Like any AR-15 part, there are lots of enhanced and improved charging handles out there. Looking through some of the marketing materials, you might think the USGI handle was a self destruct button, destined to malfunction and kill you as soon as the opportunity arose. I counted 27 different latch improvements and total replacements before giving up. Let’s agree there are a lot of them.
So I rolled my eyes a little when I was sent the Mech Armor TacOps-1 and TacOps-1 CQB. Another latch? Why do I care?
Well it turns out the TacOps-1 is actually pretty good, and definitely a massive improvement over a USGI handle. There are 3 models, and oddly they’re not TacOps-1,2,3.
The Original TacOps-1 is a full sized handle for the AR-15.
The TacOps-1 CQB is a slightly thinner handle for the AR-15.
Unlike some other charging handle solutions and latch replacements, Mech Armor is specifically addressing ambidextrous use. I tried both the full size and the CQB variants on my fresh new SBR and tried to get into the lefty mind-set.
You can see in that first photo that both the Mech Armor handles are quite a bit larger than your standard USGI handle. The CQB is 2 and 5/8ths inches tip to tip, while the Original is a healthy 3″. That gives it a fairly wide profile on the gun, designed specifically for if you’ve got optics sitting low over the rear of your receiver. You’ll notice that it doesn’t block the forward assist if you’re a forward assist kind of guy.
Besides stats like a 42% larger roll-pin and 7075 billet aluminum construction, the TacOps’ primary feature is the ambidexterity. While there are a few other ambidextrous chargers out there, you’ll often find additional mechanisms and levers working in them. The TacOps uses a single piece system that retains simplicity and eschews symmetry in favor of effectiveness.
So if you’re lefty, you don’t rack the gun just like a righty in a mirror. Instead you’ll be activating with your thumb. In the slowed down animation below you can see three different methods.
Interestingly, I’ve only ever seen one other ambi charging handle use a similar “single release lever” system, and it’s not a great one. The Colt Canada latch was required to find an ambidextrous solution for the Canadian Forces C7s, but without changing the charging handle itself, only the latch. The extended latch has seen plenty of criticism for being too easy to catch on webbing and breaking under stress.
With that in mind, I was pleased to find that the TacOps-1 recesses and protects the actual release lever. You’re not going to hook it on anything or send parts flying.
When you compare the CQB model to the original, you slim down some, but the latch on the CQB is now outside the body of the charging handle. For that reason, and the additional size, I’ll be keeping the original TacOps-1 Charging Handle on my rifle.
Mech Armor lists a whole host of SWAT and LEO departments that have upgraded to their charger, along with some that have seen deployment overseas. In 2010 Mech Armor had an independent test done by Colt Defense Inc. with a 10,000 round trial and zero failure rate.
I’ll confess I didn’t put another 10K through for this review, but after several range trips and drills I found myself really liking the TacOps-1 charging handle. It’s easy to activate when you want it, and hard to screw up accidentally. I’m not sure I buy into the hype that it “dramatically changes and enhances the way a soldier, law enforcement agent or sport shooter deploys their weapon” but I’ll say it’s a solid upgrade, especially if you’re only using a USGI latch now. With a retail price of $67.95, it is just under BCM and a few bills below a Raptor.
Note: Apparently some piston guns don’t play nice with aftermarket handles. Mech Armor has a detailed explanation, but if you’ve got any of the following you’re out of luck:
- Smith & Wesson – M&P 10
- Rock River Arms – .308 cal
- Stag Arms Co. – Model-8
- Knights SR-25 – Some older 1st Generation rifles only !
- DPMS – Gen-2 – .308
- SIG – 716 – .308 cal