AR charging handles are pretty mundane. Standard, left-handed, or ambi if you want to really put on the ritz. That was true until the 2017 launch of the HABU charging handle, a completely redesigned piece of hardware. Falcon 37, maker of the HABU, sent the Mod 1 model for testing. Here’s what happened.
The HABU has two simple parts and two screws. By way of screw placement, users can—or depending on the rifle, must—choose whether the handle is long (about 13.25 total inches) or short (about 11.5 inches end to end). On the first test rifle, a Battle Rifle Company Cutlass, I chose the longer setting to keep the handle fully exposed beneath a magnifying scope.
Operating the HABU uses a familiar skill if, like me, you rack the slide of your pistol with an overhand grip. It’s the same motion: reach over with the support hand, and rack. To keep the muzzle downrange, I have to unseat the shoulder-pocket position of the buttstock slightly and, using the grip, pull the butt of the rifle into my shoulder. People with a more solid wrist joint than mine could probably rack it in firing position. In this way, it’s faster and more natural than running a traditional charging handle.
With no lever to release, and with its symmetrical design, the HABU is completely suitable for left-handed shooters, and in fact, should prove something of a boon for this segment of the shooting populace, who have to struggle with releasing the standard right-hand bias lever on most ARs.
Racking felt a bit sticky on the Cutlass, which is fitted with a fat Hogue buttstock. I also found, a proper sight picture through the lens was unattainable with the cheek weld—the handle got in the way. The HABU’s handle is made to serve as a cheek rest, and could be a panacea for someone who struggles with a too-high mount. It simply wasn’t a good fit with the Hogue stock. The product website features a compatibility chart so buyers can head off this problem.
Out of the safe came another AR, this one with more common components. I set the charging handle to the short length, as the second rifle wears a red dot in a moderately forward position. Instantly, running the device was easier. Acquiring a cheek weld was instantaneous. On the regular, skinnier, smooth tube, it slides effortlessly. A good, fast rack is easy to do, requiring less disruption from the shooting position to operate as compared to traditional charging handles.
There are two potential downsides I see with this product. The HABU’s handle is long and takes up some real estate on the stock tube. It’s not possible to load or clear the chamber with the stock fully collapsed. While most AR operators reserve the collapsed position for storage and carry, it does give up the option of reloading in short order or the tightest of quarters where it may not be possible to extend the stock before charging.
Aside from not being operable with the stock fully forward, a lesser concern is traction. The HABU has rippled edges and is easy to grasp under normal conditions. In rain or snow, or covered in snot or blood, the handle will require an extra-firm grip to not slip and perform a short stroke. It’s not a big problem, anymore than it would be on a pistol—proper, firm handling is the remedy for many “gun control” problems.
The HABU charging handle is an asset anywhere a traditional charging handle can get in the way of carrying or deploying the rifle. In a truck or car especially, its low profile means less stuff to hang up as the rifle is pulled out of storage. Its sleek profile gives a slight advantage when carrying the rifle across a chest or back where the charging handle could potentially tangle or hang up on a chest rig or other gear with straps.
For defensive use, there’s substantial advantage to this design in that the muzzle can stay on target during reloads, as disruption of the shooting position is minimal. This, I feel, is what makes the product truly innovative and practical.
Especially for the shooter who only gets to the range once in a while, there’s wisdom in having one system and mastering it. There’s also wisdom in making as many gun manipulation habits as possible, gross motor-based. For those who train to rack a pistol slide overhand, using the HABU is exactly the same motion, with the same functions. Having a single skill like this committed to habit and memory will make anyone more effective in competition or in a gunfight. For this reason and for its ease of storage and deployment from cramped spaces, this innovative charger has a place.
What’s your favorite charging handle or technique for charging an AR? Have you used the HABU? Share your answers in the comment section.