During my shooting career, I’ve used both single-stage and two-stage triggers. I’ve used some of the best of each, and some that weren’t very good. After years of shooting, I determined that my favorite trigger is the Anschutz two-stage. Accordingly, I installed this model on both the Winchester Model 70 and Remington 700—the two I actions I use in competition. In fact, I designed the TUBB 2000 rifle specifically to accommodate the Anschutz two-stage.
Since settling on the Anschutz two-stage, most of my shooting has been with two-stage triggers. For that all-important, once-in-a-lifetime shot, I’ll take a well-adjusted two-stage trigger every time. You have choices, however—there are actually four main types of triggers:
Release triggers are usually only used in competition shotguns. This type of trigger fires the shot when the trigger is released, rather than when it’s pulled. This type of trigger is helpful for a shooter who has developed a flinch, but it is dangerous in any setting, other than a controlled competition environment.
Designed for shooters who prefer a very light break weight and minimal sear engagement, the set trigger requires a trigger mechanism to be set first to prepare the trigger for the final pull. Of course this increases the firearm’s lock time, and many shooters find the operation clumsy.
This is the most common trigger type found in modern rifles. When you close the bolt, the trigger sears are at a minimum engagement tolerance so that when you pull the trigger, the minimum trigger movement is required for the rifle to fire. Most properly adjusted, single-stage triggers are not safe at less than two-pounds of trigger-pull weight. A lightweight, single-stage trigger is an unsafe liability in hunting/field situations because of the high probability of unintentional discharge.
This design has a tensioned first-stage movement, or take-up, prior to engaging the sear lever, which is then also the start of the second-stage break. The take up of the first stage reduces the amount of sear engagement. When the second stage bump occurs, which stops the rearward trigger motion, the movement of the sears associated with the two-stage trigger are now at the minimum engagement tolerance. Depending on how the trigger has been adjusted, it may only take a few ounces more of rearward trigger pressure to cleanly break the second-stage weight and fire the shot. The fact that the sears are not minimized until the first stage is taken up makes a two-stage the safest trigger.
The Trouble with Single-Stage Triggers
If we look at a two-pound break weight trigger in single-stage configuration, a trigger scale will measure two-pounds total weight pressure before the trigger moves and the rifle fires. Less than two pounds of break weight in a single-stage trigger is simply not safe for the average field shooter. For safety, factory single-stage triggers are normally four-pounds or more in pull weight. Another disadvantage of the lightweight single-stage trigger is that it does not allow you to hold and handle the rifle with same gripping tension and authority of the rifle as a two-stage trigger. The probability of the rifle unintentionally firing is greatly increased. Sympathetic trigger finger movement from increased gripping tension, reduced feeling in the trigger finger due to cold weather, brushing an exposed branch, or catching the trigger itself on one’s gear are all possible causes of accidental discharge. The two-stage is simply an easier trigger to control. That little bump stop, the ending of the first-stage take-up and the beginning of the second-stage remaining resistance, is a huge asset to making a centered shot.
The Benefits of Two-Stage Triggers
The two-stage trigger can be tuned much more accurately than the single-stage trigger. The user is able to set up the trigger to have a specific total weight, a specific amount of first-stage movement (rearward travel distance), and a precise amount of weight for the first-stage trigger pull. Once you have taken up a majority of the total trigger weight (the first stage) it now becomes a much easier task to break a clean shot with an increase of just a few ounces more against the remaining second-stage weight. The user is also able to tune the second stage to break within their comfort range (usually from three to eight ounces of second-stage weight). This means that the two-stage trigger weight is two pounds in total or overall weight (start to finish) but breaks after the first-stage take-up with an additional pull of only three to eight-ounces. This makes the two-stage a better platform for breaking an accurate shot. It is much easier for the shooter to pull the remaining few ounces (the second stage) than it is to overcome the two-pounds total pull weight for the single-stage trigger.
Control of the rifle is also a major factor here. A two-stage trigger lets the user grip or hold the rifle with authority, if needed, to make a precision shot or move to a better shooting position. When shooting offhand in the wind, for instance, the first-stage take-up can be relaxed and then re-engaged if needed, while the shooter waits for the best opportunity for a centered shot break. The lightweight single-stage creates a more timid shooting strategy, in one way of looking at it, because there is less connection and control over the trigger-pulling process than with the two-stage trigger.
Where Can I Find a Two-Stage Trigger?
There are plenty of two-stage triggers to choose from. The Mauser 98, 30/40 Krag, 1903 03A3 Springfield, M1 Garand, and the M14 are all good examples. The fact that these rifles all have two-stage triggers shouldn’t be too surprising—they were all military issue at one time and needed the safest firing mechanism. The two-stage trigger fits the bill perfectly, because it will take a lot of abuse before a shot is unintentionally fired.
Virtually every position target rifle shooter in the world uses a two-stage trigger. Its many advantages include giving users the ability to exactly tune the trigger pull, inherent safety design, and superior performance in terms of accuracy.
Matt at Gunwerks
Matt is an avid outdoors enthusiast and part of the Gunwerks.com team. When he’s not camping, you will find Matt writing about cutting edge process for long range civilian marksmen.
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