I’ve said for years that the AR is the grown up’s version of Legos. You can mix and match thousands of parts to make your rifle as unique as you. Even better is that you don’t need to be a gunsmith for the vast majority of these changes. Lately, one of the areas of focus with AR manufacturers is the charging handle
In the world of AR parts, the sky is the limit, which can be daunting for the average user. Below is a list of the top 5 most popular charging handles with shooters and aficionados.
Found on multiple websites for prices ranging from $50 to $62, it is by far the most popular amongst shooters. Radian Weapons Raptor has been a favorite for years with the new LT being a significant evolution. The main difference between the two versions is that the LT has an over-molded with a fiber reinforced polymer handle. The shaft and the core of the handle are machined of 7075 aluminum, MILSPEC type III hard anodizing, and comes with a limited lifetime warranty. It is ambidextrous and comes in 3 color options to better fit your AR design. Considered by the experts as strong and reliable, it is an excellent deal for the price.
The BCM Gunfighter is considered an excellent option of strength and functionality. Forged from 7076 T6 aluminum, hard coat Type III anodized, and fitted with two different extended latches. The design of this handle centers the pivot point toward the center of the handle so that no torque is applied toward any one direction, making it work smoothly and consistently without putting undue pressure on the shaft of the handle. The price on this is consistently between $75 to $80, which makes sense considering the popularity of this part.
The Rack is engineered for strength, this unique design eliminates the need for poll pins (the weakest part of the handle). CNC machined from a single piece of 7075 T6 aluminum and built for ambidextrous asymmetrical use; this handle is robust, smooth, and reliable every time. While many balks at the higher price, engineering and one of a kind designs aren’t cheap. You want something that can be manipulated from either side, every time with a strength that can’t be compared; then this is the handle for you. The monolithic design isn’t only strong and ambidextrous, but the latch also slides out parallel to the receiver relieving wear typical with standard charging handles. A great handle with a bit higher price point.
Forged from T6 7075 hard coat anodized aluminum and sent with an extended aluminum latch, this ARCH EL is designed to be smooth and used in the worst conditions. The key feature of this handle is the latch. The extended latch being made of aluminum, instead of the traditional steel, means less wear than the standard and less weight. The finish has been high polished smooth for clean, reliable function every time. One nice thing about this handle is that there are multiple colors available to help customize your rifle to meet your desires without adding to the price. Available for $32 at the cheapest, this is a great budget handle that will upgrade your build.
Geissele is a name synonymous with quality in the firearms industry. Their charging handle is no exception. It is 3D machined from a solid block of T6 7075 aircraft grade aluminum and ambidextrous in design. It is durable and smooth, for sure. Benefits to this handle are that the latch is machined to match the size and angle of the M14 for better purchase and checkered for use with while even wearing gloves. Another benefit to the design is that it redirects gases away from the shooter, making the day at the range more enjoyable. All parts are Type III hard coat anodized and come in black and flat dark earth. The price on this handle is consistent at $89 with the Flat Dark Earth being $99. A solid purchase for the upgrade.
The charging handle has been considered a weak point of the AR platform for years. The most common breaks happen either where the roll pin attaches the latch or where the latch, handle, and the shaft meet. Both points are addressed with any of these designs. By making the purchase and simply putting the new handle in, you can upgrade even a stock AR or your latest build. My personal opinion is to go toward strength and reliability. Especially if your rifle is a working rifle or used in competition and classes. The range junky may not use their charging handle much and want an extended latch, but the working rifleman understands the need for this part upgrade. Anyone of these manufacturers is top of their field in quality, and you won’t go wrong. Whether you can only afford the Strike Industries ARCH EL for $32 or go all out with the BAD Rack 15 at $109, you’ll get the upgrade you are looking for and improve your rifle’s function. Check these out for your next purchase and an easy upgrade you won’t be disappointed in.
What on our list do you agree with? Disagree? As always there are several honorable mentions that could be included here. What are yours?
Prices accurate at time of writing