For the first time ever, I’ve collected data on what triggers the best precision rifle shooters in the country are running! There are some innovative designs out there I wasn’t even aware of until this data came out. Very interesting stuff!
I recently surveyed the top 100 shooters in the Precision Rifle Series (PRS), and this year I included a question to capture what trigger these elite shooters were using in 2015. The PRS tracks how top competitors place in major rifle matches across the country. These are the major leagues of sniper-style competitions, with targets typically from 300 to 1200 yards. These world-class shooters represent the best of the best in terms of long-range shooting in field conditions. For more info on the Precision Rifle Series and who these guys are, or to view what other gear they’re running scroll to the bottom of this article.
Best Rifle Trigger
For the first time ever, I gathered information on what triggers the top shooters were using. The results were very interesting! I expected to see a large number of Jewell and Timney triggers, and I wasn’t disappointed. But there were several other triggers represented, and a few of those seem to have new innovative designs. But first, let’s start by looking at which triggers were represented and which were the most popular:
The Jewell Hunter Varmint Rifle (HVR) Trigger was the most popular trigger … by far! Almost 50% of the top 100 shooters were running a Jewell trigger. This was no surprise to those of us who’ve been around precision rifles for any length of time. For those unfamiliar, many view the Jewell trigger as the gold standard for bolt action precision rifles. So if you’re reading this wondering what trigger to buy and money is no object … many (if not most) of the pros would say a Jewell is the finest made. The Jewell HVR trigger typically retails for $240-250.
The Jewell HVR trigger is a single-stage trigger, and like most bolt-action trigger upgrades it is in a completely self-contained module. The HVR model includes a safety, unlike the Jewell BR trigger designed for the Benchrest crowd. The safety is similar to a factory Remington safety and the trigger also features a factory-style bolt release. The pull weight is adjustable from 3.5 pounds all the way down to just 1.5 ounces. There are models available for Remington 700/40x and Winchester Model 70 actions, as well as custom actions based on those patterns.
The Jewell design spares no expense, with complete high grade stainless steel construction. All internal components are CNC machined from 440 stainless steel, then heat-treated to Rockwell 58 for extended service life. The side plates are 330 stainless steel.
One attractive feature of the Jewell trigger for many shooters is the ability to easily adjust the trigger externally, without the need to remove the barreled action from the stock or chassis. Adjustment screws are fitted with a nylon insert to maintain your trigger settings without using thread locking compounds.
Timney Triggers were the 2nd most popular brand, with 19 shooters choosing one to run one of their triggers. Unlike Jewell, Timney doesn’t just have a one-size-fits-all approach. They have several models to choose from. I thought there may be shooters using different models, so if they were running a Timney I had a follow-up question to see which specific model they were running. Here is the breakdown:
Most of the guys running Timney Triggers were using the Timney Calvin Elite Trigger, which is a newer design with a lot of modern features. First, it includes a Carbo Nitride Coating, which is an advanced thermochemical process that results in coating that is “substantially harder than hardened tool steel and increases the long-term wear, provides exceptional corrosion resistance, far surpassing the military salt water corrosion standards and increases lubricity to your trigger.” (according to Timney)
The Timney Calvin Elite is adjustable from 2.5 lbs. all the way down to 8 ounces. The internals of the Calvin Elite Trigger are made from A2 tool steel, heat-treated to Rockwell 58, and features Teflon-nickel coatings. Sears are wire EDM cut, and triggers are CNC machined. The lightweight 6061-T6 aluminum housings are CNC machined and anodized. The trigger carries the name of Timney’s long-time trigger designer, Calvin Motley, and represents the pinnacle of Timney trigger designs. The Timney Calvin Elite Trigger typically costs $220.
The Timeny 510 trigger is a time-proven trigger that many consider a very high-value trigger, at $120-140. It features a 3/8” wide shoe, which is wider than the narrow blade design on some triggers and may improve feel and control. Pull weight can be adjusted from 4 lbs. down to 1.5 lbs. Some shooters prefer to run triggers lighter than 1.5 lbs., but that wouldn’t be an option with the Timney 510.
The Timney 517 trigger is identical to the 510, with the exception of a straight shoe. That may seem a little strange, but it is one of those things that some guys love and some guys hate. I’d just say don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Some benchrest shooters prefer this type of trigger, and claim that it gives more precise finger contact.
Jewell and Timney combined to represent the lion’s share of triggers used by the top 100 shooters. 66% of those guys were running either a Jewell or a Timney. But, there are still a lot of other triggers represented in the remaining 1/3 that are very diverse and interesting designs. I’ll quickly summarize those:
Accuracy International Trigger
The 3rd most popular brand of triggers was Accuracy International, with 10 shooters out of the top 100 using it. The Accuracy International trigger is a 2 stage trigger that comes standard on AI-built rifles. If you were to buy this OEM trigger by itself, it looks to be priced at $489. At almost twice the price of a Jewell … it must be a pretty amazing trigger!
Huber Concepts Trigger
7 shooters in the top 100 were using a Huber Concepts Trigger. Huber Concepts makes both single stage and two stage triggers. 3 shooters specifically said they were using one of the two stage triggers, but the others didn’t specify which they used. The 2 stage pull weight can be set from 5 pounds down to 1.5 pounds, and the single stage can be set from 5 pounds down to 1 pound. One big difference is the Huber Concept trigger is NOT an adjustable trigger. You essentially have the option to choose a pull weight in 0.5 pound increments when you order the trigger, and it’ll be set to that from the factory … but cannot be adjusted by the user. Huber Concepts uses a patented anti-friction ball design, and you can learn more about that and other details about their trigger in this video review. These triggers are priced at $395-420, depending on the finish.
4 shooters were using a Shilen Trigger, including one shooter in the top 10. Honestly, this was the first I’d heard of Shilen triggers. Shilen’s standard trigger’s pull weight is adjustable from 1.5 to 3 pounds. Unlike most of the other triggers in this list, it doesn’t come with a safety (but you can use one from an existing Remington trigger). This trigger retails for $100-150, depending on finish.
Tubb 700 Trigger (T7T)
3 shooters were using the Tubb T7T Two-Stage Trigger. I read a good article on the T7T trigger in Long Range Magazine, and like most things David Tubb creates … it’s well thought-out. Overall pull weight is adjustable from 3.5 pounds to less than 1 pound, all with generous sear engagement for safety. The 1st and 2nd stages are independently adjustable for weight and feel. David has published a video showing the highlights of the T7T trigger. The Tubb T7T trigger retails for $385.
Tuned Remington Trigger
2 shooters were using a tuned version of the factory Remington trigger, including 1 shooter who finished in the top 10. People typically prefer the “old-style” Remington 700 triggers for this. Like the Remington 700 action, it’s a very well-known component that many gunsmiths are very familiar with, and comfortable adjusting and cleaning up.
Desert Tech Trigger
2 shooters were using a Desert Tech trigger. This is the “high quality match trigger” that is included in their full Desert Tech rifle builds. It is a single-stage trigger set to 3 pounds at the factory, but Desert Tech does say that it is “fully adjustable.” I don’t believe you can purchase this trigger as a stand-alone component.
Bix’n Andy Trigger
1 shooter in the top 100 was using a Bix’n Andy trigger, but it wasn’t just any shooter … it was Joe Walls who finished #2 overall. This was trigger I wasn’t familiar with, but it looks very interesting. It features a unique ball bearing mechanism that allows for trigger pull weight adjustments from 1.5 pounds down to just 1 ounce. The consistency of the trigger break is within 0.03 ounce! The upward force on the top sear is the lowest in the industry. BulletCentral.com says that the let-off on this trigger is so crisp and consistent that it never fails to amaze shooters who have become accustomed to the world’s next leading brands like the Jewell. Not only was the Bix’n Andy represented by the #2 PRS Shooter, Bix’n Andy triggers were in the winner’s circle at the latest NBRSA Nationals and the 2013 Benchrest World Championships in Australia. It seems like a really clever design that some shooters at the highest levels are running. This trigger runs around $375.
X-Treme Shooting Trigger
1 shooter was running the CG X-Treme Trigger from X-Treme Shooting. This is a two-stage trigger. The travel and weight of the 1st stage is adjustable, and the pull weight of the 2nd stage can be adjusted from 3.5 pounds down to approximately 10 ounces. There are versions available with a safety (as shown below). This trigger runs $330-$350.
Other “What The Pros Use” Articles
This post was one of a series of posts that look at the equipment the top PRS shooters use. Check out these other posts:
- Calibers & Cartridges
- Scopes & Reticles
- Rifle Actions
- Rifle Chassis & Stocks
- Rifle Suppressors & Muzzle Brakes
- Shooting Bags
- Bullets, Brass, Primers & Powders
- Special Bonus Post!
Meet The Pros
You know NASCAR? Yes, I’m talking about the racing-cars-in-a-circle NASCAR. Before NASCAR, there were just a bunch of unaffiliated, regional car races. NASCAR brought structure by unifying those races, and created the idea of a season … and an overall champion. NASCAR identified the top races across the country (that were similar in nature), then combined results and ranked competitors. The Precision Rifle Series (PRS) is like NASCAR, but for rifle matches.
The PRS is a championship style point series race based on the best precision rifle matches nationwide. PRS matches are recognized as the major league of sniper-style rifle matches. These matches aren’t shot from a bench or even on a square range. They feature practical, real-world field conditions, and even some improvised barricades and obstacles to increase the difficulty from hard to you-have-to-be-kidding-me. You won’t be able to take all shots from a prone position, and time stressors keep you from getting to comfortable. Typical target ranges are from 300 to 1200 yards, but each PRS match has a unique personality with creative stages that challenge different aspects of precision shooting. You might start off the day with a single cold bore shot on a small target at 400 yards, then at the next stage make a 1400 yard shot through 3 distinct winds across a canyon, then try to hit a golf ball on a string at 164 yards with no backstop to help you spot misses (can’t make that up), then see how many times you can ring an small 6” target at 1000 yards in 30 seconds, next shoot off a roof top at 10”, 8”, and 6” targets at 600 yards, followed by a speed drill on 1” targets at 200 yards and repeated at 7 yards … plus 10 other stages, and then come back tomorrow and do some more! Many stages involve some type of gaming strategy, and physical fitness can also come into play. For a shooter to place well in multiple matches, they must be an extremely well-rounded shooter who is capable of getting rounds on target in virtually any circumstance.
There are about 15 national-level PRS matches each year. At the end of the year the match scores are evaluated and the top ranked shooters are invited to compete head-to-head in the PRS Championship Match. We surveyed the shooters who qualified for the championship, asking all kinds of questions about the equipment they ran that season. This is a great set of data, because 100 shooters is a significant sample size, and this particular group are experts among experts. It includes guys like George Gardner (President/Senior Rifle Builder of GA Precision), Wade Stuteville of Stuteville Precision, Jim See of Center Shot Rifles, Matt Parry of Parry Custom Gun, Aaron Roberts of Roberts Precision Rifles, shooters from the US Army Marksmanship Unit, and many other world-class shooters.
Think of the best shooter you know … it’s actually very unlikely that person is good enough to break into the top 100. I know I’m not! I competed against a few of these guys for the first time earlier this year, and I was humbled. It’s incredible what these guys can do with a rifle. For example, the match in Oklahoma I was in had a station that required you to engage 4 steel targets scattered at random distances from 300 to 800 yards, and you only had 15 seconds! I think I hit 2, and rushed my 3rd shot. I didn’t even get the 4th shot off! But, one of these guys cleaned that stage with 4 seconds to spare! Yep, he got 4 rounds on target at distance in 11 seconds. That’s the caliber of shooter we’re talking about. It’s very different from benchrest or F-class competitions, but make no mistake … these guys are serious marksmen.