say that virtually all the advancements in triggers are happening in three platforms: the AR-15 family, the Remington 700 and clones, and rimfire rifles like the 10/22. The reason here is that these are arguably the most popular base guns in the country, and they all have easily-installed trigger upgrades. These guns are truly plug-and-play when it comes to making upgrades, and there’s little, if any, gunsmithing involved.

Factory triggers today are usually heavier than they need to be, and this plagued them for decades as a liability concern. Savage Arms remedied this in the early 2000s with the AccuTrigger, a user-adjustable precision trigger that featured a blade safety. This trigger was, for many people, the thing that put Savage on the map in their eyes. Plus, in a Remington world, it was refreshing to go with something user-serviceable.

In those days, many guns with light triggers were dangerous in that they could fire when dropped or mishandled in the field. To solve this, the AccuTrigger was able to be adjusted to just a few ounces and, unless the shooter’s finger was on the trigger, it wouldn’t fire. This trigger design was similar to that of the Glock pistol in many ways, and I still love it—even when compared to “better” options.

The AccuTrigger is still available today, and I’ve been shooting one in a Savage since I was 16. It hasn’t changed at all since I originally adjusted it, and it remains one of the best triggers a kid could’ve grown up on.

The Best Factory Triggers Of 2021:

Production Bolt-Action Trigger

The best factory bolt gun trigger on the market, as far as production bolt-action rifles go, is one featured in detail here in this issue of Gun Digest. The Q Fix has a completely unique trigger and bolt arrangement that has never been done before.

Q-Fix-Trigger upgrades
The Fix by Q has probably the best bolt-action trigger made today on a production rifle. It’s a two-stage, making it very appropriate for hunting.

It shares more with a striker-fired pistol than a traditional Mauser-style sear assembly and it is, in my extensive experience with triggers, the best out there in terms of how it breaks, feels on the finger and for precision shot placement. The Q Fix is an expensive rifle, however, but it’s not one that you’ll need to upgrade in the sense of a base model factory gun. It has it all already and, in the world of factory designed and assembled triggers, it puts many others to shame.

Production Semi-Auto Trigger

The Savage MSR10 6.5 Creedmoor. This is a full-featured AR-10-size rifle that holds up at 1,000 yards while being light and reliable. It has a great trigger and is a clear stand-out in the factory rifle lineup. I tried out this two-stage trigger at a range and was blown away that it was a factory Savage. It was like a custom-built rifle in terms of quality. The trigger was just amazing for a factory job.

Production Rimfire Trigger

The CZ 457 rimfire rifles take the cake for me when it comes to triggers in the factory rimfire category. They’re light, crisp and have the feel of a full-size rifle trigger when handling. I really appreciate the detail that went into this little action and just how functional it is. Many rimfire triggers feel like an afterthought and are too heavy for such light guns, but CZ executed this one quite well. It’s a single-stage trigger but breaks like the proverbial glass rod: a small glass rod, that is.

The CZ 457 Scout .22 LR is a compact, lightweight rimfire that boasts an incredibly crisp single-stage trigger and is just about perfect for snapping game on the ground.

Drop-In Trigger Roundup:

Talking about rifle triggers ensures healthy debates. I own and use both single- and two-stage models, and I select these for a given rifle based on my expected usage. In general, I prefer a single-stage trigger on a heavy precision rifle and a two-stage on a semi-auto or lightweight bolt gun. To make things more streamlined here, I’ll be looking at what’s out there for the AR family and the REM 700 and clones, as well as some rimfire with a caveat that there’s substantial crossover now between rimfire and 700-based actions.

Two-Stage Remington 700 Triggers

There are two triggers that immediately come to mind for the 700 and actions. Two-stage triggers find their homes on my lightweight bolt-actions, in this case both 700 factory short actions.

Trigger-tweaking-feature-T5, trigger upgrades

The Geissele Remington 700 trigger is two-stage and easily user adjustable. This trigger has appeared in some of my previous articles here in Gun Digest, and it’s very reliable and easy to configure. I currently have it in a garage-build precision rifle, consisting of an X-Caliber 6.5mm carbon-fiber barrel, carbon-fiber stock and Leupold LRP scope. I did some hack-job gunsmithing to it: I installed a Brownells bolt knob using an angle grinder and hand-cut the threads, a Marine Tex bedding attempt and then gave it a rattle-can finish. For being a build made out of leftover parts, it shoots 1-inch groups at 200 meters.

Remington 700 triggers make up the bulk of the bolt-gun market. Other types are available, but if you’re planning a custom build, the Remington action and clones are the most widely supported.

Another hard-use Remington 2-stage is the Timney Calvin Elite. This has been at home on my .450 Bushmaster for years and is a perfect field-use trigger. The rifle has an AG Composites carbon-fiber stock and a Triad Tactical forend wrap to prevent slippage in wet conditions. I’ve got it decked out in Hill People Gear and Short Action Precision gear as well. The Calvin Elite is a wonderful, simple and reliable trigger for the worst conditions.

Single-Stage Remington 700 Trigger

This one has to go to TriggerTech. These guys don’t have a huge catalog, but what they do offer is superb. I have two of their triggers, one on a KRG-chassis build with a Mesa Precision Arms titanium action and Proof Research carbon-fiber barrel. I use the Sig Sauer 5-30x Tango6 on this bad boy and the TriggerTech product allows me to just point and click past 1,000 yards. TriggerTech triggers are the choice for some of the best rifle builders out there, and I completely understand why. I’ve done lots of long-range shooting with this brand: They’re awesome if you want that single-stage pull.

TriggerTech makes some great bolt-gun triggers. They’re easily adjusted for pull and offer several variants depending on end use.

Rimfire Bolt-Action Trigger

This was a tough one, and I mentioned earlier the caveat about the 700-clone crossover. I’ve been using the Timney HIT flat trigger on my Tuebor Precision 6.5 Creedmoor, but it was my experience with a .22 LR rifle using a Bergara action in 700 footprint that made it catch my attention. This trigger features a flat face and is excellent in the growing and popular rimfire precision sports. While it’s technically a centerfire trigger in that it was designed for the 700, it’s at one on any of the new generation of rimfire bolt-action and can be adjusted down to just 8 ounces.

Teubor-Trigger-T8, trigger upgrades
A thousand-yard rifle, like this custom build on a Tuebor Precision action, strongly benefits from a flat trigger such as the Timney. The pull is amazing and allows for extreme control at long range.

Drop-In Two-Stage Semi-Auto Trigger

Geissele has a strong command of the trigger game, and I use their products quite a bit across my rifles. While it’s fair to say that they’re arguably the best out there as far as ruggedness and precision, they’re not the only makers of fine triggers for the AR platform. My choice for their lineup is still just about impossible to beat: the Hi-Speed National Match. This is really the trigger to measure the rest against and is emblematic of the disciplined, difficult skills necessary to succeed at Camp Perry.


Single-Stage Semi-Auto Trigger

I shoot carbines at many distances, and I like to have something rugged and simple. Fitting the bill here is the Velocity Classic AR Trigger. This is a more affordable unit at an MSRP of $159.95, but it performs like a much more costly unit. It’s a drop-in cassette type, meaning that the trigger is self-contained and installs without having to mess with springs or trying to fuss with pins. I ended up popping one in my BRN-180 carbine, and it really improved the overall handling characteristics, especially when snap-shooting with irons and the Trijicon Reflex sight in place.

Velocity-AR-Trigger-T12, trigger upgrades
This cassette-style trigger from Velocity Triggers is a single-stage unit.

Rimfire Semi-Auto Trigger

The most popular semi-auto .22 LR out there is the Ruger 10/22. Timney again makes it on this list with the 10/22 Drop In Trigger Assembly. This is a great trigger and really brings the 10/22 up a notch. Plus, it includes an extended magazine release.

It should be noted that Ruger also makes a replacement trigger for their own guns and it, too, is excellent.

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the June 2021 issue of Gun Digest the Magazine.

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  1. YA know, I wouldn’t mind changing my 6.5 PRC Browning X-Bolt Pro trigger for a decent Trigger Tech or Timney drop-in. BUT no aftermarket triggers for that rifle permit me to keep the BOLT LOCK! Not worth losing that safety feature B/C the rifle already has a decent 2 lb. 10 oz. average single stage trigger pull which is very good for hunting.

    I have put a Timney in a 6.5 CM RUGER American Predator and it gave my true 1/2 MOA accuracy with Hornady MATCH (ELD-M) ammo. The Boyd’s Classic laminated stock may have helped as well but RUGER’s cold hammer forged barrels helped the most.


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