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Sunday, June 13, 2010

BCM Gunfighter

One of the often overlooked problems with the AR platform is the lack-luster GI charging handle.  Way back in the day, the manual of arms would have you operate the handle with your right hand, one finger on each side of the handle.  While this works fine, the in thing these days is keeping your hand on fire controls during weapons manipulations (clearing, reloading, etc.), using your left hand (for a right handed shooter) to grab the latch side of the charging handle.  This keeps you in position to engage targets as quickly as possible after fixing the problem, as well as keeping your eyes downrange and nearer to the sights.

This is where the problems inherent with the GI handle start to show.  It's actually rather flimsy feeling, and I've handled Army issue M4s where I could not even operate that way without the charging handle twisting and binding halfway.  GI handles also have rather small latches that tend to bite your hand, and all the stress during use is funneled through the little roll pin holding the handle in place.  There are a handful of replacement latches available, but this does not fix the rigidity issue.

Enter Bravo Company Manufacturing and their Gunfighter series of charging handles.

Now Bravo Company has a pretty good in depth look at the charging handle with all sorts of explanations of how it works, and pretty graphics showing how it works, and you should go look at it.  They know their stuff, and I'm just some grunt who's simply looking for something better.  But what I can provide are my thoughts and opinions on the thing, having run one for a bit in my personal carbine.

In short: it rocks.  I've suggested it to a few people already, and all the experienced AR shooters that have played with mine love the concept.

But why do I think it rocks?  Well first off, it looks a crapload better than the GI handle.  The machining is super clean, the finish is fantastic, and the wide latch looks intimidating, yet welcoming to your fingers.

I have the Mod 4 (medium) sized latch, it fits my big fingers well, and doesn't stick out too much and snag on stuff.  The overall shape it pretty snag resistant anyway, but if you're really worried, they've got an even smaller one now.  There's also a large size that works well with scoped rifles.

The second reason it rocks is noticed as soon as you cycle the action using this handle.  The big fat latch gives you plenty of grab without digging into your fingers.

Just look at that (BCM on left, GI on right.)  I don't have a set of calipers, but it looks to be about 4x as wide as the GI latch, which also tends to be a stamped part on all the ones I've handled, making the edges even worse.

The Mod 4 also gives you a bit more latch to grab. (GI outlined in red)

The Gunfighter's latch also engages a much larger area of the charging handle when pulled, placing the force in a straighter line than the GI handle, giving that perceived sense of rigidity. Especially charging the weapon one-handed:

 I swear the handle feels much more rigid than the GI handle, but the long section (where the gas key rides) does not appear to be any thicker or shaped differently.  There may be a difference in materials that also helps, but again, I'm not a metal expert or anything.  Bottom line is it feels much more solid, and even with a dirty grimy gun with little lube (worst case scenario with an AR) I've never experienced any binding issues.

The bottom of the handle gives you a glimpse of the way they do it.

More of the latch is actually contacting the handle when you pinch it open.

You'll also notice the large openings they've included in the bottom.  The idea is that if some crap gets inside, it'll have a much easier time getting outside.  It could be argued that it also provides more of a chance for something to get in in the first place, but Murphy says it's going to get in there anyway, so I'm not too worried about that aspect.

When you combine this latch with the Magpul BAD lever, it is now possible to perform nearly the entire manual of arms with an AR/M16 without taking your right hand off of the grip.  Even the dreaded double feed can be fixed quickly without releasing your grip.

It's easily the best charging handle I've seen or used, and next trip to the sandbox/rock garden I'll probably be taking a couple along.   It is simply one of the best upgrades you can do to the AR platform.


Don Meaker said...

Back when I was trained to use a General Motors Hydromatic made M-16A1, we were taught to put one finger on each side of the charging handle. I note that you have only one finger on one side, and for that technigue, I see a bit more purchase being useful. The latch just holds in the charging handle. When under load the charging handle is under tension, so rigidity isn't necessary. In fact, a cable would work as well.

Tam said...


"Back when I was trained to use a General Motors Hydromatic made M-16A1, we were taught to put one finger on each side of the charging handle."

That has been superseded by the newer technique, which, as mentioned above, allows manipulation of the weapon without dismounting it from the shoulder.

Fred said...

Humorously enough, in Afghanistan one of my buddies had a GM M16. It had been modded and remarked as an A2 (as was the Colt I carried.)

The problem with the GI handle and the new technique is that if you torque the handle and the rifle is even slightly under-lubed, the charging handle will bind against the track it rides in inside the upper receiver. It would be like trying to pull a square rod through a square hole after putting a blacksmith's twist into the rod.

If I hadn't had my right hand busy with the camera it would have been on fire control, and as Tam states, the carbine would have still been up in my shoulder and on target.