Steve Coulston Reviews The Ground Breaking New Charging Handle From Rainier Arms… Avalanche

It seems like nowadays there is a way to customize just about anything. For us black-rifle guys and gals that is a good thing as far as I’m concerned. The AR15 and its spin-offs have come a long way and the manufacturers are sure to produce as much variety as possible.

Want plain-Jane or super-uber mall ninja? Done.

Need something economical or are you looking to build a break-the-bank-blaster? There is something for everyone.

Grips, sights, handguards, and triggers can be swapped out. Hell, there is even a market for custom take-down and pivot pins. Me, I love it all and I partake whenever it suits my fancy.

Rainier Arms, based out of Auburn, Washington, is one of those manufacturers feeding our AR Addiction. They make or sell just about anything our little black-rifle heart’s desire. I’ve been following some of their latest innovations and they have a lot of killer stuff coming down the barrel.

Developing a new charging handle has been one of their projects.

Owner John Hwang is on a mission to create the best charging handle he can, so he started from scratch. Ground Zero. Blank Slate. Over the past year, this project has evolved to the point where things are pretty well tweaked and the final touches are being put together.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to get my hands on the final test model. This new charging handle is called the Avalanche, which is as appropriate as the company’s namesake. For those that don’t know, Rainier Arms basks in the presence of Mt. Rainier, which is the largest mountain in the State of Washington. I think the Avalanche name works well.

The ambidextrous charging handle I now hold in my hands is pretty slick and like nothing I have ever seen on the market thus far. It is an ambidextrous part meaning it can be manipulated from either the left or right side depending on the shooter. Ambi-capable is a must for charging handles these days. But in my opinion, not unique by any stretch of the imagination.

The Avalanche is made of 7075 silver-colored aerospace grade aluminum. The Rainier Arms logo and Avalanche name are proudly etched on the top of the unit. Unlike many traditional charging handles, the latch mechanism is made of stainless steel, not aluminum, and the springs are nice and strong for positive lock up.

The Avalanche has three beefy roll pins holding everything together. One for the stainless latch and two for the hinges of the handle.

The handles, or wings if you will, are large, easily grasped, and manipulated. If your hands are numb, wearing gloves, or just in a hurry the wings on the Avalanche will be hard to miss. The version I had featured black, cylindrical, knurled wings reminiscent in feel to a barbell. The design offers a sure grip without being to grabby.

Don’t like it you say? Too plain? Don’t like the color? Well, well, well. This is where the Avalanche truly shines.

The most unique feature of this charging handle is that the wings are replaceable. In fact, I had a replacement set sent along and had fun swapping them out for a more modernistic, faceted wing Cerekoted in flat dark earth (FDE). There is also another version of the wing that looks reminiscent of a bird’s… well… wing. Go figure.

The three current configurations will come in a wide variety of colors. To date I have seen black, silver, purple, red, gold and FDE. Some colors are anodized while others are Cerekoted.

Swapping out the wings is quick and easy. Loosen the respective set screw on each wing. On the knurled test version I have the screw is on the end of the wing while the other wings have the screw under the wing. The production knurled version will have the screw moved to the same location as the others in order to remove any chance of the wing rotating over time. Once the screw is removed simply slide the wing off the internal shaft. Replace in the opposite order. Make sure to use a little blue Loctite to keep those screws from backing out and you’re good to go.

I have had the test model in one of my rifles for a week now and I am impressed. I have found in the past that some charging handles are sticky and gritty even when clean. The Avalanche has a really nice, smooth draw stroke with a very positive lock up. While I don’t have a ton of time on it to date, I will continue to use and abuse it.

I am anxious to see how well the Avalanche holds up after 1000’s of one-handed charges. According to Rainier Arms, after thousands of charges, the Avalanche continues to shine. Thus far I like the look, the feel and the concept. I think Rainier has a winner on their hands. For the individualistic, ever indecisive, fashion conscience, black rifle connoisseur, this one is for you. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

The knurled version price will hover around the $80 mark with the other wings about ten bucks more. Estimated time of release is in the very near future so stay tuned.

Only time will tell if the Avalanche will live up to its monumental name.

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