Next Level Armament is right in my backyard in a way of speaking. They are located just one town over from me and I have to say that it’s great having a world-class rifle maker just a stone’s throw away.
They are best known for making some very cool AR-15 and AR-10 rifles and they make one of the better .450 Bushmaster hunting carbines on the market today. They also make some very nifty accessories.
The one we are looking at here is their NLX 556 Ambi Charging Handle. This is a super-robust, rugged drop-in replacement the your existing trash charging handle that came with your rifle. The handle was designed from the start to address some deficiencies surrounding use in the field and on the competition line.
From Next Level’s web page on the NLX 556:
We designed all our ambidextrous charge handles for us folks up here in the Michigan Weather.
The design was brought to life from wearing gloves and needing more scope clearance while hunting in cold weather conditions. Manufactured from 7075 aluminum with larger, more aggressive “ears” and fewer moving parts than other designs, our charge handles are among the best ambi charge handles on the market.
This is THE charging handle if you plan on hunting with an AR rifle. The big latches make it very easy to manipulate the rifle in bad conditions. If you think that your standard latch is good enough, understand that the AR is a fairly fragile design that faces complicated malfunctions and is highly susceptible to debris, mud, carbon buildup, and other schmutz.
I have had a couple guns of my own and seen those of other hunters jam up from freezing weather conditions in Michigan. If you use certain oils or greases, the AR can literally freeze shut. If it doesn’t freeze up, the thickening of those lubricants can result in slowed bolt operation and introduce malfunctions.
The fact that many hunters in Michigan use the 450 Bushmaster is reason enough to get this handle. The 450 BM is a notoriously finicky cartridge that has all sorts of magazine and cycling issues depending on manufacturer and getting the rifle back into the game can be a challenge if you can’t get the bolt locked back. I have had several of these issues with AR platform rifles in 450 BM in the field so I can attest to how difficult they can be.
This handle brings a level of function to a modern sporting rifle that’s hard to get elsewhere. The fact that it’s pretty much designed for rough field conditions in freezing, wet environments makes it a solid choice for all hunters and outdoorsy people. The latch handles are very wide and deeply textured. Gloved use is extremely easy even with thick winter mitts.