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Best AR-15 Charging Handles: Ambi, Suppressor Ready, & More [2022]

GRIP IT, RIP IT, CHARGE IT – MILSPEC OR GUCCI? WHAT DOES YOUR CHARGING HANDLE SAY ABOUT YOU?

There are really three parts on an AR-15 that you should never cheap out on – your barrel, BCG, and trigger. But that still leaves a lot of room for improvement if you have the budget and the desire.

Behind the big three, I would put a good charging handle as my favorite upgrade. They won’t destroy your wallet, they make a surprising difference, and I just like their look.

But how much of a difference can a charging handle make? Is $100+ really necessary? Let’s dig into it and find out.

DO YOU EVEN NEED AN UPGRADED CHARGING HANDLE?

For many of us, an upgraded charging handle will be more luxury than necessary. Fact is that a mil-spec charging handle is strong and works. This is not a make-it-or-break-it part, no gunfight will be won or lost based on the brand of charging handle used.

All of that said, there are some major benefits to using a good aftermarket charging handle. From ease of racking your rifle to redirecting over-gas from your face to ambidextrous benefits, there is a lot that a good charging handle can do for you – if you’re willing to pay for it.

Personally, I love ambi parts, and I want as much of my rifle to be ambi as possible. And when it comes to shooting with suppressors, a charging handle designed to protect my eyes from the extra gas is simply a must.

Your milage will vary, but if you’re ready to treat yourself, here are the best charging handles!

BEST AR-15 CHARGING HANDLES

Palmetto State Armory MIL-SPEC 

If all you need is mil-spec, then there is no reason to go crazy. There are a half-dozen solid brands that offer mil-spec charging handles, but PSA gets my vote since they are almost always in stock, they often run deals that combo a charging handle with some other stuff, and if nothing else, the price is reliably decent. 

Palmetto State Armory MIL-SPEC 

This is a no-frills charging handle made from forged T7075 aluminum with a black anodized finish.

MSRP is $28, but you’ll rarely pay more than $20.

Radian Raptor Standard, LT, and SD

One of the gold standards for upgraded charging handles, Radian won’t be cheap, but they will be awesome.

The standard Radian is ambidextrous with nice large handles to grab onto. Entirely made from 7075 aluminum, this exceeds milspec requirements. If you’re feeling fancy, you can get a standard Radian Raptor with an NP3 coating for extra slickness and ease of charging. MSRP is $90 for standard models, $120 for NP3 coated.

Radian Raptor
Radian Raptor

If you want to save some money and a tiny amount of weight, the Raptor-LT is my go-to choice for my charging handle needs. A wonderful balance between price and features, for me, the LT is that Goldilocks option. Still mostly made from 7075 aluminum, the handles are over-molded with fiberglass-reinforced polymer. This means they are technically less strong, but they are still very durable. Sadly, the SD isn’t offered in fancy coatings. But the MSRP is only $70

Radian Raptor LT

For shooting with suppressors, the Raptor SD is pretty awesome. Designed with huge vents in the body of the handle, this forces gas away from ever getting to you while a shield built into the claws of the handle help redirect any gas that does get back there from hitting you in the face.

Radian Raptor SD, with NP3 coating

Made from 7075-T6 aluminum, the Raptor SD is again offered with a NP3 coating if you want it.

MSRP is $120 for the base SD, and $150 for the NP3 coated version.

Aero Precision Breach

Building on its reputation as one of the best middle-tier AR-15 makers, Aero Precision offers a solid charging handle for a decent price, but it won’t turn heads.

Ambidextrous, 7075 aluminum, gas mitigation shield, and black anodized, the Breach comes in 2 flavors – small handle and large handle.

The smaller handle is nice if you’re worried about having it snag on gear, but the large handle is easier to charge and use. It’s up to you what flavor you want, but I like the large handle a bit more.

Aero Precision Breach Charging Handles
Aero Precision Breach Charging Handles

Aero Precision claims they have one feature that isn’t found on other charging handles:

“Patent-pending Lever Mechanism: Transfers force-of-use away from the roll pins and into the top/head portion of the reinforced bar protecting the charging handle in the most demanding circumstances.”

I’ve run a Breach since Aero released them about 2 years ago, and it’s still going strong. I can’t say that their patent-pending lever mechanism has anything to do with that, but I can at least say that it does work well.

MSRP is $80 for both styles, and to me, that’s a pretty good price. 

Breek Arms Warhammer Mod2

Like most others, the Warhammer Mod2 is made from 7075-T6 aluminum, is ambi, and has gas deflecting cuts.

What makes it a little different is the shape of the handles. While most others are kind of fat and large, these are much skinnier. You might think that would weaken them, but you’d be wrong.

I’ve beat the crap out of my Warhammer, and I can’t kill it. 

Warhammer Mod2
Warhammer Mod2

I don’t love the feel of the handles, but I do love that this is a very lightweight charging handle that still maintains a robustness you just don’t normally see with “lightweight” parts. 

In the grand scheme of things, the mild distaste I have for the feel of the handles is extremely minor compared to the benefits and good design.

Maybe best of all, the Warhammer is a good chunk less expensive than most others on this list – MSRP is only $50.

Geissele Super Charging Handle

Geissele was one of the first to come out with a truly groundbreaking charging handle. It’s not that the Super Charging Handle will change the way your rifle runs, it’s that it combos basically all of the best features into one handle. Smooth manipulation, ambi handle, easy to grab, and very effective gas redirection in a single super durable handle. 

Geissele Super Charging Handle
Geissele Super Charging Handle

Ultra popular with special forces units and the currently adopted charging handle for the FBI Hostage Rescue Team, this is a charging handle that many pros choose (or had chosen for them) because it works, and it’s legitimately pretty awesome.

Downside? MSRP is $105. That isn’t the highest price on this list, but it’s up there.

LOOSE ROUNDS

End of the day, don’t overthink your charging handle. While there are definitely pros and cons to each of them, none of the upgraded charging handles on this list will change your life compared to any of the others.

While I’ve grown to kind of hate milspec charging handles, they work, and they’re cheap.

If you have the budget to splurge a little, I think you’ll really appreciate the benefits of a better part. Especially if you’re shooting with a suppressor.

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