The Case for Good AR 15 Parts

geissele ssa trigger
There seems to be a lot of people with the mistaken idea that a beginning shooter doesn’t need good quality parts on their AR-15. The reasoning seems to be that “I don’t need a gun that can shoot better than I can.” It doesn’t take long to find a lot of comments on internet forums along the lines of the barrel shoots better than I can or how many people are at such a level that hitting our target is determined by a $$$ trigger? That kind of reasoning is flawed. I’ll tell you why and make the case for good AR 15 parts, i.e. the best quality you can afford when putting together your firearm. I’ll talk about barrel accuracy issues this time, trigger issues next time, and wrap it up with reliability.

The case for the best AR 15 barrel you can afford: I’ll be the first to admit that a combat weapon doesn’t need a match grade barrel. After all, if you can shoot a 3″ group at 100 yards you can probably hit a man-sized target at 500 yards. That’s fine for a combat rifle. Big deal. If you’re reading this I’m 99% sure you’re not using your rifle as an actual combat rifle. If you’re like me, you use your AR for plinking, punching holes in paper, and maybe hunting. For plinking, 3″ groups are OK, for hunting and paper punching, not so much. A rabbit’s head is maybe 2″, and when shooting targets it’s a lot more fun if you can put all your shots in the 10 ring. So how do you get from 3″ (or 8″ – LOL) groups to something a little better? With a better barrel.

Before you say “my barrel shoots better than I do,” hear me out… Pretend you have a barrel that can shoot 3″ groups when conditions are perfect. The rifle is completely immobile, mounted in a shooting vice that’s set on a solid bench, zero wind. Next, assume that with a perfect barrel (one that shoots one-hole groups) you can shoot 3″ groups. Now, add your barrel’s best potential (3″ groups) to your best potential (3″ again) and you’ll probably be shooting 6″ groups. No matter how much you personally improve you’ll never shoot better than 3″ with that particular gun. Then, imagine the same scenario except with a barrel that can shoot 1-1/2″. Now, you’ve instantly shrunk your groups by 25% even though your barrel “shoots better than you can.”

ALG ACT Trigger – quick look

I have this rifle I put together myself. I LOVE this rifle. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It was supposed to just be a cheap date. I used the least expensive parts I could find, even if they were getting bad-mouthed in reviews. Even if they weren’t “sexy.” Even if they were kind of ugly…

Then a funny thing happened: after I got it put together it was actually a fun date. Shot pretty good too – in fact my best 10 shot group at 100 yards was a little under 2″ except for one flyer. With cheap ammo. With ME behind the trigger. Other groups were bigger due to more flyers, but the funny thing was as bad as I am with a rifle I could call the flyers as soon as the shot went off. Why? The trigger. That cheap stock trigger is gritty, the take up is like a mile long, and it “breaks” at… who knows? It feels at least 3 times as heavy as the SSA trigger in my nice rifle.

The thing is, I don’t want to spend a bunch of money on an SSA –  after all, this thing was an exercise in building a cheap rifle with the emphasis on CHEAP. On the other hand, I really want to see how good I can shoot it with a decent trigger, especially since it shows so much potential – even with ME behind that crappy stock trigger.

Enter the ALG Defense Advanced Combat Trigger (ACT). The ALG ACT trigger is a factory tuned stock trigger – nothing more. The grittiness and long take-up are gone, it breaks at a consistent 6 lbs, and it’s only $65 – about a third the cost of the favored SSA. So it’s a no-brainer, right? Order an ACT, throw away the stock trigger in my cheap rifle, and go on to shooting nirvana.

EXCEPT…

It defeats the whole purpose of my cheap rifle, and I’ve also heard that even REALLY crappy stock triggers can wear in and actually feel pretty good over time, and I want to see if mine does. If it doesn’t, I’d like to try a home trigger job to see if I can improve it without making it dangerous. Besides, I’m saving all my money for a nice Savage Arms varmint rifle. So for now the ACT is a no-go for my cheap rifle.

HOWEVER…

I have an AR-22 that I really like, but I hate the lower because it’s a color filled (WTF was I thinking???) Spike’s Spider with a trigger (an SSA) that is way too nice for that particular lower. I also have a precision build I’m doing that lacks a trigger, and a SOPMOD clone that has an SSA-E but an SSA would probably be a better choice. My plan for now is to take the SSA-E out of the SOPMOD and use it to finish my precision build, use the gawdy AR-22 lower to test the accuracy of my cheap upper, and after testing put the SSA in my SOPMOD (things can get kind of complicated when you have Black Rifle Disease). Then, after I get my varmint rig and a thousand rounds or so to go with it, I’ll get a proper 22LR roll marked lower for the AR-22, an ACT for the Spider, and slap it on to my OTHER cheap upper (which is currently sitting in the safe, unfired). So should I ACT? Yes. Will I ACT? Yes, just not quite yet. I’m looking forward to it.