Fast and Simple: Charging Handle Upgrades

Dropping in an aftermarket charging handle is a simple job that your AR-owning customers will appreciate.

Fast and Simple: Charging Handle Upgrades

The 2020/2021 run on guns and ammunition has been fast and furious. New faces came through the door every day in a search for the right tools to protect themselves and their loved ones until law enforcement’s arrival.

Shelves were empty, and those looking for a modern sporting rifle for the home-defense mission often had no choice but to settle on an entry-level model missing desired features — if a budget AR was even in stock. Limited selection will likely be a recurring theme as manufacturers catch up with demand, and a lot of new owners have realized upgrades are in order.  

As inventory slowly reaches normal, there are customer services you can perform at the counter that will enhance the gun’s function, whether for a first-time owner or returning customer. Few are as effortless as installing an aftermarket charging handle on an AR. Odds are good you have a number of them in stock, and a polite offer to drop in any they purchase goes a long way in building a long-lasting relationship.

Roughly one out of every 10 customers is a southpaw, making an ambidextrous version preferable. The setup provides advantages for righties, too. If the gun is run with gloved hands or the optics aboard slightly invade the charging handle’s workspace, point out those on hand with slightly extended gripping surfaces. Don’t forget about the higher-priced, logo-wearing and battle-tough aftermarket options in your inventory. Pointing out the advantages and providing the service is a solid investment in your bottom line and the kind of upgrade they’ll appreciate at their next range session.   

Yes, even a new AR owner can figure out the 30-second process, and most longtime owners will politely decline. Regardless, members of both groups will remember the customer service before they succumb to the urge to visit a competitor down the street or purchase online.

It’s effortless and lightning fast. You probably perform this task a dozen times every day — and rarely think of it as another opportunity to build customer loyalty. Make the offer and you’ll be surprised at the impression it makes, especially with new gun owners unfamiliar with the AR’s versatility. 

Dirt, dust and gun oil can fly during this process. To avoid that potentially airborne debris, safety glasses are required.  

First, keep the gun pointed in a safe direction and engage the safety. Hopefully it is already, but always check.

Then drop the magazine and place it away from the gun. Pull the existing charging handle back completely, which locks the bolt carrier group in the open position. Visually inspect there is no cartridge in the chamber and double-check. Bonus points if you’re cautious enough to use a flashlight, but either way, make sure.  

Hit the bolt release. The bolt carrier group should travel back to its forwardmost position (closed and in full lockup) position. Check that it looks closed. If not, use the forward assist, or better yet, work the charging handle and bolt release again.

Locate the takedown pin on the lower receiver closest to the buttstock (the lowest one furthest from the barrel). Push it firmly with your finger or use a non-marring, non-metallic tool to get it started. Now you can grip the exposed portion on the other side of the receiver and pull it until it either comes to a stop — in the case of a captive version — or can be fully removed from the other side.

The upper and lower receivers now pivot apart. Pull the charging handle back slowly, carefully removing the bolt carrier group and it.

Open the new charging handle’s package and inspect for burrs or debris. Clean if necessary, then place it in the upper receiver. The bolt carrier group slides in next, and the pair are then pushed forward into the full forward position with an audible click.

Rotate the receivers back together, replace or push the takedown pin back in and you’re almost done. The last step is to work the charging handle several times, ensuring it works freely as designed and allows the bolt carrier group to come to full lockup. If there’s a dustcover, make sure it’s operational as well.

There’s nothing to it, except for customer service they won’t find elsewhere, especially online. They know it fits and works well, and their AR is wearing an upgrade they couldn’t find in a stock model.


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