Story and Photographs by Brian Hormberg
Did you know that replacing the factory gas block on your AR-15 with an adjustable gas block can improve your rifle’s performance? Such as:
The typical factory gas block is pinned onto the barrel in front of the polymer handguard as part of the front sight assembly. If your rifle features a free-float aluminum handguard, then the gas block is typically a low-profile type that fits under that handguard. The job of the gas block is to take some of the hot gas from behind the bullet that comes through a gas port in the barrel, and direct it into the gas tube which drives the bolt carrier and cycles the action.
Most gas blocks on factory AR-15s are fixed, meaning they just provide a path for the gas from the barrel to the gas tube. With a fixed gas block, all the gas and pressure that comes out of the gas port in the barrel will be used to cycle the action.
In most AR-type rifles there is intentionally more gas than needed, so that if the gun gets dirty, it will continue to cycle.
But often this overgassed situation is more than is really needed, adding to the recoil and increasing wear on parts. That’s where adjustable gas blocks come in. They provide a way to cut off a portion of the gas flow so the action can be driven less forcefully.
The Gas Block History
Gas Blocks Today
You’re probably wondering what difference would it really make in your gun’s performance if you used one of these. Well, there are three:
1) You can tune your rifle to run just as hard as is really needed, and by doing so you will experience less recoil and less movement of your sights off target, so your follow-up shots can be faster. What’s happening is that your bolt carrier group will cycle hard enough to extract, eject and feed reliably, but it won’t slam to a stop as hard at the rear of its stroke.
2) There will be less stress on your operating parts because they are not running any harder than necessary. It’s like running your car engine at lower revolutions per minute. Don’t worry, it will not feel slower while shooting.
3) Since you will be cutting off some of the gas going into the bolt carrier group, it’s common to get less carbon build-up in your bolt carrier and on your bolt. This will cause your gun to run cleaner, which can result in better reliability and easier cleaning.
All of these benefits are worthwhile for the shooter who wants to get all the performance possible from his or her rifle.
So how easy are they to install? If you are familiar with AR builds and installing gas blocks, then installing one of these is the same thing.
For those unfamiliar, it will require removing your flash hider or muzzle brake, removing your handguard, unpinning and removing your factory gas block and installing the new one using set screws or clamping screws to lock it into place. Then you reinstall your handguard and muzzle device. These days, with all the AR-15 home builders out there, this is pretty common knowledge, and the skills required are basic-level gunsmithing.
If you aren’t comfortable with this, find a reputable gunsmith who is proficient in AR builds; this will be an inexpensive gunsmithing job. There is no fitting required; it just involves taking off some parts and then reinstalling some parts. Adjustable gas blocks can be installed on any AR-15 or AR-10 rifle of any caliber or barrel length, as long as it uses a standard gas tube system. ASJ
By Brian Hormberg
One of the pioneers in the adjustable gas block concept is JP Enterprises, a well-known manufacturer of top-of-the-line race guns for 3-Gun competition. They made an entire system of it by combining adjustable gas blocks with low-mass bolt carriers and low-mass buffers. This concept called for lower reciprocating mass in the moving parts which needed lower gas pressure to run at the right speed. Adjustable gas blocks made this concept possible. The result is even less movement of the gun during firing and even faster recovery from the shot, which is a big advantage in competition. Low-mass systems are normally recommended for competition guns versus duty guns, since a full-mass system can run better when really dirty.
JP makes their adjustable gas blocks in several formats, including ones with rails on top of the gas block, fixed front-sight models, and low-profile units with lock screws that go under handguards. Syrac Ordnance and SLR Rifleworks are two companies that have recently introduced low-profile, click-adjustable models that can be easily adjusted from the front under the forearm. These are especially well suited to those who want a quick, predictable gas setting change when they switch from subsonic to supersonic or when going from suppressed to unsuppressed. The Syrac Ordnance model is completely self-contained, while the SLR Rifleworks model is designed for easy disassembly and cleaning. Both are small enough to fit under the thinnest aluminum forearm systems.
Another recent trend is to offer this same capability in a piston-driven format in addition to the more common direct gas design. If you like the idea of a piston-driven operating system and like the idea of adjustable gas settings, you can now have both together. The adjustable piston systems can be retrofitted to existing AR-15s or included in new builds just like the other gas blocks and provide the same advantages. The adjustable piston systems include a gas block, gas piston and a complete bolt-carrier group, in addition to the gas block itself to ensure compatibility. Low-profile versions are now in production from Adams Arms and Syrac Ordnance, and which allow you to fit an adjustable gas piston system under a wider selection of rail forearms than ever before possible and with the adjustment capability.
As more shooters become aware of the advantages of adjustable gas systems, they will likely continue to increase in popularity. All of this is another example of the incredibly wide selection of parts, designs and options available to today’s AR shooter. The operation and performance of the rifle can be customized and tuned to an amazing level, and is only limited by your imagination.
Here’s some tips for tuning your AR-15 adjustable gas block from Jesse Tishcauser of Optics Planet.
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At one time back in the day, inside most police cars were equipped with an M-870 shotgun. Then theres an odd ball patrolman with his AR-15 with .223 caliber. Which patrolman has the advantage?
The logic behind the usage of an AR stems from situations where a firearm needed for greater range than a shotgun.
So the debate begins, shotgun folks talk about having the knock down power to stop the fight with its 00 buck. AR’s with its high velocity and more firepower in terms of 20 rounds – 30 rounds magazine capacity.
Using either firearm we can make a perfect case as the weapon of choice to have for personal defense. In order for us to decide in an un-biased environment, a test should be conducted for validation. We can do this by pitting the two guns in a side by side shootout.
There needs to be a determination that each gun should be fired at the same target and at the same range. Because the idea is to ascertain some kind of combat effectiveness under stress, a time limit needs to be establish on each stage.
This test was based from Wiley Clapp test out on Gunsite where he had two Range Masters both skilled with the shotgun and AR go through this special course of fire. (Bill Murphy – shotgun and Vince Morgan – AR-15)
This course of fire were as follow:
A shooter armed with respective firearm would engage a silhouette at various ranges. First at 15 yards, then 25, 50, 75 and 100 yards. At the command of a whistle the shooter would have 3 seconds to fire off as many rounds as possible onto the target.
Without looking at the facts but common firearm knowledge of the two weapons. Shotgun at close range would have more hits, but at greater range the carbine would have more.
Within the shooting circle it is understood using anything like a .73 caliber, soft lead hollow-base bullet weighing 437 grain, traveling 1,325 fps at 25 yards will pack a punch. This punch when hitting a torso will instantly stop the fight.
Another thing to note from the test was that both range masters were supplied with stock guns. If you didn’t know, stock shotguns does not come with rear sights. So obviously, the test resulted that the AR was dominant at greater range.
Another perspective or to implement, if you were to put on some Red Dot sights for the shotgun and check out the wider use of slugs. I’m willing to bet at intermediate ranges from 50 to 100 yards the shotgun would fare well. Which is perfect for personal defense, then again that’s our opinion whats yours? Let us know below in the comment section.
Here’s another version from Youtuber DRFTraining:
DRFTraining demonstrate the difference in the number of projectiles fired from the EVIL assaulty and killy AR-15 vs a standard pump shotgun.
The mossberg 590 pump shotgun used has a 5+1 capacity. When loaded with 00 buck, that means there is 9 (.38cal) projectiles in each shell.
That brings the total amount of projectiles to 54 vs the 30 (.223 cal) projectiles in the semi automatic rifle.
The mossberg is not on the AWB list, because it is pump action, and does not have a detachable “high capacity” magazine, but the AR-15 is.
They are both popular home defense firearms, and as is demonstrated, one is just a tad more precise than the other when delivering it’s projectiles on target.
Sources: GunSite, Wiley Clapp, Bill Murphy, Vince Morgan
We can all agree that AR’s are not only reliable but are great at short ranges from 0 to 300 yards.
But what if you want to reach out further to 400 yard or 1000 yards? For the larger cartridge would the AR be able to deliver the same punch as its cousin the .308 or 6.5 Creedmoor?
Before making the decision to go with an AR10 or AR15, lets take a look at the comparisons.
The AR10 rifle is an air-cooled lightweight rifle that is gas operated and comes with the 7.62mm (.308) barrel.
uses the standardized 7.62x51mm loads and has a standard 20-round detachable magazine box.
It weighs between 3.29kgs and 4.05kgs, without the magazine and ammo. The super-lightweight feature was as a result of the use of aluminum alloy.
The metal parts were save for the steel bolt, barrel and bolt carrier group.
With its direct gas impingement mechanism where the propellant gas goes through the rifle’s cylinder that runs parallel with the gun barrel thereby impinging the bolt carrier mechanism.
This produces a high cyclic fire rate of about 700 rounds per minute with a 2,772 FPS/ 845 m/s muzzle velocity.
This rifle employs the same “direct gas impingement” as the one used on AR10s.
Which results in 800 rounds per minute from this gun, with a muzzle velocity of 3200 FPS or 975 m/s being realized to a maximum effective range of about 600 yards.
Whereas the AR10 features the .308 Win or 7.62x51mm NATO chamber, the AR15 features the .223 or 5.65 x 45mm chambers.
In the AR10 platform, it is unsafe to load the .308 in a 7.62x51mm chamber but the .308 chamber can accept the 7.62x51mm loads. Similarly, you can load .223 cartridges in a 5.65 x 45 chamber of the AR15 but not the inverse.
For those using both AR’s, here are some parts that are commonly interchangeable between the two:
Who’s the Winner?
This is a question that is nearly impossible and hard to answer.
The reason is that these are both quality rifles that gives the users many advantages when using the AR platform.
So determining which one is the clear winner would definitely have to factor in how good the user is.
They both are lightweight rifles that used advance gas impingement systems to increase their rate of fire and muzzle velocity.
Each one also has a variety of ways in which they can be configure. This allows them to be tailored to meet each individual shooters needs.
As far as hunting big game goes the AR-10 most definitely would have the advantage over the AR-15.
In a wide open shot situation its extra length would not be much of a factor.
It also has greater one shot stopping power than the AR 15 does. Its heavier bullets can travel long distances fairly accurately too.
In a tactical situation the AR-15 definitely will give you the edge. AR15 is lighter and more maneuverable than its AR 10 predecessor.
It’s deadly accurate over shorter distances. The high rate of fire and increased muzzle velocity will also allow you to put many rounds into a target at a faster rate.
In short neither of these weapons has any major drawbacks that would prevent you from using them for hunting, target shooting or in a personal defense situation.
They both are accurate and rapid shooting weapons that are extremely deadly in the hands of a skilled shooter.
That is why there is no clear winner to be found between the two AR’s.
Whats do you all think?, Let us know below.
Are PSA’s low prices too good to be true?
For years I’ve heard of Palmetto State Armory and their ultra-affordable AR-15s. The only negative things were some finishing issues and shipping delays here and there.
But… for a long time I was a little obsessed with name brands and scoffed at sub-$500 rifles.
I finally bit the bullet…
I got three of their uppers (16″ 5.56 with front sight block, 16″ 5.56 free-float rail, 18″ stainless .223 Wylde), one of their lowers, and shot a lot of rounds through them.
By the end you’ll know if a PSA rifle/upper is right for you…and the best model to get based on your use.
Table of Contents
PSA sent me these three uppers and one lower for testing.
But they are going through the same testing procedures I do for all my other guns.
And at a higher round count since reliability is key when I recommend more budget-friendly options.
I spoke with PSA and the reason their AR-15s are so affordable is due to full vertical integration. From raw metal to the finished product…they do it themselves.
PSA has their Freedom line which is their most affordable and is pretty much mil-spec (meets military specifications).
However, like I outlined in our AR-15 Buyer’s Guide…I like a mid-length gas system way better than the standard carbine-length.
It gives you more rail space and a softer shooting impulse since the gas tube is longer and gas block is more forward.
Unless you’re going for the pure M4 look…I’d opt for something in the mid-length arena. Or at least their Magpul MOE furniture models so you can add some rails in the future.
For my upper with a FSB (front sight block…that triangle thing you see above), I went with a 16″ mid-length Magpul model and Nitride-coated barrel.
This gives me a longer handguard (with M-LOK), ability to add rails, Magpul rear flip sight, and a nicer barrel finish compared to phosphate.
Since it has a pinned FSB…it’s a little front-heavy….but that’s the nature of the beast. The FSB is pinned well and the handguard is really on there. You can see my segment of Picatinny I added to the handguard’s M-LOK attachment points.
The next upper would be my favorite overall setup. 16″ mid-length with a 13.5″ M-LOK free-floating barrel and Nitride barrel.
Now you get the benefit of not having a FSB which helps the weight balance, and also having a free-floating handguard that increases accuracy by taking away contact points on the barrel.
For absolute reliability I’d still opt for the FSB model…but free-float AR’s are now the standard, you can attach a lot of stuff, and the gas block is really on there.
The last model is the 18″ .223 Wylde which is a relatively new chambering that will shoot BOTH 5.56 and .223 but offers a slight accuracy edge. Usually you’ll see the more accurate barrels in stainless which is what we have here.
This comes in an even softer shooting rifle-length gas system and 15″ M-LOK free-floating rail.
All came with mil-spec A2 bird-case flash-hiders that were installed correctly and didn’t require superhuman strength to take off and switch for some compensators.
PSA seems to have three tiers of barrels.
The two 5.56 uppers I received were Nitride coated instead of regular phosphate…while the Wylde was stainless steel.
Nitride (two left black ones) is smooth while stainless is…stainless. The BCG on the right gives you a sense of what the rougher texture phosphate looks like. Nitride is supposed to be a little tougher and I like the smooth look.
I took apart the free-floating 5.56 and Wylde. Straight gas tubes…
And at least 35 in-lb of torque on the gas block with some sort of weird spill on the 5.56.
There’s not too much to say here…everything is where it’s supposed to be.
If I had to nitpick…there’s some super small machining marks on the forward assist for two of the uppers I had. Not even sure you can see them in the pics.
The Magpul mid-length polymer handguard is what it is. A great update to the mil-spec plastic handguard that can’t attach anything.
The free-floating M-LOK handguards work too. The thin profile feels great in the hand…but could use a little more TLC in the CNC to get rid of sharper edges.
Also the 13.5″ is a little on the purple-ish side and a little off in orientation between receiver and handguard…but nothing an Allen wrench and a small turn didn’t fix.
The more “premium” Wylde upper was properly aligned and colored.
As mil-spec as they come. Everything is as it should be and the gas-keys are properly staked.
The 5.56 uppers had phosphate coated BCGs (mil-spec) while the Wylde had a Nitride coated one.
If I had to nitpick again…the coating is a little bumpier than other phosphates I’ve used, but since only the rails of the BCG contact anything…there’s no real downside.
I found that the mil-spec phosphate BCGs were not MP marked (magnetic particle inspected) while the more premium .223 Wylde one was.
All the bolts were listed Carpenter 158 steel (mil-spec) but I’ve seen some PSA models where it is 9310 steel. Fine for civilian use but if you really want mil-spec…go for the Carpenter 158. The carriers were all 9620 steel (mil-spec).
Charging handles were mil-spec as well.
Since I’ve gone with aftermarket charging handles…I cannot go back (Best AR-15 Charging Handles).
I built the lower as a kit so I added a few dings here and there (How to Build an AR-15 Lower). I got the Magpul kit which has their buttstock, grip, and trigger guard.
This one also comes with PSA’s EPT trigger which is silver compared to mil-spec phosphate black. Much less grit!
But for this one I did have a little trouble threading the grip screw initially. I’m thinking the coating was a little thick since I had to muscle my way through the initial turns.
Otherwise everything installed as it should.
What really matters…right?
I took a bunch of ammo, a buddy, and the two 5.56 uppers to the range. With the goal of putting as many rounds downrange as possible.
I cleaned the barrels but otherwise did not do any break-in procedures. I started with ~300 rounds of Wolf Gold (Best AR-15 Ammo) through each one before the accuracy tests.
For the 16″ with FSB…there were two failures to load a new round after a magazine change in the first 40 rounds. However after that it shot without a hiccup.
For the M-LOK free-floating version, there was one failure to load on the first magazine change and no more problems afterwards.
This is likely due to all the parts breaking in.
Recoil was standard and mild for both 5.56 uppers. After a few mags I was easily hitting 12″ plates at 100 yards with my EOTech.
But still made me realize how spoiled I’ve been with adjustable gas-blocks and compensators (Best AR-15 Upgrades).
For the free-floating version, if you grip around the gas block like I do…you’ll feel a little heat when dumping rounds. Not enough to burn…but enough to have a red hand after 500 rounds.
Here’s my buddy and me at our second range day. I’m running my competition lower with a much better trigger (Best AR-15 Triggers).
The uppers worked flawlessly after the initial break-in on the following lowers:
While the lower worked with the following uppers:
The 5.56 barrels are the middle of the road for PSA. Let’s see how they fare.
I let the barrels cool down and then ran through Wolf Gold, PMC Bronze, American Eagle, and Federal Gold Match.
I used my standard testing platform for all my AR-15 stuff…
Targets were placed at 100 yards and I shot at a pace of around 1 shot per 10 seconds. 10 shots each group.
Mil-spec is 3-4 MOA which means 3-4 inch groups at 100 yards. The FSB version falls within that (targets are 8″). With PMC Bronze doing the best of the plinking rounds at around 3 MOA.
Gold Match does the best but keep in mind it’s about $1 a shot. If you’re shooting that on a regular basis you’re probably looking at other rifles (Best AR-15s).
All in all…it’s as I expected. When there’s a front sight block there’s a whole lot of stuff touching the barrel which doesn’t help accuracy. Let’s see the free-floating model.
Much better! Looks like all the groups closed up. PMC Bronze and American Eagle are pretty even at what looks like 2 MOA. Gold Match is still the ultimate winner but it’s not THAT much off from PMC and AE.
When you have a free-floating handguard there’s less contact with the barrel and the accuracy shows.
Now how about the .223 Wylde we’ve forgotten?
Since this is a more premium barrel and made for accuracy…I did a break-in procedure with it as well as with PSA’s .224 Valkyrie (coming soon).
I cleaned the barrel and shot 1 round through before using copper solvent and a brush. Repeat the shoot and clean for 5x total. Then I changed it up to 5 shots before cleaning. Repeat 5x.
I then plinked ~200 rounds.
Finally, I was ready…
I used a different lower with a Triggertech trigger which I might actually like more than my Hiperfire (Best AR-15 Triggers). I started running low on Gold Medal so the last group only has 4 rounds.
It really looks like the FSB version instead of something that uses a tighter chamber and a free-floating handguard.
I’ll continue testing but right now looks like I would stick with PSA’s regular 5.56 offerings (free-floating of course).
The thing with PSA is that they are always in and out of stock of everything. And they have almost every combination under the sun…which makes it nice but also a headache to find what you want.
No fuss of building anything…out of the box ready to go.
I again like mid-length gas systems and it looks like their Nitride barrels are GTG. Their more premium selections (CHF) should be great as well if you have a little more to spend. I haven’t spent time with their regular barrels (phosphate), but other reviews vouch for them.
I personally like free-floating M-LOK handguards since they give you added accuracy and lots of space to put stuff. Unless you really want the look of a FSB…go for free-floating!
Already have a lower and want an affordable upper? There’s a bazillion options again…so here’s a search for 16″ mid-lengths to narrow it down a little:
Remember to choose the options with BCG (bolt carrier group), CH (charging handle), and Magpul MBUS (flip backup sights) if you need them.
Looking at complete lowers? I prefer the Magpul editions…mil-spec buttstocks and pistol grips are not great.
A little something I learned recently…retailers must add on a 11% tax for fully assembled firearms.
PSA has rifle kits which…if you’re a little handy…will save you a bunch when you build your own lower.
And be sure to get a stripped lower since the kit will contain everything except that.
Follow our How to Build an AR-15 Lower guide to put it all together.
After some minor break-in to loosen things up…my PSA uppers were fully reliable at my current round count of 1500 across all three.
It’ll do its job within mil-spec with regular plinking ammo, and seems to like PMC Bronze overall the best (Best AR-15 Ammo). Little bummed out that the .223 Wylde didn’t perform as well as it should.
Magpul kit makes it pretty good with the buttstock and pistol grip. Free-floating handguard is thin but a little too sharp around the edges.
Pretty average here but could use more consistency in color.
Bang for the Buck: 5/5
You can get a fully reliable AR for under $500…and even lower if you get the kits.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
The online legends are true.
Based on my testing I can totally recommend Palmetto State Armory for an affordable AR-15 that will go bang every time.
My favorite would still be their mid-length free-floating options…but their more M4-looking FSB ones also fit the bill.
For now…stay away from their Wylde and soon I’ll have reports on their .224 Valkyrie and more. Plus I’m going to put much more rounds in all three and update if anything changes.
And once you get one…check out our AR-15 Definitive Resource for everything AR.
What do you think of the review? Is a PSA AR-15 on your horizon? Or if you already have one…how’s it working out for you?
The post Palmetto State Armory (PSA) AR-15 [3 Rifle Review] appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.
Looking for bull barrel accuracy in a lightweight package?
Check out the new generation of barrels…carbon fiber, baby!
We cover the most popular ones in Best Carbon Fiber Barrels…but today we focus on BSF which brings us perforated carbon fiber instead of a wrap.
Plus…compared to the others out there…the BSF is the most affordable (I use that term loosely).
I only heard about BSF in the last year but they are making a splash in the carbon fiber (CF) arena with their perforated barrels instead of standard wraps.
My understanding is that there’s a 416R stainless steel match barrel underneath there that is covered with CF. However…95% of the CF doesn’t even touch the steel (only 4 contact points: chamber, before/after the gas block, and near the muzzle).
This creates air gaps that cool the barrel through the perforations.
I was lucky enough to try this out in a new build thanks to Rainier Arms who sent me a barrel for testing.
The barrel was a sight to behold. Even the wife said it was cool…and by now all the barrels and uppers around the house look the same to her.
I tried out the 16.5″ .223 Wylde in 1:8 twist which clocks in at 26.9 oz. Compare that to a standard M4 profile 16″ barrel at 28 oz. If you want to go bull barrel stainless…it can reach 3 lbs (48 oz). I couldn’t find exact numbers since I could only find 18″ bull barrels that are over 3.5 lbs.
My full build which contains all my favorites:
It is a little more difficult to install since there’s no barrel shoulder to gauge where to put the gas block. But if you have an electronic caliper…you should be good.
My go-to Superlative Arms block (this time in .936 for the bull barrel) went on easily after I made a small etch marking on the stainless section of the barrel.
Otherwise with my combo of the Brigand Arms CF handguard…I found that it rubbed the top of the gas block. Which technically makes it no longer free-floating…but I wanted to see how it would shoot still.
What you’ve been waiting for…does it actually work?
I conducted two rounds of tests…one with the touching CF handguard and one with the free-floating.
200 round break-in, targets at 100 yards, and shooting at a fast pace (as soon as sights were back on target) with no cooling down period.
And an assortment of my Best AR-15 Ammo.
If these were my regular groups with some cool-down and a slow steady shooting pace…I’d be a little disappointed. But I wanted to test how the heat dissipation worked and how it would perform in a little more competitive arena.
In that regard…I’m pretty impressed. It was pretty happy with Wolf Gold (the cheapest ammo) and very happy with Gold Match ($$$).
I also shot 30 rounds as fast as I could at the range and held the barrel. Only warm!
In my second round of tests on another range day, I used the Midwest Handguard and Aero upper. And a new Triggertech trigger which I actually like the most now.
And the results were on par…
All in all…pretty happy about the groups when I was shooting as fast as I could get on target with no cool down.
I’m sure if I started hand-loading I could really close up the groups. But it’s a pain to prep .223/5.56 brass so I stopped doing that. But even with this I was ringing steel at 300-400 pretty easily on a 1-6x scope.
No failures of any kind in the ~400 rounds I shot through.
Great groups when you consider shooting with no cool down and as fast as I could get back on target. A 5 would be consisten sub-moa even at high speed.
I’d make it a 10 if I could. But it really stands out…especially with the sweet carbon fiber drilled holes.
Bang for the Buck: 3.5/5
It’s $500…would I count it as double a really high quality 16″ Wylde barrel? Probably not. But if you’re at the top of your game or want an unfair advantage in relation to your groups opening up due to heat…this could be it. However…the most affordable out of other CF options.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
I believe the hype of carbon fiber barrels now.
Take a lightweight bull barrel profile with great groups at speed…and you have a winner. If you have the coin for a sweet new build…check out BSF. It’s definitely my new competition rifle.
Ringing steel at 100 was easy standing up and with a 1x. The rifle was well balanced and once I got the Superlative Arms gas block tuned in…it felt like a pea shooter.
I’ll be reporting back as I get more rounds and comps through it.
Otherwise…check out our other Best AR-15 Barrels for something more bang-for-the-buck for the everyday shooter.
The AR-15 as a platform is upgradeable to an extreme degree.
It seems like every part can be upgraded to be a little better. But that can often mean costing you an arm and a leg!
One of the smallest and easiest upgrades you can make to your AR-15 is swapping the charging handle.
Like every other AR-15 part in the world, the charging handle has dozens and dozens of different options.
Navigating AR charging handles can be a real challenge, especially when it comes to finding the right one for you. So we want to help you a bit.
If you’re in a rush, here is our quick break down table:
|Strike Industries ARCH||General Purpose||Best Mil-Spec|
|Strike Industries Extended Latch||General Purpose||Best Budget Option|
|Strike Industries Latchless||General Purpose||Best Latchless|
|Radian Raptor – LT||Lightweight||Best Lightweight Build|
|Radian Raptor||General Purpose||The Original Raptor|
|Radian Raptor – SD||Suppressed ARs||Best Suppressed Build|
|Aero Precision Ambidextrous||General Purpose||Best For Scoped ARs|
|BCM Gunfighter Mod 4||General Purpose|
|BCM Gunfighter Mod 4B||General Purpose||Best for Keeping it Simple|
|BCM Gunfighter Mod 4×4||General Purpose|
Here are charging handles from companies far and wide, and through testing and evaluation from other gun enthusiasts, they’ve narrowed it down to 10 on this list.
An upgraded charging handle doesn’t mean an extended charging handle, or a latch-less charging handle, or really anything crazy at all.
Even the most basic Mil-Spec style charging handle can be well made and can stand above other Mil-Spec options (Improving on Mil-Spec is easy when it isn’t being made by the lowest bidder).
If you want an affordable, and Mil-Spec option, then Strike Industries has you covered.
On the outside, this is a pretty standard looking charging handle, but upon closer inspection, you can tell Strike put some work into this simple charging handle.
The SI ARCH is hard anodized and is exceptionally smooth.
This smooth finish allows it to glide rearwards with ease. The most significant difference you’ll see is near the rear of the charging handle.
It’s rounded off at the back but features a sharp straight angle on the inside of the charging handle.
The inside is also textured for a better grip, and the latch is only as large as it needs to be. While the differences are subtle, once you start running the charging handle, they are significant.
A textured grip is excellent for clearing jams when your hands are sweaty or if you are wearing gloves.
The smoother finish makes the charging handle glide backward, it reduces the effort needed to charge the weapon, clear jams, and more.
Plus it just feels nice, really lovely. The SI ARCH isn’t necessarily sexy, or fancy, but it functions and does so well.
Budget is relative to what you are getting for the money. So yes, cheaper charging handles exist, but they don’t deliver as much value as the SI ARCH with the extended latch.
For right around 30 bucks you get an excellent charging handle that takes the best features of the Standard ARCH and makes it a little quicker and easier to grasp.
The extended latch sticks out about an extra half inch that gives the user a little more space to grip the charging handle.
This additional purchase gives you the ability to quickly charge the weapon and clear malfunctions. It also gives you more room to grab the charging handle if you are rocking a variable power optic.
The Strike Industries ARCH is already an outstanding charging handle, we just covered it above, and all the same features there are present here.
One detraction from this design is that the extended portion of the handle is only on the left-hand part of the charging handle. This charging feature is somewhat useless for left-handed shooters.
The Strike Industries ARCH charging handle is a great option and comes in at a low price. It’s a lot like Starbucks, basic, but not bad.
Strike Industries likes to experiment and does so quite well. The latchless charging handle is one such experiment.
The lack of a latch is an interesting idea as it reduces the movements needed to release the latch and manipulate the weapon.
I could charge the weapon with a compromised grip. Compromised means rushed, crappy, and in a hurry.
The lack of a latch allowed to load the gun from either side with ease. If my left arm is out of the fight, I can still find a way to manipulate the charging handle.
This latch-less system uses a cool hidden spring mechanism in the center of the charging handle to make sure it stays put when not in use.
That spring holds it in place entirely, but you don’t even feel it when you charge the weapon.
Like the Strike ARCH, this is 7075 T6 aluminum charging handle and the finish is slick.
The Latchless charging handle can be extended via a simple add-on to the left or right side that makes the handle a little bigger.
If you wanted to, you could purchase two extended handles and have one on the right and the left side. They install quickly and are like ten bucks.
The charging handle also features side gas venting, which is great for my 7.5-inch barrel AR pistol. It tends to be a gassy girl.
AR-15s are getting smaller and lighter. Guns come in at well under 6 pounds these days, and some builders are taking that to the extreme. My friend Rex Nanorum over at the Loadout Room has built his lightweight AR that comes in under 6 pounds when it’s outfitted with a suppressor and optic.
From talking with him I’ve learned that guys taking on these projects are looking to trim ounces, and even half ounces as much as possible.
If you are chasing this kind of build and still looking for a lightweight, but functional charging handle then the Radian LT is an excellent choice.
Coming in at only 1.2 ounces the Radian LT is a functional choice.
It’s got two massive wings on the sides that make the charging handle easy to grip and rip regardless of the situation. This is especially true when it comes to using the charging handle with an optic.
The Radian Raptor LT is made from 7075 aluminum and is hard anodized with a Mil-Spec Type 3 finish.
It is also reinforced with high strength reinforced polymer for saving weight, but maintaining strength.
The Radian Raptor LT is a lightweight, well made, and priced well. It’s a great option for your lightweight build or just a standard build that needs a great charging handle that’s priced affordably.
If we are going to name the lighter weight choice we can’t leave out the classic Radian Raptor. The Radian Raptor was one of the OG modern, extended charging handles.
An ambidextrous design features two extended handles for lots of space to grip.
The extended charging handles are big enough to allow a blading technique for those of us with tough hands. Blading is when you are catching the charging handle with your palm and rapidly pull it rearward.
You need a nice, large charging handle to do this efficiently and quickly. The Radian Raptor allows that to be possible.
It also sports two different independent levers that will enable quick and easy charging and weapon’s manipulation.
The Radian Raptor is made from 7075 aluminum and comes in a multitude of colors.
The different colors make it charming and sexy, and I appreciate a splash of color here and there. As you can see, we went with the FDE Radian Raptor.
The Raptor is a classic extended charging handle that still keeps up with the young ones.
The third and final Radian Raptor is one specifically designed for suppressed guns. The Radian Raptor SD is the same old Raptor grip we know and love but vented explicitly for suppressed ARs.
AR-15s have quite a bit of gas blowback when they are suppressed. This gas blowback hits the shooter in the face and occasionally carries carbon to the shooter’s face.
This gas can be a mild inconvenience that gets worse and worse the more rounds you put downrange.
The Radian Raptor SD is vented extensively down the sides to decrease gas blowback by venting it out the sides. This makes shooting your suppressed AR a much lovelier experience. If you are shooting suppressed, you can stop reading now; this is the charging handle you need.
If you want a massive charging handle, then Aero Precision has you covered. The Aero Precision Ambidextrous charging handle is quite likely one of the most significant charging handles on the market.
This makes it perfect for optic’s equipped AR-15s. Especially when it comes to large variable optics. These handles will clear the eyepiece of any modern scope and is my go to on my budget Recce rifle.
This ambi charging handle sports two massive latches, and it’s simple to blade the weapon, even with an optic on the gun. The Aero Precision charging handle is one of my favorite all around charging handles ever. I like it on any rifle, and its large size works with my massive hands pretty well.
The 7075-T6 aluminum design makes it a rugged and capable charging handle for your build. I love how it glides backward when pulled, and the extra size means extra leverage. This makes blading pretty easy, and not too painful on the hands.
The Aero Precision charging handle is my personal favorite, and it functions as an absolute champ.
BCM redesigned the traditional charging handle to take the force off the roll pin and placing it to the rear of the charging handle.
The GFH MOD 4 features the medium latch on the left-hand side for right-handed shooters. This particular extended model is a little shorter than an inch past the main body of the charging handle.
The BCM GFH MOD 4 is primarily designed to be used with the blading technique and is designed so that the pressure applied via this technique won’t damage the charging handle or latch.
It’s not often that you see a firearms technique incorporated into the design of a part, this is the kind of extra-level of effort that I’ve come to expect from BCM.
It catches the hand perfectly and is perfect if you are new to this technique. The Gunfighter is a thoroughly modern option for your next AR-15 build and Bravo company has an outstanding reputation for producing high-quality AR components and even full rifles.
If you want to keep things simple, the BCM Gunfighter MOD 4B is the option for you. It’s a compact and small charging handle that meets the standard Mil-Spec dimensions. This charging handle is designed for shooters used to the standard manual of arms associated with military training.
While it functions as a standard charging handle, it’s made to last.
It’s made from 7075-T6 aluminum so its strong as hell and outfitted with a type 3 hard anodized finish for long lasting durability. The MOD 4B is available in both a mil-spec design and an ambidextrous model.
This particular model is the mil-spec model, and it excels for those of us who’ve spent a little time in the armed forces. It’s also a great low profile option for those of you who don’t need or want an extended latch system. The MOD 4B is textured for a more comfortable grip and outfitted with BCM’s load eliminating design. This reduces wear on the pivot pin and paces it midline of the rifle.
The 4X4 from BCM is an ambidextrous option for Bravo Company. It’s mil-spec size and dimensions makes it nice and compact, at least compared to the other charging handles on this list. Each side features a latch that releases the charging handle with ease.
The GFH 4X4 is a great option for lefties seeking a mil-spec sized charging handle. It’s straightforward to use and is made from 7075-T6 aluminum.
I’m a right-handed shooter, so maybe I can’t get the full effect of this charging handle, but I get the concept.
Even though it feels unnatural for me to charge the rifle with my right hand, I find it surprisingly easy to do with this charging handle. The MOD 4X4 is a great little charging handle, and it’s priced affordably for a premium grade charging handle.
I’ve gone through a lot of charging handles; I mean a lot of them. So much so that when testing these designs I got a nice case of tennis elbow and a bruised palm. Maybe it’s charging handle elbow?
Whatever you want to call it I got it. I did, however, learn a ton about charging handles, and there is more to learn than I expected. The best thing I learned was I have a ton of options when it comes to AR-15 builds of all kinds.
Interested in more AR-15 upgrades? Check out Best AR-15 Upgrades for everything from triggers to handguards and more.
This is our Top 10 list, but we want to know if you think we missed any? If so let us know what we missed and why it deserves a place on the list!
Manufacturer are getting more resourceful, every year we get a new round that’s been declared the latest and greatest. The 6.8 SPC, the 6.5 Grendel, and this year we’ve seen the rise of the .224 Valkyrie.
Sure, some of these rounds don’t completely fail. Their cult status lets them keep living a sort of half-life – but most of them have the shelf life of freshly baked bread.
One round that hasn’t failed is the 300 Blackout. In fact, it’s simply grown and grown in popularity. The round was introduced at the best time possible!
If you’re not into the details, here some top picks for best .300 Blackout Ammo:
|Best Plinking/Training||Magtech AAC Blackout||123gn|
|Best Suppressed/Subsonic||Sellier & Bellot Subsonic||200gn|
|Best Supersonic||Barnes Vor-Tx||110gn|
|Best Home Defense||Fiocchi SST||125gn|
As the shooting industry was beginning to lean towards short rifles and suppressors – the 300 Blackout just so happened to be designed for short barreled rifles, equipped with suppressors. It was one of those moments where everything aligned just right.
While initially designed for a military RFI (Rapid Fielding Initiative) the civilian market accepted it quickly. The 300 Blackout functions perfectly in an AR-15 platform with hardly any changes, this makes it inexpensive to adopt and easy to test out.
So what about the ammo?
If you have a 300 Blackout weapon you need to feed it right? Here’s some of the best 300 Blackout ammo on the market.
The fact that the 300 Blackout is such a versatile round its best to look at its purpose.
300 Blackout is slowly becoming a more affordable round. It may be nowhere near as cheap as 223 or 7.62×39, but the price has been dropping constantly. It was initially near a buck a round, and at that price all you’ll hear while shooting is ka-ching, ka-ching ka-ching.
Luckily, prices have dropped, and ammo is hitting well under a dollar a round. Now if we avoid questionable reloads and want quality factory loads we are lead to Magtech First Defense.
I’ve always found this 123-grain FMJ ammo to be affordable, reliable and easy shooting.
Supersonic ammunition and flies forward at a blistering 2230 feet per second, the ammo uses premium brass cases and high-quality FMJ projectiles.
This is very basic ammunition designed to function reliably and accurately for all your training needs, perfect to be bought in bulk.
When it comes to purely plinking you can trust some lower quality rounds, but in good conscience, I won’t suggest anything that might blow your gun up.
Magtech consistently makes quality ammunition.
When the times comes to put lead downrange regardless of the reasons you’ll be hearing bangs and not clicks. This ammo is a solid choice for general fun gunning, tactical training, three gun, and more.
One of the best things about the 300 Blackout round is the fact it’s superbly versatile. The rounds can range greatly in weight from light 90-grain supersonic loads to 220-grain subsonic baseball bats.
When it comes to a suppressor slower is better. A subsonic round lacks that supersonic crack. A suppressor only stops the blast at the muzzle end of the gun. It does nothing for the supersonic crack.
A subsonic load through a suppressor is nice and quiet. Nowhere near movie quiet, but quiet enough to be hearing safe.
One solid subsonic load for the suppressor enthusiast is the Sellier and Bellot 200 Grain FMJs.
These are on the lighter side of subsonic loads, so they move a little faster than the 220 grains and this translates into a little extra energy.
The lighter loads are chugging along at only 1,060 feet per second.
With rounds like this, you are getting performance a little better than a 45 ACP round. Slow is smooth, and smooth is basically a handgun round. It’s one of the joys of the 300 Blackout platform. It’s effectively suppressed at the cost of the long-range ability.
Swap in a magazine full of supersonics and bam you got your long-range performance back at the sacrifice of getting a little louder.
I personally hunt with an AR-15 and don’t see an issue with it, but the 300 Blackout has found its way into guns like the Ruger American rifle. It’s a great hunting cartridge and can be used both in a suppressed platform and a loud platform.
The only thing you need to consider when using 300 BLK to hunt with is that it offers a limited range, 200 yards for supersonic ammo and 150 yards or less for subsonic ammo.
When it comes to hunting I’d stick with a supersonic cartridge.
They fly further, hit harder, and are much more capable of quickly killing your game of choice. There are a number of different hunting cartridges out there for the 300 Blackout, but one that’s proven is from Barnes.
As it penetrates it’s also going to open up and expand. As it expands it leaves a wake of destruction which increases your chances of a one hit kill. This is a humane round that will put a deer down without issue.
Barnes is a premium ammo and it comes at a premium price, but the pay off is ethical hunting and that makes it worth the extra cents.
A suppressed, short barreled rifle is a mighty good home defense device. Even if you subtract the short-barreled part a semi-automatic rifle is a helluva way to deal with things that go bump in the night.
To do so you need the right ammo. A standard FMJ isn’t going to do it. They pass through walls, furniture, and everything else a little too easy. Plus, they aren’t the most efficient “man stopper”.
For this the Fiocchi 300 Blackout load is perfect. This is brass cased premium round loaded with one bad projectile. The projectile is from Hornady and weighs 125 grains.
The projectile is a Super Shock Tip projectile. It reaches 2,200 feet per second and is designed to deliver controlled expansion at high velocities.
A lot of times a company hypes their ammo a bit, what I like about the Fiocchi SST is that it actually has some solid reasons backing it up:
A magazine of two of these bad boys is going to be one helluva solution to whatever problems you may have.
Using a rifle for self-defense does require plenty of practice and if you make that decision you need practice.
Make sure you get both a good self-defense round and a lot of ammo to train with.
If you noticed my selection for training ammo was a 123-grain round and my choice for a self-defense round is 125 grains – I do this so that the recoil and operation will be as close as possible without having to spend the money on mass amounts of high-end ammo.
The 300 Blackout is a modern little cartridge that absolutely rules the 0-300-yard range. It’s potent, powerful versatile, and popular enough to give you a wide selection of rifles to choose from.
You can do a lot with a 300 Blackout rifle, and the task you choose is going to determine the ammo you need. Certain tasks don’t work well with certain ammo so make sure you pair the right ammo with the right tasks.
If you’re looking to build a 300 BLK rifle for yourself, take a look at our top picks for 300 Blackout Uppers!
Do we have any 300 Blackout aficionados in the house? Let us know in the comments what is your favorite 300 BLK ammo and why!
The post Best .300 Blackout Ammo : Self Defense, Hunting, Target appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.