I am a big fan of the old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The AR15 is a highly upgradeable platform. You can change just about any component in minutes. The drawback to this is that it makes it easy to pile on unneeded accessories. Charging handles are not immune.
If you page through any catalog or online store you will notice all manner of extended and ambidextrous charging handles. Most are nothing more than a slight rework of the USGI charging handle with an oversized latch hanging off of the side. These are problematic because they load the side of he handle causing it to bind. The long latches also tend to snag on slings and tac gear. There is little that is more frustrating than snagging the charging handle and popping the carrier out of battery or causing a double feed. The problems are just compounded with the ambidextrous versions.
These drawbacks have kept me away from fancy charging handles. That was until I came across the Raptor Charging Handle by AXTS. The Raptor is both slightly extended and ambidextrous. However there are no unsightly or snag prone latches hanging off of it. The Raptor is a sleek design that uses an internal gear system to link both sides of the charging handle. Unlike the original AR15 design, you do not have to worry about depressing a thin “blade” to release the latch. You can catch the charging handle on any exposed portion and pull it to the rear. This is a great advantage when wearing gloves. The ambidextrous nature of the design means you are free to use whatever hand is available to charge the weapon or clear malfunctions. This is perfectly suited to precision rifle shooters who may be supporting the rifle with the left hand.
The fit and finish of the Raptor Charging Handle is excellent. In use, it seemed to flex less than USGI handles when operating it from one side or the other. This will definitely contribute to less wear on the handle and less wear to the channel inside the upper receiver. The latch itself appears to be made of aluminum and during out evaluation period did not seem to cause any excess wear to the upper receiver. This can be a problem on some aftermarket steel latches.
While the Raptor Charging Handle is not inexpensive, it does add utility to your AR and give you more flexibility than your standard USGI charging handle.
The Raptor Charging Handle is available for 5.56 and 7.62mm AR platforms.