best AR-15 charging handles

The Best AR-15 Charging Handles

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Charging handles might be the most overlooked upgrades for the AR-15 that actually make a large difference.

It won’t make you more accurate, it won’t put more rounds downrange, but it does make the basic function of the rifle a lot nicer when you have a good charging handle Vs. a mil-spec one.

From the cheapest of the cheap to some really fancy options, here are the best we’ve ever used!

best AR-15 charging handles
Three of the best AR-15 charging handles.

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Beware Of Knock-Offs

Visit any AR-15 internet forum or deals page and there are bound to be some people with a $5 knockoff handle they got from Amazon,, or some other really sus website.

And sure, you could get these also, and they generally work for at least 1 range trip.

But when they break, and they always break, it is a catastrophic failure that can be a real pain to fix.

It also leaves your rifle, at best, only functional until you run out of ammo. After that, you have an expensive paperweight/club. 

Be smart, don’t cheap out on parts that are required for the basic function of your rifles.

That said, there is nothing wrong with a $15 mil-spec charging handle from a decent company. Not everyone wants or needs a $100 handle when a $15 will do.

Best AR-15 Charging Handles

Anderson Manufacturing 6061 AL

If you’ve ever used a coupon at McDonald’s or if you ”forget your wallet” when you go to dinner with friends, maybe this is the charging handle for you.

While there are charging handles that are cheaper, this is the cheapest one I would trust on any rifle I would touch.

Made from 6061 Aluminum (the lower grade of aluminum and does NOT meet mil-spec) this charging handle is cheap.

That’s honestly the only thing it has going for it.

It’s rough, stiff, not pretty, but it’s cheap.

It is the Olde English malt liquor of charging handles. But hey, it works.

Palmetto State Armory Forged MIL-SPEC

Coming in at a whole $1 more than that 6061 cheap pieces of why bother, a decent mil-spec charging handle should be the baseline that we judge all other charging handles on.

PSA Mil-Spec Charging Handle

PSA makes a solid option that they forge for extra strength out of 7075 (the good stuff) aluminum.

Breek Warhammer Mod2, PSA Mil-Spec, Radian Raptor LT
Breek Warhammer Mod2, PSA Mil-Spec, Radian Raptor LT

It’s still a little gritty, but it feels good and works well.

It won’t protect you from gas in the face when shooting suppressed, and it isn’t ambidextrous, but it’s a solid handle that does the job.

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BCM Gunfighter Mod 4B

Almost exactly like a mil-spec handle, but with a slightly larger handle and much more strongly built, the Mod 4B keeps it classic but still gives you an edge over whatever crap the military buys.

This is an inexpensive charging handle that is built like a tank and does exactly what you need it to do.

It even has a gas deflector to help with suppressed shooting!

This isn’t an ambidextrous model, for that you’ll want the Mod 4×4…

BCM Gunfighter Mod 4×4

Styled much like a mil-spec handle, the Mod 4×4 gives you the added benefit of ambidextrous access and a bit better gas shield that does a better job of deflecting blowback than the Mod 4B does.

Still coming in as one of the least expensive Ambi models that is still a good design, this is a simple charging handle that is built to get it done.

Radian Raptor LT

A lighter and cheaper version of Radian’s super popular Raptor charging handle, the LT is the same awesome tech but on a diet.

The reduced weight really isn’t very noticeable and it doesn’t degrade the charging handle any, but it does make it $20-30 cheaper and that’s why I recommend it over the standard Raptor.

Two large handles hang from the side and allow for ambidextrous charging that is slick and easy.

A gas shield helps deflect blowback from a suppressor but isn’t the most effective design. It’s good, but not amazing. The Raptor SD is the one that is amazing.

The Raptor LT is lightweight, smooth, easy to use, and not a horrible price. Overall, this is what I use on most of my rifles.

Radian Raptor SD

The best charging handle for dedicated suppressor shooting, the Radian Raptor SD brings all of the benefits of their LT model but adds a bunch of cutouts along the handle to allow gas to redirect and dissipate before reaching the shooter.

Featuring the same gas deflector found on the LT, this model does a lot better job since most of the gas never reaches you to start with.

PSA Mil-Spec, Radian Raptor LT, Breek Arms Warhammer Mod2
PSA Mil-Spec, Radian Raptor LT, Breek Arms Warhammer Mod2

What little gas does make it gets deflected by the shield and make for a very pleasant shooting experience.

If you’re not shooting suppressed weapons, this handle won’t do much extra for you. But for any dedicated suppressor hoast — this is my absolute top choice.

Aero Precision Ambidextrous

Aero Precision’s OG design is a very good but a little dated model that still gets the job done.

Almost a half-ounce heavier than their new Breach model, the old Ambidextrous Aero is a bit more solidly built with very aggressive handles.

While it features a gas deflector to protect the shooter while shooting suppressed, it’s not a very effective design. It helps, but not nearly as much as some of the other handles do.

If you need the most leverage possible, the Aero Ambidextrous is a good option.

Breek Arms Warhammer Mod 2

One of the lightest-weight and easiest to grab handles, the Warhammer is a straightforward handle that makes charging the rifle a lot easier.

Two big skeletonized arms hang out from the center and allow for a quick grip-n-rip whenever you need it and from whatever side you need it.

The low profile of the Warhammer
The low profile of the Warhammer really makes it nice for scoped AR-15s

The Mod2 also features a gas deflector for when you shoot suppressed weapons.

Personally, I find the handle to be a little on the thin side and not super comfortable to grip. That isn’t a huge deal, but I do prefer something a bit thicker.

However, the Warhammer is really great for sticking on a rifle that has an LPVO or scope that blocks access to the charging handle. Because the Warhammer is thin and sticks out, it’s easier to reach.

Aero Precision Breach

New from Aero Precision is the Breach charging handle! Coming in a small arm and a large arm version for both the AR-15 and the AR-10, the Breach is a simple but solid charging handle.

Ambidextrous design allows for charging from both the right and left side, a gas shield on the top of the handle helps deflect backblast (such as when shooting suppressed), and the overall construction simply feels like it’s well built.

The small arm version feels a bit small to me but is more in line with a mil-spec style handle. This can be nice so your handle doesn’t snag on gear but also takes a bit more effort to charge the rifle.

The large arm style is my preferred option. Large enough to let you get a real solid grip on it but not so large that it feels like it pokes out from the rifle.

If you’re running a scope or LPVO, I highly recommend the large arm version for clearance.

Wrapping Up

There are a lot of charging handles on the market, it can feel overwhelming but stick with a decent brand and you’ll do well.

Personally, my top pick is the Radian Raptor LT.

If you’re shooting suppressed a lot, get the Raptor SD.

But if your rifle is running a large LPVO or scope, the Breek Arms Warhammer Mod2 is really nice.

And if nothing else, get a solid mil-spec handle like the one from PSA.

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1 comment
  1. Mil Spec charging handles are combat proven and have remained relatively unchanged for decades. They work in combat and have done so for a long time. None of the commercial “improvements” have been adopted – some special units just buy the whole thing and use one, but they are not issue.

    When charging the rifle it’s used to pull the bolt back – and the bolt is locked back at that point. The handle is then slide forward and it locks in place. From there the magazine is inserted, the bolt released, a round charged, and when the last round is fired the mag follower rises enough to lock the bolt back again – signalling its time for another magazine. This system has been working since 1965 with the adoption of the XM177 and it works well.

    It’s in COMPETITION where things go wrong – using low recoil target loads for more rapid follow up shots on a clock, and that is where a malfunction – under a timed event – is addressed with a much more race oriented charging handle. And frankly, some are just sold because they can – not because you need it. After 22 years of training and use, I’ve never seen a charging handle fail, and it would be considered abuse to make one fail – such as “pogoing” the rifle to extract as stuck round due to a damaged casing, excessive powder residue, or the worst case situation, pounding a round in with the Forward Assist when it wouldn’t go readily.

    The cure for not chambering is extraction and a new round, and that is a valid reason for using a charging handle – which the mil spec version can easily handle and again, has for decades. I would urge new users of the AR15 to not worry about a charging handle issue until it actually happens, and then look at why first. It’s so rare another milspec handle is more than an adequate fix.

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