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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.