AR-15 Side Charger vs Charging Handle [What’s the best option?]

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Side Charger vs. Rear Charging Handle

The continuous AR-15 debate and the solution that gives you the benefits of both while solving so many of the issues that drive us crazy.

The Side Charging AR: 

It is pretty easy to see the advantages of a side charger. Better ergonomics and control of the weapon. Better gross motor skills which is a definite advantage. Being able to access the charging option with a scoped rifle is also a complaint we here about often.

Takes Armorer Skills

There are quite a few pros to the built in Side Charger, but also a few cons that we have come across. For many options, you need to be able to rebuild your rifle or have someone that can with armorer training as well as the tools to complete the job – wrenches, punches, vise, mount, etc. You can also use the infamous YouTube training to do the job, however, as accredited as those courses are, for liability reasons we do not advise that.

Can Be Quite Costly

These build yourself options can still be quite expensive however, even more expensive are the complete rifles and complete uppers, but you will be spending quite a pretty penny for those.

Concerns of Built-Ins

A couple other issues I’ve come across with the built-in side charger – knuckle busting on scope mounts. The inability to field strip fast to clear a stuck casing/malfunction, like ejection port side options that tend to be reciprocating which are attached to the bolt. Support side cut outs leave the upper receiver open for debris/etc. to get in, plus it alters the pressures in the upper and causes changes to the cyclic rate (a problem for many competition shooters). Cutting out a slot yourself we would never recommend as it can reduce the integrity of the receiver and that can be extremely dangerous!

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The Rear Charging Handle:

I would guess that if you are reading this, you are probably like I was and have the opinion of “I just deal with it but wish it was better”.

The Cons

The small size is a pain when you have gloves causing constant slipping and a focus on fine motor skills to use. It causes you to almost always come completely off target and out of your sight picture to utilize. The tiny roll pin gets added pressure which causes failures. The release lever tooth can shear right off if not disengaged properly. Using it as designed with the slingshot two-finger pull, takes your firing hand right off your trigger group and that is not ideal!

Blading it one handed from the support hand, I’ve seen issues from slipping off, to bending the charging handle from over torque. Bringing your hand so far back and that you are blading the charging handle and not gripping a Pull Handle, you lose a ton of control of your rifle. Plus, the ergonomics of the rear handle design do not assist a shooter with a weaker physique or a disability that hinders the ability to charge the rifle.


The ambi designed handles can be a bit more beneficial. They usually have a nice groove and larger wing designed to blade with either hand.  This still causes you to lose a ton of control when blading to charge and they still create the added pressure on the roll pins (some install special roll pins because of this issue). The control concern is if your gas block/tube fails and you now essentially have a bolt action and need to charge after each shot. You will not be able to hold the ambi handle, charge the rifle and control it adequately all at the same time, nevermind moving from target to target while doing this.

Extended-Release Levers

I have a personal distaste for these! I can see the attraction to some, however. The issues that caught me up were constantly the extended lever always catching on the mags on my vest during a transition and pulling the rifle out of battery, and the excessive pressure now put on the roll pin just concerned me greatly that I could not trust using it. Some might like them though, and I can see this to get access to your charging handle if you are running a scope that covers the charging handle, or maybe some other reason I’m sure exists.

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Is there anything better or a “Best of Both Worlds” option?

What if you could get the benefits of a side charger and the ease of install and use like a charging handle?

Something that takes no modification to install. Can field strip in seconds. Does not reciprocate. Does not apply pressure to the roll pin and does not allow for over torquing. A product that is essentially a Side Charger in its configuration giving you the ergonomic benefits but has the added option to charge as a regular charging handle, too.

The Hard Charger® AR-15 Side Charging Handle System by Devil Dog Concepts™ is designed to do just that.

No machining – No modifications. Turn your rifle in to a side charger in under a minute and get all the benefits and none of the problems.

  • Field Strippable
  • Removes stress on roll
  • Dual support design not allowing over torque
  • Maintain control of firing group while charging with support hand
  • Increase ergonomics
  • Gross Motor Skills
  • Non-reciprocating
  • Multiple ways to charge
  • Different handle design options
  • Optics clearance to stop knuckle busting
  • One handed operation off static objects
  • Back up charging option
  • Interchangeable from rifle to rifle
  • Multiple mounting options
  • Low profile
  • Can be installed in under one minute

The list keeps on going…

With HUNDREDS and HUNDREDS of 5-STAR ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ REVIEWS, if you are looking for a better option or to improve your capability, you need to check this system out!

Sign up here and get all of the ARTICLES and VIDEOS that go in more detail and depth about the Hard Charger®, it’s BENEFITS, and use in TACTICAL, COMPETITION SHOOTING and other environments.

PLUS, you’ll get first notice of PROMOTIONS and DISCOUNTS, stay informed with our newsletter, get the details on PRODUCT UPDATES, and get first notice on our FREE GIVEAWAYS of GEAR, SURVIVAL EQUIPMENT, and even PURE SILVER!

AR-15 With Devil Dogs Hard Charger

Stay Safe and God Bless!
Semper Fi

Camaron Hillman; Pres / CEO Devil Dog Concepts 

Devil Dog Concepts

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