November 21, 2023
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Not long ago, I was talking with a friend I affectionately refer to as a “gun bro.” You know exactly the kind of guy I’m talking about, too. Often referred to as “range warriors,” these are the guys at the range who must have the absolute best for everything they own, down to the socks they wear. I don’t say this disparagingly, though, as they’re good people for the most part. My friend was talking ARs, and he stated that all his AR rifles absolutely have to be completely ambidextrous. My response was that the U.S. Military has been doing pretty good with Mil-Spec Stoner guns for a while now, so I think you’ll be fine if a few of your ARs are standard Mil-Spec.
With that being said, there are two parts that I prefer to be ambidextrous ¾ the safety selector and charging handle. I’ve found that an ambi magazine release and bolt catch/release are neat, but they don’t make a lot of difference to the performance and ergonomics of a gun. However, an ambidextrous safety selector and charging handle are cheap, easy upgrades that greatly improve the function of an AR. I served in the U.S. Army and was taught the standard two fingers over the top of the charging handle, pull back all the way, then release method. It works fine, and there is nothing wrong with it. The Mil-Spec charging handle was designed in a time before LPVOs and suppressors were commonplace, though, and left-handed shooters were an afterthought at best.
The low-powered variable optic (LPVO) is one of the most popular optics for the AR platform, but an LPVO will cover the top of a Mil-Spec charging handle. A good ambi charging handle has handles that extend on both sides of an AR and are easy to grab and use with one finger or knuckle. Modern ambi charging handles usually incorporate a design with vents to direct gasses away from the shooter. When you add a suppressor to an AR, it sends a lot of gasses back toward the shooter, and a good charging handle helps mitigate this. No charging handle will solve this completely, but they can help a lot.
When it comes to selecting an ambi charging handle, they all seem pretty similar. Cost will be a big factor, as they range from around $40 to $120, which can be pricey for a single part. Many manufacturers offer different color options, and they all have their own design for venting gasses away from the shooter. Some designs are more snag-free than others, so the handle profile is important to consider, too. There are a lot of great options on the market for ambidextrous charging handles, so we’ve put together a list of 10 great options to get you in the right direction.
BCM MK2 Ambi Charging Handles
The Bravo Company Manufacturing MK2 ambidextrous charging handles are available with either a large or medium latch. Besides the ambi design, the BCM MK2 features upper, lower and side exhaust ports to vent chamber gas away from the shooter. Built from premium aluminum, the MK2 is lightweight and durable for hard use. MSRP: $90
Bear Creek Arsenal BC-15
The Bear Creek Arsenal BC-15 charging handle is definitely the most affordable option in this roundup, but it still has a lot of the features we’re looking for in an ambi charging handle. Built from 7075-series aluminum, made in the USA, vent ports for rerouting gasses away from the shooter, the BC-15 does it all at an affordable price. MSRP: $35
Geissele Super Charging Handle
If premium quality is what you’re looking for, then Geissele will be at the top of your list. The Geissele Super Charging Handle comes standard on many Geissele rifles, but it’s also available for aftermarket purchase in several different color options. As you’d expect, the Super Charging Handle is designed to vent gas away from the shooter. MSRP: $115
The Radian Raptor ambi charging handle is iconic and was a trend-setter for ambi charging handles. The Radian Raptor line is available in many different color options, ranging from OD Green to FDE. The original Raptor line has expanded to include new models optimized for competition, duty use and even unique guns like the SIG Sauer MCX series. MSRP: $95
Aero Precision Breach
The Aero Precision Breach ambi charging handle is a great option that’s priced in the middle of the road for this roundup. The Breach charging handle comes standard in many premium Aero Precision rifles as well as rifles from Stag Arms. Aero Precision makes the Breach for both AR-15 and AR-10 platform rifles, and it’s available in colors ranging from purple and gold to OD green and FDE. MSRP: $62
Sons of Liberty Gun Works Liberty Charging Handle
Sons of Liberty Gun Works makes a lot of excellent AR rifles, and you can read a complete review of their Trunk Monkey and M4-89 rifles by James Tarr here. As you’d expect, their rifles come standard with Liberty Charging handles, but they’re also available for aftermarket purchase. Available in multiple color options, the Liberty Charging Handle is ideal for shooting suppresses and unsuppressed. MSRP: $95
CMMG is popular for both their complete rifles and their individual parts. In particular the CMMG Zeroed series of parts includes muzzle devices, lower parts kits, triggers and, of course, charging handles. The CMMG Zeroed AR-15 charging handle featured here checks all the boxes we look for in an ambi charging handle, but CMMG also offers the Zeroed charging handle for AR-10 rifles and rimfire ARs. MSRP: $80
Palmetto State Armory is one of the best online one-stop-shop retailers for all things guns. While you can purchase many of the different charging handle options in this list there, PSA also makes their own ambidextrous AR-15 charging handle. Built in America with 7075-series aluminum, the PSA Premium Ambi AR-15 Charging Handle checks the box at a great price. MSRP: $70
LWRCI Ambi Charging Handle
LWRCI builds rifles for extreme use, and the parts that go with those rifles have to meet the highest standards. The LWRCI Ambi Charging Handle is highly ergonomic and is easy to quickly rack the BCG. It’s light weight and a great option for any AR-15 rifle. Of course, if you have about $2K to purchase one of their rifles, then you’ll get a charging handle for free. MSRP: $104
Strike Industries T-Bone Charging Handle
Strike Industries is incredibly popular with competition shooters, especially 3-Gun competitors. They offer a lot of aftermarket parts at great prices in many different colors for builders who like to match parts on their rifle builds. The T-Bone charging handle has a patented gas redirect system to vent gas away from the shooter, and the handles are actually built from a customizable polymer, so you can switch the handles with different sizes and systems. MSRP: $40
About the Author
Jack Oller is a U.S. Army veteran, having served in the Military Police with one deployment to the Camp VI Detention Facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He has extensive firearms training from military and civilian schools and is a passionate shotgun shooter and hunter. Jack has an English degree from Illinois State University, and he started his career in the outdoor industry as Associate Editor for Guns & Ammo magazine. After Gun & Ammo, he worked as Brand Manager for Crimson Trace and now is the Digital Editor for Firearms News.
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