Next Level Armament Charging Handle Review

facebook profileCharging handles are one of those parts that nobody really thought of until a few years ago. With lefties requiring an almost liberal level of “equality” (sarcasm) and larger optics being mounted on AR platform gun owners started looking for ambidextrous as well as larger grip space on their charging handles.

Just about everyone has taken a stab at building a better charging including yours truly. But Next Level Armament has well taken it to the next level.

The NLX556 Scythe is precision machined from 7075 aluminum and available in either black hard anodized or raw aluminum. It consists of less moving parts than most aftermarket non-standard charging handles and offers a truly ambidextrous operation. Its extra large “ears” make reaching around a magnified optic easy peasy even when wearing gloves.

Next Level Armament makes many products locally in Michigan.

I have been running this on my primary training gun in 6 classes over the last several months. After thousands of rounds, it has performed just like it should and only shows minimal wear.

The handle works as it should, holds up to wear and has not caused any issues with the guns normal operations. So there is no real con to this upgrade. The only thing negative I can find is that it retails for $80 which is still less than its closest competitor but more than a standard handle or the BCM Gunfighter (though not ambidextrous) I know many of you run.

With offset irons, forward assist and a larger optic a left hand shooter could still manipulate this handle.
With offset irons, forward assist and a larger optic a left-hand shooter could still manipulate this handle.

From a left-hand user perspective, this charging handle gets the job done. It is easy to operate with your off hand even when having to work around a forward assist.

The wide ears are also thicker than a standard handle allowing you to get an excellent grip on the charging handle when trying to clear a malfunction. This came in very handy when practicing clearing double feeds.

I don’t take the winter off from training and being in Michigan means that a good portion of my year I am training with gloves on. The grooved ears helped when using a wide range of gloves from lightweight all the way to reinforced 5.11 and Mechanix.

When you combine gloves and magnified optics, the Scythe really shined. Running a 1-4 Accupoint to the rear, I was having issues manipulating my charging handle even without gloves. Now that I have upgraded I can easily charge the gun or clear a malfunction.

The tolerances are also very tight and create a better fit with less movement and rattle when closed. This is a pet peeve of mine and while not worth the cost of an upgrade alone it certainly is a nice touch.

A standard charging handle is hard to reach in this configuration.
A standard charging handle is hard to reach in this configuration.

If you’re a lefty or need an ambidextrous charging handle, the Scythe is going to be a cost effective solution that will do everything you need and want.

If you just want a larger charging handle with more purchase space, there are some cheaper solutions that might do what you want. For the extras like fit, style, and range of motion the Scythe is still worth considering.

I’m not a lefty but my wife is. Many of my guns are set up ambidextrous so she can work them if she wants/needs to. For that reason as well as the quality and care put into manufacture I will be buying more of these for my other guns.

The fact it is a Michigan made product and run by some pretty awesome guys certainly didn’t hurt.

To buy your NLX556/NLX223 Scythe go to your local retailer or online from


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Charles is the editor for 248 Shooter a midwest based gun news and gear review site as well as Online Content Director for On Target Magazine. He is an avid student taking classes from top tier trainers around the country. Charles shares his love for training as well as experience and opinions on some of the most talked about gear and products used by competitive shooters, military, leo and civilians.