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
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.