I know what you’re thinking: a charging handle review? You can’t truth the handle! Yes. Yes I can. I’ve gotten to a place with my AR builds where subtle changes matter more. I’ve found a good barrel manufacturer, ammo I like shooting and furniture that’s ergonomically excellent. If I set out to build another gun tomorrow, the big parts would be pretty well handled. So to speak. As for the charging handle, I now know I want to go big and go home . . .
BCM has this great overview on their thought process behind fitting a big, ambidextrous charging handle to an AR. It was refreshing to read it after coming to a lot of those same conclusions independently. One of the points they didn’t raise (and one I’ve seen in action): leverage. It’s nice to have leverage when pogo sticking/mortaring/beating the stock against the ground to clear a truly stubborn malfunction.
At this year’s Pecos Run ‘n Gun, I watched as a young man of 14 or so take a dive into the sand with his rifle’s dust cover open. Two rounds into his string of fire, his gun locked-up tight. As much as he struggled with it, he could not get the charging handle to pull back. Once he made the decision to DNF the stage, the RO crew helped him get his rifle running again. And by that, I mean they beat his gun against the ground while pulling on the mil spec charging handle. A couple of bloody and bruised digits later, his gun was open, cleared of its malfunction and flooded with oil to clear out the sand.
For two months prior to that incident, I’d been using the Tactical Shit-branded Next Level Armament Charging Handle in my personal AR. While I’d never had a malfunction, the handle made it much easier to charge my gun. I loved it so much that it made the cut for my Run ‘n Gun rifle – where I used it to charge the gun at the start of each stage, and at the end to show a clear rifle to the RO.
But sure enough, a few months after Run ‘n Gun, I had a dud round that failed to light off. Without thinking about it, I grabbed a handful of charging handle and ripped it backwards. But this time, instead of punching myself in the face (shit happens), everything went the way it was supposed to. I was back in action quickly and efficiently. Yes, I’ve had my hand slip off a mil spec handle. No, there’s no video.
I’m not a lefty, but I sympathize. If you’re a lefty, you’ll probably be excited about this; you can charge your gun using the hand you prefer. For the rest of us, pick a side, any side! It works with both hands and provides plenty of leverage to wrench the guts of your AR open in times of need. The “ears” are not so large as to snag on clothing and slings, but they are large enough to get a solid grip that won’t quickly go south while your shooting buddy taunts you with, “STOP HITTING YOURSELF!” Again, no video.
Several hundred (maybe thousand!) charging cycles later, and the lettering has started to rub off the charging handle, along with some of the finish. I’ve soaked it in a variety of cleaners in the hopes that the finish would bubble and I’d be able to deliver that one star review our readers so desperately crave, but alas, nothing.
I’m not a Tier One Operator. I’m not former military nor am I a police officer. The chances of me ever having to use my AR in a life or death situation approach zero rather rapidly. If past experience is any indicator, the chances of my AR failing during that time are so comically small as to be irrelevant. That said, having a beefy charging handle that allows me to operate the gun with either my strong or weak hand is a welcome addition, and one that will be featured on my rifle builds going forward.
Specifications: Next Level Armament Charging Handle
Price: $74.95 from Tactical Shit
Fit, Finish, Build Quality * * * *
Other that some wear and tear, it is built like a tank, and conveys a feeling of quality commensurate with the price you’d pay to stick it in your gun.
Ergonomics * * * * *
It’s a big charging handle for your AR. That makes it way more ergonomic than a small charging handle for your AR. Ergo five stars.
Overall Rating * * * * *
This is a pricey little thing. I imagine that plenty of people could do without. But it’s a nice little upgrade for your AR and makes charging the gun and clearing malfunctions a lot easier. Plus, it has the word shit on it. You can be a rebel and run your gun like an operator. What’s not to love?