What Is A 2 Stage Trigger?

The gun world is full of opinions. Some have been around since the first matchlock was shown off in a 14th Century courtyard; others are a bit more recent, but supporters are just as adamant in their arguments. One of today’s more feverous topics is whether you should choose a 2-stage trigger. But before you can answer this question you need to know what a 2-stage trigger really is.
Before you can decide which side of a “best for you” debate it is necessary to understand what the options are and what the terminology means. It is no different when discussion triggers, specifically the 2-stage trigger. If you do not really understand what this means how can you intelligently pick a side?

Just to be clear- the point of this article is NOT to tell you whether a 2-stage trigger is the best option for you. We simply want to make sure you understand what a 2-stage trigger is, how it functions and the difference between it and other options. If you know this then it will be easier to make your own decision.

There are Two Main Types of Triggers Readily Available

The traditional single stage trigger and the more recently developed 2-stage trigger. Yes, there are other options out there, but most are designed for very specific applications, many are custom built and very few are available in mast produced rifles. For these reasons we will, for the purpose of this discussion, stick with the two main options.

The Single Stage Trigger

Single stage triggers are the original and most common option. You apply pressure to the trigger and once you apply enough the trigger breaks, the pin is released, and a round is fired. Simple, reliable and easy to use. As weapon designs advanced shooters realized that a heavy, gritty trigger may not be the best choice for precision shooting, however, the single stage remained popular they just lightened the poundage.

The Two Stage Trigger

Eventually an option was developed and that was the 2-stage trigger. With this option the shooter applies pressure, but the trigger does not immediately fire. Instead, the initial pressure caused the trigger to travel slightly, and action that many refer to as “taking up the slack”. This first stage ends the shooter feels resistance, or hits a wall, and must apply additional pressure to cause the trigger to break. If that pressure is applied the sequence is identical to that of a single stage trigger; the pin is released, and a round is fired. The main difference occurs when the shooter decides not to apply that final increased pressure and simply lets off the trigger. When this happens a spring or return caused the trigger to reset to its original position. The pin is not released, the round does not fire, and the shoot can start over for subsequent shoots.

In the end a single stage or 2-stage trigger with the same poundage ultimately require the same pressure to cause the trigger to break, however, the 2-stage allows the trigger to be staged. This staging allows the shooter to prep the trigger and make sure that any adjustments in aim, position or even target identification are resolved prior to shooting. When it is time to take the shot just a little more pressure and your round is headed down range. If the decision to not shoot is made the shooter can abort and move on.

The 2-stage trigger is designed to address two main problems. First, it improves accuracy when compared to a single stage with heavy trigger pull. The combination of setting the trigger during the first stage and the final application of pressure to break the trigger in stage two reduces the possibility the firearm will be torqued due to finger pressure, allows for correction in aim and provides a constant break point. Second, it may improve safety. A common means of countering the heavy trigger pull of a single stage trigger is to lighten the poundage, often to a level that makes it so sensitive that only the slightest touch is needed to operate. In a hunting, field application or similar situation where the shooter is moving the heavier overall poundage can help prevent accidental discharges.

Most of today’s rifles, except for specialty platforms, still include a factory single stage trigger. However, a growing number of manufacturers are offering a 2-stage option. For those hoping to add a 2-stage trigger to an older firearm or even a newer model that did not offer the option, there are plenty of manufacturers offering aftermarket upgrades. Most are simple to swap and offer adjustable poundage levels for both the first and second stages. While a 2-stage trigger may not be the best option for all shooters or in every situation there are times when it can be not only fun to shoot but allow for a safer, more accurate day on the range or in the field.

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