AK Lightning Bolt: Left-hand side charging handle

Over at SaysUncle and GunPundit, Uncle and Murdoc asked if anyone could identify a left handed AK charging handle. I just happened to come across the AK Lightning Bolt today and it is definitely the same system.

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The bolt system was designed by Colorado Shooting Sports. It looks like it offers a significant improvement in reloading time:

One of the true AK innovations of the last 60 years. A left-side cocking system. This project started over a year ago and already hundreds of AKLB units are in service here in and abroad. Several units just finished a punishing 7,000 round torture test.

1.)Make tactical reloads faster and operate more ergonomically to ensure that you stay focused on the threat not on your weapon.

2.)Allow you to keep your hand on the pistol grip which will make you safer and remove movements that take time to learn to do well with a standard right side cocking mechanism.

3.)The top covers charging handle openning will allow your rifle to cool faster during high rates of fire.

The AKLighting bolt is available for the following weapons: AK-47 and all variants, AK-74 and all variants including the AKS-74U Krinkov, Israeli Galil, Finlands Valmet, Saiga rifles and shotguns, RPKs, VZ-58s, All Yugo AKs,STGs, and many more.

The AKLightning Bolt is being sold by Tactical Response Gear for $225.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Kevin

    I was in a class with him a few months ago, it’s as good as it looks.

  • Now the next step is to have an L1A1-style, folding, non-reciprocating left-side AK charging handle. That would be pretty sweet….. and actually pretty easy to implement. Just machine a small catch or notch into the left side of the bolt carrier, and fashion a rail into the receiver cover for the charging handle to ride back and forth on.

  • Okami-San

    kewl 8D

  • I’d rather see a parts set that puts the charging handle farther forward.

    Put a tube out there, that bears against the rearmost shoulder of the gas piston. That way you can still use the existing bolt carrier and receiver cover.

    All of it could be done in a parts kit that replaces the gas tube and upper forward handguard. It could be built to not reciprocate with the bolt carrier and to fold flat against the handguard if that’s what you wanted.

    A forward assist could be worked into the kit.

  • james pashia

    leave the bolt charging handle on the AK the way it is, all the CSS guys did was switch sides with the bolt handle to make it more ergonomic, when you start adding parts like non-recipricating charging handles, etc, you run into problems with increasing the number of moving parts and something else that can jam on the weapon. Additionally, you wouldnt want the charging handle further forward as it causes you to change body position to load the weapon, having to reach forward to pull the charging handle. the problem with non-recip handles is that you have issues with it in use as a forward assist. AS is It puts the charging handle right on line with the magazine well, so as soon as the magazine is rocked back and locked, you can just rotate your palm up 90 degrees to pull the charging handle back to charge the weapon. alot of stuff out there sounds nifty and whiz-bang kewl, but in reality simplicity is the best policy, as when you are highly stressed-in a gun fight for example- fine motor movement goes out the window and you are left with gross motor movement, so keeping the steps down and the sphere of movement close to the center of the weapon mag well- the better. additionally, extrenious movement increases your random chance at catching a stray round because of your changes in position. think about that stuff before you start wishing this or that on weapons. Reality people.

  • fallout11

    Courtesy of Gabe Suarez, legendary training instructor:

    “Finally, the focus of my discussion here…the charging handle. This is the same charging handle that you find on the M1 Garand, the M14, the M1 Carbine, the Mini-14 and the myriad of other weapon systems that are derived from those. Someone please send me a link to an article by a modern technique trained gun instructor saying anything at all bad about the M14’s charging handle. But somehow…the charging handle of that evil and unergonimic Russian commie rifle needs work?

    What we usually see is someone trying to make the charging handle easier for a right handed shooter to use. Very interesting. This indicates to me that the invention is intended for range use only…to facilitate a right handed guy from having to work too hard or to do too much.

    The world, you see, unlike shooting ranges, is not right handed. The world is neutral. So one may find himself needing to take a corner as a right handed operator and the very next minute take another corner as a lefty. Or to use cover as a lefty or a righty. When real bullets are flying toward you and you jump toward the closest piece of cover to avoid getting hit, you don’t get to choose the right handed cover so you can use your right handed technique. Nope…you use what you have, and half the time it won’t be what you want.

    So the guy who installs a G3 kit on their AK…or a Lighting Bolt Kit (turning the right side bolt handle to a left side bolt handle) has gained nothing except complicating his weapon beyond the reasonable. Because when he is operating it left handed…and he will if he ever has to use his rifle outside of a shooting range ammo dump, he will find that his super cool ergonomic enhancements have actually made the rifle harder to use.

    My recommendation? Leave the frigging Kalashnikov alone and learn to adapt YOU to the rifle and not the other way around. It is not only cheaper, but will make you a far better fighter in the end.”

  • Fixer

    Fallout11, you are being a little harsh. Having a left side charging handle on an AK, Ruger Mini 14, M1 Garand, M14 or M1 Carbine would have made for a better designed rifle. Look at most of the HK rifles and the M4 which has an ambidextrous charging handle. The are much faster and easier to use for the majority of shooters.

  • You guys should check out the HK style one.


    Ethan Dublin

  • TheRoo

    Even though it is a Plug for his own product, I am realy impressed by the simplicity of instalation and ease of use of Ethans HK-style charging handle. And if you dont want to cut it off you can leave the orriginal charging handle sticking out the right side of the Rifle for those who are either left-handed (like my Father) or is just plain used to dealing with an AK the old-fashioned way to use if they pick up your rifle. That should placate Fallout11 a little, though I think when he says G3 he is talking about this style of charging handle.
    I think it is great that the AK platform is so flexible that it can easily be personalized with several types of right handed charge handle with little to no assistance from a gunsmith (unlike an AR) for the financially challenged, such as myself.

  • fallout11

    When I went through basic (1988), we right handed shooters were taught to use the RIGHT (strong) hand to charge the M16A2, just the same as those in 1968 were.
    Example: http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v445/bravocompanyusa/M16A2ChargingHandlecropped579.jpg
    The field manual (FM- 3-22) still shows it this way.
    Yet that is now “wrong”, as is the design of the Garand, M1 carbine, M14, AK, L85, SIG 550, and most other non-german-designed military weapons in the world. What we have here is a clear cut case of modern revisionism, and wrongheaded revisionism at that.

    • The modern revisionists are following the school of thought behind the FN FAL. Whatever you chose, practice practice practice…

  • Did I do that?

    Hey, I know this is an old topic, but I think the LH charging handle is a nice idea. I don’t know if I’d shave the RH handle though…I’d leave it.

    I understand the detractors, and in deference to Gabe…ANYTHING modification made to an AK, whether it be a sling, change of iron sights, change of stocks or fore ends is “changing the friggin Kalishnakov”. The ever popular Ultimak? How about the endless rails and forward vert grips?

    No question there’s tons-O mail ninja BS that get’s bolted to any “tacticool” weapon out there. Many are looking for a problem that simply doesn’t exist. There ARE some well thought out mods though that WILL NOT impact the reliability of this weapon. I believe this is one of them.

    Finally, remember that often times things are left unchanged because “that’s how we’ve always done it”. If we all adhere to that thought process, we’d all be running around naked chasing our food with a stick. Think about it.

  • DT

    Obviously this improvement bothers some of the AK purists…however the left-side or even ambi charging handle IS an improvement. There is no reasonable argument that says it’s better to awkwardly reach your left hand over top of the weapon in an un-natural hand position, obstructing your vision, is better than a simple quick natural stroke of the left hand. There’s a reason the HKs are superior. More thought went into their weapons. The argument can also be made against the right-hand charging handle as it smacks your knuckles against the safety. I’ve had bloody knuckles every time I’ve taken my AK out for serious combat training.

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