Single Stage vs Two Stage Trigger – A 2022 Guide

| Last Updated: May 16, 2021
If you’re wondering whether to select a firearm with a single stage or a two stage trigger, you’re not alone. There’s a plethora of information regarding which triggers are best, and many sources provide you with conflicting opinions.


Ultimately, it’s a matter of personal preference, and one isn’t necessarily better than the other. This article discusses both in detail. 

It discusses some of the benefits and drawbacks of both so that you can make an informed decision when making your selection.

TL;DR: Single Stage vs Two Stage Triggers

Single Stage

Two Stage

Pros

Pros

Affordable

Quick to fire

Light trigger weight

Easy to use and commonly found

Unlikely to accidentally discharge

More precise shots

More predictable break

Allows the shooter confidence in high-tension circumstances

Cons

Cons

Potential accidental discharge when dropped

Not as fast as a single stage

Usually more expensive

Best For

Best For

Beginners and those who like a consistent pull

Competitions, Fast-Fire, and Hunting

What is a Single Stage Trigger?

Most firearms that people use come standard with a single stage trigger. It has only one breaking point, and as soon as you reach this point, it dispatches the ammunition. These triggers are generally static with no take-up or slack.

It’s called a single stage trigger because it does not have a change in weight throughout the pull.

If we look at the history of triggers, civilian weapons utilized single stage triggers as far back as the early 1900s. 

It was around this time that they produced two stage triggers for military use. Bench rest hunters or shooters often favor this type of trigger because it offers a short and quick pull and a quick reset.

Historically, you could find single stage triggers on sporting rifles and lever-action options. Today, these triggers are more common on bolt-action rifles and service arms. Most pistols use this type of trigger, and they’re more affordable than other options.

When comparing the single stage to the two stage variant, you should consider that the former is simple to use and offers a consistent break in comparison. 

Photo credit: theurbanrifleman.com

What is a Two Stage Trigger?

These types of triggers have a slightly different operating process. It has two firing phases that allow the shooter more control over when the shot will be fired. 

The first phase doesn’t fire the gun, but provides safety from accidental discharge. Once you continue, the trigger break is instant, and the weapon fires a shot. Having control over the exact time your trigger will break enhances your accuracy.

The main difference between this trigger and a single stage trigger is that once the shooter applies pressure to the trigger, they can pause midway without firing the shot. If they opt to let go of the trigger here, the trigger will reset to its original position, and the shooter can start over.

Many refer to the first stage as the pre-stage trigger. It allows the shooter to get into the zone of firing a shot and resting their finger on the trigger. When they are genuinely ready to discharge their ammunition, they apply minimal additional pressure to reach the final stage, and the trigger breaks.

Relevant Characteristics Between Single Stage and Two Stage Triggers

Spec

Single Stage

Two Stage

Pull Weight

Lighter

Heavier

Reliability

Very reliable

Very reliable

Accuracy

Accurate

Can be more accurate with practice

Comfortability

Comfortable for most

Feels unnatural at first

Ease of Use

User-friendly

Needs practice for the user to adjust

Similarities and Differences

We explained the definition of both triggers in the section above. The similarities and differences between the two might still be unclear. This part of the review highlights these aspects.

It's important to note these features as the trigger is the component that connects you to your gun. Squeezing it is the last human action before the mechanics of your weapon takes over.

Single Stage and Two Stage Trigger Differences

The differences between the two trigger types are minor but can make a significant impact on your performance. In competition shooting or even trophy hunting, being slightly off target or even a fraction of a second too slow can have disappointing results.

Photo credit: dnatactical.com

The main difference is the way it fires. The single stage has one movement, and once you pull the trigger, you can't change your mind and cancel the shot. With a two stage trigger, you have this privilege. You can add pressure to the trigger and stop when you reach the wall.

If you wish to proceed with the shot, you need to add a little more pressure. The trigger will reach the breaking point, and the bullet will be released. If you change your mind after reaching the wall, you can remove your finger from the trigger, and it’ll reset. 

The weight on a single stage trigger is consistent until you fire, whereas you can feel the difference between pre-stage and fire stage on the two stage firearm. 

Weapons aimed at precision usually come with a two stage trigger. This doesn't necessarily mean that the single stage can't produce accurate shots, but rather that the intended application for the single stage is more general.

Photo credit: thefirearmblog.com

Single Stage and Two Stage Trigger Similarities

The placement and design of the two types aren't easily discernible to the eye. They look similar, and they're located within the trigger guard.

Both triggers work well in multiple applications. They're both capable of accuracy and speed. Users of both types have to familiarize themselves with the feel of the triggers before they can use them confidently.

The two types of triggers can be found in military and law enforcement, so they're both effective for combat use. They’re also reliable, and you can adjust the weight in some cases. 

Advantages of Single Stage Trigger

The most significant advantage of a single stage trigger is its simplicity. It's ideal for small bore target work, and the trigger surprises you when it breaks. When deciding between speed and accuracy, the single stage trigger delivers at a slightly quicker pace than a two stage.

Photo credit: everydaymarksman.co

The trigger weight is relatively light and crisp. It's a good choice for those who enjoy shooting from a bench rest. Since this trigger is affordable and commonly found on most hunting rifles, it feels natural to most shooters. This comfort translates into the way you take the shot, and subsequently, the level of accuracy. 

Advantages of Two Stage Trigger

A two stage trigger allows the shooter to rest their finger on the trigger, inside the guard and apply pressure without firing off a shot. When they are ready, they can squeeze slightly harder and discharge the bullet. 

Photo credit: tactical-life.com

In this instance, the shooter knows exactly when the shot will go off. This is advantageous for high-tension situations. In circumstances where you need to be on high alert but don't want to accidentally shoot an innocent bystander, two stage triggers are incredibly helpful.

The scenario may seem farfetched to civilian gun enthusiasts, but it’s common for law enforcement agents and soldiers. These guns offer precision because the exact moment of fire is known. This is a safety precaution giving the shooter full control. 

Two stage triggers are also less likely to accidentally dispatch a shot when dropped compared to single stage triggers. This is thanks to the wall before the trigger breaks.

Bottom Line

Both triggers are excellent, and the final decision comes down to your personal preference. A single stage trigger is ideal for rapid-fire and competitions where speed is a priority. 

The two stage trigger is aimed at precision shooting and serves well in military operations. For ordinary plinking, target shooting, and sport usage, you can use either trigger and achieve optimal results.

The only way to find out which trigger works best for you is to try both out in the application of your choice and see how they fare. 

Photo credit: ar15hunter.com

People Also Ask

This article has looked at the differences between the two trigger types. Most facts regarding the topic are available in the tables above. There are common questions regarding triggers, which are listed below.

Is Glock a 2 Stage-Trigger?

The Glock trigger, much debated because of the firing pin safety attached to it. This safety mechanism blocks the firing pin from moving forward. If you squeeze this safety feature, the firing pin frees itself, and you can proceed with your shot by squeezing the trigger all the way.

Some argue that this safety mechanism makes it a two stage trigger because you can decide against discharging ammunition after pulling it. Others say that because it's a safety mechanism and not explicitly designed to be a two stage trigger, it's actually a single stage.

Can You Rapid Fire a Two Stage Trigger?

Yes, you can, but it’ll be slightly slower than a single stage. If you're competing, that fraction of a second could result in a loss.



Josh Lewis the managing editor at Gun Mann and when he isn't writing about guns he is more than likely tinkering with them. He also enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time outdoors. As a lifelong gun owner he knows his stuff!