Patriot, Tom Conroy, lists his picks for the best AR-15 Charging Handle and why he likes each so much.
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Manasquan, NJ –-(Ammoland.com)- For many shooters, the AR 15 charging handle seems like one of the least exciting topics ever.
Who could possibly get charged up about a charging handle? A standard charging handle is just a long skinny bit of roughly T-shaped aluminum on the top of the rifle. Sometimes you yank on it, often only to load the very first round of the very first magazine during a range session.
But charging handles are important, especially if you do any sort of shooting beyond casual plinking. Not only do they help you chamber a round, charging handles are your main tool to clear a double feed or to remove a round or empty case that won’t eject cleanly for some reason.
And if you put a scope on your Black Rifle, you’ll discover that operating a standard charging handle can become difficult to the point that you’ll wish you had a third joint in your thumb, or fingers like a Madagascar aye-aye.
Some AR-15 fans go to radical extremes to improve their rifle’s chargeability by opting for a side-charging upper. Those of us who like to shoot FALs or SCARs already know how easy it is to use a left-hand, non-reciprocating charge handle. But side-charging uppers on AR-15s can be pricey, and they preclude the use of some standard parts.
Luckily, the charging handle is one of the easiest parts of an AR-15 to upgrade, and there are plenty to choose from.
There are so many that I will wind up omitting some very good charge handles from this list. If you have a favorite model that I left out, let everyone know in the comments below. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
My personal list of Best AR-15 Charging Handle, and why I like them.
5) Badger Ordnance Tactical Latch
The first item on my list is not technically a charging handle but a must-have upgraded to new or existing handles. This AR 15 charging handle accessory is a much larger latch that can replace your existing handle latch, to clear the forward assist. A real plus for Left-handed shooters who would typically use their supporting right hand to manipulate the charging handle, especially if they’re trying to shoot fast on the move. But I’m a rightie, and I like to shoot slowly from pone, and I love having this charge handle accessory on one of my rifles. It’s on an AR-15 with a bipod and a big scope mounted on it. As I get down behind my scoped AR, I can charge it with a simple, quick flick of my right index finger.
From the Manufacture: “The Badger Ordnance Gen I Tactical Latch is the original charging handle enhancement! Designed to be used with all M16/AR-15, AR-10 and SR-25 series rifles. The Tactical Latch replaces the standard charging handle latch, allowing positive manipulation of the of the handle with either hand. Made from 4140 steel and Manganese Phosphate Parkerized finished. Charging handle not included.”
It’s very intuitive and the extended right-side latch is easy to reach and gives plenty of leverage. It also helps me clear jams, on the rare occasions when they crop up. This one retails for right at $30.00 or less.
This AR 15 Charging Handle has a large, ambidextrous latch that works equally well for both righties and lefties or, in an injured defense situation, with your foot. It offers plenty of surface area on both sides, and you can quickly get your fingers on it, even if you have to maneuver around a scope or a folded-down backup sight mounted behind a red dot or holographic sight.
From the Manufacture: “Machined aluminum charging handle drops in to standard AR-15 receivers to give positive operation for right and left handed shooters. Built with thicker dimensions than standard charging handles to withstand wear and rough use. Large diameter coiled spring pin absorbs shock and flexes so it won’t fail under extreme conditions. Broad contact points make traditional and tactical weapon manipulation easy, and grooved surfaces help weapon retention and assist positive charging operation while wearing gloves. Battle Latch Charging Handle Assembly fits AR-15s and is designed for right handed shooters. Ambidextrous Battle Latch Charging Handle fits AR-15s and gives true ambidextrous function.”
All that extra surface area is great when you need to grab and yank to clear a stoppage. It sells for around $80.
3) PRI Gas Buster AR 15 Charging Handle
The “Gas Buster” is designed to deflect any gas blow-back away from your face. If you shoot suppressed rifles or rimfire AR-15s, you might rank this one even higher, as both types of firearms tend to spit more gas back at you than standard, non-suppressed ARs.
Even if you don’t use a suppressor or don’t shoot rimfire, it’s still a robust, high-quality upgrade over the standard AR-15 charging handle. You can get it with your choice of a flat latch with a nice, curved gripping surface, or a military-style latch with plenty of real estate to grab.
From the Manufacture: “Extra-thick handle includes a gas deflection groove to protect shooter from gas blowback. Extended finger latches aid in fast jam clearing. Flat Latch has a deep hook contour. Military (Mil.) Latch has smooth face with round edges that are easy on fingers.”
Designed primarily for right-handed shooters, this one sells for right around $96.
2) Radian Weapons AXTS Weapons Raptor
This is another ambidextrous charging handle, but one with almost symmetrical latches sticking out. The right side is a little longer, in order to clear the forward assist found on most AR-15s. But if you just glance at the Raptor, they look almost like matching wings. The best part about the Raptor is you can charge using your fingers and thumb, two fingers, one finger, or even by swiping it with the edge of your palm.
From the Manufacture: “Drop-in replacement for factory issue handle lets you charge the rifle from either side of the receiver with a rapid palm “blading” motion or the traditional finger/thumb hold. Dual, over-sized release levers are mirror images of each other, with deeply grooved surfaces that ensure positive contact so you can operate the handle in one fluid, fast motion with wet or gloved hands. Radiused edges won’t cut the hand or snag on clothing and gear. Gives top of rifle a unique, aggressive appearance, too.”
If you want an ambidextrous change handle that has clean lines and isn’t noticeably lopsided, then the Radian Weapons Raptor is the one for you. It costs right ar $85.00.
1) Vltor BCM Gunfighter Charging Handle
Consistently one of the most popular charging handles, the Vltor BCM Gunfighter Charging Handle is available with small, medium, and large latches, letting you achieve the exact feel you want. It’s designed for right-handed shooters, and thus has the latch sticking out to the left, for easy reach by the supporting left hand.
From the Manufacture: “The Vltor Gunflighter Charging Handle, 7.62mm and extended latches feature internal redesigns to direct the force off of the roll pin and into the body of the charging handle during support hand only manipulations. This new design makes the charging handle stronger and less prone to latch breakage. Body of charging handle made from 7075 T6 forging. Extruded latching handle. Mil-Spec Type III Class 2 hard coat anodize. Smooth operation.
Why is this charge handle so popular? It’s designed to take the force and stress of rapid manipulation off the tiny little roll pin that holds the latch onto the charging handle. The Gunfighter will run and run without breaking or wearing out. sootch00 does a good job explaining this in the video below:
Plus, the design helps keep the handle traveling straight back when you yank on it, which makes for smooth, easy function. Another big factor that makes the Gunfighter so popular is its price of only about $65.00.
The modular design of the AR-15 means that many of its parts can be quickly and easily replaced by just about anyone. The charging handle is one of the easiest parts to upgrade, as removing the charge handle is a simple process and a standard part of breakdown during standard cleaning and maintenance. While the standard, factory original charge handle works well enough, getting several new and different handles can add functionality to your rifle. And some of the replacement charge handles also look really cool, too, which is always a plus.
About Thomas Conroy
Thomas Conroy is a writer and firearms aficionado who lives in the Midwest