Leitner-Wise on Charging Handles

Now known as a significant part of the now ubiquitous AR platform, the charging handle has an interesting history from the first ambidextrous design (mounted on the top of the AR-10, inside the charging handle) to its final multitude of iterations.


Leitner-Wise has posted up a great, compact history of the charging handle and its various versions. The post winds its way through original intent and configurations to ultimately settling on why they are moving towards a steel charging handle. If you can get past the tongue-in-cheek nature, Leitner-Wise has some great points on why they are going in the direction they are.

Hit the link to be taken to the blog post. Its a great 5-minute read, if you can tolerate or look past the sales pitch it ends up being.

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • Joshua

    Steel charging handle huh? If the latch is steel good luck. Going to eat through that upper fast.

    • The claim in the blog entry is that the hardness on the steel is less than that of the anodized aluminum, and this will not be a problem.

      Personally, I’d rather just run with the BCM CH and call it a day.

      • Phillip Cooper

        Personally, I’d rather just run the standard CH and call it a day. It works just fine.

        • Zach

          Oh Lord no, the standard is horrible.
          +1 for the BCM

      • Squirreltakular

        While they may have been right with the BCG analogy in reference to the sliding of the handle through the receiver channel, Joshua had a point about the latch and its engagement with the tab on the receiver. A steel latch will eat through that tab in no time.

        In the Marines, we frequently had aluminum HK-style hook sling mounts attached around the buffer tubes of our M4s. The hooks on our slings, however, were steel. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of those sling mounts that I’ve seen chewed through to the point of being useless.

        • Frank

          This! Absolute garbage, I never had a M4 that the sling plate wasn’t already chewed up and out for blood!

      • Squirreltakular

        The latch will definitely eat through the tab on the receiver if it’s steel.

        In the Marines we always had these aluminum clamp-on sling mounts around the castle nut of the buffer tube. They had HK-style rings to clip your one point sling in to. Problem is, the slings always had steel hardware. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count how many of those mounts I’ve seen that were completely chewed through and rendered useless. If you run into an armorer who was attached to a grunt unit, he can probably tell you how many dozens of those things got thrown away after a field op or deployment.

        • Risky

          I remember that well! I can remember looking at it all hogged out near the end of deployment just thinking it was gonna give ant any moment. I think they were made by Midwest Industries IIRC.

          • Squirreltakular

            That’s the one. Easy fix was to just throw a little loop of 550 on to bridge the two metals. Or you could be a shitbag like me and bring an AR wrench on deployment and help everyone swap their end plates for Magpul ASAPs…

      • n0truscotsman

        “Personally, I’d rather just run with the BCM CH and call it a day”

        I did that back in 2009 and haven’t looked back since then. In fact, every build since that time has included a BCM charging handle. Those boys did it right with that one, i tell ya 😉

    • Cymond

      Many aftermarket latches are steel. I had one with a *very* sharp edge that was chewing my upper pretty badly. In the end, I sat down with a file and rounded it off. I was aggressive with my rounding since it’s my dedicated 22lr charging handle, and I’m not really worried about it flying back at me.

  • Riot

    ” Secondly, there is the concern of having steel running in the aluminum upper receiver” umm what? aluminium on aluminium contact is undesirable for wear reasons.

  • Bill

    I don’t know the metallurgy and I don’t buy the gross versus fine motor skills theory, but when it comes to things like bolts and charging handles bigger, IMHO, is better. The charging handle inside the rear sight housing (I refuse to call it a carry handle, it isn’t a golf bag), only allowing one finger to start, aint gonna get it. I’d graft a Craftsman screwdriver handle onto mine if it would still fit in the case.

    • Curious_G

      You can refuse all you want – it is a carrying handle. Whether it is useful is another question all together.

      • Bill

        I get that a lot. I’ve got this theory that lunch boxes should be carried like lunch boxes, and rifles like rifles, and that if you’ve got a gun in your hands, the weapon hand should always be in a proper grip, excepting when disassembling or maintaining the gun.

        But that’s just me.

    • Paladin

      Gross v. fine motor skills is pretty well established fact, under stress a significant degree of manual dexterity is lost. A lot of the things people will try to sell you when talking about this fact are complete phooey, but the fact remains that stress (like the kind you get when people are trying to shoot you) is significantly detrimental to one’s ability to exercise precise muscle control.

      • Bill

        The physiology is established, but the role it plays in gunfighting is more questionable, and if it has any impact, it’s probably due to the relatively small amount of training anyone gets in gunfighting. If humans can’t maintain fine motor skills under stress, theoretically no one should be a surgeon, fighter pilot or motorcycle racer, or any of a number of fields that demand precise movement under high stress.

        • Paladin

          Training and stress inoculation can reduce the loss of fine motor control, but by and large the kind of training necessary isn’t feasible for non-professionals due to the expense and time required. In most cases it makes more sense to simplify the technique.

          As an added bonus, simple techniques tend to be faster.

          • Bill

            Exactly: it’s lowest-common denominator training. My primary issue is that it’s become one of those “rules” that some trainers live by. Telling a basic trainee that they will loose fine motor skills under stress pretty much guarantees that they will, and because it has become dogma in the training field it has taken the incentive away from finding better ways of training faster, more accurate and efficient shooters.

            I would contend that LEOs are “professional” gunfighters, much like that fighter pilot whose had a half million dollars worth of training. We as a society just aren’t willing to put the same assets into training our street cops. And plenty of our street cops aren’t willing to put the effort in to become faster, more accurate and efficient shooters.

            Simple techniques may be faster, but given our hit rates, maybe we are shooting, and missing, too fast, and it’s time to slow down and get hits. A fast miss accomplishes nothing but cause the potential for disaster downrange, and doesn’t win the fight.

          • Paladin

            There’s nothing really wrong with lowest common denominator training so long as it’s done effectively

            I’d wager that the majority of LEOs are not professional gunfighters. As a general rule, gunfighting makes up a very small percentage of actual police work, and most officers are content to shoot their annual quals more out of necessity than an actual desire to become proficient. Some officers do take their firearms training seriously, and if they’re lucky they end up in a department that is willing to support them. In such a case the officer can gain significant competency, but such cases tend to be the exception more than the rule.

            As for speed vs accuracy, I think that the view that there must be a tradeoff between the two is responsible for a lot of bad training on both ends of the spectrum. If simplicity (and speed) comes at the cost of accuracy then you’re doing it wrong. The key is to be accurate enough, fast enough. The manner in which you charge your weapon, for example, has almost nothing to do with how accurately you are able to shoot it, but has significant effects on how long that weapon is out of the fight.

            Simplicity doesn’t come at the expense of fundamentals, simplicity enhances the fundamentals by paring away the unnecessary and extraneous.

          • Paladin

            As an added point, even the best of us are subject to degradation of motor skills due to cold, injury, fatigue or other factors. I agree that training as if it’s inevitable that your fine motor skills will fail is a misapplication, but one should always train for such an eventuality, no matter how skilled one is.

  • SP mclaughlin

    *Mounted inside the carry handle*

  • Joshua

    Fun fact, the reason the CH is now like it is, was due to heat.

    Originally the gas tube ran along the side of the barrel and into a side cut in the carrier. There used to be no gas key.

    But during testing it would get damaged and was moved to the top, this would cause the CH latch to get hot during extended periods of firing so it also had to be moved to where it is today.

    • n0truscotsman

      I cant remember where I saw it, but your comment reminded me of the prototype stoner picture I saw with a gas tube running along the side. Interesting stuff. IIRC it was something from Ronnie Barrett’s collection.

      And I didn’t know that with the top charging handles. Id always figured it was primarily for more ease of access than anything.

  • guest

    I was about to have a look at that site the link leads to, and saw they offer AR parts pictured in b/w photos and a bar stock milled dust cover. Then the snobbishness became so overwhelming I puked and vomited simultaneously and had to close the tab. Sorry, couldn’t do it.

    • Cymond

      “puked and vomited simultaneously”
      Did I miss something? Sarcasm? Because those are the same thing.

  • RickH

    While they’re at it, I want a steel upper also. None of this weak ass aluminum crap in the most stressed area for me!

    • Zach

      Aluminum works perfectly fine and should never fail you as a receiver, or the CH.
      Plus, that would defeat the point of it being an AR, as it would reaaally hop up the weight.

      • RickH


        • Cymond

          Sorry, bit your sarcasm sounded a lot like some genuine comments I’ve seen.

  • Phillip Cooper

    Believe you may mean “(mounted on the top of the AR-10, inside the carry handle)” in the first para.

    Not being a grammar nazi (because, not grammar), just trying to avoid confusion from some folks…

    • Grammar N.

      Also noticed. Charging handle inside of charging handle.

  • Zebra Dun

    I have seen an M-16A1 jam and have the Marine set the butt on the ground at an angle pointing up while kicking down with his boot on the charging handle to clear the rifle.
    It was the unapproved method at the time.
    “That is not a piece of luggage Marine it’s a rifle carry it like one.”
    >unknown Gunny<

    • sianmink

      You can make a piece of equipment Soldier-proof, but it can only be Marine-resistant.

    • Bill

      Innovate, adapt and overcome. If it looks stupid, and works, it isn’t stupid.

  • iowaclass

    Always wondered why slide-action or lever-action wasn’t incorporated into the charging mechanism on autoloaders. The SPAS-12 had that function, and could fire as a semi-auto or a pump. Seems it could work on rifles. Probably would add weight, though.

  • My experience with top chargers:
    1. I prefer them. You do not have to take your face away from or otherwise orient your body oddly to charge the rifle.
    2. I have large hands, and I can put two digits on the handle. You must be Andre the Giant if you can only fit a finger.
    3. To those who prefer a bigger rear handle: field your gun on a long day of hog hunting. About the 300th time that Badger latch bounces into your gut, you will long for the stock latch!
    4. Obviously it is a good thing the top charger went away, otherwise the mounting of optics would have to be high and on the carry handle, but my inner gun nerd and nostalgia makes me like them more than I should!

  • dan citizen

    Bolt carrier mounted reciprocating handle.

    I put one on an ultralight build and found it the simplest, best, op handle I’ve ever tried by far.

    • sianmink

      And you don’t need to break cheek weld to use it! (My biggest gripe with AR15 T-handle)

      • dan citizen

        Also, no more FBA needed, the ability to silently chamber a round, easily modded to be locked for suppressor use…

  • Lance

    You can get a upper and bolt carrier group like that from NoDak Spud INC.

    • Jow Blow

      When they are in stock, which hasn’t been for several years . Sadly for those of us wanting to do a retro build with one.

  • spotr

    No mention of the most obvious reason that AR top (and some left side) charging handles do not work well when actually used.
    If your eyes can view the chamber interior while in your firing position (with the charging handle held “open”), then hot gas and partially burned gunpowder will be introduced to your face upon each shot.
    I had a left side charging handle AR which had this issue. The open slot which the handle cycled in, allowed gas to vent towards me every time a shot was fired. A real “pain-in-the-face” problem.

    • Bill

      And another reason to ALWAYS where eye protection

  • John

    Bandai Namco? What game was it?