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A certain kind of joy is produced by sending a lot of lead downrange in a few short seconds. Usually only a machine gun can provide that rush. Since it isn’t practical for most civilians to own one, enter the next best thing: the binary trigger. Adding a binary trigger to a semi-auto firearm increases its rate of fire, upping the fun factor and versatility. Before you pull the trigger, you want know, are binary triggers legal? The answer is yes, binary triggers are legal in most states. Read on to see if yours is one of the binary trigger legal states.
At the time of writing, BATFE (Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) ruled that due to the design of the binary trigger and the fact that it only fires one shot per one function of the trigger it is not a machine gun and is legal on the federal level. Fortunately, most states align with the federal law and consider binary triggers to be legal. We encourage you to visit your state’s website directly to determine whether your state allows binary triggers to avoid being charged with unlawful usage.
At the time of writing, binary triggers are prohibited (or partially prohibited) in these states:
Bans “multiburst trigger activators” which they define as “any device that can be attached to a semi-automatic weapon that makes the firearm able to discharge two or more rounds when the device is activated” and a “manual or power-driven trigger activating device” that is intended to increase the rate of firing.
Bans “multiburst trigger activators”
Bans binary trigger systems
Bans a “rapid fire device” defined as any device or accessory that can be added to a semi-automatic rifle to increase the rate of fire. Since it specifically defines the ban for rifles, the illegality of usage on other kinds of weapons could remain at question.
Bans “a device used to alter the rate of fire of a firearm to mimic automatic weapon fire or which is used to increase the rate of fire to a faster rate than is possible for a person to fire such semiautomatic firearm unassisted by a kit, a tool, an accessory, or a device.”
Prohibits possession of “triggers that fire on pull and release.”
Prohibits any firearm that can discharge “two (2) or more rounds of ammunition with one (1) activation of the trigger or other firing device.”
Ownership is legal, but prohibits selling “manual or power-driven trigger activating device[s]” that “increases the rate of fire”
Prohibits any “rapid fire trigger activator” specifically defined as anything that can be attached to the firearm that increases the rate of fire, later clarified to include bump stocks, trigger cranks, binary trigger systems, burst trigger systems or a copy of such devices.
Bans both possession and sale of binary firearm triggers by including them in their definition of machine guns.
Bans bump stocks, binary trigger systems, burst trigger systems, trigger cranks, and any rapid-fire modification device.
Law states that it is “unlawful for any person to possess a bump-fire device, binary trigger, trigger crank, or any other device that when attached to a semi-automatic weapon allows full-automatic fire.”
Bans binary triggers by including them in their definition of a machine gun: “any other mechanism or instrument not requiring that the trigger be pressed for each shot” and any “separable mechanical device for storing, carrying, or supplying ammunition which can be loaded into the firearm, mechanism, or instrument, and fired therefrom at the rate of five or more shots per second.”
Why Were They Banned?
It’s important to know that binary triggers are federally legal and are allowed in most US States. Listed above are states where they are prohibited to some degree at the time this article was published. Some states enacted the ban of devices like binary triggers after a gunman used multiple AR-15 rifles outfitted with bump stocks and upgraded triggers to commit a horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017. Aaron Smith, writer for Forbes, cites the event as one that triggered “an aggressive gun control plan that targets assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and ghost guns”. 
What Is a Binary Trigger?
A binary trigger is a trigger group that replaces a standard trigger system (single-stage, two-stage) allowing an increase in the rate of fire of a pistol, carbine, or rifle by two to three times.
Franklin Armory patented the binary trigger in 2018. Since then, Fostech developed the competing Echo trigger, providing the same rapid fire outcome.
How Does It Work?
Many binary triggers provide an option to select the weapon’s rate of fire. In the binary mode, the firearm will fire one shot on the initial trigger pull and one shot on the release of the trigger. Selecting the semi-auto mode reverts back to a traditional trigger where one pull of the trigger equals one shot fired.
Also Read: Difference Between IDPA & USPSA
Practical Applications of Binary Triggers
Adding this (almost) automatic type of action to your semi-auto firearm is relatively affordable and usually requires no permanent modifications. They are compatible with various calibers of AR-15 and AR-10 platforms and any BCG.
Binary triggers are easy to use and most shooters find them easy to get used to. The good news is that binary triggers are federally legal, and most U.S. states allow them.
Binary triggers are not machine guns. Although they can mimic the rate of fire of machine guns, they are technically different. BATFE (Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) ruled that due to the design of the binary trigger and the fact that it only fires one shot per one function of the trigger it is not a machine gun and is legal on the federal level.
No tax stamp is required to own a firearm outfitted with a binary trigger. Binary triggers aren’t considered NFA items. They are federally legal; however, some states have legislation limiting or prohibiting ownership of a binary trigger.
So, Is a Binary Trigger Legal to Use?
At the time of writing, use of a binary trigger is federally legal and most states allow their use. our team always encourages gun owners to research and fact-check whether binary triggers are legal in the state you live in to avoid any legal issues. BATFE (Bureau of Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) ruled that due to the design of the binary trigger and the fact that it only fires one shot per one function of the trigger it is not a machine gun and is legal on the federal level. Fortunately, most states also don’t consider binary triggers as illegal attachments for any suited firearm.
- Smith, Aaron (April 1, 2021). Biden’s Gun Control Doesn’t Target…Mimicking Machine Guns. Forbes. Retrieved November 16, 2023.