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Radian's New Raptor-SD Suppressor-Optimized Charging Handle

Suppressed shooting often kicks gas into you face, but you can keep gas downrange with Radian's new Raptor-SD charging handle.

Radian's New Raptor-SD Suppressor-Optimized Charging Handle

Water runs downhill. It seeks the lowest level. Expanding gas, on the other hand, is like a guy looking to score at the bar; it seeks the path of least resistance. This is important to our purposes because this is AR-15, and the AR-15 is a direct-impingement, gas-operated firearm and because of the current popularity of suppressors. Suppressors attached at the muzzle restrict the free flow of gas outward, thus increasing the pressure of gas still inside the firearm, which means more gas is trying to find alternate avenues of escape. This brings us to the new Raptor-SD charging handle from Radian Weapons. A lot of suppressor companies are coming out with new models that feature reduced backpressure, and Radian Weapons has decided to take an alternate route. The Radian Raptor-SD is a charging handle designed to vent those expanding gases in the receiver away from the shooter’s face. This isn’t the first such charging handle, but Radian has done something radically different as you can see from the photos. Before we dive into the design of the charging handle itself, let’s talk briefly about what happens when you pull the trigger on a standard AR-15. The expanding gas behind the speeding bullet heads up the barrel’s gas port and then back down the gas tube to the upper receiver where it impinges on the key atop the bolt carrier. The gas then pushes the bolt carrier to the rear, unlocking the bolt and cycling the action.

radian-raptor-sd-handle-02
Along with its improved function with suppressors, the Raptor-SD sports oversize serrated handles for one-handed operation.

The end of the gas tube and the bolt carrier key sit inside the end of the charging handle, inside the receiver. The carrier key encloses the end of the gas tube when the bolt is closed, and the bolt carrier is forward. The key covers the gas tube for the initial part of bolt carrier travel, and the end of the gas tube doesn’t exit the carrier key until just as the bolt is exiting the barrel extension. But there is a (designed) gap between the carrier key and the gas tube to allow free movement and to vent those excess gases not needed to get the bolt carrier moving. There are always gases blowing out between the tube and key, and one of the paths of least resistance (until that bolt carrier has moved rearward) is backward along the inside of the charging handle, above the bolt carrier. That is why, when shooting an AR-15 equipped with a suppressor, it is common to get those gases venting out the receiver gap, around the charging handle, and right into your face and up your nose. The Raptor-SD has addressed this issue with a series of holes drilled in the side of the charging handle: six holes in each side with the handle machined, so those holes vent forward. There is still an open channel in the body of the charging handle for the carrier key to ride, so those holes in the charging handle will only draw off some of the expanding gases, but between the aggressive number of vents and their spacing, it appears that the charging handle should work. In fact, due to the design, I don’t see how it couldn’t work. The only question is: How well?

At the rear of the Raptor-SD are oversize serrated handles for easier one-hand operation. The left-side handle is a bit smaller, so it doesn’t poke you if you’ve got your rifle slung. The right-side lever is larger but does not stick out from the receiver any further than your forward assist. There is an otherwise identical Raptor SD-SL model, which sports smaller, low-profile handles and a version for AR-10 rifles. To test the Raptor-SD, I grabbed my trusty Daniel Defense MK18. This is a notoriously overgassed AR (to encourage reliability in inclement conditions), and that gun gets even gassier when you attach a suppressor. I have a SureFire SOCOM556 RC2 suppressor. For hard-use suppressors, it’s the standard against which all others are judged, and just about every 5.56 gun in the military is wearing this can. But while this suppressor is durable, it does generate a decent amount of backpressure. Stick it on a MK18, and you get a gun that shoves exhaust up your nose with every pull of the trigger. Before heading to the range, I talked to my contact at Radian. I was curious if they’d done any objective/measured testing with the Raptor-SD, although I don’t know exactly how you would, other than locking a gun equipped with one in an airtight chamber and putting airspeed or gas sensors at various points around the receiver. That sounds like a quick way to spend $100,000. My contact at Radian told me that while they were looking into objective third-party testing of the Raptor-SD, at this point, their testing is subjective, side-by-side with mil-spec charging handles, going back and forth between one of those and the Raptor-SD.

radian-raptor-sd-handle-03
The Raptor-SD isn’t the first gas-diverting charging handle, but rather the latest. The first is the PRI Gas Buster (top) with an oversize latch and a gas-redirecting curve. Daniel Defense’s Grip-N- Rip (bottom) has holes to either side.

So that is what I did with my testing. At the range, I fired a full magazine of ammunition through the suppressed MK18 using a GI charging handle, then I swapped it out for the Raptor-SD for another magazine. I used several different types of ammunition, including some ZQI (Turkish) 5.56 NATO SS109, which is hot, and some steel-cased Wolf, which is dirty. I fired fast to get as much gas buildup as possible. I immediately noticed a slightly different sound and gas ejection signature, although it was minor, and if I hadn’t been going back and forth, it would have gone unnoticed. Recoil, ejection, and reliability were not affected and still 100 percent. In my testing, I was able to determine that, with the Raptor-SD in place, there was less gas coming back into my face when compared to a mil-spec charging handle. But the difference was less than I was expecting. I had to put a lot of rounds downrange before I was able to determine there was any difference at all. My testing was subjective, so take this estimate as just that; I think the Raptor-SD reduced the gas coming back into my face by 25 percent. So, it works as advertised but only to a certain degree. With a MSRP of $125, this charging handle is pricey. If you’re building up a gun that you plan to shoot suppressed frequently or have an AR that you shoot suppressed a lot with a GI charging handle you’re looking to upgrade, the Raptor-SD is a decent option. However, if you’ve got an AR that already sports an oversize/improved charging handle, you’ve got to decide if the reduction the Raptor-SD provides is worth the money.




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