Best Side Charging AR-15

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So you are considering something new and wonder what the best side charging AR-15 is? We have you covered with our list of the best options on the market today and why you should choose these.

What is a Side Charging AR-15?

Side-charging AR-15s and AR-10s have added a new dimension to handling these rifles.

For those unfamiliar, a side charging AR-15 or AR-10 is not too different from your traditional AR.

However, it utilizes a unique charging handle on the upper receiver’s right side rather than the customary rear charging handle.

What makes side-charging ARs exceptional is how they mirror the ergonomics of an AK-47 while also maintaining the AR platform’s renowned accuracy and versatility.

They provide a more direct, efficient charging method that allows the user to keep the weapon on their shoulder while charging. This feature eliminates the need to move the weapon away from the body, which is typically required for the rear charging ARs.

Many firearm enthusiasts, including myself, can testify to the distinct advantages that a side-charging AR brings to the shooting experience.

One of the significant benefits I’ve noticed is the larger, more accessible charging handle. It’s much easier to operate than its traditional counterpart, especially after mastering the new manual of arms these rifles have introduced.

Considering the ever-growing demand for the AR-15 platform, manufacturers have pushed the boundaries of innovation, giving birth to these side-charging versions.

The past 20 years alone have seen new calibers released on the AR-15 platform, including the popular 300 Blackout, straight-walled 350 Legend, and range-friendly 6.5 Grendel.

With the addition of side-charging and ambidextrous charging handle options, these advances in design have pushed the classic AR-15 into uncharted territory.

Side-charging AR-15s are a unique variation of the classic and a practical advancement in the world of firearms. A sense of exclusivity comes with owning one; chances are you might not find another like yours on the range, adding to the charm.

Best Side Charging AR-15’s

Brownells BRN 180

Browning BRN 180

When it comes to side charging AR-15s, there’s no denying that the BRN-180 Complete Upper Receiver Assembly by Brownells stands out from the crowd.

The unparalleled design and user-friendly nature make it one of the most impressive options today.

One of the main reasons for its standing in the market is the framework, made from machined 7075 T6 Aluminum – a material known for its durability and longevity.

The build material supports long-term usage, and the black anodized finish adds an additional layer of protection, enhancing the overall product life cycle.

It is compatible with mil-spec AR-15 lower receivers and has 300 Blackout, 7.62×29 and 5.56mm NATO uppers.

The design of the BRN-180 is a modern revival of the AR-180 design, making the weapon a nostalgic yet updated choice for weapon enthusiasts.

What sets BRN-180 apart is its radical design shift from the AR-15 system. The significant change is the no buffer tube feature, which permits a folding stock and the ability to fire while it is folded.

To get the most out of the BRN-180, I suggest acclimatizing to its unique features such as the side charging handle and the short-stroke gas piston system.

The side charging handle provides a more AK-like feel to the rifle, which some may find a refreshing change from the traditional AR-15 operation.

The BRN-180 is also one of my favorite 300 Blackout Guns!

Brownells BRN-180 Stock Photo

BRN-180

• Caliber: 5.56, 7.62×39, .300
• Action: Gas Piston
• Barrel Length: Various
• Twist Rate: 1:8

Bear Creek Arsenal 7.5 series

BC 15 side charging

The 7.5 series has a 16″ diamond fluted heavy profile AR15 barrel with a Wylde chamber and 1:8 twist.

The handguard comes from JP Enterprises and is their JP MK III 12.5″ Rapid Configuration Tube, which enhances manipulation and handling.

In conclusion, the Bear Creek Arsenal 7.5 series offers an affordable entry firearm into the side charging AR world.

BC 15 side charging

BCA 7.5 Series

• Caliber: 5.56
• Action: Semi-Auto
• Barrel Length: Various
• Twist Rate: 1:7

Faxon ARAK-21

Faxon ARAK-21 Side Charging AR

The Faxon Firearms ARAK-21 Upper Receiver is a standout in the market of Side Charging AR-15s, and for good reason. With features that cater to the demands of a diverse range of shooters, this product lives up to its strong reputation.

First, let’s talk about the build. The ARAK-21 Upper Receiver is crafted from a tough yet lightweight 6061-T6 aluminium, a high-grade material known for its durability and stress resistance.

This demonstrates the product’s commitment to quality, and explains why it can effortlessly withstand the rigors of any shooting environment.

Now, let’s delve into the design. Particularly noteworthy is the ambidextrous charging handle. In other words, this AR-15 receiver is designed to accommodate both left and right-handed shooters seamlessly.

It’s a refreshing feature that makes the AR-15 more inclusive and user-friendly.

But that’s not all – the AR-15 is also equipped with a top full-length Picatinny rail and multiple other rails that provide a comprehensive M4-style quad rail upper.

The versatile design of the Faxon Firearms ARAK-21 Upper Receiver is aimed at creating an inclusive shooting experience.

Its lightweight design won’t add unnecessary weight to your rifle, making it deal for novice shooters who might struggle with heavier setups.

In summary, the Faxon Firearms ARAK-21 Upper Receiver shines in many respects. Its robust yet lightweight build, versatile design, and expansive features make it a worthy addition to any AR-15 build.

PSA Jakl

PSA Jakl the Best Side Charging AR-15

I’ve become incredibly acquainted with many different guns, but the PSA Jakl stands out and is, in my opinion, truly one of the best side-charging AR-15s on the market today.

The reason for this belief is not without merit. The PSA Jakl, created by Palmetto State Armory, offers a unique blend of customization, control, high performance, and compact design.

It leverages the beneficial characteristics of its sibling firearms, with an added bonus – a distinct capability for side charging, which has proven efficient and useful.

Pivoting to the detailed features of the PSA Jakl, it’s integral to disclose that the model comes complete with:

  • Robust Upper Receiver: This component breaks away from the traditionalist AR-15 mold, and is built for enhanced durability and performance.
  • Side-Charging Capacity: Unlike most AR-15s, the Jakl’s charging handle is on the side, offering improved accessibility and maneuverability.
  • Free-Float M-LOK Handguard: This allows for a range of accessories and modifications within the user ‘s grasp, fostering an unprecedented level of customization.
  • Adjustable Gas Block: This feature provides control from over gassing your rifle. It helps in managing recoil and can be fine-tuned to work with various types of ammunition.

Now, who stands to gain the most from the exemplary PSA Jakl? Quite frankly, it’s those who require a high-performing and customizable rifle for either professional usage.

The PSA Jakl is a definite front runner in the Side-Charging AR-15 category.

It balances performance, durability, and customization effortlessly, which makes it a worthwhile consideration for any professional or hobbyist shooter.

PSA Jakl Stock Photo

PSA JAKL

• Caliber: 5.56
• Action: Gas Piston
• Barrel Length: 10.5″
• Twist Rate: 1:7

CMMG Dissent

CMMG Dissent

Having handled and extensively used a variety of side charging AR-15s through the years, I have come across models that range from good to great, but the CMMG Dissent easily finds its place among the best.

From its solid construction to its impressive performance, there are plenty of reasons why this firearm is held in high regard by professionals and enthusiasts alike.

The foremost appeal of the CMMG Dissent is its exceptional build quality.

The construction of this AR-15 is designed to prioritize comfort and reliability.

Just by feeling the firm grip of its handguard or admiring the robust construction, it becomes quickly evident that CMMG has garnered their sterling reputation through a commitment to quality.

In terms of usability, the CMMG Dissent proves to be quite an asset for a wide range of AR-15 shooters.

Be it shooting at the range or participating in competitive shooting sports, this AR-15 serves well in multiple scenarios thanks to its versatile design and adjustable features.

Moreover, the non-reciprocal side charge adds a unique touch to the shooting experience by offering a somewhat unconventional mode of operation that many shooters find appealing.

CMMG Dissent

CMMG Dissent

Caliber: 300 Blackout
Action: Compact Direct
Weight: 4.8 lbs

Benefits of a Side Charging AR-15

Here is a quick list of the benefits of using a side charging handle AR.

Easier Access to Charging Handle

There’s simply no comparison – this ergonomic design has clear tactical advantages.

Being able to maintain cheek weld, keep the trigger hand on the pistol grip, while also having a clear view of the sights, is valuable in circumstances where every second counts.

The side charging design allows immediate resumption of firing once a jam or ‘Failure To Eject’ (FTE) issue is resolved.

That efficiency in operation may mean the difference between success and failure in a critical situation.

I would recommend using the side charging handle to generate faster and easier charging of the firearm, especially when speed is paramount.

It’s versatility is showcased, too, as it allows for single-hand charging and charging with gloves.

An improved balance and reduced weight contribute to enhanced accuracy, reducing muzzle rise and improving overall stability.

Plus, its ambidextrous operation significantly enhances ergonomics, making it an optimal choice for shooters with compromised finger strength or those who are left-handed.

Maintenance and Malfunction Clearing

I firmly believe in the many benefits of straightforward maintenance afforded by the Side Charging AR-15.

One of the most significant benefits of the Side Charging AR-15 is the user’s ability to clear any jams and charge the weapon without the necessity to break the firing grip or change shooting positions.

This is particularly crucial because, in a one-handed emergency, this feature supports quicker and easier charging.

For instance, in an event of a failure in the gas system, this becomes an invaluable asset.

Moreover, the Side Charging AR-15 simplifies the process of handling a malfunction, like a Failure To Eject situation or a stovepiped spent casing.

It allows the operator to maintain a stable shooting position while resolving the issue.

This is facilitated by the fact that charging involves fewer movements and only requires the left hand, thus preserving the stability and preparedness of the operator at all times.

And let’s not overlook the undeniable cool factor. We can’t simply dismiss the aesthetic appeal as an extra; indeed, it can add value for those looking for style as well as function.

However, one word of caution in regard to the charging handle. With certain models, it reciprocates and poses potential risks.

In case your hand accidentally blocks the handle, it could prevent the spent cartridge from ejecting and induce a double feed that needs a magazine drop to clear the jam.

So, keep your firing hand safely away from the charging handle track or avoid reciprocating handles altogether.

Better Balance and Stability

Side charging AR-15 often offers better balance and stability compared to other AR-15 models.

The reasons behind this enhanced balance and stability are primarily related to the specific features of the side charging AR-15, like the piston systems.

How to choose a Side Charging AR-15

Here are some of the top things to consider when choosing your gun.

Performance

There is an ongoing debate concerning the superiority of side charging AR-15s over their traditional counterparts.

Primarily, the side-charging AR-15 revolutionizes the original design, which has largely been unchanged since its inception in 1956 by Eugene Stoner.

The recent push by AR manufacturers for innovation has given birth to the ingenious side charging replacement of the mil-spec rear charging handle of the M4 carbine.

The impact on performance is largely positive. The side charging handle allows for reliable operation, lending to smooth and quick charging of the rifle – a vital feature during precision shooting.

It simplifies charging the rifle, making it user-friendly without adding any permanent modifications or additional parts to the rifle.

To maximize the performance of your side-charging AR-15, my foremost suggestion is to invest in quality.

Ensure you choose a model known for its durability and performance.

In conclusion, the side charging AR-15 marks a substantial performance upgrade from a traditional rear-charging AR-15.

Its improved ergonomics, smooth operation, and unique features make it a worthy investment for shooters seeking to enhance their shooting experience.

Quality

Affordability often dictates our purchasing decisions. Nevertheless, when deciding on a side charging AR-15, I cannot stress enough the importance of quality over price.

True, there are numerous budget-friendly options on the market, but remember, low cost can sometimes equate to low quality.

Hence, your primary concern should not be the price but the overall value that your AR-15 holds.

A quality side charging AR-15 presents clear distinctions from its bargain-priced counterparts.

What separates it from the rest are the subtle differences in features and functions, which can greatly enhance your user experience.

One should be looking for a well-crafted AR-15 that ensures smooth, reliable operation and longevity, thus eliminating the risks associated with low-quality firearms that can easily break.

Functionality

The functionality of the Side Charging AR-15 brings a novel approach to the operation of AR-type firearms.

These firearms are designed for a smooth and reliable operation, enhancing the overall user experience.

Key to an AR-15’s functionality is its charging handle. Recent designs have transitioned from the conventional mil-spec rear charging handle to side charging and ambidextrous options.

Moreover, the functionality of a side-charging AR is not limited to its design aesthetics. It borrows highly effective maintenance features from the AK-platform, notably, its capacity to quickly resolve jams.

Weight

Considering the weight of a Side Charging AR-15 when making a purchasing decision is also important.

The AR-15 has come a long way since its creation in 1956 by Eugene Stoner, and most recently, the innovation by AR manufacturers on side charging has revolutionized the way an AR-15 is used.

When we consider the weight of a Side Charging AR-15, we have to understand that every part of the weapon contributes to its total weight, be it the more oversized handle, the ammunition, or the type of side charging (right side or ambidextrous).

Whether you’re a competitive shooter, a hunter, someone who enjoys range shooting, or, perhaps, a person with compromised finger strength, a lighter or heavier Side Charging AR-15 model significantly affects the weapon’s usability.

From my experience,

  • Choosing a lighter AR-15 may help competitive shooters maintain speed and accuracy, enhancing their performance. The lighter model simplifies maneuverability and reduces fatigue from holding and operating the firearm.
  • On the other hand, a heavier-charging AR-15 can offer a steady, firm grip for hunters or range shooters. The extra weight can help absorb recoil, enhancing stability for accurate shots.
  • Considerations are also needed for individuals with compromised finger strength or left-handed users. The versatility and ease of use of a side charger can be greatly affected by its weight. A lighter model may be easier to handle and charge, providing better user experience.

Despite these general guidelines, comfort should always be the main factor in your decision.

You will handle your AR-15 differently than others due to individual strength, arm length, and shooting style.

Test different Side Charging AR-15 weights to find the one that feels right in your hands and allows for smooth operation.

Caliber

Each caliber presents distinctive benefits and considerations, making it a crucial factor when selecting the most suitable AR-15 product.

Firstly, the caliber directly relates to the power of the shot. Larger calibers like the 6.5 Grendel offer greater accuracy and punch.

They are ideal for hunting or long-range shooting, due to their superior ballistic performance and wind-bucking abilities. On the flip side, they may exhibit higher recoil, making them less suitable for novices or those uncomfortable with substantial kick.

Secondly, the choice of caliber can greatly influence the overall cost of maintaining and operating a firearm. Calibers like the .300 Blackout, while offering significant versatility and performance, can be quite expensive when it comes to the cost of ammunition.

In contrast, the more budget-friendly options like the 5.56mm are more affordable and widely available, making them an excellent choice for regular practice or extended use.

In summary, considering the caliber isn’t a mere technicality in choosing your Side Charging AR-15—it’s an integral part of the selection process that can significantly impact your firearm’s functionality, effectiveness, and usability.

It’s always worth taking the time to understand the unique properties offered by each caliber, so that you can make an informed choice that aligns best with your shooting requirements and personal preferences.

With the right caliber in your Side Charging AR-15, you can be assured of a reliable and satisfying shooting experience.

Rail System

The rail system is undoubtedly a critical consideration when choosing a Side Charging AR-15, primarily because it directly influences the firearm’s versatility, functionality, and ease of use.

The ideal rail system should provide a balance of lightweight design and robust structure.

It should be engineered from materials strong enough to withstand the rigors of frequent and intensive use, yet light enough not to compromise the rifle’s overall weight. This balance is critical to ensuring that the firearm is not only durable but also easy and comfortable to handle.

Different standards have emerged in the AR market, such as the Picatinny, the KeyMod, and the M-Lok systems.

Each has its unique characteristics and perks. For instance, the Picatinny rail fares well regarding how securely it attaches accessories, while the KeyMod and M-Lok systems are renowned for their lightweight design.

In an ideal rail system, flexibility and customization are crucial features.

As a user, you would want a rail that accommodates various accessories and allows you to position these items in a way that suits your shooting style best.

It is paramount that your rail provides the ability to mount and dismount these add-ons quickly and efficiently. Indeed, the more user-friendly the rail system, the better the shooting experience.

Gas System

Most gas systems on side charging guns will be some type of gas piston system.

While the gas system likely won’t change much on the gun and will have to be what it is on any given gun for the function to work, take a look over the gas system as it will determine your cleaning routine and maintenance needs.

Michael Savage
Michael Savage

Michael is the President of Lynx Defense and an avid gun owner and outdoors man. He's passionate about helping find the best bang for your buck and helping others learn about firearms and the industry as a whole.

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