March 01, 2012
Rifle School: How Double-Stage Triggers Work
By David E. Petzal
In my post of February 22 on the new Weatherby Vanguard Series 2, I mentioned that Weatherby had given it a double-stage trigger, and blogger Ripper III asked, what’s the advantage to such a thing? Good question.
People who design triggers have to come up with a mechanism that does two contradictory things. It has to have sufficient sear engagement (there has to be enough contact between the sear and the trigger) so that it won’t slam fire, fail to cock, or go off at a mere touch, because when these things happen product-liability lawyers and television news reporters come running.
But if you have enough sear engagement to prevent all of these things, you end up with a heavy, draggy, creepy trigger pull. For more than 20 years, American rifle makers were so frightened by accidental-discharge lawsuits, that the triggers they turned out were, nearly without exception, heavy, draggy, and creepy.
There did not seem to be a solution until 2002 when Savage came up with the AccuTrigger, which modernized an old type of trigger design--the double-stage pull. A double-stage trigger requires two separate “pulls,” or mechanical actions, before the sear can release the firing pin. To oversimplify things, it means that the sear is held at two points instead of one, and unless both are released, the rifle can’t go bang.
It also means that the second stage of the pull can be smooth, light, and crisp without the chance of an accidental discharge. The double-stage trigger was ignored by civilian designers for all those years because it was unfashionable. During the decades when Springfields, Mausers, and Enfields were sporterized by the pallet-load, the first thing a gunsmith would do was convert the double-stage trigger to single-stage. A great many fine trigger pulls were lost that way. I have a sporterized ’03 Springfield with the two-stage trigger left intact. Its owner was a very accomplished gunsmith who could easily have altered it, but he sensibly left it alone, and none of the many, many deer he took with it seemed to mind.
A double-stage pull is not a guarantee of a good trigger. I’ve shot plenty of military rifles with rotten double-stage triggers, and I’ve hauled on some truly mediocre specimens among the new crop of civilian double-stage triggers. If the design is not sound, or if the trigger is shoddily made, it will be a poor pull, regardless.
But the good ones are really good.