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Review: Elftmann Ambidextrous Speed Safety & Elf 3-Gun Skeleton curved Trigger

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As part of my 2017 reviews, I'm going to discuss the Elftmann Ambidextrous Speed Safety & 3-Gun Skeleton curved Trigger. ELF is an innovative company bringing to the market new and unique products no one has ever seen. From their Dual trigger, ambidextrous speed safety, and use of needle bearings in their high quality drop in triggers. For this lightweight build, I looked at various options for each component with the goal of shedding as much weight as possible but also using new innovative products. When I saw the ELF safety and 3-Gun skeleton trigger I knew I had come across the right components. Engineering components to surpass tried and proven Mil-Spec parts is not only expensive but bold. ELF products are engineered to surpass standards and improve them, this is why I choose to review these products and use them on my own rifle.

 

AR-15 / AR-10 Ambidextrous Speed Safety: The design of this safety is anything unlike I have ever seen before on the AR15 platform. Functionally it is identical to any Mil-Spec safety, but operationally it is quite different. A standard rotating safety lever on a semi-auto AR15 platform consists of two operating modes, safe and fire (Full auto is not standard on AR15). There are a lot of manufacturers offering rotating ambidextrous safety levers with different style levers. Some of these selectors require additional hardware to complete install. In addition in the event a lever becomes loose, it requires disassembling the receivers to access a small fastener on the selector. Personally, adding complexity to a simple component with additional torx or hex screws, and use of additional tools is not desirable in my opinion. The traditional one piece rotating safety selector is simple and works well for many with a single limitation, ambidextrous operation. I use a one piece safety on my other rifles. This ELF safety fills a gap which does not exist.

 

ELF is one piece, light weight design, with an "ambidextrous" type operation. A caveat, I do not consider this a true ambidextrous safety, you simply cannot switch between operating modes using just one side of the safety. This type of safety selector is known as a cross bolt safety, it is popular on lever action hunting rifles and some pistols. It is easy to engage into a spirited debate about the use of cross bolt safety in hunting rifles. The half-cocked, locked/unlocked, chamber loaded/unloaded debate all has merits and arguments for use of a cross bolt safety. The AR15 platforms use of a detented safety minimizes some of the debate topics. The obvious argument is it is inherently less safe if you accidentally bump the selector or lay it on the ground and it changes selector position since there is no recessed protection built into a lower receiver. I tested this theory myself and while it is impossible to replicate every scenario, not once did the ELF safety change positions on me. Keep in mind the same spring tension of a rotating safety selector applies to this cross bolt safety. One can surmise a rotating safety selector just as easily can get caught on something, especially some of these enhanced safety levers which are more prominent. Of course anything is possible and accidents can happen, it is the operators’ responsibility to make sure their weapons are stored and operated properly to mitigate accidents. ELF safety comes with a custom detent which is shaped slightly different at the tip with a more rounded profile. With this detent and a new spring, it makes it virtually impossible to graze the selector and accidentally change positions. It has a very tactile feedback when switching positions from the CNC machined detent groves in the selector. From my experience, there is enough tension to provide the operator the ability to switch positions without exerting unnecessary force. On the other hand, it is stiff enough to prevent switching positions with a light bump or accidental tap. Safety concern over amount of force required can be modified with an easy fix, changing a worn grip safety spring, higher tension spring or even a simple spacer between the spring and detent. After using this safety for some time, I like the feel and amount of force required to change positions, no modification required.

 

It is important to understand the intended purpose of ELF speed safety to determine if this is the right safety for your rifle, the emphasis being “speed”. The primary advantage is intuitive operation, for 3-Gun competition, speed is just as critical as a lightweight configuration. For a right handed shooter, it is quick and easy to switch to fire position without removing your trigger finger by simply pressing your thumb against the safety. Similar to a standard AR15 rotating safety lever, it is tailored to right handed shooters in my opinion. I can see if there is enough interest, ELF might possibly be able to CNC a left handed version but I’m just speculating so don’t hold me to it. Typical cross bolt safeties like I have on my Marlin and I’ve seen on my friends shotguns, fire mode is actually in the opposite direction compared to the AR15 platform. ELF likely intentionally did not intend for their safety to operate in the conventional orientation I assume. It is actually a huge benefit for 3-Gun right handed shooters to orient the fire position the way they did. The intuitive operation of a right handed shooter when they are done firing is to remove the index finger away from the trigger, naturally moving the index finger to hit the ELF safety to the safe position makes perfect sense. It is very simple and intuitive once you get the hang of it and it becomes muscle memory. I took me very little time to adapt from lever operation to push button and honestly it makes more sense than lever orientation position to me.

 

ELF ambidextrous speed safety is made 100% here in the USA and CNC out of A2 Tool hardened steel. It comes in both a stainless and black oxide finish. It only weighs 0.35oz. ELF includes a custom detent which is rounded compared to the standard detent at the tip. This allows for quick smooth operation when switching between modes. If there is one gripe I have is this detent is not a standard detent, I wouldn’t go as far as to call it proprietary but in one respect it is for proper operation of the selector. I understand it is engineered to a specific geometry to allow for smooth operation, but it puts the burden on the operator to purchase a specific spare detent in the event it gets lost or becomes damaged. There is a red o-ring on the right side which is a quick indicator the selector is in the fire position when it is exposed. You can remove the o-ring or change it to a different color to suit your preference. This ELF safety selector is compatible with any Mil-Spec receiver and ELF provides a lifetime guarantee so they stand behind this product.

 

Picking the right safety selector is a subjective process given there is so many options. Selecting a safety selector for an intended purpose and application narrows the options further. The standard rotating safety selector is fantastic option I personally prefer over ambidextrous selectors for most of my rifles, but for my lightweight competition rifle, ELF wins hands down from my experience. This ELF safety after using it frequently and each trip to the range has grown on me. Getting used to a cross bolt safety can be confusing at first, especially if your muscle memory is expecting a rotating safety selector. Given how intuitive it is, adapting takes no time. I wouldn't personally use this in a duty or combat weapon, but for a competition rifle it is a clear winner hands down for speed and intuitiveness. Whether it fits your application or not, consider this another option when building an AR15.

 

ELF 3-Gun Trigger: I'm a huge fan of single stage triggers and quality triggers in general. The first upgrade on all my firearms is the trigger. From my 1911 C&S match trigger, Ghost for my Glocks, to Timney skeleton trigger and others on my rifles and pistols, it is an essential upgrade which changes your shooting experience. This is one of the single most important upgrades an operator can make to help improve the operation and accuracy of the weapon. I always caution my friends, you can go cheap on other components if you don't want to spend money, but don't skimp out on the trigger. Once they shoot my weapons they turn into believers. There are single and two-stage trigger options to choose from. Drop in triggers, which are fully self-contained, or the traditional three piece with springs type. It is purely subjective and comes down to a matter of personal preference. Most triggers are set to a specific pull weight anywhere from 1.5lbs and up, without the ability to make any weight adjustments easily. These fixed aftermarket triggers can be possibly tuned by bending springs or changing springs if the manufacturer offers a stiffer rated version. I do not recommend bending springs or grinding down on fire control group components for safety reasons among others unless you are an experienced gun smith and know what you are doing. The best option is to purchase a trigger which offers a weight adjustment like ELF, it provides the operator the ability to tune the pull weight to their liking, or buy a trigger with a predefined specific pull weight. This ELF 3-Gun trigger fit every criteria I was looking for, single stage, light weight, adjustable pull weight and manufactured here in the USA with a lifetime warranty.

 

The ELF 3-Gun skeleton trigger not only aesthetically looks pleasing, it also performs as advertised. This is a true drop in trigger which means easy install for both expert to novice operators. To better understand what sets this trigger apart from the competitors, I will discuss what to look for in a quality trigger and how it relates to this trigger.

 

Pull weight is the first advertised spec you will likely see next to trigger stage. Similar to trigger stage, pull weight is subjective and personal preference with arguments on both sides about weight and application. Pull weight is the amount of pressure, measured usually in pounds, required to fire the weapon by disengaging the sear which includes pre-travel. ELF 3-Gun trigger has an adjustable hex screw which allows the operator to adjust the pull weight anywhere from 2.75lbs to 4lbs. It is rare to find a drop in trigger with this capability. The hex screw does not require any thread locker, adjustment is very easy without requiring disassembly of the trigger. After making adjustments to the screw I noticed there is what appears to be some type of thread compound on the screw preventing it from easily going out of adjustment. ELF provides a hex wrench with the trigger, simply remove the take down pin, pivot the upper receiver, and you have access to the adjuster screw from top. I made incremental adjustments of about 1/2 turn, I found the sweet spot on the lighter side just less than 3lbs. I used a Lyman digital pull gauge to measure advertised pull weight, it was spot on the advertised weight. Although not necessary, I added dab of low strength thread locker on last visible thread where the screw meets the body for added insurance since I don’t plan to make any more adjustments. The pull weight felt very consistent throughout the day and follow up sessions. Set it and forget it, that is how consistent the ELF trigger is.

 

Part of the Pull weight is pre-travel which contains a subset of steps or events before the weapon fires. Trigger take-up or slack is the amount of movement the trigger travels before you feel resistance. This is a highly undesirable event in a single stage trigger. Unlike a two-stage trigger which contains a predefined first stage travel, in a single stage, this unwanted travel serves no purpose. A high quality trigger should have zero take-up. Comparing a standard three piece Mil-Spec trigger, which has a fair amount of take-up is not fair, ELF 3-Gun trigger has no take-up what so ever I can feel or measure. This means you are right at the wall of the trigger. The wall is where you first feel resistance of the sear after the take-up step is completed. Following the wall is trigger creep, operators often reference the feel as a "gritty trigger". It is impossible to be 100% creep free, even on the best trigger due to the AR15 trigger design. The goal is to minimize the creep as much as possible while maintaining smooth motion of travel. Creep is movement of the sear which causes engagement of the mainspring. The gritty feeling from a low quality trigger is actually due to trigger stacking and stepping. This occurs when the resistance required reaching the break point increases as a result of poorly manufactured components. The surface, shape and angles of the sear and hammer all affect the perceivable stacking and steps of a quality trigger. ELF 3-Gun trigger has no stacking or steps, so creep is very smooth as one would expect from a match quality trigger. Without instrumentation, there is no easy way to measure creep distance, it is virtually impossible to measure by feel alone on this ELF trigger, it must be anywhere from 0-1mm at most given the CNC precision and tolerance of this trigger. Trigger break ensues creep, the sear has released the hammer and bang goes the gun. A "clean crisp" break is reference to a break with no noticeable creep or ill effects of staking or stepping. I have many high quality triggers and the ELF in my opinion is by far at the top of that list.

 

Commencing trigger break is over-travel, it is the distance a trigger travels after the break, before it stops. This is yet another undesirable event which serves no purpose. There needs to be a certain amount of over-travel to release the sear, however on a quality trigger excess over-travel is minimized as close as possible to zero. This becomes very evident if you have ever modified a trigger control connector on a Glock by sanding and honing it down just enough to clear the sear to prevent any over-travel. It is a tedious slow process, but with patience, the end result is a Glock with zero excess over-travel. ELF does not have a trigger stop adjuster and it does not need one, the mechanical trigger stop is very close to sear release point. Unlike some weapons where the rear of the trigger well is the stop point, ELF does not suffer from any noticeable excess over-travel from my experience. The measurement would be on par with creep, requiring precision instrumentation to measure the likely 0-1mm over-travel. This makes the ELF 3-Gun a great trigger which does not hinder quick follow up shots and accuracy. I have modified all my Glock triggers, I’m pleased, like my 1911 with a match trigger, this Elf trigger performs just as well out the box so I don’t have any excess over-travel to be concerned with.

 

Trigger reset is another area ELF 3-Gun shines since it is designed for speed. Reset is critical for fast follow up shots. Trigger reset is the step following over-travel by releasing the trigger the opposite direction to re-engage the sear. On a high quality trigger, this is not only tactile but audible, the operator feels the reset to allow for quick follow up shots. Clearly how audible it is won't matter during successive shooting, but the tactile feedback is critical once you get a feel for the reset and behavior of the trigger. ELF has a quick snappy reset which is perfect for competition shooting. The feedback is very pronounced and designed this way for 3-Gun competition operators. The reset distance I measured is within ~2mm, it is the shortest reset I have experienced on an AR15 trigger which sets this trigger apart from the pack. Successive follow up shots with this trigger at the range prompted the range master to ask me if I was on full auto, once I showed him the trigger and let him shoot my rifle he was nothing but impressed about how well the trigger performed. Accurate successive shots during a timed match is critical.

 

Unlike most AR15 triggers, ELF 3-Gun contains a 100% drop-safe safety stop which is advertised on their website. This is attained with the extra notch in the hammer which allows the sear to catch in the event the rifle is accidentally dropped or bump fired. Not sure why more manufacturers don't add this additional half-cocked safety feature, it does not engage under normal operation, it is just an added layer of safety if the hammer slips off the sear accidentally. I can only assume cost is the primary factor but it is a welcome enhancement in my opinion. ELF states regardless of trigger weight, the drop-safety will function. I see this feature being very beneficial for lower pull weight settings. I did not test this function during live fire sessions, but I give credence to the claim. However, in my youtube video you can see where I tested the drop-safe safety sear by lightly pulling on the trigger just enough to simulate how this safety feature works.

 

A highlighted key design feature of ELF 3-Gun trigger is use of Aerospace grade sealed needle bearings. These bearing help minimize friction for the smoothest and fastest possible operation. This is the only trigger on the market utilizing Aerospace grade bearings I’m aware of. There is no doubt the trigger action feels smooth, the bearings likely attribute to this factor. This leads to faster and more accurate follow up shots, which is the big selling point of this trigger. The full power hammer spring and skeletonized hammer is a big part of the fast lock time, which is a contributing factor for the performance this trigger offers. I generally shoot NATO 5.56 XTAC and a variety of other match ammo loads, ELF 3-Gun trigger reliably regardless of load fired off each round without any hiccups. I have so far put about 1000 rounds through this rifle and never had a single misfire or odd primer markings. It has been consistent from the first round to the last.

 

The housing is made of aircraft grade 6061 aluminum. Incredibly it only weights ~2oz, which is a big factor for a low mass 3-Gun build. The Trigger housing is anodized while the trigger components receive an oxide coating. The trigger is manufactured via Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM). This process allows them to make the unique skeleton hammer and other components with such high tolerances. EDM process is used to manufacture extremely hard materials where conventional CNC machines do not cut it. It is used in Aerospace and Electronics industry to name a few. All the laser work is done in house on the trigger. The double/double wound proprietary hammer spring is also manufactured in house. The only parts ELF does not produce themselves are the bearings, small screws and small springs. The face of the trigger lever is notched across, it provides a positive contact feel and helps retain feedback when wearing a glove. ELF offers both standard and large pin models to fit any lower receiver. It comes in both a straight and curved model to suit your preference and all of these products are Patent pending. Personally I like to shoot without gloves, on cold days when I wear gloves the notches on the lever face prevent any slipping feeling and gives me more confidence. I like the curved trigger for aesthetic reasons on this specific rifle I built, but I also have a flat lever trigger so it just comes down to preference. The skeleton hammer is very unique, I have not personally seen another like it even though I have another high end skeleton trigger, only the lever is skeleton. The skeleton hammer likely attributes to the light weight design.

 

Install is very similar to other drop in triggers, there is an install guide with lots of pictures which comes with the trigger, it is also available to download on the ELF website. The trigger does not come with pins, you can use standard Mil-Spec style 0.154” pins without any issues. This worked out great in my case because of the light weight Titanium pins I wanted to use anyway, rather than being forced into using proprietary pins like another drop in trigger I own. ELF offers their own version of anti-walk pins if you want to go that route. Make sure to follow the instructions carefully, specifically the pull weight adjuster. If you adjust too light, the disconnector will not release the hammer, too tight the trigger will just not fire. ELF provides a thin steel floor plate to protect your lower receiver against the set screws, it is a good option for aluminum receivers to protect the frame, but I opted to leave it out. In my opinion it is more suited for those using polymer receivers. With any lower receivers there will be slight differences in the trigger well, hammer and trigger pin location even though they are made to Mil-spec standards. I noticed with just a few of the receivers I have from different manufacturers and manufacturing style such as billet and forged, the difference was anywhere from 1-3mm from the top of the receiver to the center of the pin holes and thickness of the trigger wall. That said, it is important to understand not all drop in triggers will work as advertised because of these tolerances in the lower receiver. I had an issue with the ELF drop safety sear bulge on the hammer contacting the trigger well wall as the hammer resets past the disconnector. I called Steve at ELF and he was great about giving me suggestions to try during install and sent out a replacement trigger immediately. Later I found the problem to be the trigger wall in this specific lower receiver, I put some masking tape on the wall and found out where the bulge was contacting the trigger well wall. I end up shaving about 1.5mm with my Dermel where this bulge was contacting the wall. Once the drop safety sear cleared this wall the hammer properly reset past the disconnector and I was in business. I put the ELF trigger in my Billet lower receiver which is precision CNC to spec, the drop safety bulge cleared the trigger well wall without issues, it goes to show just a few mm’s during manufacturing will make a difference in fit. After I reported my findings to Steve the following week, he mentioned this drop safety bulge would be looked at and possibly reduced in size to fit in receivers of various tolerances. Steve stated ELF tests every single trigger in a lower receiver for fit before shipping, there is a high probability you will not have the same issues I ran into, but if you run into this same issue you can bet your trigger well wall is out of spec. There are two options if you run into this issue, one is to modify the lower receiver, the other is to modify and shave down the drop safety sear bulge. I choose to modify the receiver because I did not want to change or affect the integrity of the hammer in any manner. In the end it was a very easy fix, more so it is eye opening given all these lower receivers are supposed to be “Mil-Spec”, however manufacturers deviate from the standard by a few mm’s during manufacturing. For a precision weapon this is unacceptable, but also to be expected since these lowers come from various manufacturers.

 

You can't talk about a high quality trigger without mentioning ELF. The website states:

 

"The amazingly short takeup, glass-rod crisp break and next to zero over-travel can be compared to the finest custom 1911 triggers"

 

Owning a highly modified 1911 with a match 3lb trigger which I reviewed in the past, I completely agree. ELF trigger is hands down the best AR15 trigger I have personally used. I asked Steve what inspired this trigger design and his response:

 

“New signature difference in our triggers is the bearings...inspired by the fact that anything that needs to rotate smoothly uses bearings - Art Elftmann simply applied that concept to triggers and the result is the most amazing trigger you will ever feel in an AR platform.”

 

I also asked what other products ELF was going to release and his response:

 

“Elftmann Tactical is an innovator and there are many exciting new products on the horizon.”

 

A huge praise is this trigger like the ambidextrous speed safety is made 100% in the USA and come with a lifetime guarantee. You can see the trend in my reviews, I review American made products manufactured here in the USA. ELF products are a fine example of great Engineering, and manufacturing here in the states. As you can expect with any high quality product, there is a premium price to be paid, which in my opinion is well worth it for these ELF components. I've had the pleasure of using this trigger and speed safety for some time now and I'm very pleased with the performance of both. If you are considering a high quality single stage trigger look no further than ELF.

 

Youtube Video Link:

https://youtu.be/27rImzsu06o

 

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Edited by jetspeedz

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Very cool writeup!

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These are two great products. I have the trigger installed on a build I did a couple years ago and the safety on another I did shortly afterwards. Elftmann Tactical makes some very good quality products.

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Thanks, I appreciate the feedback. In doing an in depth review it helps educate operators of the product and should answer most questions. Facts take longer to vet than opinion and I try to keep to the facts as much as possible. Glad you guys enjoyed it. The users on this forum are certainly more polite and appreciative.

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Nice job !

 

Thank you.

 

John

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