As I am (now) an ambidextrous handler of long guns, and since I prefer a scope over other optics on my MSRs, it was time for me to explore changing out charging handles. What has the charging handle have to do with a scope, you might ask?
When shooting right-handed, pulling the charging handle to rear is no problem, as the charging handle release is on the left-side and very easy to grab with the support hand. When shooting left-handed, however, grasping the charging handle release means that I must either support the forearm with my right hand and then move my shooting hand away from the trigger guard or I maintain my grip on the grip and then reach across with my right hand to pull the charging handle. And if the scope is in the way of my hand, that presents an obstacle that I must work around. What I desired was an ambidextrous charging handle with large levers that I could grasp with either hand regardless of what shoulder I was shooting from and I would not have to work around the scope to do so. The caveat is that while there are many ambidextrous charging handles on the market, I could not justify spending a large amount of money just to have one.
I recently read an article on charging handles and the BCMGUNFIGHTER™ Ambidextrous Charging Handle (5.56mm/.223) Mod 3X3 (LARGE) Latches was among those listed. Best of all, it was reasonably priced. An order was placed at the Bravo Company USA website and I was informed that the item was shipped the same day. I received it two days later through USPS.
The ‘BCMGUNFIGHTER™ Ambidextrous Charging Handle (5.56mm/.223) Mod 3X3 (LARGE) Latches’ came nicely packed
This particular charging handle is made for .223/5.56x45mm and while I have an MSR in 7.63x39mm, .308, and a 9mm PCC, I was interested to see if this one charging handle would work in all MSRs. If so, subsequent orders would follow. If not, there was no harm done…financially.
The Windham Weaponry ‘SRC’ in .223/5.56x45mm was selected to be the test bed.
First, some verbiage about the charging handle itself from Bravo Company USA.
From Bravo Company USA:
”A Charging Handle for the 21st Century Gun Fighter.
A NEW Charging Handle and Extended Latch System.
Charging Handle forged from 7075 T6 Aluminum.
Hard Coat Anodized per Mil-A-8625F, Type III, Class 2.
GFH – Mod 3B (large latch) and Mod 4B (medium latch).
The Mod 3X3 latches extend past the main body of the charging handle by approximately 1.14″.
The Mod 4×4 latches extend past the main body of the charging handle by approximately .91″.
For comparison a USGI handle latch extended past the main body of the charging handle by approximately .85″.
Compatible with Mil-Spec AR-15 Direct Impingement Weapon Systems.
**NOT compatible with adjustable gas keyed bolt carrier groups.**
Driven by over a decade of feedback from real-world combat operations, BCM® has made continual design refinements and structural improvements to the charging handle in the M4 and M16 to address the current manual of arms for the weapon system.
Optimizing the contours into a snag-free profile that facilitates immediate manipulation with and end user s reaction side grip. The range of BCMGUNFIGHTER™ Charging Handles is available with both ambidextrous and MIL-SPEC controls.
Redesigned to eliminate the load on the pivot pin (like USGI handle fitted with an extended latch) and keep the energy from charging close the centerline of the carbine/rifle, BCMGUNFIGHTER Charging Handles provides a larger uninterrupted engagement surface with a smaller silhouette.”
The BCMGUNFIGHTER Charging handle is made by Bravo Company MFG, Inc in the USA.”
Prior to installation, all necessary measurements had to be taken to ensure compatibility with the MSR. Comparative measurements were made between the stock charging handle and the ‘BCMGUNFIGHTER™ Ambidextrous Charging Handle (5.56mm/.223) Mod 3X3 (LARGE) Latches’ at all the right places to ensure that all critical dimensions were within tolerance.
Secondly, came the actual fitting of the charging handle to the MSR, which was followed by an operational check…after proper lubrication was applied to contact surfaces. The handle was operated from both sides with the MSR shouldered and unshouldered. Then, it was operated with one hand (either hand) using both latches to see if there was any hesitancy in one or the other latch to release the lock equally. In short, the ‘BCMGUNFIGHTER™ Ambidextrous Charging Handle (5.56mm/.223) Mod 3X3 (LARGE) Latches’ was perfect in all respects.
While the body of the charging handle is aluminum, the latches appear to be made from a heavy-duty polymer material. Dual, large roll pins guarantee smooth operation at the pivot points. The finger contact surfaces are heavily ribbed for sure contact.
Lock up with the upper is very positive.
Obviously, the MSR was intended for use with right-handed operators. Operating left-handed adds some complexity not only to operating the charging handle but swapping magazines as well. Most operations, for me, shooting weak-side (left) was to use the strong hand (right) to do all of the manual operations, like swapping magazines and chambering a fresh round while my weak hand took care of operating the safety and releasing the bolt lock. To use the charging handle, I would keep my strong hand on the forearm while unlocking and charging handle with my left hand, all while keeping the MSR shouldered on my left shoulder and always keeping my eyes on the prize (the target). This was better than reaching over the MSR with my right hand to operate the charging handle.
With the ‘BCMGUNFIGHTER™ Ambidextrous Charging Handle (5.56mm/.223) Mod 3X3 (LARGE) Latches’ I can now operate the charging handle with my right hand without reaching over top of the MSR and all while keeping my left hand on the grip close to the safety lever while keeping the MSR shouldered…or not, as the situation dictates. Even when pulling the charging handle using both ‘ears’ there is a tendency to put pressure on the side of the charging handle simply because the MSR is not directly centered on the body and the charging handle is not pulled directly straight back. The wear on the charging handle, however, is usually minimal with those not constantly using the MSR for combat or competition. The more slop in a charging handle, the more propensity for wear. Usually, however, wear on a charging handle is not a concern for most of us, or even those that constantly use the charging handle, I would think. In fact, the only time I think to use the charging handle is when charging the firearm for the first time with a first-time magazine, when clearing the firearm after removing a partially-loaded magazine, or if I needed to recharge the firearm after a mis-fire (something that I have not experienced with this MSR, or with any MSR, so far).
The Windham Weaponry ‘SRC’ is fitted with a Nikon P-Tactical .223 3×32 Matte BDC Carbine scope. The ability to use either hand to use the charging handle was important to me. With longer scopes, the hand must reach under the scope to use the charging handle. The longer levers of the ‘BCMGUNFIGHTER™ Ambidextrous Charging Handle (5.56mm/.223) Mod 3X3 (LARGE) Latches’ mitigated that issue, as the charging handle can be operated with either hand.
My last mod on this MSR is to install 45-degree, side-mount green laser. While I do not like hanging stuff on my firearms, a good laser could be an excellent low-light aiming solution. More on that in a separate review.
According to Windham Weaponry, the same charging handle is used for the Windham Weaponry “7.62×39 SRC” and Windham Weaponry 9mm Carbine. Well, I am going to find out about that and will report about it later.
Bravo Company USA, of course, has more products than just his one and there are several variations of the ‘BCMGUNFIGHTER™ Ambidextrous Charging Handle.’ If you are interested in this sort of thing for your MSR, check the choices for this and other BCM products at: Bravo Company USA.