Electro-mechanical Trigger

Thanks to reader Jay for sending a link to this video:

A company, Creative Digital, in collaboration with Michael’s Machines, has developed a solenoid actuated trigger controlled by a microprocessor for around $200.

The concept is really interesting. My initial question was “What happens when the electronics fail?”. According to the video, it sounds like it downgrades and operates as a mechanical device.

I like the idea that the rate of fire can be adjusted, including full auto capability. The problem I see is that it seems like feature is ripe for abuse. I’d give it less than a day for an enterprising tinkerer to bypass, unlock or override the functionality that limits the rate.

In any case I should actually be reviewing an electric trigger in the next month or so (though not from this company). So I’m going to withhold my judgement until I go hands on with one.

What are your thoughts, dear readers? Good idea? Bad idea? Hype?

Tom is a former Navy Corpsman that spent some time bumbling around the deserts of Iraq with a Marine Recon unit, kicking in tent flaps and harassing sheep. Prior to that he was a paramedic somewhere in DFW, also doing some Executive Protection work between shifts. Now that those exciting days are behind him, he has embraced his inner “Warrior Hippie” and assaults 14er in his sandals and beard, or engages in rucking adventure challenges while consuming craft beer. To fund these adventures, he writes medical software and builds websites and mobile apps. His latest venture is as one of the founders of IronSights.com; a search engine for all things gun related. He hopes that his posts will help you find solid gear that will survive whatever you can throw at it–he is known (in certain circles) for his curse…ahem, ability…to find the breaking point of anything.


  • Turner

    I think that it’s very interesting, and I always like reading about these electronic advances which seem to be the next great leap in an industry where the mechanical limitations have been pushed to their final iterations. I agree with you that a civilian system of this kind would be ripe for abuse. I can envision the ATF screaming constructive intent if you owned the trigger, a computer, and a soldering iron.

  • Joe

    This looks like it could have a lot of potential, but they really need to get the price down a lot for widespread adoption. I also want to know what the battery life and durability is like for that kind of system.

  • Grey

    While creative intent might be a pitfall, this might be the nail in creative intents coffin.
    If the argument for creative intent is that very common items are evidence of intent, then where does the argument end. Sooner or later, the courts will have to trash creative intent.

  • Lance

    Last thing you need is another stinken computer contolling your weapon. Last thing you want is your computer to crash in battle. Stay with a traditional trigger group it not high tech but it works.

    • Commonsense23

      So do you not run red dot sights. How bout a laser and nods? What about radios and tablets? These are all things that run off of batteries and circuits and nobody has a problem with them these days.

      • Don Ward

        I don’t run red dot sights or lasers or night vision on my weapons. Similarly I don’t mount cell phones, radios or tablets on them. Mounting superfluous extra garbage on your gun is stupid. As a Mark 1 civilian, there is no real world situation where this would be practical, short of showing off to your friends at the range.

        • Commonsense23

          I am not a civilian. And I am referring to this in a military capacity. Since lance brought up crashing in battle as a problem. And I never suggested running a radio or tablet on your rails. Just that these are proven battlefield items that are essentially computers.
          As for items like this and red dots. The civilian market is instrumental in pushing the small arms technology, not the military.

          • Robocop

            I think one issue with electronic triggers & the more advanced idea of electronic munitions is the fact it is electronic. I believe this is why it hasn’t gone into use in the military already. With the extremely advanced microwave energy weapons it wouldn’t be too hard for an enemy to either activate all weapons or munitions in a given area or render useless with a blast of ELF/UHF energy wave.

          • Commonsense23

            Are you joking? Worrying about electronic triggers and munitions are the least of the problems the military would be worried about if the enemy had microwave weapons.

        • BryanS

          Showing off your CMP scores or your benchrest scores from having a trigger with a .03 oz effective trigger pull.. yeah, I can see how that would just be something to show off.

          I can also see how 60 year old technology (originally patented by the Air Force for pneumatic guns) is so delivate that it will fail at teh next windows update. It doent take a “computer” to give you this sort of tigger, even with modes. Unless you expect something less complicated than a typical watch to suddenly go haywire and fail.

          • Dan

            I see this only really being adopted in the competitive shooting circles, Even with a back up mechanical mode it seems as thought the Military wouldn’t want another piece of tech that could fail. Bench rest I can see with a trigger pull weight of practically nothing would have some people saying “oh God yes”

          • Commonsense23

            So what about military snipers? Will they not benefit from this? A lot of things that started off in the competition world have migrated over to the military. I personally would like to have a much better trigger in my MK18MOD1. Any improvement to my weapon system I will take.

          • LCON

            I agree.. Short term the first users will likely though be competition shooters and from there it will backdoor into the military. The Maker has thought ahead and made a fall back system in the form of a Manual operation so your crash is not a issue Lance. Eventually a system like this is going to go mainstream. it might take a while but that’s reality. every year are armed forces become more and more technology based. snipers are my first bet on who would take them up. followed by heavier weapons.
            We already have electrical triggers on mounted machine guns. the Avenger Air defence system features a M3 Browning Machine gun with a electronic trigger.

          • BryanS

            imagine a benchrest version with an optical trigger and a hall effect safety.

          • Dan

            Oh god I want! But then I guess I would no longer be able to use trigger pull as an excuse for crappy groups, lol

    • valorius

      I agree.

  • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

    I love the idea. It’s also another illustration of how absurd and arbitrary the NFA is. The more things we have that make the NFA irrelevant, the better.

  • BryanS

    Good to see 20 year old paintball tech coming to the firearms world 🙂 Now we can see age old debates on if cued shots from in-between cycles are safe or if they constitute full auto come into being new debates because of a platform change.

    • MrTorben

      that was my first thought too….I spent a fortune on the early versions of e-triggers for paintguns but to avoid even the thought about intend, I never even visually lined up the action and trigger on a firearm. but conceptually, this existed over a decade ago.

      there was more than one time that I wondered why nobody has considered it…I mean there are far worse gadget draining our wallets. makeing it dual-action was likely trivial…just a matter of setting it so that timing matched when the e-part failed and then engaged the physical trigger.

      making it into something else is just about as easy as any other mechanical action….it is just that these days, tinkering with stuff, is about changing 1’s and 0’s instead of using a drill press.

  • S O

    IIRC there as a submachinegun / machine pistol which had an electronic rate of fire control (back in the 80’s?).

    • jamezb

      One of the HK vunderveapons…
      perhaps the caseless monstrosity?

    • That would be George Ealovega’s Bushman IDW design that was picked up by Parker Hale. Ealovega also adapted the rate reducer to legacy designs, like the M16.

    • Gunhead

      You might be referring to the S&W version of the Gustav SMG. Problem was that it fired caseless rounds, which with 1960’s technology didn’t do too well in the jungles of Indochina.

  • Ken

    A full auto can be made with a shoelace or a power drill with a cam on the end. I don’t think this trigger has any more potential for abuse than what already exists. Just because a product might be abused by criminals and used illegally doesn’t mean law abiding citizens should not be allowed to have it.


  • sianmink

    There’s mechanical limits on the rate, which coincidentally, any NFA select fire AR15 already operates at, so all the trigger can do is reduce that rate.

    I don’t think the trigger alone can make a SA rifle SF. You’d still need that ever important full auto sear.

    • Ron

      Actually I believe there is a way, but one needs to be able to understand how to properly program and be able to communicate with the board, as well as get around any safe guards on the board itself.

      • MP

        If you have the switch and the solenoid you have all of the active parts of the electronic trigger system. Attaching those to an arduino (or it’s much smaller cousins) and programming any ROF is a weekend exercise for someone with no electronics knowledge. Someone with electronics knowledge could probably do it in one evening.

    • Cymond

      The lower he’s holding doesn’t appear to have a full-auto sear. From the sound of it, the trigger’s “full auto” mode is purely electronic. The bolt carrier no longer plays a role in tripping an auto sear. The electronics just send a “fire” signal to the solenoid at whatever pre-determined rate. You may note that you can hear the solenoid “firing” repeatedly, even though the hammer is down and no BCG is present. Skip ahead in the video to 1:30.

    • raz-0

      No you wouldn’t. The FA trigger group, in a non burst setup, does two things: trips the sear without pressing the trigger again, and delays that action long enough for the gun to return to battery. If the circuitry can trip the sear once form a button press, it can trip the sear a thousand times from a button press as long as something resets it in between, the only difference is some control logic. Since the BCG does that, the only thing holding it back from FA is a) software/firmware and maybe b) something to sense carrier postion to avoid trying to light off a round before things have returned to battery.

      If the hardware to make it go bang is in there, you just need a multi-meter and/or logic probe, something like an arduino nano, femtoduino, or adafruit trinket on the other end to replace their controller.

      This is one of the things I figured was inevitably going to show up. The only part that isn’t a visit to sparkfun to hack together in an afternoon is the mechanism for tripping the sear electronically, and spark fun is aimed squarely at the educational fun crowd. For all I know, the entirety of what is needed is a little machine time and an order to digikey.

  • Jack Morris

    I was sold the moment they included the mechanical back-up function. Electronics can fail in a multitude of ways that simple mechanics cannot. I love the idea of having the precision of an electronic trigger and the security of a mechanical trigger in 1 tidy package. Count me in!

  • TDog

    I dunno… I’m not sure about all these new-fangled electronic gizmos and such. Back in my day, a good measure of black powder and a flaming wick were good enough and it’s still good enough ’cause you can’t break fire. All these moving parts and such… ta’int natural!

    *I am kidding, of course.

  • Nathan Boor

    The next logical step is to incorporate center-of-mass image recognition within the site system for increased accuracy in most instances with most shooters. Essentially, the trigger contact would await signal from the site system that the weapon is aimed center-mass (or other programmable feature) before releasing the firing pin. The technology is here and currently used elsewhere in other fields. It could operate by way of thermal signature or video scope. I belong to the old-school of thought, war is fought in the field. Technology fails and can be tricked. A fine mechanical weapon will never be without necessity.

  • Andrew

    LOL at 0:58 he demonstrates the “full standard complete mechanical backup”…and it DOESN’T WORK

    • Cymond

      ? It seemed like it worked to me. Shortly after lowering the hammer, he held the trigger, reset the hammer, and released the trigger. You can see the hammer release from the mechanical disconnector.

    • Thomas Gomez

      It worked. The disconnector grabbed the trigger. What he did was a basic armorers test to check engagement between the hammer, trigger and disconnector. The reason he did that was so the hammer didn’t slam into the receiver…something that can damage a lower receiver.

  • Cymond

    I would have some concern for the select-fire version, because it uncouples the firing from the BCG. There is no auto-sear to trip the disconnector when the bolt closes. I hope any hypothetical group that uses this has a shrouded firing pin.

  • While searching for George Ealovega’s patents, I happened to notice that Creative Digital cited one of them in their own patent application.


  • Ethan

    Awesome idea, but just to be clear this will NOT allow anyone to have legal full auto.
    1 Trigger pull for every discharge of the weapon. That’s the ATF’s key phrase and this system could not legally circumvent that definition.

    Basically this guy took an E-Grip off a Tippman A-5 (or something similar), screwed onto an AR-15 receiver and modified it to trip the sear. Brilliant!

  • Fuddleton

    No break point doesn’t sound like a good thing to me. I like knowing when the exactly the trigger will disengage.
    Seems like something that should’ve been on the market many years ago though, and the fact that it isn’t already probably doesn’t bode well for its success. I’d say it’s a device without a market, a lot of mechanical triggers are great as they are now without the added expense of a microprocessor.

  • Dan

    Back in the early 2000’s Airgun Designs made a paintball gun that you could switch between electronic and mechanical trigger. On electronic it was a very light very sensitive trigger and if your battery died before the tournament was over a flip of the switch turned it back to mechanical.

    With current paintball all electronic trigger systems the Professional tournament leagues were plagued with people coming out with custom boards that turned full auto/illegal ramp mode after a series of trigger pulls so if checked by a referee they couldn’t prove it unless they knew the trigger pull sequence to activate the full auto mode.

    I can see the BATFE allowing this for a short period of time then coming out and saying nope too easy to convert. Or some bubba on Youtube posting his DIY conversion FA electronic trigger AR and ruining it for everyone

    • BryanS

      I dont think this is going to be like the emag trigger. It looks like a standard sear tripper, probably similar in robustness to a sandrige system.

      • Dan

        It actually reminds me more of some of the electro kingman trigger systems right down to the display board, only this has the ability to have a mechanical back up. Give us ramping modes!!!!!!

  • Phil Hsueh

    I can see Jerry Miculek rocking one of these triggers on one of his guns, given how fast he is already one of these triggers would make him insanely fast and make it seem like he’s firing on full auto when only on semi.

  • For another blast from the past, the following link goes to a 1998 NDIA presentation that describes a L85A1 converted to an electronic ignition system.


    • With all the L85’s problems, this surely couldn’t have hurt.

  • 15 years ago I was playing paintball. Using an Autococker… classic paintball marker. Other team had a guy with a Bob Long Intimidator. The way the rate of fire ramped up was shocking to us, having never seen it before. Especially with that rate of fire directed at us. At me specifically. After it was all over (we still won) I got the chance to check out that electronic gun. I was amazed at the simplicity. I’ve been wanting this in firearms ever since.

    • Dan

      Lol yea I know what you mean.

    • Thomas Gomez

      George…taking us all down memory lane! Those were the days of the Tippmann 68 Carbines, Spyders and Autocockers. The RT Automag was the gun to have till the Angel and the Intimidator came on the scene.

      Thanks for stirring up those good old memories! Hope this finds you well!

    • MrTorben

      what was the name of the first big-name e-trigger, eblade? or something like that.

      once you took apart any old marker(except maybe original autocockers) it didn’t require an engineering degree to see how running it FA was dead simple. A spyder was about as complicated as a single action revolver.

      I bought an original autococker, long after I was done playing PB, as it did hold the same fascination as what got me into firearms, engineering ingenuity. They are a beauty of engineering.

      that action is almost as fun as roller delayed blowback HK.

      • I thought it was the “Timmy”. Might not have been the very first, but I think it was the first real big hit with an E-Trigger. Then came the Angels.
        And many kits to retrofit your Autocockers and Automags.

        Just for the Record – The Autococker is the 1911 of Paintball Markers.

  • Patrick Mingle

    meh seems like a solution without a problem

  • jeff

    been using this on paintball guns for years

  • stephen

    I think this trigger will enhance accuracy, especially in regards to long range shooting.

    I would love to have something like this on my 300 Win Mag bolt gun. Imagine taking out the variable of trigger travel, creep, etc. I see groups getting much smaller.

    Good stuff

  • A. None Mouse

    The Creative Digital / Michael’s Machines prototype seen here uses paintball electronics (Spyder ACS), rather than a custom board developed for a firearm. It probably can’t be transferred to a regular person, since, like a newly-built post-1986 DIAS, it is probably in and of itself an MG. It could only be possessed by someone who can possess post-1986 MGs. That being said, ATF has determined for several decades that true one-shot-per-pull semiauto electronic triggers are legal and not NFA. See Pardini, Morini, MatchGuns, and Walther guns for example – they are used in Olympic Rapid Fire, and nearly all have electronic trigger options. The real benefit of an electronic trigger is low travel, followed by low pull weight.

  • gggplaya

    Wayyy to easy to hack. Just solder a few wires to the microcontroller and walla, u can load ur own custom software. Or simple design your own board and replace the current one. I’ve done this with paintball guns, granted I do have a degree in electrical engineering with a specialization in computer engineering.

    Other than potential hacking issues, a microswitch based trigger is magnificent for accuracy and control. But too much room for abuse IMO.

  • R.Ocelot