There are some benefits to a side-mounted charging handle, mostly to do with not having to reach so far back on the gun to operate the bolt. Economy of motion and all that. For some, the AR-15 would be the perfect weapon system but for the want of that one part. There have been custom AR-15 rifles that have such charging handles for ages now, but they’re all pretty expensive and require either a new rifle or extensive modifications to your existing gun. Now, Gun Fighter Gear offers a new solution in the form of a drop-in replacement charging handle . . .

The design is pretty nifty in that it’s basically a standard charging handle with a fiddly bit extending the mechanism to the front of the receiver. It lets you manipulate the bolt without almost picking your nose, which is good for those “gunfighters” who feel the need to have such a thing. And from my own testing, I can tell you that it works as advertised and does the job well. But as with almost everything, there are some hiccups.

Issue #1 is that I feel like I’m going to break the thing if I use it too hard. The construction looks solid and the forward piece is a nice chunky piece of metal, but I feel like if I hit the handle too hard it’s going to snap like a wishbone. It holds up well to normal use and every day wear and tear, but in an “oh shit” situation I don’t have complete confidence in its ability to hold up. To be fair I did try to abuse it and it took it all in stride, but you can see it flex if you remove it from the rifle and press on the two ends.

Issue #2 is the mounting options. The forward extended bit of the device runs along the side of the rifle, and while it doesn’t touch the receiver, it does get in the way of some optics. I tried to mount an EOTech sight with the charging handle in place, but it wouldn’t fit — the charging handle got in the way and the optic wouldn’t mount properly. Other mounts with large bolts might have the same problem, but small mounts such as Warne’s rings or an Aimpoint base would work just fine.

In the end, it’s a quick and easy solution for those who really feel the need for a side charging handle on their AR-15. But for me, I don’t see the value to the average shooter. It’s a specialty item, and if you feel the burning desire to add this to your gun, more power to you. But at nearasdammit $150, I think I’ll stick with my BCM Gunfighter charging handle.

Specifications: GFGear AR-15 Side Charging Handle
Price: $149.99
Website: gfgear.com

Ratings (out of five stars):

Ease of Use * * * * *
Drops straight in and works like a champ.

Utility * * *
Works as advertised, but may interfere with your optic of choice.

Overall * * *
If you really feel the need for a side charging handle, then this might be your ticket. Otherwise, it’s a pretty expensive add-on that really doesn’t add much to your gun.

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44 Responses to Gear Review: Gun Fighter Gear AR-15 Side Charging Handle

    • The problem with the rear charging handle is it limits the stocks you can use — no riser or cheekpiece. This things doesn’t solve that problem AND interferes with rail optics. Gaw.

      • Also, if you’re dry firing with a sight picture (through a scope)…sometimes your finger slips and yo smack yourself in the nose.

      • Not to mention that it probably weighs 3x what a normal charging handle does. Every little bit helps. I’m a minimalist when it comes to guns for two reasons. One is that they are a very heavy item in the context of hauling them along with everything else one needs to survive outdoors, and the second is that complicated breeds complications.

    • Actually, it does help solve a problem, we can’t have semi autos in the uk, so all AR’s are single shot, so the side charger has potential, except for the massive price.

  1. The gun is designed to work with the standard charging handle. You start adding this goofy crap and you’re only introducing added variables that may cause malfunctions.

    No thanks, even if it was free.

    $150? Yeah, it better come with a lot of oral action.

    John

  2. A: Make it in a Left-Handed model.

    B: Knock about a hundred bucks off the price.

    C: FDE and OD would be nice in addition to black, but you COULD always just paint the damned thing.

  3. While the rear mounted charging handle has plenty of detractors, I think the bolt catch makes up for it. Assuming the rifle works as it’s supposed to (which is a big assumption), the only time you need the charging handle is before combat, as in before you leave the wire. Since it was designed as a military weapon, trigger-pullers should already have a round in the chamber before the SHTF. Lots of assumptions here, but if you need to yank on the charging handle in combat, better hope there’s covering fire/cover to clear a jam anyway.

    I have a Raptor ambi charging handle on my M4gery, and love it. From left to right it works the same, and adds very little bulk (although it looks massive compared to a standard charging handle). This item, while it works as advertised, looks to be a case of a solution looking for a problem. And it interferes with a few optics.

    Long story short, PASS.

    -Vu

  4. My first thought when seeing this was “wait, didn’t they already post this article earlier today?” Then I noticed it was for the AR instead of the SCAR. Before reading, I sort of hoped this was some clever bit of engineering that would allow side charging of the AR while allowing the user to maintain proper cheek weld. After seeing it, though, I’m left wondering what problem this solves as that issue would still be present with this device. It could maybe, possibly, slightly reduce the distance your off-hand has to travel in order to actuate the charging handle? For $150? No… I don’t think I’m the target demographic for this particular bit of metal.

    • A lot of people just don’t like the feeling of charging an AR. It just kinda feels unnatural for a firearm to a lot of people. I mean charging an AK feels and looks cool and a lot of people prefer that to the AR’s mechanism. Including me… and i’m an AR guy 😛

      • Yes but how often have you scraped your hand charging an AR? Now same question for the AK… Communism always hurts more than capitalism 😉

  5. $150? No way. Just no… This is no-er than no, this is Double no. It’s a piece of metal. Inb4 a generic company comes out with one that cost 8$ for a 3 pack and/or comes with a free LED light/Snuggie/Ron Popeil product.

  6. I think it’s nice, However with the over sized ones we have now, I can’t really see a reason for it.

  7. I think I’ll stick with a BCM Gunfighter or a Raptor.

    Spike’s is coming out with their own take on a Raptor pretty soon, so I’m looking forward to that.

    • I hadn’t heard of the Raptor prior to these replies. I haven’t modified my AR at all, but the charging handle is the first candidate if I do. Good to learn about some of the respected options out there that have worked for you guys.

      Bolt release would be next. I don’t delicately push it with my thumb, but rather just smash it with my thenar. The rifle should be much tougher than I am, I figure. Plus, why train to rely on fine motor skills that won’t be there when needed, anyway? Are there any good external add-ons that would enlarge that paddle area, without requiring replacing the entire original mechanism?

      • BCM Gunfighter handles are pretty much the “standard upgrade,” if that makes sense. If someone’s upgraded from a basic stock handle, it’s probably about 8 in 10 that they went to a Gunfighter. My point is that if you wanted something better than stock, you’ll hardly go wrong with that. People that use Raptors really seem to like them, too. I’m looking forward to Spike’s version because they’re local to me, they make good stuff in general, their “versions” of things are generally pretty awesome. Wait ’til you see their new back up irons in a month or so. Small, gorgeous, and about half the weight of Magpul’s.

      • I have tried both the BCM Gunfighter and the Raptor.

        Gunfighter is a definite upgrade on the stock handle, but I don’t think it adds enough to justify the price, and it’s more prone to pinching your skin every now and then.

        Raptor, OTOH, is worth every penny, it’s that much more convenient. I’ve actually got a second one for my .22 CMMG build.

  8. Just what I need, another protruding knob on my AR and if it does snap off no way to charge the dang bang stick!

  9. FYI there was another attempt at a side charging handle that as far as I know never got past the prototype stage. It was the R.A.R. Guns “Sidewinder” – the company appears to be defunct. Here is a 3 year old Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qm_4h0FQpbo or google it for some forum opinions. The exterior portion of the Sidewinder dips down and looks less likely to interfere with optic mounts.

    I must admit if the price point was $99, I might try it. I like Magpul B.A.D. levers and KNS Hammer/Trigger Pins even though many do not.

  10. The main drawback (to me) of the T-handle is the fact that I have to take my face off the gun to use it, because the handle needs to go right where my cheek is. This design doesn’t alleviate that concern.

    I’d rather get an OPS-4 upper for $300 that has a real side charging handle.

  11. I think the idea is kind of cool, but I wouldn’t want it on my personal weapon. Here’s my thinking.
    3 point slings are what everybody uses. that means, when your weapon is slung, the left side of the weapon is facing you (for right handed shooters) having a knob banging into your hip/side every step you took would get annoying after a while.

    I do like the idea of being able to keep your shooting hand on the pistol grip and the rifle in your shoulder while charging the weapon, but as somebody already pointed out, it doesn’t have any practical value most of the time because you’re always going to leave the wire with one in the chamber.

  12. who says you need a side charger @150 when the OE is a side charger mounted to the rear?
    I realize that the Low Drag Crowd will lust after this tactical dildo but think about it, When, under what circumstances, would this fishing lure save your life?
    Mag change? No
    “Tactical Mag Change”? No
    Empty Mag Change? No
    Jammed rifle? What, your gonna point the muzzle at you head and kick/stomp that thing to clear a jammed cartridge? No
    This improvement could cost you $150 and your life

  13. Because of this device in NY it takes the semi auto out of the weapon with a gas block added it’s not a Semi any longer LMAO
    I can leave my custom M-4 just the way I built it and there’s nothing the Governor can do about it. That’s why it’s every penny they are asking for it.
    Benny Alongi

  14. I like the idea a lot since I run SCARs and FALs and it would give my ARs a similar manual of arms but I worry that it could get broken off or bent and jammed up..

    I’d need to see some body weight type testing before I would introduce such a large external leverage point into the charging cycle of my ARs.

  15. Might be a good option for guys in commie states converting their AR’s from semi auto to “straight pull” rifles.

  16. Do a review on the Hard Charger from Devil Dogs. That is what this side charger should have been. There’s even a Vid showing a Rep standing on the handle. Still expensive, though. (sigh)

  17. Ordered one and never received! Call to the company results in no one answering and it’s a Google phone number. Had to cancel the credit card transaction via credit card company and never got a response from these tards. Never order from again.

  18. And after you attach your nine D cell Maglight, hair dryer, laser, and range finder your AR15 weighs as much as an M60.

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