Five Reasons to Upgrade to an Extended Charging Handle By: Travis Pike


The AR 15 is such a popular platform that seemingly every little piece can be upgraded down to the pins that hold the trigger in place. Upgrading controls are common, and one of the easiest upgrades you can do is swap charging handles. A new charging handle goes a long way in making your firearm easier to use all around. The market is massive and keeping a basic AR charging handle seems like a waste of potential. 

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Life is too short to use a MILSPEC charging handle!
Life is too short to use a MILSPEC charging handle!

Swapping your charging handle doesn’t take much effort. It’s a drop-in and out affair, and no gunsmithing skills are required. Actually, it’s probably the easiest thing to swap on your rifle. Today we will break down the main reasons you should upgrade your charging handle. I’ve recently become a fan of the SilencerCo Gas Defeating Charging handle, and it’s become my standard on my favorite AR15. 

In showing a friend this new charging handle, he couldn’t really see the need to upgrade. Need is a strong word, and you might not need a new charging handle, but you might like one. In this edition of Mag Dump Monday I’m giving you the same five reasons I gave him for upgrading your charging handle. 

Enter the Charging Handle  

This is a fairly large market, and not all AR charging handles offer the same upgrades or features. Keep in mind this is a rather generic look at what an upgraded charging handle can do. You might find an option for you that doesn’t offer the reasons listed here, and that’s fine too. So, without any more jawin’, let’s jump in. 

1. Ambidextrous Use 

One of the changes Colt made to Stoner’s rifle was swapping the charging handle from beneath the charging handle to behind it. This is a natural ambidextrous palace for it to sit, but it still favors righties with the Mil-Spec design. The modern charging handle design often encompasses ambidexterity and the ability to activate the latch with either side of the handle. 

I'm not a lefty, but I am sunburned, but I like an ambidextrous charging handle anyway.
I’m not a lefty, but I am sunburned, but I like an ambidextrous charging handle anyway.

This makes the rifle more lefty friendly but also makes it more friendly all around. If you need to swap shoulders, for example, having an “ambi” (ambidextrous) handle makes a good bit of sense and makes it easier to use the weapon. Plus, Lord forbid you have an injured arm. You can rock and roll whichever side of the gun you need to without issue. 

2. Plays Well With Modern Optics 

In the days of iron sights and early red dots, the AR 15 charging handle worked perfectly fine. Times have changed, however, and so have aiming solutions. The optic of choice these days is the LPVO and the red dot with a magnifier. Those devices take up a fair bit more room on the upper receiver and often extend rearward over the standard charging handle. 

New charging handles make life easier with big optics.

They eat up a lot of the space needed to grab the charging handle. A modern extended model makes it really easy to grab the handle regardless of the size of the optic above it.

With my Swampfox Saber, the eye relief is so tight it sights right over the charging handle, making it difficult to access. With the SilencerCo GDCH in place, I can grip and rip without a problem. 

3. More Grip To Grab

The purpose of the charging handle is to allow you to manipulate the bolt. This includes the need to load the initial cartridge in the firearm, which isn’t tough to do by any means. However, beyond charging the weapon, you might need to free a complicated malfunction or clear a stuck cartridge. The additional leverage offered by a larger charging handle makes it easy to complete these tasks. 

SilencerCo charging handle: You can rip and grip this thing without fear.
You can rip and grip this thing without fear.

The large handles make it easier to clear the weapon and easier to rack the weapon as well. A wide handle is one that’s easier to grip, especially when wearing gloves. When it gets chilly, a set of gloves is almost mandatory, and for most police forces and military branches, gloves are considered PPE and a must-wear. 

4. You Can Blade The Charging Handle 

The most natural way to manipulate an AR charging handle is to do the old two-finger pinch and pull it back. That’s easy enough, but if you’ve used an AK, SCAR, or BREN, then you likely have experience with a bit more standard motion to charging the weapon. Hit it with the palm of your hand and run it rearward. No pinching or gripping is required. Just hit and go. 

You can blade an extended charging handle.
You can blade an extended charging handle.

Doing this with a MIL-SPEC charging handle is tough due to its relatively small size. Smashing the thing rearward with the SilencerCo GDCH is super simple. That massive wing of a handle makes it a non-problem to engage and blade. To me, this method is a faster way to get the bolt to the rear when reloading or fixing malfunctions. 

5. Beats Back Gas 

This is a newer feature for AR charging handles, but the most modern models work to defeat gas from blowing in your face. This is a common occurrence when running a gun suppressed or when running a very short-barreled AR 15. A little extra material at the rear helps to reduce or even defeat the “gas facial” phenomenon. 

Some AR charging handles keep gas out of your face,
Some AR charging handles keep gas out of your face,

Not only is gas to the face annoying and sometimes painful, but it also increases your exposure to lead. There is plenty of lead and gross crap in that gas, and that’s not a good thing for you. It’s becoming more and more evident that lead exposure has way worse effects on our bodies than we knew, and the damage can be done at levels lower than most. This is one of the features I really like as I’ve now acquired a suppressor and have been shooting suppressed a bit more often. 

The AR Charging Handle World 

Who doesn’t love to tinker and upgrade their guns? Dropping a charging handle is one of the most affordable and easiest upgrades to make to your rifle. The market is massive, with choices from companies like Radian, Aero Precision, SilencerCo, and many, many more. There is an option for everyone and every rifle, from the DMR to the 9mm AR pistol. 

I’ve used a dozen different charging handles and have never been let down by any of them. I have my preferences, but let’s open up the floor. What AR charging handle do you prefer in your rifle?

Share below and tell us why you like that option.