Lightning Review: Beatenzone A.T.C.H. – A Great Idea

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About a month ago, I stumbled across BeatenZone Manufacturing and their ATCH with a typical post here in TFB. Anxious for us to try their product, BeatenZone contacted the editing staff and promptly sent me one of their new Advanced Tactical Charging Handles for review.

The central idea of the ATCH is to provide the most handle area possible to rack the action. In short, BeatenZone adds an extra folding handle to the typical latch, giving the operator extra leverage.

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Packaged nicely with suitably tactical font choices, BeatenZone sent one of their “Version 7″ handles. The “7” which adds some vertical cuts to the handle for ease of manipulation (and aesthetics). It looks like Thor’s hammer of charging handles. To back up the good looks, the ATCH uses quality materials, designed to take the abuse of weapons manipulation.

Gen-3-No-7-ATCH

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Using the Handle

Removed from the packaging, the handle installed easily on my trust AR-15 (Del-Ton upper receiver, Aero Precision lower), replacing a standard latch AR charging handle. Immediately upon installation, I went to rack the bolt and jammed my knuckle into the carry handle thumbscrew. The folded latch and screw are very close together (notably, the latch is contoured for this very reason).

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Removing my carry handle and going to a MBUS rear sight alleviated the main issue, but manipulation was not as smooth as the stock latch or the also-tested Armageddon Tactical and BCM Mod 3 latches. Since I typically like to “blade” a charging handle, my hand would get jabbed by the handle prior to extending and releasing the latch to charge the weapons system. It is not a comfortable sensation for those with ingrained muscle memory.

Changing back to a “grip” style charge, the folding handle took some getting used to, but I fell into rhythm quickly. Using my knuckle to grab it, the handle extends quickly and with the hand now away from the receiver and buffer tube, moves quickly to the rear. It’s an affirmative charge and when the full assembly is released back into battery, there is a satisfying “chink” during closure.

 

To look at speed changes I used the handle for some 3-gun practice. I changed over to the ATCH compared to my current Armageddon latch and ran failure to fire drills. Splits between shots was consistently about a 1/2 second slower due to the time to locate and extend the handle. No matter how fast I went, the best split I could manage was still .34 seconds slower than my best standard handle time.

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Close-up of the rear. Note the difficulty to find purchase for lefties.

Left-handed manipulation was also a problem. Since you have to extend the handle to release the latch, the left hand had to reach around AK style to charge the system. The vertical cuts in the latch aren’t enough for sweaty fingers and hands to find purchase.

Conclusion:

In its current form, the ATCH is a great idea. The increased charging handle area has its potential uses, but the increased weapons manipulation time and learning curve may be a concern to others.

I cannot say the ATCH is not a quality product. It is. The materials are excellent, finish is consistent, and operation was as-advertised. Still, this does not make it the right solution. For example, the Plymouth Prowler was a cool good-looking car, but it was awkward and slow.

Now, if Beatenzone were to also extend the actual latch (not the folding handle) to a BCM-like contour with the extending handle, I think they would have a real winner on their hands. Shooters would be able to operate the rifle per normal muscle memory and have the extra leverage if needed. This would be akin to giving the Prowler the engine it deserved.

Until then, I can’t recommend the ATCH for most AR shooters. The limitations outweigh that great idea.

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The tested latches from top to bottom: standard AR-15, ATCH, BCM Mod 3, and Armageddon Tactical




Nathan S.

TFB’s resident Jarhead, Nathan now works within the Industry in Operations, Sales & Marketing. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, MSR’s, 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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  • Ben Branam

    Seems like something else to break. With that long of a latch that is a lot of leverage on a little pin in there.

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

      It held up to my abuse and I run guns HARD.

      • JumpIf NotZero

        Where is the video of you running this soo hard?

        Because I remember seeing the mfg video where they were fumbling every time they needed to rack in order to find the charging handle, pull it out and go.

        $73 for a slower charging handle that offers no functional advantage is a hard sell.

        I’m interested why after we all saw the poor performance on the mfg’s video, why this review doesn’t have a video.

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

          Two simple answers ;)

          1. It would be really boring to watch me rack a bolt a couple hundred times.
          2. I do not have a cameraman and stink at video editing.

          For me, the pen is mightier than the red record button.

          I hope to get to the video review point in the future.

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

          Here—-

          • JumpIf NotZero

            Yea, that’s the video where it’s shown to be embarrassingly slow and awkward.

  • John

    73$ is really pricey for a charging handle…..a part that’s kinda hard to screw up

  • Joe Del Zotto

    Nathan Interesting review, if you want to review another charging handle I suggest the Rainier Arms Raptor. I’ve heard nothing but good things. (except the price)

    • Andrew

      And then there’s the Armageddon ambi CH, which is even nicer than the Raptor.

      • Ben M

        I have yet to try the Armageddon, but the gas-redirecting design looks like it would be great for suppressor use. Short of that, I feel the Raptor is superior, as operating the handle from either side unlocks the CH in the same motion. On the Armageddon, if you have the bolt locked back and wish to use the CH to drop the bolt you have to push an unlock button on the center of the back of the CH to unlock it, which would basically require you to operate it like a standard CH in that scenario. One motion for all operations > two, KISS.

        • Andrew

          And then there’s the SLR Renegade, which looks pretty sweet.

        • Rusty Shackleford

          The Raptor is really nice and the stronger roll pins and short throw levers are a plus. TWANGnBANG did a video on one and it seems to block the excess gas when used with a suppressor.

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

        I use the Armageddon and don’t plan on changing. To each his own though.

    • n0truscotsman

      Raptors are awesome. Ive seen many of those and built a quality varmint gun with one for my neighbor. I run the BCM A44 ambi and absolutely love it. It is also a bit cheaper.

      Either one works. Flip a quarter.

  • Andrew

    Large folding latch on a side charging upper…yes.

    Large folding latch on a standard charging handle…not no, but hell no.

    Did this thing come from FAB Defense’s scrapped projects yard sale?

    • JSmath

      Right? It’s like a guy was given a Mini Cooper S to review, so he took it out to the local dragstrip for the entire test then complains he didn’t enjoy it.

      These things have their purpose.

      If all your ARs have the exaggerated excuses of rear ironsight protection (“carrying handles”, which aren’t used for carrying or handling), just glancing at the design of this CH stands out as an incredibly poor choice.

  • the ammo addict

    I think your problems with this charging handle mainly come from the thumb screws on your detachacble carry handle. I’m fairly certain it would work fine on a standard A2 style or flat top AR. FWIW, I run my AR completely differently since I am a lefty. I use my left hand to rack the charging handle, my right hand stays where it is on the forearm. I don’t do any sort of AK reach over.

    • Cymond

      He did the majority of the test using an MBUS rear sight.
      “Removing my carry handle and going to a MBUS rear sight alleviated the main issue”

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

        Correct. I took pictures with the carry handles so the two rifles matched. I think it allows the reader to see the differences easier.

  • Zachary marrs

    Man, you put that on a piston upper, and you can be that much closer to the Ak you secretly wanted in the first place!

    • Zachary marrs

      But in all honesty, it could be useful for cold weather shooting/hunting

      • Chance

        I does seem like it might be useful for people wearing bulky, cold weather gear. Maybe even people with arthritis? I remember one of the writers here broke his hand in a 3-gun match, which is an extreme example, but still.

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

        Good point—

      • gunslinger

        how many places allow ar15 for hunting? PA doesnt

        • Zachary marrs

          I know Texas does, and you can use an ar in colorado if its in .300 blackout

      • Geodkyt

        Unless you’re wearing oven mitts, you should be able to run a slightly extended charging handle in gloves. BCM makes their Gunfighter in three different sizes — the Large size sticks out quite a bit, but not too far for something that has a large scope or is intended for hunting.

        I find the Medium works really well for most applications, without being a snag hazard if you want a “tactical” carbine for moving through the weeds.

  • Dan C

    “Hey, you know that problem no one has when racking their charging handle? Let’s fix the problem! Oh, and please give me $73.” – Engineering Team

    I have tried one of these on a rifle, and I cannot imagine anyone needing this. It may be well made, but it fails in practical application. Not only will it get in the way of most optic mounts, but it slows down manual operations…genius.

  • Ben M

    Yeah, so I fail to see that advantage to this or any folding handle AR-15 CH. Don’t get me wrong, the mil-spec CH leaves something to be desired in terms of speed and efficiency of weapon manipulation, but this is solved almost completely by the popular charging handles on the market right now such as the BCM Gunfighter series, Rainier Raptor, etc.

    Honestly I cannot think of a time that I fumbled around with, slipped on, or failed to operate any of the decent aftermarket charging handles. And as Nathan noted through his testing, this handle certainly isn’t going to speed up the operation of the CH either due to the extra motion of extending the handle. Not to mention extra weight, extra parts to fail, and added stresses to various components by applying leverage in a manner the weapon wasn’t designed for…

    I am all for innovation in the AR market, god knows it sorely lacking, so kudos to them in that regard. But I am getting tired of the recent trend of “innovative” products that fail to improve on (or match) the current methods/products available.

  • BryanS

    Making it fully out of aluminum, I think may be part of the issue. Not sure why we havent seen the use of low friction polymers (like delrin) in manufacture of parts like these.

    Lowering the friction would help with the leverage issue.

    • Dan

      Would delrin be able to stand up to that abuse? I agree it would lower the friction I would question long term durability though

      • BoHeck

        No it would not.

        • BryanS

          thats if you make it out of a solid piece. Im talking about engineering and adding the material where the material is needed.

  • ensitue

    The AR Charging Handle is the weak point of the system anyone who has experienced the joy of a live round neither fully chambering or extracting knows what I’m talking about. Previous versions of the Armalite had an attached charger that protruded from the top of the upper and was protected by the ‘carrying handle’ that worked in a way similar to that on an M-14. Because of the rotating bolt and it’s bolt carrier retro-fitting such a system is highly problematic interesting to note that Stoner never used the AR charging handle again even though he designed several other successful 556 systems

  • Jesse

    Seems like a lever that big would case a lot of side pressure against the channel inside the receiver and actually make this dragg and rack slower.

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

      It does, but I noticed no wear on the receiver or handle. The materials are sufficient to handle the manipulation.

  • airchinapilot

    I’m looking forward to the continued evolution of charging handles to eventually eclipse the actual receiver itself.

  • SentMKG

    Appreciate the review. It was well done and had very fair comparisons.

  • South TN

    For me the Ranier Arms Raptor is the best option. Fully ambidextrous, well built, and a design that seems to integrate with the upper receiver design w/o being too large are the pluses. Price is the downside, unless you actually train from both shoulders.

  • SafeArmsReview

    Who still uses a carry handle? Thats so 80s.

    ;)

  • n0truscotsman

    It doesn’t help for lefties or ambidextrous capability, unfortuantely. Im not convinced of its usefulness. A rather interesting approach, though, to reinventing the charging handle.
    Id rather take a BCM ambi or raptor personally.

  • JW

    While it may not be optimal for three gun use, I can see its application if you don’t have enough manual dexterity to work a regular handle ( cold weather, injury).

    • Geodkyt

      If you can’t work, say, a BCM Medium Gunfighter latch, due to cold, you won’t be able to work the trigger, either. The odds you would be injured to where you could not rack a BCM medium, but you could rack this, is a very small risk window.

      What I _DO_ see is enough added leverage to really hork things up under stress.

  • lomaxima

    Solution in search of a problem. This will probably probably cause more malfunctions than the “problem” it’s supposed to address by being caught and pull your bolt out if battery. A fool and their money……..