AR-15 Charging Handle Frequently Asked Questions
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The AR 15 charging handle is a crucial piece of hardware when building or accessorizing your rifle. For people looking to save money on a new build, it can often be a part that gets overlooked. Be sure to head over to our article on accessorizing your AR-15.
While traditional MIL-SPEC charging handles can be adequate, new technologies and designs have vastly improved the handling and functionality of the AR15’s charging handle. Charging handle manufacturers perpetually improve their products for greater durability and consistency in adverse conditions.
Nowadays, you don’t have to spend much to enhance your rifle with an aftermarket charging handle that will improve reliability and performance, so why settle for older designs?
Most charging handles are made of durable aluminum, though the machining process can differ from product to product. Billet-machined charging handles are more expensive than their forged counterparts, as the manufacturing process takes more time and materials, but it offers a slightly greater variety in design and ergonomics. Forged charging handles will do the job just fine, but billet charging handles are usually more feature-rich, particularly when it comes to latch design.
Standard MIL SPEC charging handles will have one small latch on the left side of the handle. This compact design is great at preventing snags against gear or underbrush, but it comes with a noticeable weakness. The small latch can be hard to grip under duress, limiting the user’s leverage when clearing tough jams.
That’s why extended-latch charging handles are one of the most popular upgrades for any AR15 rifle. The wider gripping surface makes it much easier to clear jams under duress, and for most shooting activities, snagging isn’t a major concern.
For even greater control, many gun-owners invest in ambidextrous charging handles, which puts latches on both the right and left side. If you’re left-handed, this is an obvious improvement to the standard controls, but even right-handed marksmen can enjoy the added flexibility of an ambidextrous design.
AR15s are beloved for their customizability, and the charging handle offers yet another avenue for individualism. Not every upgrade has to be strictly practical. Sometimes, people want an upgrade for aesthetics, and there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, your rifle reflects your own style, so you shouldn’t be afraid to add some personality.
The aggressive styles of an extended-latch handle will certainly enhance your rifle’s ergonomics, but the color, design, and form factor can also make an appreciable difference in the aesthetic of your rifle. We won’t recommend you sacrifice functionality for appearances, but in this case, appearances often coincide with performance characteristics.
Popular models like the Radian Weapons Raptor feature large, talon-like latches, skeletonized for both aesthetics and for weight reduction. Then there's the Strike Industries ARCH, which features enlarged latch faces and an extended latch on one side for agile manipulation.
Geissele Super and Airborne Charging Handles are machined from a solid aluminum billet, feature similarly oversized latches, and have a knurled texture on the latch faces to maximize grip even with gloves on. Geissele charging handles also feature a large, gas-busting lip where the handle meets the upper receiver to keep you from taking blasts of gas to the face when shooting suppressed.
BCM charging handles are popular because they offer 2 different latch sizes: medium and large. For tactical use, the medium charging handles have less risk of snagging against your gear, but for competition and target shooting, the large latches offer more grip space for quick controls.
Like most AR parts, charging handles come in a variety of color options as well. Strike Industries offers their charging handles in blue, red, and FDE alongside the standard anodized black. Other options include Desert Dirt, Olive Green, Silver, and Tungsten Grey.