AR15 Side Charge Upper Receivers: Should You Make the Switch?

The AR15 has always come with a rear charging handle and that system has worked well for decades. The only time the rear charging handle can become an issue is when a shooter is in the prone position and a feeding issue requires the use of the charging handle to get everything working smoothly again.

In this shooting position, it can be difficult to recharge the firearm without losing your sight picture or even having to break your firing position to properly charge the AR. For this reason, the popularity of AR15 side charge upper receivers has increased significantly over the last few years. Whether you are looking for an ambi side charge upper or a right hand side-charge upper, Joe Bob Outfitters has you covered. We even offer a full selection of billet side charge uppers for your next build and one of these may be just the thing you are looking for to improve the performance of your current platform.

Should you go with a side charging upper for your next build? Here are some pros and cons of side charging AR15 uppers so you can decide if it may be something for you to try on your next build.


  • Easier to use for shooters who feel that rear charging uppers are uncomfortable or awkward
  • Easier to for new shooters to learn to use
  • Faster charging and clearing of rifle with less movement while allowing the shooter to keep primary hand on the rifle grip
  • Allows shooter to maintain cheek weld and stay on target while charging/clearing
  • Quicker and easier ergonomics (for shooters who aren’t already use to the standard AR15 charging handle)
  • Less gas in shooter’s face because the rear opening is completely closed


  • Cost of AR15 side charging upper receivers is higher than standard rear charging uppers because of the lower production numbers
  • Not the best choice for left-handed shooters (non-reciprocating chargers only). Some reciprocating side-chargers, however, do have right/left/both side handles. These are known as ambi side charge uppers.
  • Reciprocating chargers tend to hit anything in the way during operation (including the shooter’s thumb)
  • Side charging uppers without dust covers allow excess debris into the rifle
  • Many side charging uppers require modifications to the bolt carrier

As you can see, there are some significant benefits to choosing a side charging upper receiver for your next AR build, but side chargers aren’t for everybody. If you would like to learn more about the side charging uppers we offer, Contact Us or call 785-639-7121 today.