by Rob Kay
Webster defines raptor as a bird of prey or a small-to-medium-sized predatory dinosaur. It’s a word of Latin derivation which means “one who seizes by force”.
Raptor is also the name of Rainier Arms’ proprietary charging handle.
Based in Auburn, WA, near Seattle, the company has a gained a reputation as a purveyor of quality AR platform parts. In a relatively short period of time, they have carved out a niche both as a seller of other manufacturers’ items and a developer of their own product lines.
It’s an enviable position. Think of Brownell’s as Sears and Rainier as Nieman Marcus.
Their most popular product to date is the “Raptor” charging handle which is manufactured for them by AXTS. Made from aircraft grade 7075 aluminum at $85 MSRP, it’s more expensive than similar third party products but many people swear by it. It’s also Rainier’s bestselling item so we decided to find out what the fuss was all about.
What better way to see what the Raptor can do than by mounting it on a SIG 516 gas piston upper which we happened to be reviewing. We took the Raptor enhanced 516 to the range and let her rip.
What we liked straight away was that the Raptor was ambidextrous. To be more precise, it allowed for ambidextrous shooting.
For most people having an ambi set up wouldn’t be an issue. According to Wikipedia, “70–90% of the world population is right-handed.” So why would it matter, unless you’re left handed?
It matters a lot if you’re a serious tactical shooter, or at least if you take any advanced shooting courses. Why? Your instructors will no doubt have you shoot offhand, on the opposite side. That’s where this little item really shines.
It has a reciprocating action on the two sides of the handle so that it makes no difference which side of the lever you pull. The action is smooth and taut.
It inspires confidence.
The Raptor is a smidgen wider than a milspec charging handle. In this case, bigger may be better. In a pinch more real estate to grab onto, particularly if you’re wearing gloves, is a good thing. (Note that the right hand side of the handle is slightly longer so that it’s manageable over the forward assist).
It didn’t snag while we used it and it proved very sturdy. You don’t get the feeling that it will break if you’re running your rifle very hard. It also doesn’t dig into your chest nor poke you if you carry your rifle on a sling.
For those concerned about aesthetics, the Raptor will not disappoint. The finish is flawless and its sculpted lines are the epitome of “tacticool”. Fortunately in this case, form follows function so it not only looks good, it performs.
I don’t know if the Rainier folks knew the Latin for Raptor is “seizing by force” but I’m going to give them credit for it. I don’t think a better name could have been chosen for this item.
If you want an ambi option, you won’t go wrong with this shiny little bauble. You can buy it for $85 on Amazon.
Photos courtesy of On Target staff.
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