There’s little you can’t upgrade on an AR-15. However, the prices of some accessories might give you heartburn. Luckily, an AR 15 charging handle is different.
It’s among the most budget-friendly things you can upgrade on an AR, but how do you choose the right one? That’s where I’m here to help. Let’s take a dive into how to search for the best charging handle and review some of the following top options out there.
AR 15 Charging Handle Information
At first glance, all handles appear the same. But slight variations in the design can affect the way you operate it. The following sections give you a quick overview of the handle’s upsides and desirable features.
What are the Advantages of the AR 15 Charging Handle?
Let’s start with a couple of questions. Are you right-handed or left-handed? How much do you shoot?
A lot of times, a charging handle is a must if you’re a lefty. It saves the annoyance of accessing the pull-back of a rifle that’s designed for righties. It’s even more helpful when you need to reach beyond a large scope to cock the gun.
And if you’re one of the trigger-happy, a spare charging handle should always be by your side.
Not that the original is going to break easily, but if it does, it’s really tricky to get your weapon ready. I learned this the hard way, and I almost smashed my finger trying to engage the gun without the component.
But I don’t like charging handles just because they make it easy for you to fire. The accessory is great at dispelling shells. And it makes clearing out stoppages and malfunctions a breeze.
One of the best things you can do is to change the charging handle as soon as you get your AR. You can keep the original as a spare.
Things to Look for
With charging handles, there isn’t a checklist of desirable features to worry about. In fact, you should focus only on three things.
The primary benefit of a gas buster is keeping the gas blow-back away from your face. A charging handle with this feature should work like a charm with an AR 15. But it’s also a good option for suppressed rifles.
Ambidextrous charging handles are suitable for lefties and righties. The handle’s surface is rather large, so you have quick access from both sides.
There is an enlarged latch on this kind of charging handle. The perk is greater ease of use, especially at nighttime, when you’re gloved, or when you’re under a lot of pressure.
Some claim that the extended handle can be a life-saver in defensive scenarios because you get to charge by the foot. But I’ve yet to put this to a test.
What’s the Best Way to Use a Charging Handle?
There’s no such thing as the best way to use the charging handles, but most shooters prefer one of three methods. It’s up to you to select one that fits your style.
The Blade Runner is the caveman’s method, but it doesn’t have anything to do with your skill level.
Put your hand against the latch with your palm facing up and your small finger coming in contact with the T-section of the handle. This allows you to ram the bolt carrier into position with little to no fine motor skills.
If you’re an old-school shooter, the claw should be right up your alley.
Grab the T-handle front with your middle and index finger, with your strong hand by the way. Make sure to support the rifle with your other hand, and a single snappy backstroke should prep your weapon.
This method works well when you need to keep the strong hand on the controls.
Use your off hand’s index finger to pinch the charging handle’s latch. As you pull the handle, place the thumb on the handle’s tail to support the action.
To be sure there’s no cartridge in your AR 15, you should always snap. Cock your rifle by pulling the charging handle and then pull the trigger.
Before firing, check and see if the feed arm and the charging handle move without any resistance. You should weigh the mainspring and test ejection as well. Do this with a dummy cartridge.
Should your rifle misfire, wait a while before pulling the handle. When cycling the AR 15 charging handle, you don’t use your strong hand. It’s also important to do a chamber check, or you can lock the bolt at the rear.
You should know that ARs have a free-floating firing pin. It’s designed to prevent slam-fire if you drop the gun, for example. But if there’s a defective round, the gun might actually fire when you least expect it to. This all calls for always pointing the muzzle in the right direction when prepping the rifle.
Best AR 15 Charging Handles
This is certainly an upgrade from the Standard ARCH as the handle is somewhat easier and quicker to grasp. The extended latch is responsible for this and it protrudes out about half an inch.
You should be able to clear malfunctions and charge the rifle smoothly. And the extension really comes in handy for those who like to use a few optics. However, there is a limit that you should know about.
The extension is only on the left side of the T-handle. For most shooters, this isn’t a deal-breaker. But if you’re a leftie, you probably won’t be able to take full advantage of the feature.
The ARCH stands out as one of the best values for the money you can get. For a reasonable price, this handle has a hard-anodized finish, and the material is aluminum. These characteristics make the handle resistant to wear and tear.
Overall, this charging handle is suitable for both veteran and novice firearm operators. And it’s unlikely to let you down even after months of use, maybe even years.
The handle also comes in six different colors, so it can be an eye-catching detail on your AR 15. For me, the red one is a perfect fit. But of course, don’t buy a charging handle for the color.
- Good value for money
- Extended latch
- Six finishes
- Aluminum construction
- The extension is on the left side only
If you’re looking for a lightweight charging handle, the Raptor should be a good choice. The handle also features extended latches on both sides for the left- and right-handed.
Moreover, the T-section extensions give you plenty of room for a Blade Runner, even if your hands are tough. And the Raptor is one of the lightest for the size. Plenty of room to grip and pull with minimal effort.
As for the materials, the handle features aircraft-grade aluminum. It’s also anodized, and the raptor comes in a few colors. These are the characteristics you’d find in most other handles anyway, so what makes the Raptor special?
The T-section design is outstanding and should match the hand and shooting style of any firearm operator. There is no need to stress its durability or field performance, but this charging handle is in the upper price range.
Not that it’s going to burn a hole in your pocket, and you’re paying for a premium brand and build quality. The good news is that this handle should have the power to make operating your AR 15 more efficient, even when you need to deal with misfires and malfunctions.
- Left- or right-handed
- Excellent T-section design
- Good for the Blade Runner charging method
- A bit pricey
The name indicates that the ambi handle is suitable for left- and right-handed shooters. And you can guess that the Aero is made of aluminum. So why did the handle earn its place among the best AR 15 charging handles?
The Aero has a great extended latch design and there’s one to each side. This should fit any charging method and maybe make it a bit easier for those who are new to this.
Weighing in at almost 2 oz., the Aero is somewhat heavier. But once it’s on a rifle, you’re not likely to feel the difference. And it certainly doesn’t make the charging action less smooth.
The higher weight and size are actually among the handle’s strongest suits, especially if your AR 15 has a large scope. The massive handle easily moves past the eyepiece, allowing you to keep the focus on your target.
Furthermore, the thickened size means that you get more leverage. In turn, the Aero is more forgiving on your hands, and it comes at a fair price.
The only drawback, if it can even be called a drawback, is that it only comes in one finish.
- Rugged design
- Large latches and T-section
- Greater leverage
- Reasonable price
- Only comes in black
The Gen 2 offers a few improvements on the original BCMGunfighter. For starters, it’s less spindly and there’s no need to stress about the pivot pin.
The original BCMGunfighter could break the pin, especially in fast-moving scenarios. But the new charging handle has a completely re-engineered geometry.
The stress distribution is much better, and it’s away from the pivot pin. The added advantage is that this makes the component stronger and the pulling energy moves near the center of your AR 15. This allows for a straight pull, and there is no twisting that might jeopardize the handle’s integrity.
The thing that really caught my eye is the gas buster, which makes the rifle safer to use — especially if you carry the AR 15 suppressed.
The BCMGunfighter Gen 2 also has beveled edges. This makes it snag-free and it should be easier to hold or pinch.
As for the price, this charging handle is among the most affordable. But from what I can see, this is not at the cost of quality or durability.
Again, this is one of the models that only comes in black.
- Improved geometry
- Better energy distribution
- Snag-free profile
- Gas buster
- About the same size as the stock handle
The ACH has all the bells and whistles. First, the handle features a low profile, so it shouldn’t catch on anything.
The manufacturer claims that this model has been designed to match the requirements of an elite commando unit. This sounds cool, but it actually means that the handle doesn’t interfere with low-mounted optic like a red dot sight.
The ACH AR charging handle is for left- and right-handed shooters, but the levers are pretty short. Nevertheless, Geissele compensates for this with user-friendly levers that feature a slightly concave radius cut, so you should be able to secure a firm grasp without too much hassle.
This applies even if you’re wearing gloves. And in this case, the concave radius cut really allows for a secure pull. Other than that, the manufacturer uses the same aluminum material as most of the competition.
The finish is Type III hard-coat anodized. This should make the handle more resistant and durable, an upgrade over the standard anodized finish.
Lastly, you can get the ACH in desert dirt or regular black.
- Sleek low profile
- Designed for US Armed Forces
- User-friendly lever design
Arm Your Weapons
What is the best AR 15 charging handle? You can hardly make the wrong choice. However, the Bravo Company BCMGunfighter Gen 2 stands out.
This handle checks all the right boxes, whether it’s design, ease of use, or durability. The improved geometry makes it not only great at charging, but you’ll also quickly dispel used shells and clear malfunctions.
What’s more, the included gas buster makes the Gen 2 one of the safest models on the market. And the low price may just seal the deal.