The AR-15 is one of the most popular guns in America and the most popular rifle, and there’s no question why.
It’s one of the most reliable, versatile, and durable rifles on the market, not to mention the incredible degree of customizability the AR-15 offers. One can even build their own AR-15 with relative ease, even if you’re new to mods and gunsmithing.
You can easily switch out parts, add accessories, and use wraps to get the exact rifle you want.
In short, the AR-15 platform allows you to have a unique rifle for your unique wants and needs.
However, in this post, we’ll be talking about one specific change you can make: switching out your AR-15’s trigger for a drop-in trigger.
Why Change Triggers?
Switching out triggers is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to seriously upgrade your AR-15.
A good trigger increases accuracy by breaking with no warning, keeping you focused on your shot and preventing you from bracing for the recoil, and by having a short trigger pull, preventing the shooter from applying excessive force, which can move the gun off target. This also allows you to reset faster and get more shots fired off down range.
What Is a Drop-In Trigger?
In a drop-in trigger, all internal trigger pieces, including the trigger shoe (the part you put your finger on and pull), disconnector, springs, hammer, and more are all contained in a single housing, called a cassette.
The cassette is simply “dropped in” the lower receiver, where they are kept in place by the trigger and hammer pins. The pins don’t have an effect on the mechanics of the trigger, though.
This trigger setup is different from that of the traditional AR-15 trigger, which is comprised of a separate hammer, trigger, and disconnector pieces. This makes these triggers more difficult to install, but it also means that they’re affected by the trigger and hammer pins. Because the relative location of the trigger and hammer pins in an AR-15 varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and model to model, the performance of a traditional AR-15 trigger isn’t consistent between AR-15s.
Now that you’ve got a bit of background on drop-in triggers, let’s move on to our AR-15 drop-in trigger recommendations.
There are virtually unlimited options when it comes to drop-in AR-15 triggers and it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but we’ve narrowed down it down to a few options that represent a variety of drop-in AR-15 triggers from a variety of price points to help shooters of all budgets. While they’re ordered from most budget-friendly to most high end, all the triggers assembled on this list are, of course, great options. We wouldn’t recommend them to you if they weren’t.
These are the triggers that we’ll be talking about today:
- Velocity Trigger ($150)
- CMC ($168)
- Timney ($190)
- RISE Armament RA-140 Super Sporting Trigger ($243)
- Elftmann ELF Match ($249)
AR-15 Velocity Trigger
Velocity Trigger is one of the biggest names in budget-friendly triggers. That doesn’t mean they’re low quality, though.
Velocity’s triggers are carefully designed by Tom Vehr, a trigger designer with nearly three decades of trigger design experience at companies like Knight Rifles and Timney, the latter of which has a drop-in AR-15 of their own on this list.
While other triggers at this price point often have a tendency to feel a bit loose, even when firmly and correctly installed, Velocity Trigger doesn’t have this problem with their drop-in AR-15 trigger.
This trigger does have a bit more creep and overtravel than many of the more expensive drop-in AR-15 triggers, but for a price point this good, it’s hard to beat.
CMC Drop-in Trigger
CMC is another major player in low-cost drop-in triggers, and their drop-in AR-15 trigger is Velocity Trigger’s biggest competition in that market.
Like Velocity Trigger’s drop-in trigger, the CMC drop-in trigger module is available with either a curved or flat trigger shoe, but CMC’s version only comes with a 3.5 lb trigger weight configuration.
The CMC drop-in AR-15 trigger also boasts virtually no overtravel and a trigger reset of only about 2mm, and advantage it has over its rival from Velocity Trigger. However, users of the CMC version report that slight wiggle we talked about earlier.
Regardless, CMC’s drop-in AR-15 trigger still offers a clean break with every pull of the trigger and offers excellent accuracy, no matter how fast you shoot.
Like the Velocity Trigger drop-in AR-15 trigger, it’s a leader at its price point.
Timney AR-15 Drop-In Trigger ($190)
Timney is a step up in price compared to the first two triggers on this list, but with that extra cash comes extra quality.
This trigger provides little resistance, giving a nice, clean break on every shot and providing extra accuracy by making sure the shooter doesn’t need to jerk the trigger every time they squeeze it. If you’re skeptical about how much of a difference this makes, competition shooters can assure you that a clean trigger break is essential.
Timney’s AR-15 drop-in trigger also just feels natural to shoot. It doesn’t require much force and the slightly curved design of the trigger foot is very comfortable to hold. This trigger gives a much straighter pull than many competitors, even competitors within the same price range.
In fact, this AR-15 drop-in trigger even outperforms many of the higher cost alternatives while simultaneously being much more comfortable to shoot.
This a great choice for competition shooters, as well as those who just have a bit more cash to spend on a range gun.
Rise Armament RA-535 Advanced Performance Trigger ($243)
Next up is one of our favorite high-end drop-in AR-15 triggers, the RA-535 Advanced Performance Trigger from Rise Armament.
So what makes this trigger high end other than the hefty price tag?
For one, Rise Armament is an industry leader with a background in manufacturing for the oil and aerospace industries, which gave them the knowledge they carried over with them when they made the transition to exclusively producing firearms, firearm parts, and firearm accessories. And if this background isn’t enough to assure you that their products are high quality, Rise Armament also gives a lifetime, money-back guarantee on everything they produce.
As for the RA-535 Advanced Performance Trigger itself, it’s precision CNC machined from heat treated, high-grade tool steel and aluminum.
It has a light trigger pull, with a trigger weight of 3.5 lbs. It also has virtually no overtravel and incredibly fast reset. And it all comes in an incredibly sharp looking red cassette.
Elftmann Tactical ELF Match ($249)
Last up is the most expensive trigger on our list by just a few dollars, but it’s worth every single cent if you have the dough to spend.
Elftmann is a leader in high quality, competition-grade triggers, and the ELF Match trigger is just one example of why that is. This trigger was designed for 3-gun competition shooters, so you know it’s a great choice for your competition rifle, and goes above and beyond for a “just for fun” range rifle.
This trigger uses a roller bearing system to make each and every shot as smooth as possible, even when shooting rapidly during competitions.
The roller bearing system also features a half-cock hammer notch function, which makes the gun drop safe by not striking the firing pin when the gun makes a sudden impact. This makes the ELF Match Trigger a great option for people who want to be able to take their rifle on backwoods adventures or even just those who are a little clumsy or rough on their possessions.
This trigger has virtually no overtravel and the trigger reset is tiny, only a few millimeters. It also has the smoothest feel of any of the drop-in AR-15 triggers on this list, making the accuracy it lends unparalleled by other triggers.
The Elftmann ELF Match Trigger has an adjustable trigger weight that can be set between 2.75 and 4 lbs. and is available with either a curved or straight trigger shoe.
Choosing Your Drop-In AR-15 Trigger
While of course everyone’s wants and needs are different, all these drop-in AR-15 triggers are great options for both upgrading an existing rifle and building a rifle from scratch, whether you’re a casual shooter or a competition shooter.
What’s most important is that you choose the one that works best for you and your budget. Whether that’s one of the lower cost options or one of the big budget triggers, one of these triggers is sure to be the right choice for you.