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Best AR-15 Charging Handles [Hands-On]

The AR-15 as a platform is upgradeable to an extreme degree.

It seems like every part can be upgraded to be a little better. But that can often mean costing you an arm and a leg!

One of the smallest and easiest upgrades you can make to your AR-15 is swapping the charging handle.

All The Charging Handles
All The Charging Handles

Like every other AR-15 part in the world, the charging handle has dozens and dozens of different options.

Navigating AR charging handles can be a real challenge, especially when it comes to finding the right one for you. So we want to help you a bit.

Left Side Ejection AR-15 Pistol
Testing Charging Handles and showing some Pew Pew Tactical SWAG!

We’ve gathered together charging handles from companies far and wide, and through testing and evaluation we’ve narrowed it down to our favourits.

These aren’t in order of how we like them, all of them are awesome in different ways and for different reasons.

Best AR-15 Charging Handles

1. Strike Industries ARCH

An upgraded charging handle doesn’t mean an extended charging handle, or a latch-less charging handle, or really anything crazy at all.

Even the most basic Mil-Spec style charging handle can be well made and can stand above other Mil-Spec options. (Improving on Mil-Spec is easy when it isn’t made by the lowest bidder).

Strike Industries in AR-15
Strike Industries in AR-15

If you want an affordable, Mil-Spec option, then Strike Industries has you covered.

On the outside, this is a pretty standard looking charging handle, but upon closer inspection, you can tell Strike put some work into this simple charging handle.

The SI ARCH is hard anodized and is exceptionally smooth.

This smooth finish allows it to glide rearwards with ease. The most significant difference you’ll see is near the rear of the charging handle.

It’s rounded off at the back but features a sharp straight angle on the inside of the charging handle.

Strike Industries Out of Rifle
Strike Industries Out of Rifle

The inside is also textured for a better grip, and the latch is only as large as it needs to be. While the differences are subtle, once you start running the charging handle, they are significant.

A textured grip is excellent for clearing jams when your hands are sweaty or if you are wearing gloves.

The smoother finish makes the charging handle glide backward, it reduces the effort needed to charge the weapon, clear jams, and more.

Plus it just feels nice, really lovely. The SI ARCH isn’t necessarily sexy, or fancy, but it functions and does so well.

Best Milspec
22
at Optics Planet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

2. Strike Industries ARCH With Extended Latch

Budget is relative to what you are getting for the money. So yes, cheaper charging handles exist, but they don’t deliver as much value as the SI ARCH with the extended latch.

For right around $30 you get an excellent charging handle that takes the best features of the Standard ARCH and makes it a little quicker and easier to grasp.

Strike Extended Latch
Strike Extended Latch

The extended latch sticks out about an extra half-inch, giving the user a little more space to grip the charging handle.

This additional purchase gives you the ability to quickly charge the weapon and clear malfunctions.

It also gives you more room to grab the charging handle if you are rocking a variable power optic.

Strike Extended Latch on Rifle
Strike Extended Latch on Rifle

The Strike Industries ARCH is already an outstanding charging handle, we just covered it above, and all the same features there are present here.

One detraction from this design is that the extended portion of the handle is only on the left-hand part of the charging handle. This charging feature is somewhat useless for left-handed shooters.

Side view of the Strike Industries Extended Latch
Side view of the Strike Industries Extended Latch

The Strike Industries ARCH charging handle is a great option and comes in at a low price.

It’s a lot like Starbucks, basic, but not bad.

Best Bang for Buck Charging Handle
32
at Optics Planet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

3. Strike Industries Latchless Charging Handle

Strike Industries likes to experiment and does so quite well. The latchless charging handle is one such experiment.

The lack of a latch is an interesting idea as it reduces the movements needed to release the latch and manipulate the weapon.

Strike Industries Latchless
Strike Industries Latchless

I could charge the weapon with a compromised grip. (Compromised means rushed, crappy, and in a hurry.)

The lack of a latch allowed to load the gun from either side with ease. If my left arm is out of the fight, I can still find a way to manipulate the charging handle.

This latch-less system uses a cool hidden spring mechanism in the center of the charging handle to make sure it stays put when not in use.

That spring holds it in place entirely, but you don’t even feel it when you charge the weapon.

Strike Industries Latchless in Rifle
Strike Industries Latchless in Rifle

Like the Strike ARCH, this is 7075 T6 aluminum charging handle and the finish is slick.

The Latchless charging handle can be extended via a simple add-on to the left or right side that makes the handle a little bigger.

If you wanted to, you could purchase two extended handles and have one on the right and the left side. They install quickly and are like $10.

The charging handle also features side gas venting, which is great for my 7.5-inch barrel AR pistol. It tends to be a gassy girl.

Best Latchless Charging Handle
33
at Optics Planet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

4. The Radian Raptor LT

AR-15s are getting smaller and lighter.

Guns come in at well under 6-pounds these days, and some builders are taking that to the extreme.

My friend Rex Nanorum over at The Loadout Room built a lightweight AR under 6-pounds when it’s outfitted with a suppressor and optic.

Radian Raptor-LT
Radian Raptor-LT

From talking with him I’ve learned that guys taking on these projects are looking to trim ounces, and even half ounces as much as possible.

If you are chasing this kind of build and still looking for a lightweight, but functional charging handle then the Radian LT is an excellent choice.

Coming in at only 1.2-ounces the Radian LT is a functional choice.

It’s got two massive wings on the sides that make the charging handle easy to grip and rip regardless of the situation. This is especially true when it comes to using the charging handle with an optic.

Raptor LT on Rifle
Raptor LT on Rifle

The Radian Raptor LT is made from 7075 aluminum and is hard anodized with a Mil-Spec Type 3 finish.

It is also reinforced with high-strength reinforced polymer for saving weight, but maintaining strength.

The Radian Raptor LT is lightweight, well made, and priced well. It’s a great option for your lightweight build or just a standard build that needs a great charging handle that’s priced affordably.

Best Lightweight Charging Handle
56
at Brownells

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

5. Original Radian Raptor

If we are going to name the lighter weight choice, we can’t leave out the classic Radian Raptor. The Radian Raptor was one of the OG modern, extended charging handles.

An ambidextrous design features two extended handles for lots of space to grip.

Original Radian Raptor
Original Radian Raptor

The extended charging handles are big enough to allow a blading technique for those of us with tough hands. Blading is when you are catching the charging handle with your palm and rapidly pull it rearward.

You need a nice, large charging handle to do this efficiently and quickly. The Radian Raptor allows that to be possible.

It also sports two different independent levers that enable quick and easy charging and weapon manipulation.

Charging the Raptor
Charging the Raptor

The Radian Raptor is made from 7075 aluminum and comes in a multitude of colors.

The different colors make it charming and sexy, and I appreciate a splash of color here and there. As you can see, we went with the FDE Radian Raptor.

The Raptor is a classic extended charging handle that still keeps up with the young ones.

84
at Brownell's

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

6. Radian Raptor SD

The third and final Radian Raptor is one specifically designed for suppressed guns.

The Radian Raptor SD is the same old Raptor grip we know and love but vented explicitly for suppressed ARs.

Left Side Ejecting AR-15 with Raptor Charging Handle
AR-15 with Raptor Charging Handle

AR-15s have quite a bit of gas blowback when they are suppressed. This gas blowback hits the shooter, occasionally carrying carbon to the shooter’s face.

This gas can be a mild inconvenience that gets worse and worse the more rounds you put downrange.

Radian Raptor SD
Radian Raptor SD

The Radian Raptor SD is vented extensively down the sides to decrease gas blowback by directing it out the sides.

This makes shooting your suppressed AR a much lovelier experience.

If you are shooting suppressed, you can stop reading now; this is the charging handle you need.

Best Suppressor Ready CH
95
at Brownell's

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

7. Aero Precision Ambidextrous

If you want a massive charging handle, then Aero Precision has you covered.

The Aero Precision Ambidextrous charging handle is quite likely one of the most significant charging handles on the market.

Aero Precision Charging
Aero Precision Charging

This makes it perfect for optic’s equipped AR-15s. Especially when it comes to large variable optics.

These handles will clear the eyepiece of any modern scope. It’s my go-to on my budget Recce rifle.

Aero Precision Charging Handle
Aero Precision Charging Handle

This ambi charging handle sports two massive latches, and it’s simple to blade the weapon, even with an optic on the gun.

The Aero Precision charging handle is one of my favorite all-around charging handles ever. I like it on any rifle, and its large size works with my massive hands pretty well.

The 7075-T6 aluminum design makes it a rugged and capable charging handle for your build.

Aero Precision and The Meme War
Aero Precision and The Meme War

I love how it glides backward when pulled, and the extra size means extra leverage. This makes blading pretty easy, and not too painful on the hands.

The Aero Precision charging handle is my personal favorite, and it functions as an absolute champ.

Best for a Scoped AR-15
79
at Aero Precision

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

8. BCM Gunfighter MOD 4

BCM redesigned the traditional charging handle to take the force off the roll pin, placing it to the rear of the charging handle.

The GFH MOD 4 features the medium latch on the left-hand side for right-handed shooters.

This particular extended model is a little shorter than an inch past the main body of the charging handle.

BCM Gunfighter MOD 4 Ready to Rock (Get it Rock Sorry.)
BCM Gunfighter MOD 4 Ready to Rock (Get it Rock Sorry.)

The BCM GFH MOD 4 is primarily designed to be used with the blading technique, so the pressure applied via this technique won’t damage the charging handle or latch. 

It’s not often that you see a firearms technique incorporated into the design of a part. But this is the kind of extra-level of effort that I’ve come to expect from BCM.

The BCM Gunfighter MOD 4
The BCM Gunfighter MOD 4

It catches the hand perfectly and is perfect if you are new to this technique.

The Gunfighter is a thoroughly modern option for your next AR-15 build. Not to mention, Bravo Company has an outstanding reputation for producing high-quality AR components and even full rifles.

48
at Optics Planet

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

9. BCM Gunfighter MOD 4B

If you want to keep things simple, the BCM Gunfighter MOD 4B is the option for you.

It’s a compact and small charging handle that meets the standard Mil-Spec dimensions.

This charging handle is designed for shooters used to the standard manual of arms associated with military training.

BCM Charging
BCM Mod 4B Charging

While it functions as a standard charging handle, it’s made to last.

Using 7075-T6 aluminum, it’s strong as hell and outfitted with a type 3 hard anodized finish for long-lasting durability.

The MOD 4B is available in both a mil-spec design and an ambidextrous model.

BCM Mod 4B
BCM Mod 4B

This particular model is the mil-spec model. It excels for those of us who’ve spent a little time in the armed forces.

The MOD 4B also works as a great low-profile option for those who don’t need or want an extended latch system.

It’s textured for a more comfortable grip and outfitted with BCM’s load eliminating design. This reduces wear on the pivot pin and paces it midline of the rifle.

50
at Brownell's

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Used the BCM MOD4? If so, give it a rating below!

Readers' Ratings

4.99/5 (567)

Your Rating?

10. BCM Gunfighter MOD 4×4

The 4X4 from BCM is an ambidextrous option for Bravo Company.

Its mil-spec size and dimensions make it nice and compact — at least compared to other charging handles on this list.

Each side features a latch that releases the charging handle with ease.

BCM Mod 4x4
BCM Mod 4×4

The GFH 4X4 is a great option for lefties seeking a mil-spec sized charging handle. It’s straightforward to use and is made from 7075-T6 aluminum.

I’m a right-handed shooter, so maybe I can’t get the full effect of this charging handle, but I get the concept.

 
BCM 4x4 in Rifle
BCM 4×4 in Rifle

Even though it feels unnatural for me to charge the rifle with my right hand, I find it surprisingly easy to do with this charging handle.

The MOD 4X4 is priced affordably for a premium-grade charging handle.

80
at Brownell's

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

11. X2 Dev Group Jackal-X

We’ve been testing the Jackal-X for a while now and have come to appreciate its simple yet brilliant design.

A common issue with anyone who carries a rifle for more than a minute will find is that everything likes to snag…on web gear, on foliage, seemingly on the air itself.

Dev 2X Charging Handle (6)
Jackal-X, cool logo too!

The charging handle is no exception and can be exacerbated by extended handles. While an extended handle makes it easier to charge the rifle, it also makes it easier to snag.

This is where the Jackal-X makes a huge difference.

Using a totally new design for the latching system, this charging handle is almost impossible to unlatch by snagging on gear.

x2 dev group jackal-x
CAD drawing of the inside of the Jackal-X, love seeing the design of things

By redesigning how the levers work to release the latch, X2 Dev Group flipped the pivot points in the unlocking system to deliver several benefits.

First is the anti-snagging capabilities of the handle, but it also removes stress on the pins themselves giving you increased durability. This is especially significant if your rifle ever needs to be mortared open.

Dev 2X Charging Handle (1)
They called him The Jackal

Operation is smooth and easy to open when you need it to be, although it does take a slightly different angle to actuate the latching system. We got used to this change very quickly and was second nature within minutes.

90
at X2 Dev Group

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

12. Breek Arms Warhammer

We dig the Warhammer because it’s simple, straight forward, works well, and has a nice shape to the handle.

Does it do anything special? Not really.

But simple and works doesn’t need to be special every time.

Breek Warhammer
Breek Arms Warhammer

It is ambi though and it does have a deflection piece to get excess gasses away from the shooter.

When it comes down to it, that’s the two most popular features for a charging handle to have and the Breek does both very well.

The arms of the handle are a bit larger than most, this makes it nice to grab with gloves but can also snag on gear. The trade off is up to you though.

50
at Primary Arms

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

13. Aero Precision Breach

Made from 7075 Aluminum (the good stuff) the Breach has two sizes and two platforms on offer — large handle and small handle and for the AR-15 or the AR-10.

Lightweight, sturdy, ambi, gas deflecting, and two handle size options…much of that is what we’ve come to expect from aftermarket charging handles.

But Aero Precision executes it better than most.

Aero Breach (2)
Aero Precision Breach charging handles

Plus…we just really dig the look of these.

We’ve been running them in an AR-9 lately and have zero issues.

Aero Breach (14)
Large Vs. Small

The small handle is still easy to grab but has reduced snagging potential also. It’s a bit hard to get a good grip on with gloves, but that’s what the large handle is for.

If you’re in the cold often or wear gloves either way — then the large handle has a lot more meat for you to get your digits around.

75
at Aero Precision

Prices accurate at time of writing

Prices accurate at time of writing

Conclusion

I’ve gone through a lot of charging handles; I mean a lot of them. So much so that when testing these designs I got a nice case of tennis elbow and a bruised palm.

Maybe it’s charging handle elbow?

Whatever you want to call it I got it. I did, however, learn a ton about charging handles, and there is more to learn than I expected.

The best thing I learned was I have a ton of options when it comes to AR-15 builds of all kinds.

What do you think? Did we miss any stellar charging handles? If so let us know in the comments below. For more AR upgrades, check out Best AR-15 Upgrades for everything from triggers to handguards and more.

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38 Leave a Reply

  • Bull o' the Woods

    Oh come on. No mention of the Geissele URGI Airborne Charging Handle?

    July 23, 2021 12:09 pm
  • Tom Smith

    I still don't know which one I'll buy next!!! LOL Great write-up Travis! OOOhhh....RAH!!

    July 20, 2021 11:19 pm
  • Bama

    C’mon man- I’m gonna make the third request for an AR-10 (specifically the PSA PA 10). I’m having a hard time getting around my scope. Also, any info on a side charger? Seems to be a sizable crowd that lean on and value your opinions. Thanks for all that ya’ll do for us!

    June 3, 2021 5:12 pm
  • Michael Such

    I would love to see your take on AR10 Charging handles. I just received a PA10 from PSA. And a after market charging handle would be great.

    May 3, 2021 8:08 am
  • Bob House

    Do we have an opinion on slide charging handles, the over the cheek rest on the AR shoulder butt. They are ambitious and seem to be out of the way

    April 30, 2021 3:15 pm
    • Damien

      All I run is a non reciprocated mean say charging handle on my lower sometimes an ambidextrous sling sometimes the right side of my knee but I'll never go back to a regular charging handle I think it's easier to clear quicker but you don't have your forward assist they can sometimes get in the way of an object with the magnifier behind it it's just all around a much simpler and easier and quicker for me but everybody's different

      July 17, 2021 1:24 pm
  • Jordan

    Radian Raptor. No other charging handle compares.

    April 29, 2021 2:25 am
    • Chad gilbert Wilkins

      Many are much better. The geissele and the bcm stuff is worlds better. Im glad you like your radian, but nonsense like "nothing else compares" is laughably false.

      May 4, 2021 4:40 pm
  • Scott

    Will you do a similar article for AR10s? Just curious what people are putting on their bigger brothers to the AR15s, especially when there are scopes mounted. It's always a chore using the charging handle when having to work around the scope.

    April 28, 2021 6:27 am
  • Alternator

    Death to the useless latch!!

    April 27, 2021 12:17 pm
  • E E

    Question about the Strike Latchless Charging Handle. It says on their website "Not for use on SBRs or pistol length barrels (<14.5")", but you mention it working great on a 7.5" pistol. Do you know why they say it is not meant for use on pistol length AR builds.? I ordered one for my 10.5" 300 blackout build and did not see this warning on the site I ordered from and just wondering if I need to get another model/brand. Thanks for any info.

    February 14, 2021 4:44 pm
  • Jack Smith

    I have the VLTOR BCM Mod 4 and it's a great handle. I will probably buy it for my next one as well. I might consider the Raptor as well.

    February 6, 2021 4:29 pm
  • Josh Brown

    Lol that bcm model 4x4 pic that's not a bcm it looks like the radian.

    Thanks for these articles i like the feed back on yalls opinions with parts yall actually had your hands on. I've been real happy with everything yall have suggested.

    June 22, 2020 9:59 am
  • Cruiser51

    I appreciate your article. I'm a lefty and was frustrated with the right handed charging handle on my AR-15. Your article gave me some good insight on what ambi charging handles are available. This week I bought a Bravo Company 4x4. Got it today and it works nicely. Keep up the nice work on your reviews.

    May 9, 2020 1:36 pm
  • ConfusedForeignGirl

    I have the radian raptor on both of my rifles. My arpistol has a bunch of strike industries red parts and the radian raptor competition red charging handle matches them nicely

    March 6, 2020 11:52 am
  • Bull o' the Woods

    What about the Geissele Airborne charging handle, which leaves the rest of them in the dust? Simply the best.

    January 26, 2020 8:45 pm
    • thoughtcrime11

      owned Geissele, Radian, Daniel Defense Ambi, LWRC Ambi, BCM, etc. Radian Raptor is clearly the best. I would possibly take the LWRC or DD over the Geissele, I could see how people think Geissele is the best, there is no way it trumps Radian Raptors, laughable.

      April 30, 2020 11:45 pm
  • Nick

    the fact that the top 3 were all made by Strike Industries really makes me question whether or not I should take this website seriously anymore

    November 12, 2019 6:25 pm
    • David, PPT Editor

      The first three listed were made by Strike, the list is not in order of best to worst.

      November 12, 2019 7:36 pm
      • William

        In your opinion wich would be best with a scope just over top. Have a stock a2 I guess and can do it but obviously could be better

        December 13, 2019 6:24 pm
        • David, PPT Editor

          I have Radian Raptor LT on all of my rifles, I really like them. They're durable, easy to use, and a decent price most of the time. Highly recommend it!

          December 14, 2019 5:01 am
  • Pete

    I once saw a picture of a very unorthodox AR-15 charging handle that hugged the top of the stock and you pulled it back like the slide of a pistol. I was hoping you’d mention that. I have no idea who makes it or what it costs, but I’m sure some of your readers have seen it.

    June 12, 2019 3:59 pm
    • David, PPT Editor

      There is a couple of them I think, the one I've seen the most is the HABU MOD 1 for $65 at Brownells. I've only used it a small amount, but I wasn't a big fan. It's a bit akward, the grip doesn't feel super positive, it's much harder to use if you need to aggressively charge the rifle to clear a malfunction, and I had to change my cheek weld or risk getting poked in the face with the back of the handle on recoil.

      June 12, 2019 4:22 pm
  • Shane Fowler

    The PRI gasbuster and any of the POF Ambis I've used the tomahawk and it's pretty awesome and low pro.

    Be interested to see how the new ambi ArmaSpec stacks up. Supposed to be gas busting type as well

    February 12, 2019 6:30 pm
    • Tad

      I was very surprised none of those got a mention.

      June 23, 2019 9:17 pm
  • Dogtired

    To the points raised below about not needing more than a $6 handle, there ARE good reasons to choose something else. Some of these designs--the BCM in particular (and I think the SI)--take pressure off the roll pin so the part doesn't fail. Some may want to run optics. Putting an extension on the standard mil-spec handle exacerbates the torque on that little pin. There are some handles that rely on bearings instead of pins. Some handles keep gas from blowing back in your face as much. Some give you greater purchase for those with weaker fingers or hands. I look for good handles on sale cheap. Still more expensive than a mil-spec. To each their own. To some the extra cost is worth the peace of mind or the ease of use. To others it's not. That's why we have choice. Whatever you shoot, enjoy what you do and let others do the same.

    January 14, 2019 10:26 am
  • scott kenaston

    Badger ordnance gen 3 ambidextrous charging handle

    October 20, 2018 6:21 pm
  • Jerry Johnson

    I run the MFT Minimalist while my wife runs a Magpul MOE. we love them both.

    August 16, 2018 6:38 pm
  • Alex

    I have a Strike Industries Latchless, simply because it's a great ambidextrous/lefti solution that doesn't cost $80+. So far, no problems with it. The instructions explicitly say it's not for suppressed setups due to the increased gas blow-by, but not an issue for me.

    May 19, 2018 7:50 am
  • Peter

    Keep I hate the Apple look-ahead typing assistant.
    My apologies for the gross typos in my comment below.
    I meant to say "please do not reverse a right-handed picture..."

    May 13, 2018 5:39 pm
  • Peter

    As a left handed shooter I appreciate having at least one ambi charging handle detailed.
    But, PLEASE do not reverse a rlaw gut handed picture to illustrate a left handed option. Sheesh. Or, hide any writing that may be on a garment.
    Keep up the good work, not the picture reversing.

    May 13, 2018 5:36 pm
    • David

      Sorry about that, unintentional mistake.

      I believe Travis was using a selfie mode to take the picture and then I incorrectly captioned the image as being a left-hand ejecting rifle. I've edited the caption.

      To be clear: All of the charging handles were right-handed or ambidextrous. Images that look like they are left-handed is due to the photo mode, not editing.

      May 14, 2018 10:40 am
    • Travis Pike

      Totally my fault. I forgot to unreverse the images when I sent them in.

      May 17, 2018 6:24 am
  • Aaron

    I am using DS Arms NFTE Coated Extended Latch Charging Handles. I like them for their slick finish.

    May 13, 2018 5:18 pm
  • American Patriot

    It's a charging handle, it serves one purpose to "cock the gun" to fire. You can spend $12 or $100

    May 13, 2018 4:52 pm
    • Ben

      I feel the same. Spend money on optics.

      May 13, 2018 5:57 pm
    • Joe L

      I agree. That's why I spent $6 on a MFT Extended Latch and installed in on the milspec changing handle I had.

      May 21, 2018 4:25 am
  • Roy

    The Habu by Falcon 37 is something you guys should look into and test.

    May 10, 2018 3:01 pm