Gear Review: Armageddon Tactical GMS-15 AR Ambi Charging Handle

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I can’t remember who the famous shooter who stated. “The charging handle is the weak point of the AR-15 design,”. Despite my faulty memory, I agree with the assertion. The original charging handle design of the AR-15 is, in a word, “under-engineered.” Outside of its structural issues (which cannot be solved without a fundamental re-design), the charging handle is plainly too small for combat manipulation and lacks ambidextrous ergonomics.

Various designs pictured. Standard AR handle on a S&W M&P 15-22, a Gunfighter BCM Mod 3 on a Del-Ton AR and the Armageddon Tactical latch on the right right.

Various designs pictured. Standard AR handle on a S&W M&P 15-22, a Gunfighter BCM Mod 3 on a Del-Ton AR and the Armageddon Tactical latch on the right right.

Ranging from the practical to the uber-tactical, shooters now have a myriad of options. Companies such as BCM, Rainer Arms, Parabellum Armament, Badger Ordinance, and a multitude of others have created an assortment of designs. To date, all have been improvements over the original design, relying on a pivot pin(s) to rotate the the latch over its indentation allowing the handle to be pulled to the rear. These pivot pins tend to be the weakness of handle. Secondly, when suppressed excess gases easily pass over the handle venting into the shooter’s face.  Yes, ergonomics have improved and there are gas-busting handles, but no one has thought to change the design and incorporate solutions to both issues until now.

Sample ambi charging handle. Note the open space that debris can enter into and jam the action.

Sample ambi charging handle. Note the open space that debris can enter into and jam the action.

Armageddon Tactical and the GMS-15 Design

Enter Armageddon Tactical, a new components manufacturer out of Colorado. The President Chris Bailey is building the company on his over 30 years of designing industrial tooling and products for others. The GMS-15 charging handles are the first of a slew of innovative accessories under the Armageddon Tactical brand (see the newly released crush washers and upcoming flash hider). Chris promises that there is even more new designs in the pipeline.

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The GMS-15 (for standard receiver AR-15s) and the GMS-15E (for high receivers such as SWORD) are Armageddon Tactical’s first product released to the wild. At first glance these look like typical ambi charging handles, with the flared latch handle and vertical serrations for grip. Upon closer inspection, the GMS-15 is not just a typical handle. Rather than relying on exposed pins, the GMS-15 is a nearly fully-sealed unit that pulls straight back. The latch itself pivots on an internal cam mechanism squirreled away from the debris of the outside world.

The GMS-15 in the fully seated and latched position. Note the rear extension sticking out the back about 1/8".

The GMS-15 in the fully seated and latched position. Note the rear extension sticking out the back about 1/8″.

Pulled back just enough to activate the latch release. Note the rear nub is now contained in the handle itself.

Pulled back just enough to activate the latch release. Note the rear nub is now contained in the handle itself.

The latch handle does not pivot or change position relative to the shooter’s hand. While losing grip on modern charging handles is rare, this design minimizes the risk even further. Further, it provides for the exact same tactile feelings on either the right or left side.The profile of the handle is identical on both the right and left sides. The handle extends about 1 1/4″ from the center-line and is a good balance of size for manipulation and not extended too far to be uncomfortable or accidentally charged.

The handle extends about as far as the forward assist on a mil-spec AR.

The handle extends about as far as the forward assist protrusion on a mil-spec AR.

Most interestingly to shooters with suppressors of hot-gassed carbines, the handle incorporates built-in gas redirection. Looking at the top of the handle, there is a visible hole cut into the handle. It is actually at a 45-degree angle directing gas into the hood on the top of the handle. From there, the hood redirects the gas around 180 degrees so when it does egress the handle, it is now travelling forwards away from the shooter.

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From this angle, you can easily see the hole to redirect the gasses into the “hood”

Handing the Armageddon Tactical GMS-15

Note* Armageddon sent two handles to myself and another two to Phil for review. 

Packaged without too much ceremony, the handles arrived in great shape. The black matte finish was uniform across the entire handle. No mars, tool marks, or other indications of poor QC. (Note- all pictures may show CLP on the handles. That is my doing as I run my ARs very wet to ease clean-up after range trips). 

Installation was a breeze. It is drop-in replacement for any standard AR. If you have field-stripped an AR for cleaning, you can install the GMS-15. Both handles slid easily into my Del-Ton AR-15 upper receivers and glided without issue fully forward until latched. To ensure the GMS-15 worked across multiple platforms, I ran it in an Adams Arms 5.45×39 upper receiver that was also in for review. No issues there either.

While I did not have a suppressor (see my odyssey to get a FFL 07) to fully test the venting capabilities, I was able to compare the differences running hot hand-loaded 5.56. During normal shooting, it was like someone puffed a short burst of air into my nose. After installing the GMS-15, I did not feel anything, but could still easily smell the powder. The handle was doing its job and keeping the gasses from my face.

From this angle, you can see the hood as it extends above the rail on the receiver.

From this angle, you can see the hood as it extends above the rail on the receiver.

I was invited and will attend the American Suppressor Association shoot next week in Indiana. I will bring the handle with me for further testing!

To test the strength, the handle was run vigorously by myself and a few local shooters out on the range with me. Standard charging was no issue. The latch released and caught each time as intended. Removed from the rifle, there is no sign of fatigue when pulled using opposing hands (I am a big guy). It held fine and kept on trucking after re-installation.

Finding Few Faults

I will make no secret about it, I do like the GMS-15. It is sturdy, fully ambi, and a gas-buster. But, this functionality comes at a small cost. During my testing, I found a two small detractions with the design:

The first is weight. Having a nearly solid handle adds about an ounce and a half over the original AR-15 design and its derivatives. Think the same way a billet upper can be stronger than forged when enough material is added. For those going for the ultimate light-weight carbine, this may not be the right charging handle.

The second is that the handle will not release from the receiver when the bolt is locked back and the shooter is only using the “blade” method with their hands. The GMS-15 requires some amount of resistance to overcome its internal release mechanisms. This is easily supplied by using your thumb to hold the rear nub in place while pulling the handle to the rear. Considering that I never use the charging handle to release the bolt from lock, this is almost a non-issue.

Wrap-Up:

For those looking for ambidextrous capability, solid reliability, and gas-redirection, the Armageddon Tactical GMS-15 is an excellent choice. At the cost of an once or so, shooters get added capability and the ability to run suppressors with comfort.

Armageddon is not reinventing the wheel by any means, but shows there is plenty of room to make it rounder. The GMS-15 charging handle is a solid piece of kit. Listed for $80 on their website (with a bonus 10% off until the end of May), it is a bargain compared to other ambidextrous charging solutions. Both Phil White and I like them so much, they were just dropped onto our mainline AR’s and I don’t see them being replaced for while.

Note from Phil: As Nathan said we’re both keeping this charging handle in our primary AR’s. I have also found it to be very smooth in operation with no binding of any kind no matter how I’ve tried to get it to bind. Part of the reason for the smooth travel is two ball bearings inside the unit. It’s just a well made well thought out charging handle. Honestly it’s the best I’ve used.

Gallery below for your viewing pleasure. The comparison charging handles are standard AR, BCM Gunfighter Mod 3 (Medium), and the GMS-15.

 

Armageddon has indicated a GMS-10 for DPMS-pattern .308s is in the works. They will be available for purchase on their website soon.  

Related

Nathan S.

TFB’s newest resident Jarhead, Nathan is currently working in the Defense industry in international sales. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, bull-pups, and high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries in the last three years working with US DoD & foreign MoDs. You will likely find him either in an international airport or on the local range in NE Indiana.

Nathan can be reached at [email protected]


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  • An Interested Person

    Good and thorough review. Looks like a simple and original product. Something that is sorely lacking the modern firearms industry…

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      Chris certainly did an excellent job creating this charging handle. The use of 4140 as opposed to 7075 aluminum gives it a great deal of additional strength over traditional handles. Add to that the internal ball bearings within the mechanism makes it so very smooth throughout the entire cycle. The gas porting he uses with the 45 degree angle prevents any chance of getting a face full of gas.
      He’s been in this business of design and manufacturing for 30 years. He’s designed a good number of other products in use in premium AR’s and other guns.
      Also don’t forget the discount he’s giving TFB readers as this article was posted.

  • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Alex C.

    The original AR10 design is much easier to manipulate than the AR15′s. I wish Armalite would bring back the AR10b top cockers again.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Nathan S. ” Staff Writer, TFB”

      Assuming we were to keep carry handles for all AR-10/15 weapons, I agree. The interesting development is the side-charging systems from ADCOR, the ACR, SCAR, etc.

      • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Alex C.

        Amen Nathan!

      • Burst

        The AR-10 (and the conventional system) Is ambidextrous. Most side-charging systems are not.

  • Andrew

    How does it compare to the raptor handle (which I’ve also heard great things about)

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      Andrew I really believe this one edges it out. Chris has actually designed charging handles, among other things, for some of the top brands of AR’s.

  • Cymond

    Reminds me of the old Armament Dynamics ACLM. http://www.mountsplus.com/miva/graphics/00000001/aclm-ach-001.gif

    Also, SLR Rifleworks is supposedly working on a charging handle that won’t have any moving latches, only a spring-loaded ball bearing detent. http://www.ar15news.com/2013/12/16/sneak-peek-slr-rifleworks-latchless-ambi-charging-handle/

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      Cymond you may see some similar to his. He allowed a previous design to go out to someone and they promptly took it down and spread the design all over the place.
      So, I’m not surprised there are some attempts at making one off the old design.
      This new charging handle is patented whereas the older one wasn’t so he just got screwed over royally because he trusted someone.

  • ColaBox

    To me the problem isn’t with the design, its that they don’t make one for lefties, and that there is no indent on the rifles upper right side. I don’t want a fancy doo-dad to charge the rifle, I want a regular charging handle that I don’t need to unshoulder my rifle to manipulate.

    • http://www.thefirearmblog.com/ Phil W “Senior Writer TFB”

      I really don’t see why you couldn’t use this one. It is an ambi design.

    • herehere

      amen! something lefty friendly that doesn’t cost more than an upper or a lower.

  • gunslinger

    i like that. i usually find myself finding the little latch on the side a bit cumbersome.

    and 80 bucks doesn’t seem bad

  • Joshua

    This would have been nice to have before I retired. We ran gas busters with extended latches which were great for redirecting thebgas from our suppressors, but also notthe most reliable latches.

  • Alex Pei

    I just ordered one of these. Looking forward to trying it out.

  • http://www.911gear.ca/ 911gear

    What a way to precisely describe a product! The
    balanced mix of illustration and content has made it a simple read. This is a
    smart, handy ambi charging handle. Cheers!

  • PSAFD

    LWRC makes an extremely robust, simple charging handle. The back of the handle is solid, so the latches can’t get leverage on the roll pin and snap it, and the roll pin is actually a solid press pin, so it’s not snapping anyway.