We’re going to tackle another debate issue with this post: Single Stage Vs Two Stage Triggers! This is another of those preference things, there can be benefits to either option when considering a single stage vs a two stage trigger! Your single stage trigger is what most of us are familiar with and grew up learning to shoot on…nothing wrong with them. The two stage trigger actually has a stop, or break wall, that divides the first and second ‘stage’ from each other. This is something typically found in higher price triggers due to the complexity of the design. It does offer something your single stage does not. The question becomes, which one is right for you? Read on as we explore the differences!
Single Stage Triggers
Single stage triggers are what we are all familiar with. Every pistol on earth and most rifles are equipped with a single stage trigger. All that means is that there is one range of motion that you have to pull the trigger through to release the firing pin or striker. The nice thing about a single stage trigger is that it’s simple. No gimmicks, just a basic approach to a functioning rifle. I think most would agree the single stage triggers are both easier to adjust, and crisper in the “break” of the trigger. Everyone has their own preference for how much pressure is required to pull the trigger through it’s single stage before the rifle fires. I like a 2lb pull, myself, on a tactical rifle. That’s a happy in between for a pull weight that is neither so heavy as to induce fatigue in the trigger finger or so light that you can’t make a conscious decision to actually fire the rifle.
Single Stage Choices
There are a number of choices when it comes to single stage triggers. Timney and Jewell have long been the first choices. Jewells have a reputation for the crispest break, but they’re pricey! They also don’t have the greatest reliability in field conditions. Not a huge problem for guys that shoot Benchrest or F-Class but for the tactical guys, I’ve seen several go down at different matches. Timneys on the other hand are also adjustable and while they might not be “Jewell Crisp” they’re more than adequate for the tactical rifle scene. They also make up for what they lose in the crispy category for the leaps and bounds ahead they jump in the reliability category. I’ve had a few Timneys on different rifles and I’ve never had one lock up or go down on me. I’ve shot them in everything from snow to Midwest moon dust…the Timneys just work.
You should also consider the new TriggerTech trigger from the boys up in Canada. It features a rolling, frictionless, interface between the trigger and sear that produces a trigger pull with zero creep. We’ve been playing with one and can confirm there is absolutely no creep felt with the TriggerTech. The pull weight is adjustable with a set screw from below, without having to remove the action from the stock. The adjustment is also held by a detent, so there’s no little lock nut to loosen up or mess with when adjusting. You just turn the screw a few clicks in either direction until you achieve the pull weight you want, and bingo, you’re done! It also has a fairly insulated design like the Timney, so it isn’t likely to suffer from contamination the way a Jewell can. By far the biggest selling point is the price, at around $90 USD shipped…it beats out the Timney in the price department by around $50!
Two Stage Triggers
Two stage triggers, what’s the big deal? My first experience with these was with an AR10 I put together. It seemed like an interesting concept, so I installed a Geissele two stage trigger in the rifle. Man, what a difference! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking a good, single stage trigger. However, once I played with a nice two stage trigger, I knew I was hooked! The advantage of a two stage trigger is knowing precisely when the trigger is going to break and cause the rifle to fire. As you squeeze back and apply pressure on a two stage trigger you progress through the first stage. It’s basically identical to a single stage at first. Then, instead of breaking and firing, you hit a “break wall” which is the stopping point between the first and second stages. Once at the break wall you apply a little pressure beyond what it took to get you that fire, and bang!
You might be wondering why that’s important? Well, in any kind of dynamic shooting scenario, you aren’t always blessed with a stable position to shoot from. The farther up and away from the prone position you get, the more unstable your position becomes. One of the byproducts of the stability loss is movement in your sight picture. You will start seeing the crosshairs drifting around, it happens in a sloppy figure eight sort of pattern. If you’ve ever played a videogame and used a scoped rifle you’ve probably seen what this looks like, regardless of how realistic the amount of movement may be. Knowing exactly when the trigger is going to break helps you time the shot so it breaks as your reticle drifts across the target you are trying to hit.
To put all that in a shorter, more concise way: A two stage trigger allows for better shot timing in positional shooting! Additionally, you can set the two stages up how you want them. In the case of a 2lb trigger pull you could set it for a 1lb first stage, and then an additional 1lb to get it to break. You could set the first stage up heavier, or lighter than the second, whatever you want! I think setting the first stage up for 50%-75% of the total pull weight is ideal, so when you hit the break wall, you know it’s ready to fire and it only takes a touch of additional pressure to execute the shot!
Two Stage Choices
In the two stage world, you really have two basic choices that are highly regarded. The CG Extreme two stage trigger, and the Huber Concepts two stage trigger. Some people don’t think the Huber is a true “according to Hoyle” 2 stage trigger. That thinking is flawed. I’ve got a match and some good trigger time behind the Huber on my match rifle, and it behaves exactly as a two stage trigger should! If you want to read a little about that misconception, read our article on the Huber Trigger Demo at the 2015 Sniper’s Hide Cup! The CG Extreme is also very nice and the two are priced to compete with each other. The downside to two stage triggers is the cost. It’s a more complex design and a lot of work and refinement go into producing them. The tradeoff is the hit your wallet takes! Where a nice single stage trigger will run you around $90-$150 you can expect to pay in the neighborhood of $350-$450 for a quality two stage trigger!
As I said, this is another preference thing. Some people like single stage, some like two stage. I like both, I own both, but my match gun has the Huber in it…if that’s any indication! I find the ability to set the trigger up and know exactly when it’s going to break to be invaluable in tactical style shooting. It was particularly useful at last month’s T3 Precision Rifle match. Those guys have a moving target, and they hung a small plate on it for this month’s match. Being able to feel the stop, and get set, allowed me to skip ahead of it and accurately engage it. I’m not saying it couldn’t be done with a single stage. I do think that it’s harder to get the shot to break, particularly if you are “trapping” the mover, when you have a single stage trigger.
I think two stage triggers are nice and if you can try one, even dry firing somebody else’s gun…you should! I liked the Huber enough just putting a few rounds through it to buy one. You might have a similar experience if afforded the opportunity to try one. Likewise, if you decide it’s not your thing, better to know that before plunking down three or four bills for the purchase! If you have a preference of one over the other, or some experience with one of the models we discussed that you want to share…please do so below in the comments!