Binary Triggers: Do They Have A Legitimate Use?

Okay, so this one is a bit controversial, but hear me out first.

Binary Triggers: What Are They?

Binary triggers are range toys. Or, at least they were originally meant as such. From the very beginning they were created as a way to ‘get around’ the ’86 machine gun registry closing. Since the ATF determined that a trigger being released is a ‘function’ in addition to a trigger being pulled, that means that a normal pull & release trigger cycle is at least two separate ‘functions’. If your trigger fires a round upon a pull and the release, the weapon is not a machine gun as per the National Firearms Act. A user can increase their average manual rate of fire up to around what the gun could handle if it were a full auto, with practice (foreshadowing).

Binary triggers were always intended as a way to approximate full auto without running into any NFA issues. Binary triggers were never actually intended to be anything but a range toy, like a bump stock, but less clunky and goofy.

Is Full Auto Beneficial in a Civilian Context?

Not really, from what I can tell. Full disclosure, I am not a military vet or police officer. Never have and, given the current circumstances of both, probably never will be. I say that so my comments are taken in the correct context. I have never used full auto in anger nor training, but from talking to those who have I get the distinct impression that it is generally most appropriate for applications that do not fall within the realm of a civilian defender.

I obviously believe that regular Joes like you & me should have the option to purchase whatever we can afford. I just don’t think that my home defense gun will be used to pin down an opponent so that another element can maneuver on them and take them out. That’s not defendable in a court of law in 2021. So, what exactly is it that I find so interesting about a janky version of a concept that isn’t even useful for me? To go there, we need to rehash a little history first…

What was Project SALVO?

That’s a long question, but suffice it to say that it was a decades-long project that the US military undertook with the goal of making the standard grunt more effective with no more training than they were currently providing. As you can imagine, it did not meet that goal, although a ton of good stuff came out of it like the AR15 itself! If you want to learn more about one of SALVO’s spinoff projects, you can do so here.

What does SALVO have to do with binary triggers?

Well, the main thrust of SALVO ended up being ‘more bullets downrange faster’. And isn’t that what binary triggers also do? The same could be said for bump stocks, but they shaking/rattling/jostling of a bump stock cycling makes them wildly inaccurate, and making a gun lass accurate is a complete non-starter for a legitimate defensive use gun. The same is not necessarily true of a binary trigger though.

A binary trigger’s first pull is just like a normal gun’s trigger pull. The binary aspects of a binary trigger do not hamper it’s use as a normal trigger. The first shot out of a gun with a binary trigger will be just as accurate as the first shots out of a normal gun, all else being equal. The difference is that it lets you cut your split times in half with no extra training, in theory. In reality, the split times are unlikely to be truly in half. Learning to use the binary trigger will take a little bit of getting used to. These are all small potatoes compared to the potential upside: A binary trigger allows a person to get more shots off faster. Period.

John Correia of Active Self Protection hammers home the point again and again that the first good shot usually determines the fight. A binary trigger, used with discipline, should allow a civilian defender to put more rounds downrange faster and with a minimal loss of accuracy, if any loss at all.

Think about it. Defensive trainers since the 80’s have been teaching to shoot “controlled pairs” or “hammer pairs”. Practical shooting competitions almost always require two hits anywhere on the target to count as an eliminated target. More accurate rounds on target faster has always been a goal of real-world training. The binary facilitates this idea and makes it easier to achieve.

Optimal Application of a Binary Trigger

I think that the binary trigger would confer the most benefit to a PCC. Submachine guns are not effective because they are chambered in pistol rounds, they’re effective because they are full auto. A binary trigger does not give a gun the ability to go cyclic, but it allows the user to get more lead downrange quickly, thereby somewhat replicating the thing that makes subguns actually useful.

I don’t want to be misinterpreted here. I’m not saying that binary triggers aren’t useful and beneficial in ARs and other rifles. I think that a single round out of a rifle is much more effective than a single round out of a pistol or PCC, so the benefit of a binary trigger is not as apparent when placed in a rifle. I do think that super-fast double taps from an AR sounds attractive, though.

Downsides of a Binary Trigger

These aren’t to be brushed aside without consideration. When talking about a weapon that will be called upon to save your life and the lives of your family, serious thought needs to be given to every aspect and detail. Putting a binary trigger into a defensive gun does have its drawbacks.

The first and most obvious is cost. Franklin Armory has binaries listed on their website starting at $300 and going up to almost $700, depending on what model of gun you’re buying it for. This is pretty standard industry-wide in my experience.

The next drawback is sort of a hypothetical. Really this whole post is a hypothetical, but this part is specifically even more so. If you actually used a gun with a binary on a person in a justified use of force and had to go to court, the presence of what most of the industry considers a range novelty will probably not work in your favor. Maybe you could get your lawyer to spin it as “Look your honor, this is obviously a range toy. It has a binary trigger! No serious murderer would put one of those in his gun! This is obviously a case of my client being surprised at home and grabbing the closest weapon to defend himself, which happened to have a binary trigger in it.” This really is just an extension of the “modified firearms will put you in prison for life!” argument that I personally don’t believe in (not that a prosecutor won’t try whatever they can), but I would be remiss to not include it. A binary trigger is not necessarily the same as custom slide milling or choosing hollowpoints. At the same time, a binary being generally considered a novelty could very well work against you. Be warned.

The last downside is one of legality. Bumpstocks got made illegal with only a few weeks’ notice, and that was by a republican president! Binary triggers can easily be made illegal overnight with no recourse to the owner. As of writing it’s not likely to happen soon (I don’t hear people talking about it on TV), but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen eventually. Not only does that suck from a financial perspective, but smoking a home invader with a federally banned weapon wouldn’t go well for you either. Hopefully we don’t have to worry about it though. Hopefully…

Conclusion

I’m not sure where I fall on these. For PCCs, I think that they’d be great from a terminal performance perspective. For ARs, they’d still be interesting. The questionable legal future is concerning though. What are your thoughts? Where do you guys come down on this issue? Leave me a comment down below or on IG.

Stay curious, and we’ll see you next Friday.

-S_S

Cover image taxed from TFB at https://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/MG_7760.jpg

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