When shooters build or buy a rifle, the charging handle often gets overlooked. People usually just make do with the charging handle that came with their rifle. Or, they just pick up a generic charging handle for a few bucks.
But, your charging handle is an important part of your rifle’s ergonomics. And, it can be critical for weapon manipulations in the event of a malfunction. Simply put, the right charging handle makes your rifle more comfortable and easier to operate.
We’ll show you the whole gamut of charging handles to help you get the best one.
But, if you want to skip straight to the ‘buy now’ button, get the Bravo Company BCMGunfighter Charging Handle Gen 2. It’ll instantly upgrade the ergonomics and operation of your rifle, without going too over the top.
There’s also an ambidextrous model, if you’re left handed or want better ergonomics for offhand shooting.
Best AR-15 Charging Handles on the Market Today
Best AR 15 Charging Handles Reviews (Updated 2021): Lock and Load
Up first: our favorite from the whole pack.
After that: all the rest in order of price from best deal to best for spending tons of money.
Here’s what we’ve got.
- Bravo Company BCMGunfighter Charging Handle Gen 2
- Luth-AR AR-15 .223 Charging Handle
- DPMS AR-15/M16 Badger Latch Charging Handle Kit
- Phase 5 Tactical AR-15/M16 Ambidextrous Charging Handle
- Power Custom AR-15/M16 Steel Charging Handle
- Radian Weapons AR-15 Raptor-SL Charging Handle 5.56
- LWRC International AR-15/M16 Ambidextrous Charging Handle
1. Bravo Company BCMGunfighter Charging Handle Gen 2 - Best Overall AR-15 Charging Handle
The Bravo Company BCMGunfighter Charging Handle Gen 2 is designed to make it easier to manipulate your bolt without adding much bulk or significantly diverging from the stock charging handle shape.
The primary upgrade over the standard mil-spec charging handle is the latch. Bravo Company enlarged the latch a bit, so it’s easier to get a hold of. However, the latch isn’t so large that it becomes a snagging hazard.
The shape of the latch also relieves stress on the latch pin and distributes it through the t-handle. This reduces the chance of breaking your charging handle and makes it easier to run your bolt.
Additionally, there’s a shield to keep gas from blowing back into your face if you’re running a suppressor.
The whole thing is forged from 7075 T6 aluminum to bump up the durability.
Forged construction isn’t as strong as a machined charging handle. But it keeps the cost down, and the aluminum is higher quality than many mil-spec charging handles.
The exterior is mil-spec hardcoat anodized to add corrosion resistance.
If you need an ambidextrous charging handle, Bravo Company also offers this with an ambidextrous latch handle.
If your currently running a standard mil-spec charging handle or need something solid for your next build, this model is an solid, affordable upgrade.
2. Luth-AR AR-15 .223 Charging Handle - Best Budget AR-15 Charging Handle
If you’re happy with the mil-spec design and want to save some money on your next build, the Luth-AR AR-15 .223 Charging Handle is the way to go.
It’s not the cheapest charging handle on the market. But, it’s a tad better than standard mil-spec.
The shape and latch are standard mil-spec. So, the ergonomics aren’t great. Especially for left-handed shooters.
But, the materials and anodizing are slightly better than the bare minimum mil-spec requirements. So, you’ll get a longer lifespan and slightly smoother operation than you would with a true mil-spec charging handle.
Overall, though, this is primarily a charging handle for budget rifles, or for keeping in your range bag to use as a replacement in a pinch.
3. DPMS AR-15/M16 Badger Latch Charging Handle Kit - Best AR-15 Charging Handle Kit
Putting your charging handle together helps you get a decent charging handle for a bit less money. The DPMS AR-15/M16 Badger Latch Charging Handle Kit is a solid piece that also helps you scratch your arts and crafts itch.
The charging handle latch features an extended tab that’s easier to find and operate than a mil-spec latch. And, it’s a good alternative to an ambidextrous charging handle for left handed shooters. However, the latch is long enough that it could be a snagging issue for some.
One benefit of putting this charging handle together yourself: you get a machined charging handle at a forged charging handle price. The machined construction ensures that your charging handle will hold up through tons of abusive malfunction clearances.
Unfortunately, the t-handle itself is a standard mil-spec form factor. No gas shield or anything.
Lastly, the whole thing is mil-spec hardcoat anodized for corrosion resistance.
Overall, this is an excellent option for anyone who wants an upgraded charging handle at a solid price, and isn’t willing to do a little assembly themselves.
4. Phase 5 Tactical AR-15/M16 Ambidextrous Charging Handle - Best AR-15 Charging Handle for Shooting With Gloves
Some gloves are better than others. But, you’ll almost always lose some dexterity and feel when shooting with gloves. This can cause some complications with finding your charging handle and running your bolt. The Phase 5 Tactical AR-15/M16 Ambidextrous Charging Handle is designed to ensure you can operate your weapon efficiently both gloved and bare-handed.
The charging handle latch is extended, and features a thumb tab for ambidextrous operation. However, the manipulation for racking your weapon with your right hand is not standard, since you have you press the latch with your thumb. So, it may take some training reps to get used to.
There are also aggressive serrations on the latch faces to ensure positive grip and affirmative feel with gloves. The serrations work great with gloves. But, they can feel a bit too aggressive when you’re shooting without gloves.
This charging handle is machined from 6061-T6 aluminum, and is thicker and more robust than mil-spec charging handles for enhanced durability.
So, while this is an ambidextrous charging handle, it’s best for people who usually shoot with gloves. It can be a bit rough on bare hands and the ambidextrous latch requires a non-standard racking motion.
5. Power Custom AR-15/M16 Steel Charging Handle - Best Steel AR-15 Charging Handle
Steel is heavier than aluminum. But it’s more durable and torsionally stronger. The Power Custom AR-15/M16 Steel Charging Handle gives you all the benefits of steel, and a few ergonomic improvements.
Obviously, the big seller is that this charging handle is machined from bar stock steel. So, it might outlast your rifle.
However, the latch tab is extended. It provides a positive grip for weapon manipulations and ambidextrous operations. But, it’s not a true ambidextrous charging handle. Also, it’s a bit hooky, and could be a snagging hazard.
The whole thing is coated in a phosphate finish, which is more durable than an anodized finish. And it provides a matte black coloring, rather than polished black.
Overall, this is an excellent option for those who are rough on their rifles, or just want the durability and longevity of steel.
6. Radian Weapons AR-15 Raptor-SL Charging Handle 5.56 - Ambidextrous AR-15 Charging Handle
The Radian Weapons AR-15 Raptor-SL Charging Handle 5.56 is one of the few charging handles that has a truly ambidextrous feel.
Usually, ambidextrous charging handles feel or operate differently during left-handed shooting. Not so with this one.
Radian Weapons accomplished this by using a symmetrical, ambidextrous latch tab. So, it’s the same, no matter which side of the weapon you’re on.
The latch tab is also extended, with a broad face for positive grip and improved leverage for racking your weapon. It really does make it easier to run your bolt.
Although the function is great, and the extended tabs on this charging handle are pretty well streamlined, they still present a possible snagging hazard.
However, all the edges have been rounded to help prevent hangups.
This model is constructed from hardened aluminum and protected with hardcoat anodizing. So, it will hold up to the utmost abusive shooting.Overall, this is probably the best option for left-handed shooters who prefer an ambidextrous charging handle. But, it’s also an excellent option for anyone who wants easier, more comfortable bolt manipulation.
7. LWRC International AR-15/M16 Ambidextrous Charging Handle - Best Minimal Ambidextrous Charging Handle
If you prefer a more minimal design, the LWRC International AR-15/M16 Ambidextrous Charging Handle provides fully ambidextrous operation without adding much bulk to the back end of your rifle.
First, the latch tabs are extended, with rounded ends to provide an index point for finding your grip. The rounded latch tabs also minimize snagging.
Although the latch tabs offer improved ergonomics and truly ambidextrous function, the minimal design means they don’t offer much more surface area than a mil-spec charging handle.
The latch tabs are also held in place with steel rivets rather than pins. The rivets can’t back out, and provide a longer lifespan.
The whole thing is constructed from 7075-T6 aluminum and hardcoat anodized for durability and corrosion resistance.
Although this charging handle is a bit pricey considering how minimal it is, it’s still an excellent option for anyone who wants a fully ambidextrous charging handle that’s not much bigger than a mil-spec charging handle.
8. Radian Weapons AR-15 Raptor-SD Charging Handle 5.56 - Best AR-15 Charging Handle for Suppressed Shooting
If you use a suppressor, you expect to get gas in your face. The Radian Weapons AR-15 Raptor-SD Charging Handle 5.56 is designed to minimize that.
Externally, this charging handle is a standard Radian Raptor charging handle. It has the same wide latch tabs and softened edges as the Raptor-SL.
However, the body of this charging handle is ported and slotted to redirect gasses down and forward, away from the shooter. So, you get less gas in your face during suppressed operation.
The porting has the added bonus of reducing the weight. So, this could be a good option for a lightweight carbine, even if you’re not running a suppressor.
However, there are lighter charging handles out there.
They’re just not as ergonomic.
Unfortunately, drilling a bunch of holes in your charging handle may have some durability consequences. So, this charging handle may not live as long as a standard charging handle.
However, it’s machined from 7076-T6 aluminum and hardcoat anodized to ensure that it lasts as long as possible.
But, given the price, this charging handle is probably best for suppressed rifles.
Unload, Show Clear
Your charging handle may not be at the top of your upgrade list. But, it should definitely be on your radar. A nice charging handle just makes your shooting life easier. And it can help save you from a disaster if you’ve got a bad malfunction.
So, don’t be fooled into skimping on your charging handle.
If you want a charging handle that’s a good mix of ergonomics, minimal bulk, and price, get the Bravo Company BCMGunfighter Charging Handle Gen 2. It’ll improve the way your rifle handles without adding much bulk to your gun or draining your wallet.
That’s it for charging handles. It’s a simple upgrade. So, pick one out, and cure that bad case of mil-spec ergonomics.