Raptor Charging Handle Review

By: Rockforce

Photography Credits: Blacksheepwarrior.com, Crossfire Photography and Defense Marketing Group

My years in the military and law enforcement have been plagued by something that the common soldier/ officer doesn’t even give a second thought to; a weapon system that’s designed for right handed individuals.  In fact, when I held a Stag Arms left-handed AR 15, it just felt weird.  Think about it, everything from the safety to the charging handle, the operation of the weapon is specifically right handed.  Us ‘wrong handers’ just have to adapt.  And we have found ways to adapt to the point that changing out parts is not really a necessity, or is it?   For years I decided against swapping out parts because of the countless hours of training and range time that had solidified the existing operation cycle into my muscle memory.  But I was still interested in what small improvements I could make.  After seeing an oversized charging handle on a fellow officer’s rifle, I could immediately see the benefit in being able to cycle the weapon using something other than my hand.  While looking into the various ones available, I started running into left handed charging handles, but again I was leery of making a significant change that could affect my proficiency operating the rifle.  That’s when a friend suggested I look at the Rainier Arms Raptor Charging Handle.  I did, and I bought one to see if it was as awesome as it looked (and it looks pretty awesome).

Although many pieces of gear are commonly referred to as ‘sexy’, very few items placed on a rifle actually have pleasing aesthetics.   The Raptor charging handle is an exception to that rule.  In addition to the finish which looks nice, it’s also symmetrical, cutting down on the visual detraction of having one wing hanging out on the side of your rifle as with other oversized charging handles.  While being visually appealing shouldn’t be a bench mark on what effective tools to put on a rifle, having something that isn’t an eye sore is a bit of a plus.  Just from looking at it you can tell that this isn’t your standard wimpy charging handle, this thing looks like a beast.  And it has thicker roll pins than the standard GI charging handle.  Those roll pins are where the stress is placed in a charging handle, making the weak points of a Raptor stronger than what you’re more than likely running on your rifle currently.

Ok, so it looks cool but what’s the downside?  Well, it’s a bit on the pricey side.  Running around $90, it’s definitely a shock from your $40 Colt charging handle.  However most of the other popular oversized charging handles will run you $80-$90 as well.  I’ll admit, it took me a little time to convince myself to drop the $89 for this charging handle, but once I put it on my rifle, all doubts left as to if I had made the right decision.  Now that I’ve summed up the cons … just kidding, I have another, kind of.  The only other down side to this that I’ve found is that that it would sometimes snag on my chest rig when carrying it.  However that is almost to be expected due to the fact that it (or any other oversized handle) does add a little bit of bulk when compared to the standard GI charging handle, but just minimally more than other oversized options.

Now back to the good.  One major pro to this is that it is indeed ambidextrous, that regardless of if I’ve trained charging my rifle with my right or left hand, I can still accomplish that with this charging handle, even if I’m in the process of trying to train myself to operate it differently.  Let’s say you’re in the middle of a gunfight and instead of going for one of the new ways that you can charge your rifle with the Raptor, your training overshadows your thoughts and you resort to that muscle memory used when operating a standard GI handle – no problem.  The key point (for me) in the Raptor’s versatility is that it all those years of muscle memory charging the weapon by coming over top of the it (with my right hand) and grabbing the left side lever will still be effective if you’re running the Raptor.  That is a crucial point for me, because as we all know, muscle memory takes thousands of repetitions and if you’ve used standard charging handles for over a decade like I have, chances are it might to take you a while to build up new muscle memory charging your weapon differently.

Another major pro is that this is EASY to grab on to.  No more fine motor skills of trying to grab a hold of a small lever to charge your weapon, whatever part of the Raptor you grab and pull on is going to allow you to charge the rifle.  The levers are large and stick out well enough for you to get a hand, belt, table, tree limb, or bad guys face (get the point?) on it and give it a pull.  If size wasn’t enough, the oversized levers have grooves or teeth in them to aide gripping in less than ideal conditions and for cycling the rifle on some other surface (see the previous sentence for examples) in the event that one of your arms has been injured.  While that is not a concern for a gun that will only be used on the range, it is a huge plus for an operational weapon.  And don’t think that gloves will get in the way either, this charging handle was much easier to operate with a pair of tactical gloves on than the standard GI one is.

All that’s great in theory, but how does it actually work?  I’ve used the Raptor on my rifle in two gun matches with all my gear and tactical gloves on.  The competition aspect added that little bit of stress, striving to make more accurate shots and faster than my friends were doing it.  From the first time using it in that capacity it felt natural and I was never confused or had to fumble with the Raptor in order to charge my weapon.  No fumbling with the lever or moving my cheek weld back far enough to get my hand between it and the rifle to charge it.  Instead of coming completely over top of my rifle to grab that little lever, I just ran my support hand back to until it caught the Raptor and gave it an aggressive tug.  Additionally I found that because I did not have to put my hand in front of my face, I could keep my eyes downrange and on the target.  Did it improve my time or score?  Maybe, maybe not but it was much simpler and more smooth for me to operate my rifle than I was used to with the standard charging handle.

Overall, I really like this piece of gear.  While the standard GI charging handle will not fail you, if you’re in the market for any type of improved charging handle, be it oversized or left handed,   I would highly recommend the Rainier Arms Raptor Charging Handle.  I would go so far as to say if you are a ‘wrong handed’ shooter like myself, go buy this now!  It may be a bit pricey, and not everyone can justify spending that type of money on a charging handle, but for me it was definitely a worthwhile upgrade that I wouldn’t run a rifle I’m counting on for my life without it.  Oh, and 5.56 not really your style?  Don’t worry, it comes in 308 as well!

Where to Find It:

Visit Rainier Arms website

Crossfire Photography on Facebook

Defense Marketing Group

Defense Marketing Group on Facebook

About the Author:

Rockforce is an experienced law enforcement professional working on the South West border region.