How Does AR15 Charging Handle Work?

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AR15 charging handles are some of the most overlooked upgrades in the world of weapons. Besides offering a better grip and accommodating a glove hand, quality charging handles deflect dirt, oil, and gas from the face when firing.

But how does AR15 charging handle work? Their function is surprisingly uncomplicated.

How Does AR15 Charging Handle Work?

When an AR15 charging handle is pulled, the weapon’s bolt is pulled to the rear. This puts the striker (hammer) in the cocked position, allowing you to pop the breech and remove spent or unwanted shells from the chamber. The operator can then load new rounds from a magazine if needed.

Some of the charging handle’s secondary functions:

  • Clearing stoppages like jams or double-feeds.
  • Facilitating the movement of the bolt back into the battery.
  • Acting as a forward assist.

The operator can also open the breech to verify that the chamber does not have any rounds or other obstructions.

AR15 charging handle

How Do Non-reciprocating Charging Handles Work?

Reciprocating charging handles are the kind that offers two-directional control of the bolt and the bolt carrier. In other words, with these, you can pull the bolt to the rear and push it to the front. They work in the same way as non-reciprocating charging handles, except that these require the slot to be in action when the weapon is fired.

These are not the charging handles you find in the AR15 family of weapons.

Weapons based on the Stoner design (AR15, M16 family) have non-reciprocating charging handles that do not offer forward control. This is why the forward assist control exists separately in these weapons and allows users to drive the bolt in the closed position.

What Difference Does Having a Charging Handle Make?

There’s nothing wrong with gun owners using basic mil-spec charging handles. However, investing in a high-quality one is worth it since they are made from sturdy materials such as 7075 T6 aluminum, and are less likely to be stiff.

But frankly, the best benefit of upgrading to a quality charging handle is that it will make your firing cycles smoother and allow you to fire as many follow-up shots as you want.

Can You Use an AR15 Charging Handle in an AR10?

The design of the AR15 and AR10 is identical, so it makes sense that many gun owners would wonder whether the charging handles can be easily changed with each other.

While carriers and charging handles tend to be interchangeable, the issue with using an AR15 charging handle in an AR10 is that the weapon’s bolts are caliber specific. This brings a difference in the barrel rifling, ballistics, and magazine capacity between the two weapons.

Additionally, AR10 weapons have a longer upper, making the AR15 charging handle too small to fit on an AR10.


AR15 charging handles enable you to pull the weapon’s bolt to the rear and cock your weapon. Manipulating the charging handle allows you to access the breech and clear it of any spent shells or other debris.

Upgrading from a basic mil-spec charging handle makes an AR15 more reliable and easier to use.

James Forrester is a lifelong gun and firearms owner, and an even bigger advocate for gun safety. He created with the purpose of sharing helpful tips and educating others on how to keep guns and weapons safe and secure.