AR-15’s are some of the most popular, tactical guns to own for target shooting and home defense. They have been around a long time and are trusted by most firearm enthusiasts.
Are you interested in picking up a AR 15 for yourself? Or better yet, do you want to build your own from the ground up?
Either way, it’s incredibly important to know about all the different parts inside your AR 15. Knowing how to disassemble, and reassemble your gun is crucial knowledge.
As you learn about your AR 15, you’ll inevitably run into the charging handle. The AR 15 charging handle is one of the most important components of your rifle.
Many people choose to upgrade their charging handle, as it’s simple to do and can improve performance and comfort. But if you are new to AR-15’s, you are probably wondering what they are.
Keep reading to learn what an AT charging handle is, and how to choose the best charging handle for your gun.
What is a Charging Handle for AR-15’s?
Before we get into why charging handles are so important, you need to know what they are, right?
The charging handle on your AR 15 is essentially the same as an AK 47 charging handle, though the two guns are quite different in performance. It’s a rod attached to your upper receiver. It’s what you pull back to move the bolt into the firing position, cocking the hammer.
Basically, if you want to fire a round through your rifle, you need to pull the charging handle back. It’s kind of like the bolt on a bolt action rifle. It’s very hard to operate a gun without one.
Why You Need a Good Charging Handle
When you purchase a stock model AR 15, it’s going to come ready to use. That means it has a charging handle already installed.
However, for AR enthusiasts, this is one of the first components to be upgraded with an aftermarket replacement. Here’s why you should consider upgrading your AR 15 charging handle.
1. Change the Aesthetic of Your Gun
One of the most common reasons to upgrade to a new charging handle is to change the look of your gun. Charging handles for AR-15’s come in many different colors, styles, and finishes.
While much of the handle isn’t seen, some of it is. You can add a little bit of contrast by choosing a brighter colored charging handle. Some companies offer affordable handles that are bright red or blue.
Otherwise, you can choose all-black, to match the look of your other gun’s components. Or choose a gray or brown color with a matte or shiny finish.
Some are very basic in appearance, for those looking to make a simple, cheap upgrade. Others have a much more tactical look, though they tend to cost much more.
Consider the aesthetic you’d like your gun to reflect, and purchase accordingly.
2. Lengthen the Charging Handle
Many AR-15 users report that the stock handle they receive with their gun is hard to use because it’s too short. They might have large hands, or they prefer to shoot their gun while wearing gloves.
This extra bulk means that a longer handle is easier to use and is more comfortable for the user. Also, if you have a large scope or a scope that sits very far back on your rifle, then you might need a longer handle in order to clear the rear-end of the scope.
A longer charging handle is generally more comfortable and easier to use.
3. Make the Gun Ambidextrous
Left-handed shooters are often left out in the cold. Few guns come with a design made for lefties.
On a normal AR-15, the charging handle latch can only be operated comfortably when holding the gun as a right-handed shooter would. This means that lefties have to strain their hands and press the latch in an unnatural way.
But replacing your charging handle with an ambidextrous one is a simple, cost-effective solution. This makes the handle easy to operate, regardless of how you hold the gun and which hand you use to pull the handle.
4. Improve Firing Performance
Charging handles have a direct impact on the performance of the gun and the consistency of shots. Some are made with different coatings and finishes that allow for smoother motion. This can help prevent jams or misfires, and ensure consistency when shooting many rounds.
If you do experience a jam or misfire, they are much easier to clear using a charging handle, than trying to do so manually.
On top of that, some charging handles come with holes in the shaft. These holes are intentional, as they allow for the gas, that builds up with each shot, to be released in various directions.
This prevents all of the gas from moving towards the shooter’s face, which is uncomfortable and a little unsafe as well. If you shoot a lot or like to shoot many rounds at one time, a handle with boreholes should be on your list of upgrades.
5. Better Grip
Charging handles need to be manipulated with your hands in order to fire rounds. So they need to be easy to grip in varying conditions.
While some simple charging handles offer a smooth surface, others have ridges or serrations. These provide extra grip.
The grip is especially helpful when shooting while wearing gloves, where slipping hands might be common. It’s also helpful if you are operating the gun in hot or humid conditions where you might encounter sweaty hands.
The deeper the serrations on the handle, the easier you can grip the handle in any condition.
The Benefits of a New Charging Handle Don’t Stop There
One of the best things about getting a new charging handle for your AR is that your original one can act as a spare. Charging handles are usually made of aluminum. While they are very tough to break, and can typically handle tens of thousands of rounds before seeing signs of stress, they can fail at one point or another.
If you are out in the field or on the range, having a spare charging handle can be incredibly handy. While you can technically operate the gun without one, it’s difficult and can injure your fingers if you aren’t careful.
Choosing the Best Charging Handle
Ready to find your new favorite charging handle to make your gun more fun to use? Here are the top manufacturers of reliable charging handles for AR-15’s.
If you are looking for affordable and trustworthy charging handles, you need not look further than Strike Industries. You can find many of their most popular handles for less than $40, making this an easy upgrade to make.
Some of their handles come in many different colors, including red and blue, if you’d like a little pop of color on your gun.
You can also choose the Arch Extended latch handle for something a bit longer and easier to grab than the standard-sized handles. While not designed for lefty shooters, it will make it much easier for right-handed shooters using large optics.
Radian is another popular and trustworthy brand. Their handles, however, are quite a bit more expensive than those from Strike Industries, nearing the $100 range.
However, you get a lot of bang for your bag, particularly with the Radian Raptor. It’s a lightweight handle with extended latches on either side of the handle, helping out both righties and lefties.
This design feels great in your hand and makes clearing misfires a breeze. A few color options are available, but all neutral, tactical colors as opposed to the bright colors offered by Strike.
Looking for a true ambidextrous charging handle? The ambidextrous handle from Aero Precision has an extended latch on both sides of the handle, making it comfortable and easy to use for both left and right-handed shooters.
The handle is a bit heavier than most other charging handles. But the extra weight means that the handle is a bit more forgiving, and a bit easier to use. You won’t make any mistakes by moving your hand slightly, as can be a problem with lightweight handles that are more sensitive.
Overall, this is a mid-priced handle that should be near the top of your list. The only complaint that most people have with this particular handle is that it only comes in one color and finish; black.
Of course, most people prefer to keep their rifles all black anyway, so it’s not a huge issue. But for those looking to spice up their gun by adding some color will have to look at other charging handles.
Don’t Leave Your Handle Behind
Are you sold on the importance of a charging handle? Most of the time, when you buy a new AR15, you’ll get a charging handle with the gun. Occasionally, especially with older models, you might not.
It’s a good idea to get one right away if you want reliable performance and all the other benefits that come with charging handles.
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