Oh, the charging handle. Everyone wants a Raptor, and I admit they ARE pretty sexy, but I’m always on the lookout for other charging handles that aren’t as expensive, have a different feel, and doesn’t try to rip my nipple off every time I front sling my rifle like my old Badger Gen 1 latch did. When Beaten Zone Manufacturing sent us some of their A.T.C.H. charging handles to play with, Ryan and I sat there looking at them with raised eyebrows for a few minutes before picking them up. A single side pull charging handle that folds out of the way when not being used?
I expected Ryan to pish-paw it from the Get Go as he hates “gimmicks”, but I saw a wicked little gleam in his eye that he gets when he thinks he’s going to like a new toy. I don’t get to see it very often as usually Ryan just wants to shoot the stuff we get to test (shoot as in put bullet holes into it), so I got pretty excited myself to put the handles through their paces.
So… what makes this charging handle different? Simply put, the design allows you to have a larger surface area to pull back your charging handle with, while still keeping it compact enough to not snag stuff, and just as importantly, allow you to comfortably front sling your rifle (seriously, as much as I loved my Badger gen 1 back in the day, it tended to hurt when doing that – refer back to the second sentence about it).
The latch is spring loaded to automatically close itself when you let go, but while it’s open it’s very easy to hold on to. It doesn’t give a lot more leverage when pulling it, but it certainly is easier to hold and that is the important part to me. Because it doesn’t stick out when stowed, it isn’t as beneficial for preventing Scope Knuckle (grinding your knuckles along your scope when charging), but it still helps – it’s folded in ahead of where your scope lens bell widens so it is still usable as you would generally be pulling it before the thick part of the scope, but your mileage may vary based on your scope and its position.
Don’t worry about snagging – the latch handle folds tight enough that it won’t get caught on random stuff easily. Sure it’s possible, but I feel the risk is very minimal from our testing.
What’s really neat is that it still works when using your right hand to charge, because the design is made to let you use your thumb and index finger to pull it back. The latch isn’t just activated by pulling back the lever; you can squeeze the left side with your thumb and it’ll unlatch, which is great.
Another neat feature is the raised ridge on the charging handle that helps prevent gas blowback from spitting lube and stuff into your face while shooting. It’s noticeably higher than on a standard charging handle and should be helpful for those shooting suppressed and whatnot.
And for those that like to play Barbie with their AR, Beaten Zone offers several different styles so you can pick and choose. While they have different styles, currently the A.T.C.H. Charging Handles only come in black but they will be offering alternate colors shortly.
No charging handle is perfect, but our list of issues with these handles is rather short. The only main gripe is that it does mean getting used to a new method of pulling your charging handle. Pulling it with your palm facing down is easy, but feels very different as you are sliding your hand along your upper receiver to the latch and then pulling it back. It does feel a bit awkward until you get used to it after a day at the range. And if you like to Blade charge your rifle, it will be more difficult since the latch handle is folded in. It can be done, but it’s nothing like doing it to say a Raptor or other extended latch charging handle.
Are the charging handles for everyone? Of course not. But they are pretty neat, they are effective and they are tough. Ryan runs one on his AR pistol now, and I run one on mine as well and have no plans on trading it out any time soon. Will I put it on my main AR15 rifle? Probably not, but only because I practice shooting left handed so often that I prefer a full blown ambi charging handle on it, but I would still consider one of these on any new builds.
Usually Ryan and I keep having long conversations about gear we test, long after we do the actual testing, because we constantly keep debating different qualities, but he and I don’t talk about these charging handles much anymore. We basically tested them, liked them, and use them regularly because these charging handles just work. That says a lot.