Finding The Perfect Charging Handle
If you have purchased you AR rifle off the shelf, rather than having created it from a pile of parts, then you will be at a bit of a disadvantage. The standard charging handle is a mil-spec model, but may not be up to the challenge if you are planning anything more than a casual afternoons varmint shooting!
The charging handle – sometimes referred to as the cocking or bolt handle – is a device that, when operated, places the weapons bolt in the ready position, and allows the gun to be initially used. Percussion from the explosion of the first and each subsequent bullet returns the handle to the ready position so that the weapon can be fired again. The top slide in a pistol performs similar actions as a cocking handle, but tends to eject the spent bullet case as well as re-cocking the weapon. Upon the last round in the magazine being fired, the charging handle returns to its ‘home’ position, and will need to be worked again once you change the magazine and reload the rifle.
From the outside, the charging handle looks like a tee-shaped protrusion at the back of the upper receiver. It has a squeezable feature on one side that must be compressed to allow it to be pulled back, and the gun made ready for use. The robust nature of the AR charging handle makes it ideal for fast operation in a tight situation, with many users opting for either a clawed operation where they pull it back using the index and second fingers of their dominant hand. Other users tend to snatch back the handle with the side of their hand. Either way looks cool, both ways are effective.
So, we know that they do, but what can different devices do for you?
While standard items are mass-produced, and can suffer from some issues of quality, the biggest and most obvious problem is that they are okay to use if you are right-handed, but can be a nightmare if you are left-handed. The un-ambidextrous standard issue devices can become a problem if you are a south paw, since it means that you have to effectively reach across the yourself – and the gun – in order to comfortably charge the gun. The ambidextrous handle is a great move since even right-handed users find charging easier, under difficult or fraught conditions. Most serious AR users get an ambidextrous charging handle, even if they have bought the gun off the shelf.
An extended charging handle is always useful
This type of charging handle features a larger and extended latch on the gripping end, making it easier to grip and operate. Many gun enthusiasts go for this type of charging handle just because it is a better option that the small and fiddly type, but there really come into their own if you are in a situation where you need a bigger surface to grab. You may have cold hands, or you could be wearing gloves that inhibit feeling, or you may actually need to charge with your foot in a combat situation. In those cases, the larger gripping area of the extended charging handle can save you precious seconds and make sure that your weapon is fit and ready to be used.
The gas buster charging handle is specially designed to divert all sorts of crud – gases, oil and dirt particles – away from the shooters face and prevent them flinching during shooting, and if you are not looking away or closing your eyes, you’re more likely to be on target for subsequent rounds. Very useful under sustained firing modes. Gas busters are also available both in ambidextrous and extended configurations so that you can get the best of everything in one handle.
If you go out and buy a standard AR, if you decide not to change any other thing on the weapon, you would do yourself a disservice if you retained the original charging handle. One of these, in whatever configuration you get, is going to enhance your shooting skills.