Designed by VTLOR and built by Bravo Company Manufacturing, the Gunfighter charging handle provides an extended latch for enhanced support-side manipulation of the charging handle on the AR-15. Come again? The Gunfighter helps you to pull back that T-shaped charging handle with your support hand (as opposed to taking your strong hand off the pistol grip to grasp the T from the top), by providing a larger latch that your support hand will easily find. Bottom line is that this allows you to manipulate the bolt with your support hand, keeping your strong hand on the pistol grip, your weapon shouldered and eyes downrange, overall, reducing the amount of movement involved in running the bolt on your AR-15. Weapon manipulation becomes more efficient, and you spend less time fiddling with your AR and more time taking down walkers! Simple, right?
The extended charging handle latch is nothing new; a number of other manufacturers also offer extended latches, either as a single part or pre-installed on a drop-in charging handle. However, BCM claims that the Gunfighter features a stronger design that takes pressure off of the small roll pin that holds the latch in place. According to BCM, the latch hits a solid backstop, so that pressure is transferred directly to the body of the charging handle instead of to the roll pin, which could eventually bend or break.
The Gunfighter is machined from 7075 T6 Billet (aluminum) and hard coat anodized per Mil-A-8625F, Type III, Class 2. It is relatively lightweight and durable, so adding this to your AR is not going to increase its weight appreciably.
The Gunfighter comes in three different varieties. There are medium and large-sized extended latches (the Mod 4 and 3, respectively) and there is one with a standard-sized latch. This review pertains specifically to the large, Mod 3 version.
The Gunfighter comes as a drop-in part, so installation is as easy as field-stripping your AR. Some of the other extended latches come as just a latch, so you have to hammer out the existing roll pin, put in the new latch and hammer in the new roll pin. This is simple enough if you have the right tools, but can be pretty tricky without a roll pin punch and bench block. Not so with the Gunfighter – just crack open your AR, pop out your old charging handle and pop in the Gunfighter.
The first time you use the Gunfighter, be careful – do not curl your fingers around it as you pull it back. Remember how that latch is extra-durable because it bumps up against a solid backstop built right into the charging handle? This also means that anything in between that latch and the backstop – like the meat on your fingers – will get pinched as you pull back. The more vigorously you pull that charging handle, the harder the pinch. I found this out the hard way, so learn from my mistake – run the bolt with an open hand. If you use a finger to pull back the charging handle, don’t curl it tightly around the latch.
You may also notice that the Gunfighter Mod 3 sticks out quite a bit from your weapon. While it provides a very easy-to-find target for your support hand and gives you lots of leverage to run the bolt, it could also become something to get snagged on your gear, or one more pointy part to jab you when your AR bumps against you. I know these may sound like petty concerns, but when you’re in a hurry or under stress, something small like your charging handle catching on your gear as you sling your weapon, or having it poke you repeatedly as you run, could become unnecessary distractions at a critical moment.
As with all other gear, if you put a Gunfighter on your AR, you should make sure to adjust your training regimen accordingly. Get used to running your bolt with your support hand. Make sure you always remember to use an open hand to run it (maybe I shouldn’t have said anything about the pinching – that first pinch may be the best way to ensure you always use an open hand). And think of how best to minimize snags and bumps.
All that said, I’m not sure I’d recommend the Mod 3 Gunfighter. It might be a little too large. The Mod 3 may be practical if you typically wear gloves and need that added surface area to get a good, positive grip. Otherwise, though, the downsides seem to outweigh the benefits.
The other thing to consider is that accessories like the Gunfighter, while they might help you to run your AR faster, may not be present on the weapon you’re given at a critical moment. If you’re away from your home and your beloved custom AR when the dead start walking, you may find yourself picking up a rifle that has none of the cool accessories you’ve gotten used to. As long as it functions, you need to be able to run that weapon well enough so that it does not distract you from the task at hand. The last thing you need when walkers are closing in on your perimeter, is to be fiddling with your AR because the charging handle latch is too small for your hand to find. I’m all for running the bolt with your support hand, but maybe the key is not an extended latch, but instead just training lots with a stock-sized latch. In that case, the Gunfighter with the stock-sized latch may provide you with good durability, without any of the downsides of the larger latch versions, all while helping you to maximize your training opportunities.
Latch open and closed. When pulled back to the open position, the latch bumps up against the “backstop” of the charging handle body.
Side-by-side with a standard charging handle. The Gunfighter Mod 3 provides much greater surface area for support-side manipulation. Running the bolt with your support-side hand on a standard-sized charging handle is difficult, so be sure to practice.