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!
In the world of military small arms, many would argue that the most significant one in the last century is the Sturmgewehr. Though it is not known as the first assault rifle (Federov Rifle) but, it is the first most practical assault rifle used by the Germans during WWII.
This baby shoots a 7.9mm and can shoot on semi and full automatic. The Sturmgewehr may be one of the best firearm to shoot on fully automatic (in burst), because it has better control of the muzzle compared to the Grease gun. The magazine holds 30 rounds, but advised to use only 25. Has a tendecy to malfunction due to the mag movement (sway front and back) with the round nose diving forward positioned while in the mag. However, for tactical usage it was the perfect weapon for the intermediate engagement ranges (50 – 200 yards).
This is one of Larry Vickers favorite classic weapon to test and fire. See the footage below.
Hey, Larry Vickers here and I’m gonna take you through one of my favorite weapons of all time: The Sturmgewehr. This particular one’s MP 43-marked, and it was made in 1944. It’s an all-matching transferrable Sturmgewehr. Now, technically speaking, the first assault rifle was the Federov, however for all intents and purposes, the assault rifle as we know it, the first practical one fielded, was this bad boy right here, by the germans, in the hundreds of thousands in World War Two.
The Sturmgewehr is chambered in 7.92 kurz. Otherwise known as 7.92×33, or 8mm short. It’s a true Intermediate assault rifle caliber, in-between a 9×19 and a 7.92×57 full-size rifle caliber. In addition, it’s select-fire, capable of safe, semi, and fully-automatic.
I’ve shot this gun quite a bit, I’ve taken it to different classes, matter of fact the most popular video on the Sturmgewehr on the Internet is one that we did way back in the day on Tactical Impact. So I’ve learned a few things about it, I’m gonna take you through it.
First off, in my opinion, you wanna use original magazines in a Sturmgewehr. This is a world-war-two era magazine, this particular one is an MP44-marked, I’ve tried one of the later reproduction magazines, and it hasn’t worked nearly as well. Also, thirty-round mag, but I only load mine to twenty five. The reason being, you get that little nose-dive situation with the follower in the spring combination, and combined with the fact the way the magazine is held in the gun; in an M16-style mag-release, means you get this forward-and-back rocking situation right here. That combined with that nosedive situation I alluded to, and that means above twenty-five rounds the gun can shut down on you. May be the byproduct of the fact that it’s an old magazine and needs fresh springs, but I tend to believe it’s kinda inherent in the design.
Also, you notice how long the magazine is, so when you go prone, you can see why toward the end of the war when the germans were looking at the STG45, they went with a much lower 15-round magazine.
Dust cover right here is the one that the M16 copied; of course the M16 copy flips down verses flips up on the Sturmgewehr. One plus that this gun would have is if the sight radius was much longer, they bring the sight to the rear, make it a peep sight, you do that, and that would change the game on this thing. Also if you had any kind of a rail interface on the top like the FG42 did in WW2, and you have the ability to mount an optic on the top, would make a big difference. They did have an optic rail on some Sturmgewehrs that mounted on the side like a G43, but those are relatively rare.
Now, I’m gonna take you through some features of the design. First off, make sure the gun’s clear. It has an HK-style pushpin right here to rear. Matter of fact, that’s where the HK got it, was the Sturmgewehr. You push it to the side -just kinda set it over here- and now you just wiggle the buttstock off and the spring is in the buttstock. That was one of the weaknesses of the design. The spring is in the buttstock, so if the buttstock got damaged, or whatever the case may be, it’d shut the gun down. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen pictures late in the war of GIs and Soviets who wanted to deactivate Sturmgewehrs by breaking the buttstock, and the gun is out of commission.
Take the spring out, take off the buttstock, notice the trigger-group pivots down. And it’s riveted in place, so a gunsmith would have to take it off, unlike later with HK where they took the exact same concept, but they put a pushpin on it. Now trigger mechanism-wise, it has a real unique feature that really was largely lost after the war. Not many guns incorporated it at all. The safety selector’s on this side, and pivots down to allow you to fire the gun, but you select semi-automatic vs. fully-automatic with a cross-bolt. Actually, from an end-user point of view, pretty slick design. However, it did make for a more complex trigger mechanism, and if you shoot ’em a lot, these things have a tendency to break on you, like our good friends out at Battlefield Vegas found out.
Alright, now, the Trunnion, where the bolt locks into, is in this portion of the receiver right here, and it’s actually pinned in place, and the sheet metal is stamped and rolled around it. It’s entirely different than what the soviets did later with the AK series where the rotating bolt locked into a trunnion up front. In this case this is critical because the tilting bolt locks into the trunnion right here.
Now you’ll notice right here, you have some gas vents on the gas tube; that’s one of the reasons in combination with the fact that the hand guard is made out of metal, one of the reasons why when you shoot a Sturmgewehr, you really need gloves, because in the course of just one magazine, the gun gets very hot. And that’s why you’ll see guys shooting them, or even videos of World War Two soldiers grabbing them by the magazine. Nowhere near as controllable than grabbing the gun around the forend, but this puppy gets really hot on you, fast.
…Pushpin back in… Alright, getting ready to go hot here. Now, the gun’s kind of a mix of left-handed and right-handed friendly. The charging handle and the mag release are right-hander friendly, not really left-hander friendly at all; however, I would argue the trigger mechanism is left-hander friendly. It’s easy for a left-hander to manipulate the fire control, and then the mode selector, the push selector, on this, very easy for a left-hander to manipulate. So, right-hander friendly charging handle, mag release; left-hander friendly safety selector, fire mode selector. Alright, put on my eyes and ears, it’s time to go hot.
Alright, remember you wanna do your push-pull, make sure that magazine’s all the way in, we’re ready to go hot here.[Shooting]
Full auto, baby.[More shooting]
No bullet-hold-open device, of course, time to reload this thing and do a little bit more full-auto for you. Great gun to shoot, real soft shootin’ regardless, especially in this caliber and this weight of a gun, but on full-auto it is a pussycat to shoot. One of the most controllable assault rifles I’ve shot, bar none.[more shooting]
You would have to say, that in the world of military small arms, I would argue the most significant one in the last century is the Sturmgewehr. After WWII, all major nations adopted an assault rifle. Now the US was fairly late to it, many kinda beat us to the punch, but eventually we picked up the M16, which is a classic assault rifle, we’ve been running with it ever since. The Soviets learned a lesson real quick, ‘cuz they faced these on the eastern front, and they adopted the AK47, and they adopted the Kalashnikov ever since. In terms of significant military small arms, it’s hard to think of one that tops the Sturmgewehr. Hope you’ve enjoyed it.[Vickers Tactical Outro]
Source: Wikipedia, Vickers Tactical
From its very beginning the AK-47 was designed to be a simple, reliable automatic rifle that could be manufactured quickly and cheaply, using mass production methods by the Soviet Union during the beginning of the cold war. This weapon can be found any where in the world for its reliability and afford ability. Once it made its way to the United States, the weapon is now America’s second favorite to our AR-15 among the shooting enthusiasts. (oops, that’s another debate)
To fully appreciate the functionality of this fabulous weapon, take a look at it in full action and be amaze of the simple design and operation of the bolt carrier and gas block. This is all in slow motion, gotta love the technology! Powered by BCM to provide you with the viewing and Larry Vicker demoing with the AK.
In this video Larry Vicker is shooting a 1968 AK-47 Type III built in Bulgaria.
by J Hines
Source: Vicker’s Tactical Youtube, Bravo Company
This is for all AR lovers who can appreciate the functionality of this weapon.
There have been other articles and animations that highlights the function of an M4 Carbine while its being discharged. But this video demonstrated by Larry Vicker and with the help of BCM and Joe Barnsfather for making the cutaway version wizardry a unique, one of a kind, slow motion inside look at the M4 Carbine. Enjoy!
Source: Vickers Tactical Youtube