Per the TangoDown website the FN SCAR Angled Charging Handle (part number: FNS-ACH) is "quality machined from a block of 4340 steel, heat treated to 40 Rockwell, then manganese phosphate coated to MIL-STD 171." I purchased it from a member on m4carbine, for $40.
Per GG&G the SCAR Enhanced Charging Handle (part number: GGG-1533) is "Manufactured from 4130 ordnance steel, Manganese phosphated in a non-reflective combat finish per mil-spec." I purchased it directly from GG&G's website for the retail price of $25.00.
I could not find what the OEM charging handle is out of, but I imagine its some sort of steel that is treated with a plastic type composite material - (if you have a link or know what its made of post up I will add it and give credit where its due).
Reason for Purchase:
I bought the SCAR originally because I love the concept and the execution by FN, unlike others I actually like the reciprocating charging handle. Before buying anything for the rifle I wanted to run the rifle the way it was, stock, without any additions (except a sling) or modifications. OEM charging handle. I ran the rifle this way for a two day class to get used to the platform. I was wearing a very old pair of Underarmour gloves which had no knuckle protection and I ended up rubbing the left glove straight through to the skin on the rail of the gun. I remember one reload drill in particular where I was going for speed and banged my knuckle on the rail of the gun because I put my knuckle too far onto the handle. After getting through this class I figured it was time to do some research and pick on an "angled" charging handle. Enter the GG&G, at $25 it was pretty much a steal for the price. I ended up getting one and running it at the F2SConsulting Practical Carbine 2/25-2/26 (2012), High View, WV.
Two of the guys from the "High Stress" class working some steel over with the SCAR with TangoDown CH installed:
The FN OEM handle out of the box felt really cheap. I knew right from the start that it was going to be an issue with its "straight" or "streamline" design and I was right. When I tried it with the original mount for my Aimpoint H1 (an LRP mount that the H1 came with from PSA) I busted my knuckles a few times on it and even after I put the current Larue LT751 mount on it, reversed, it still banged my knuckles a few times on it. The only aspect that I could take positively is that since it was so long and hard to miss even if I got a little bit of it, during a reload (on bolt lock back), it still snapped forward. I attribute that more to the design of the gun than the OEM charging handle.
The GG&G charging handle, out of the box, looked like GG&G took two OEM charging handles, cut one off at the end and bent the other to mold it at an angle. The only issue is that they did nothing for the size, keeping it exactly the same as the OEM, and that did not work well for me. As I stated unless I was standing it would run directly into my arm with the PWS SRX installed. I tried it both ways, angled up and down, it was pretty interesting to see how the big piece of metal bounced back and forth after every shot. The only upside to the GG&G is that I did not bang my fingers or knuckles into anything when using it angled up. Angled down it was a pain because it had to clear the barrel mounting screw fixture, which did not work for me, but angled up it was a breeze, but again only standing. When angled up the handle became accessible from either side easily. Shooting other strong side, it was easy to get to without hassle.
The TangoDown charging handle out of the box looked pretty small. I was initially concerned it was going to break on me or not be big enough to get enough finger coverage for fast-paced shoots. A few rounds downrange and my initial theory were incorrect. The handle managed very well and did not bother me during fast-paced drills. I ran it angled down, but then swapped it to angled up because it was as big as the GG&G handle and had a better presence in that orientation.
In the Field:
As stated before I quickly disliked the OEM charging handle and moved onto the GG&G for the class and some drills before eventually getting the TangoDown and sticking with it. I did go back and try the OEM and GG&G handles after I installed the PWS SRX, since my grip position changed I wanted to see how it impact my opinion on the charging handles and that is where I found the GG&G to be unmanageable. It rides directly into your forearm and that is unacceptable, along with the obvious issue of not being able to shoot dynamically. The TangoDown worked the best for my personal grip position and for dynamic shooting - I could actually shoot SBU prone and at off angles without issue. You are probably wondering "well did it get caught on your kit?" Everything gets caught on kit, especially large bulky reciprocating charging handles, like the GG&G and the OEM charging handles. I setup these next few pictures on a chair to show what happens when you sling it against your body:
You are probably thinking "wait a second, the OEM looks like it has a smaller signature" well its straight and not angled up like the Tangodown, so the OEM gets snagged easier. The OEM and GG&G both have a "lip" on the end of the handle so that likes to grab stuff when you are moving around, especially your sling. The TangoDown is rounded, and even though it has "teeth" it does not have a "lip" and it is a little bit more forgiving if you snag on something. If you have your rifle slung and just hanging there, you may end up getting it snagged with the OEM and GG&G, I did a few times, but with the TangoDown its more difficult to get it snagged on anything.
All three charging handles did exactly what they are designed to do. The OEM charging handle gives you the absolute minimum required for a charging handle, no thrills of any type. The GG&G is definitely what its advertised as an "enhanced charging handle" which is just the OEM handle, doubled and curved, aside from its sheer size, its a good handle that does the job. The Tangodown is a good "different" adaptation of the charging handle concept. Its round, which is awesome and not that much bigger than the OEM handle, plus the angled design give it an edge, literally.
Ownership and usage:
If you have not realized it yet, you should probably be running some type of gloves when running a rifle, aside from the obvious reasons for this the SCAR is very unforgiving to the hands. The overall shape of the charging system requires your knuckle to come really close to objects that will cut your skin and wear it raw after continued use. I have always ran gloves so this was not a problem for me, for the most part, except with the OEM charging handle and those crappy UA gloves I had when I first bought the SCAR, I ended up chewing up my knuckles and vetting some gloves into a trashcan. Just to show you what I mean, I took some shots of the TangoDown handle and how close your knuckles get to pain if unshielded.
Final Thoughts and recommendations:
I had to choose a charging handle which worked for me. I do not have some ape-style gorilla man hands, so having a massive charging handle like the GG&G was not required. The best out of the three in my opinion was the TangoDown. It gave me just the right size without being too bulky and the right angle to be used properly, even though causing some annoyance of hitting my knuckles against the rifle and the mounts, it was well within the tolerable levels. Which is why I ended up sticking with the Tangodown charging handle. Now if you are a bigger guy, with some massive meat cleavers for hands, then the GG&G may be the way to go for you. Of course this is a never ending journey of modification to find the correct setup which works as flawlessly for me, and you should be on your own journey, especially if you have a SCAR. The rifle begs to be modified and takes modification very well. There are other charging handles available out there that I have not purchased, so I could not review them, they do look promising. The EACH looks good, the size puts me off a bit, but I cannot comment as I have not tried it. Found this unnamed charging handle posted on fnforum which was available on gunbroker a while back, but cannot seem to find a source for it, looks like a clone of some AK charging handles, would suck to drop that into your junk during a transition. Hi-Desert Dog has a charging handle, as well, sort of looks like the GG&G.
Just one more topic I would like address with the charging handle on the SCAR. Yes it is able to be run on either side of the gun. Yes its cool to run it like an AK. Is it an AK? No. I tried to run all three charging handles the "AK style" on the right side of the gun. Reloads were not much of an issue as there is the paddle I can mash during reloads. Malfunction clearing is a completely different issue. I HAD to come over the top or flip the gun on its right side onto my left hand in order to get a good charge. That became annoying quickly and I dropped the concept.
After re-reading the review and getting some feedback from different sources (m4c specifically) I wanted to clarify a few things.
All of my gear or kit have the same specific reasons behind them - speed, agility, ease of use and durability. I do not subscribe to popular opinion or what people "think" works best because it may work for them, I do my own work with the item and go from there. The TangoDown charging handle is the fastest out of the three handles I used. The design is quick and easy to use, on either side, and has very no "lip" that catches on my kit. I ran the SCAR with all three handles while wearing a plate carrier (PC) and not wearing a PC (usually a day of each for a two day class) and with a PC the GG&G snagged the most, the OEM second and TangoDown barely, if at all.
I know many people who have a SCAR 16 or 17 probably do not do classwork in any sort of full kit, most people do not run plates everyday in class or in drill/training and when they do its rarely for the whole day of shooting, especially if it involves dynamic shooting. A lot of people run the guns stationary, on a bench, standing or prone and that is fine. I run my gear hard and train how I fight, moving, trying different angles and different positions to work the issues. While doing this speed, agility and ease of use need to be considered. The TangoDown gave me the best overall ability to run the gun dynamically. Does that mean it will give you the same results? Depends if you run the rifle the same way I do.
So while keeping speed in mind, for me specifically, I developed my personal opinion on the charging handle preferable to me, which is the TangoDown. If I was running a SCAR 17, with any type of magnification and bi-pod, I would probably run the GG&G because its just so massive on the right side and I would probably not be doing any sort of "on the move" shooting, but stationary, prone shooting where I had time to manipulate the weapon and the size of the CH would not really concern me too much.
I was able to get my hands on an IWC SCAR Charger and will be running it when I get a chance so that I can review it. So far I really like how it looks.