One of the important parts of an AR 15 rifle is the charging handle. If you’ve been an owner for a bit, you at least know that pulling back the charging handle cycles the first round into the barrel chamber. You’ve also probably yanked it back to clear an occasional jam or to ensure the rifle isn’t loaded.
For casual recreational shooting, the charging handle on your AR15 doesn’t get that much of a workout, and you probably take it for granted. For most AR15 builds, the charging handle is standard Mil-Spec, but when the conditions change, and you’re either in a high-volume shooting situation or competitive match, that standard charging handle may not fill the bill.
Aside from a Mil-Spec charging handle, there are plenty of other options to explore. Here are seven of the best, from the lowest cost and the best bang for the buck to the more expensive ones that fill a specific need.
Strike Industries Extended Latch
Strike Industries has gone to great lengths to ensure this low-cost aluminum charging hammer won’t put excessive wear on the receiver like one made from steel. For under $40.00, Strike Industries offers a charging handle made from 7075 T6 aluminum that can hold up under even the most withering extended firing conditions.
Compatible with almost all versions of AR15, this charging handle from Strike Industries comes with an anodized coating and oversized extended latch for no-look, intuitive charging.
Also, this charging handle from Strike Industries won’t add additional and undue wear on the receiver as a steel charging handle will. You can’t go wrong with this charging handle from Strike Industries for the price and functionality.
Radian Raptor Charging Handle for Ambidextrous Use
Not every AR15 owner operates their rifle with a right-hand orientation. Southpaw shooting is even more prevalent today, and many manufacturers offer solutions for the left-handers.
For instance, take the Radian Raptor charging handle. Both left and right-handed shooters operate it, and the charging action is smooth and efficient.
Still, this charging handle not only takes it easy on your receiver crafted from 7075 aluminum instead of steel, but Radian tests this handle to withstand charging cycles of over one million times. The added feature does take the price a bit higher at a bit under $80.00.
Complete with deep serrations on the handle and the forward angle of the handle itself, you’ll be able to maintain a positive grip on the handle regardless of the conditions.
Aero Precision Ambidextrous
Another excellent charging handle for both right and left-hand operations is the ambidextrous handle from Aero Precision. Aero Precision prices this handle in the mid-point range of about $70.00, and the Aero Precision Ambidextrous charging handle sports a durable 7075 T6 aluminum handle as well.
Aero Precision could have stopped at that point and provided a world-class charging handle, but then the company has never been known not to offer value-added features at a fantastic price.
Along with the tough-as-nails 7075 T6 aluminum build, Aero Precision coats this charging handle with a Mil-Spec anodized type III Class 2 hard coat.
Because Aero Precision understands what firing an AR15 in dynamic conditions is all about, the company fits this charging handle with a backstop to prevent excessive backward motion. This rear motion can damage the roll pin and potentially leave the charging handle free to fly about in extreme situations.
To meet the mission, Aero Precision offers an excellent solution for both hands.
Radian Ambidextrous Charging Handle Optimized for Suppressed Rifles
If you love firing your AR15 with a suppressor, this is probably the best $100.00 you’ll spend when upgrading your charging handle.
Leave it up to Radian to link the need for a proper charging handle to the opposite end of the rifle and attached suppressor. Using 7075 T6 aluminum with a Mil-Spec Type III anodized hard coat, Radian takes a few extra steps that make dropping down a hundred-dollar bill worthwhile.
You’ll be able to instantly tell the differences when you notice that the handle’s shaft has several slots or ported holes. These ports help redirect the blowback gases in the receiver up and away from you, which means you’ll suffer fewer soot marks and a much more pleasant firing situation.
Phase 5 Tactical Ambidextrous with Battle Latch
While Phase 5 Tactical is typically for right-hand use, Phase 5 Tactical quickly recognized the swelling number of left-hand AR15 owners who needed a compatible solution.
The Battle Latch charging handle has a simple latch that can pivot on the right side of the handle, making it easy to operate with the right hand for most left-handed shooters.
Adding the battle latch wasn’t the only tweak Phase 5 Tactical made to this charging handle, though. Phase 5 Tactical replaced the standard roll pin with a .1875-millimeter spring pin made of stainless steel to combat roll pin fatigue.
One more feature on the Battle Latch charging handle is thicker sidewalls to help with better durability and overall strength. Priced at around $80.00 the Phase 5 Tactical charging handle with Battle Latch is a novel and decently priced solution to an age-old issue.
Next Level Armament NLX-556
Next Level Armament solves the ambidextrous operation issue with a flair by taking their charging handle to the absolute next level. Instead of creating an ambidextrous handle by adding a modified latch or handle, Next Level Armament gives the operator a choice. A fully functional match-grade charging handle for left-hand operation and another for right-hand operation.
Next Level Armament realizes that regardless of your hand orientation during a dynamic situation, you may not be able to charge your AR15 in the same fashion as you’re accustomed to using.
Next Level Armament solves this problem with overlarge handles that are big enough and serrated enough that pulling back the charging handle with whatever freehand is available is easy and quick.
Priced at the mid-point around $70.00, the Next Level Armament charging handle is a better all-around purchase for the functionality provided. For the competitor or even the high-volume recreational AR15 operator, let Next Level Armament help you raise the bar.
Armaspec Victory AR15 Ambidextrous
Last but certainly not least is the ambidextrous charging handle from Armaspec. Armaspec realized that operating a few charging handles on the market today while wearing gloves was not always easy to do.
The Victory Ambidextrous solves that problem with an extended latch, overlarge handles, and extra serration, so you’ll get the most positive grip possible with no fumbling or false starts.
Made from 7075 billet aluminum, the Armaspec comes in at a reasonable price of a little over $54.00 and will take whatever volume you want to throw at it without a failure.