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Exploring the Benefits of Side Charging

When it comes to AR-15 rifles, there are many different options and configurations to choose from. One of the most popular and sought-after features is a side charging upper receiver. But what exactly is a side charging upper and what are the benefits of using one? In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of side charging and why it may be a valuable addition to your AR-15.

What is a Side Charging Upper?

A side charging upper is a type of upper receiver for an AR-15 that features a charging handle on the side of the receiver, rather than on the rear like a traditional AR-15. This allows the shooter to manipulate the charging handle without having to break their shooting position, making it easier and faster to reload and clear malfunctions.

Improved Ergonomics and Ease of Use

One of the main benefits of a side charging upper is the improved ergonomics and ease of use. With a traditional AR-15, the charging handle is located at the rear of the receiver, which can be difficult to reach and manipulate, especially for shooters with shorter arms or those wearing bulky gear. This can slow down the reloading process and make it more difficult to clear malfunctions.

With a side charging upper, the charging handle is located on the side of the receiver, making it easier to reach and manipulate. This allows for faster and more efficient reloading, as well as easier malfunction clearance. Additionally, the side charging handle can be operated with one hand, freeing up the other hand for other tasks.

Better Control and Recoil Management

Another advantage of a side charging upper is the improved control and recoil management it offers. With a traditional AR-15, the charging handle is located on the rear of the receiver, which can cause the rifle to tilt and shift when the handle is pulled back. This can affect accuracy and make it more difficult to control the rifle during rapid fire.

With a side charging upper, the charging handle is located on the side of the receiver, which allows for better control and recoil management. The rifle remains stable and on target when the charging handle is manipulated, allowing for more accurate and controlled shooting.

Compatibility with Optics and Accessories

Many shooters choose to add optics and other accessories to their AR-15 rifles, such as scopes, red dot sights, and lights. However, with a traditional AR-15, the charging handle can get in the way of these accessories, making it difficult to use them effectively.

With a side charging upper, the charging handle is located on the side of the receiver, which allows for better compatibility with optics and accessories. This means you can easily mount and use your preferred accessories without interference from the charging handle.

How to Choose a Side Charging Upper

If you’re interested in adding a side charging upper to your AR-15, there are a few things to consider when choosing the right one for your needs.

Compatibility with Your AR-15

The first thing to consider is compatibility with your AR-15. Not all AR-15s are compatible with side charging uppers, so it’s important to do your research and make sure the upper you choose will work with your rifle.

Quality and Durability

As with any firearm component, it’s important to choose a side charging upper that is made with high-quality materials and built to last. Look for uppers made from durable materials such as 7075-T6 aluminum and with a reputable manufacturer.

Complete Upper or Upper Receiver Only

When purchasing a side charging upper, you have the option of buying a complete upper or just the upper receiver. A complete upper will come with the barrel, handguard, and other necessary components, while an upper receiver only will require you to purchase these components separately. Consider your budget and preferences when deciding which option is best for you.

Price

Side charging uppers can range in price from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars. Consider your budget and what features are most important to you when choosing an upper.

How to Install a Side Charging Upper

Installing a side charging upper is a relatively simple process, but it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and take all necessary safety precautions.

Gather Your Tools and Materials

Before beginning the installation process, make sure you have all the necessary tools and materials. This may include a torque wrench, vise block, and any other tools recommended by the manufacturer.

Remove the Old Upper

If you are replacing your current upper with a side charging upper, you will need to remove the old upper first. This involves removing the bolt carrier group (BCG) and charging handle, as well as any other components attached to the upper.

Install the New Upper

Once the old upper is removed, you can install the new side charging upper. This involves attaching the BCG and charging handle to the new upper, as well as any other components that were removed from the old upper.

Test and Adjust

After the new upper is installed, it’s important to test it and make any necessary adjustments. This may include checking the headspace and ensuring the charging handle operates smoothly.

Real-World Examples of Side Charging Uppers in Action

Many shooters have already made the switch to side charging uppers and have seen the benefits firsthand. One example is competitive shooter and firearms instructor, Chris Cerino, who uses a side charging upper on his competition rifle.

According to Cerino, the side charging upper allows him to reload faster and more efficiently, giving him an edge in competition. He also notes the improved ergonomics and control the side charging upper offers, making it easier to shoot accurately and quickly.

Conclusion

In conclusion, a side charging upper can offer many benefits for AR-15 shooters, including improved ergonomics, better control and recoil management, and compatibility with optics and accessories. When choosing a side charging upper, consider compatibility, quality, and price, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation. With a side charging upper, you can take your AR-15 to the next level and improve your shooting experience.

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