Have you customized your AR15 to make it more “tactical”?
It's tempting to change out all kinds of accessories and parts.
The market for AR15 components is pretty big, and everybody's pushing some special new aftermarket modification.
One thing you may or may not have considered is the charging handle.
When I carried an M16 in the infantry, I didn't stop to think about that charging handle much.
It was just… there, you know?
But there are all kinds of fancy charging handles you could put on it.
I spoke with my friend Ox about this, and here is a brief summary of what he told me.
Should You Change Your AR15 Charging Handle To Be More “Tactical”?
Picture the charging handle on an AR15.
It's basically a plunger that you grab with your fingers.
When you grab it and run it back and let it go forward, you're chambering a round, right?
There are aftermarket charging handles that change the size and shape of what you grab to chamber that first round.
So ask yourself: Is there any reason that I should be swapping out what came with the gun for something else?
The Answer: It Depends
The first answer is that, yes, there is value in changing out the charging handle…
…but it depends on the situation.
For example, if you want to have a gun mounted but still run the charging handle, you could install a left-side charging handle that sits farther forward than the bolt carrier grip release.
Outside of malfunctions, there's not a ton of application for it.
When it is useful, however, it's useful.
Everyone's setup is going to be a little different.
Consider, then, if there's any situation in which changing out that handle might be of benefit to you.
If You Do, Mind Your Optics
Another reason you might change the charging handle is for compatibility with certain optics.
Say you have an optic that comes very far back.
It could interfere with the stock charging handle, in some cases.
It will be hard to get your finger in between the mount for the optic and the charging handle.
You can fix that problem by installing an oversized charging handle.
(Extending the charging handle makes more sense in that type of scenario, in other words.)
But as we've just said, that's situation dependent.
If you don't have an optic that does that, there's no problem and thus nothing to fix.
Even the fix just makes it a little easier to use.
Remember To Consider Gas Blowback
Finally, something to consider is gas blowback.
This is really more of an issue for those few of us out there running suppressed AR15s.
A charging handle that limits gas blowback — and they're out there — helps prevent you from breathing in too many fumes.
That aside, though, for most people, you won't need to change to an oversized charging handle.
The stock handle will be fine unless it starts giving you problems in training.
If you find, in your dry fire and live fire practice, that you're not able to get your finger on the charging handle for whatever reason, that is when you should consider changing it.
But you've got to change to something that will work better, not just something looks “cooler.”
The stock charging handle has served many people for decades.
It will be fine for most of us.