The Complete Guide to Side Charging AR-15 & AR-10s

side charging ar
June 25, 2021 Edited June 4, 2024 38089 view(s)
The Complete Guide to Side Charging AR-15 & AR-10s

M4s and AR-15s have become beloved by the military and civilians alike in recent years. This centers around their quality performance, budget-friendly options, low recoil and ease of use, and readily available ammo. The AR-15 design created in 1956 by Eugene Stoner has remained mostly unchanged until very recently! In just the last 20 years new calibers have been released on the AR-15 platform. Some of these brand-new options include the popular 300 Blackout, straight-walled 350 Legend, and the hunting and range friendly 6.5 Grendel. Recently, AR manufacturers have been pushing the limits of innovation on the AR-15’s design by implementing improvements to the mil-spec rear charging handle of the M4 carbine with side charging and ambidextrous charging handle options. In this article we focus on the benefits side charging AR-15s offer and common questions about this charging style. You can find complete uppers, complete pistols, and complete rifles all featuring this beneficial new design!


Benefits of a Side Charging Upper

Side Charging Upper

Ergonomics and Look

Similar to an AK-47, side charging ARs are typically right side charging and right side ejecting rifles. This means that unlike a typical AR-15 that requires the user to charge the firearm with the gun away from his/her body, these side charging AR-15s can be charged directly from the shoulder. Many people love the look and feel of a side charging AR-15 or AR-10 as they mimic the AR-47 but offer the accuracy and versatility of the AR platform. After learning the new manual of arms, many users love the ergonomics of a side charger and find the larger handle easier to manipulate than a traditional charging handle.

Side Charging upper with Optic


Use with Optics

Scopes are fantastic optics for AR-15s or AR-10s, however, due to their length and mass, they can often get in the way of pulling back a traditional rear charging handle. Side charging rifles don't have this problem, as the bolt carrier group can be controlled from the side of the firearm, out of the way of any optic!

Side Charging AR-15 Malfunction


Correcting Malfunctions

Malfunctions can happen from time to time in any AR; thankfully, side charging uppers offer unique benefits when it comes to correcting malfunctions in your AR-15! Once again, unlike rear charging AR-15s, side chargers allow for easy manipulation of the BCG while the firearm is still being shouldered. This makes it easy to clear a malfunction quickly and return to firing as soon as possible. For more information on how to clear AR-15 malfunctions watch our YouTube video! 

AR-15 Billets


What are Side Charging AR-15s Made out of?

Bear Creek Arsenal side charging uppers and rifles are manufactured from 7075 aircraft-grade aluminum billets. This means that unlike traditional forged upper receivers, which are stamped into shape in a press, billet upper receivers are cut into shape from a solid piece of aluminum. This allows us full control of the design, look, and feel of the firearm. To increase the strength of billet upper receivers the material is thicker and utilizes more material than their forged counterparts. This makes them extremely strong and durable and only adds a very minimal amount of weight (0.15 oz) to the receiver. See our YouTube video about the weight of each type of receiver for more information.

Side Charging BCG Removal


How do I Remove a Side Charging AR-15 BCG?

Removing a side charging BCG has a few additional steps as compared to the traditional rear charging BCG, but it is still very easily done! Take the upper off of the lower by removing the take-down pins, then unscrew the rear receiver plug. Now use a T25 Torx bit or Allen key to unscrew the side charging handle from the BCG. Finally, pull out the bolt carrier group from the receiver.

To reassemble the side charging upper, simply insert the dowel pin of the side charging handle into the bolt carrier, screw in the handle, and screw in the rear receiver plug until it is tight with the flat side of the screw pointing down.

You will notice that the Gen-2 side charging handle from Bear Creek Arsenal, has two points of contact in the BCG. One in the screw that attaches the handle to the BCG, and the other is a dowel pin that locks in the bolt carrier to prevent rotation and loosening of the screw. Bear Creek Arsenal side charging receivers are reciprocating as the handle is attached to, and moves with, the BCG. 

Rear Receiver Plug


What is The Screw in the Back of My Side Charging Upper?

This is called the rear receiver plug. The rear receiver plug and O-ring is designed to prevent gas from escaping from the receiver and hitting the user in the face. This screw is even more effective than a traditional, rear charging AR-15 at keeping gas from contact with the user, especially when shooting suppressed! The screw has a flat side which is positioned down towards the lower when fully assembled. The receiver plug does not need to be completely tight, rather just as tight as allowed with the flat edge down.


Are Side Charging AR-15s Compatible with Other Mil-spec Components?

Side charging AR-15 complete uppers are compatible with any mil-spec AR-15 lower. Likewise, side charging AR-10 uppers are compatible with AR-10 DPMS Gen-1 Low Profile lowers. Side Charging BCGs can also be used in a rear charging upper once the side charging handle is removed, however, the ejection port cover will not close because there is no indent in the side charging BCG to allow for this. Rear charging bolt carrier groups will fit in a side charging receiver but have no way to be pulled back to load the first round.

As you might have noticed, side charging AR-10s and AR-15s do not feature a forward assist; this is because it is not needed as the handle acts as a forward assist if necessary. 

Side Charging Rifle


Final Shots

Side Charging AR15s and Side Charging AR10s are fantastic innovations to the semi-automatic firearm world. Not only are they easier to use with optics and clear malfunctions, but they also have a unique look and feel to them that many rifle users fall in love with! Here at Bear Creek Arsenal we offer a huge variety of side charging ARs, including both AR-15 and AR-10 rifles, pistols, and complete upper assemblies. 

Comment your favorite aspect of side charging uppers or any questions you still have about AR-style rifles. Make sure to check out our YouTube channel as well, which has tons of helpful guides, product demonstrations, and comparisons to help you find, shoot, and maintain your dream AR-15.


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Kelly Webb
June 26, 2021
Side charging is ideal for our purposes and preferred. Hope to see the industry embrace it. Awaiting aftermarket products to appear. Already seeing a few. BCA thanks for being an industry leader in this industry changing innovation.
Side Chargers
June 30, 2021
Too bad BCA has no replacement side charging BCGs; hasn't had them in months.
Richard Junkins Jr
July 1, 2021
I still have a Gen 1 side charging upper. Didn’t realized y’all discontinued the trade-in promotion until I went to pull it from my wishlist. Any hopes it will make a comeback?
July 2, 2021
Never say never but as of right now there are no plans.
Dave Douglas
August 7, 2021
I have both the Gen 1 and Gen2, I also wasn't able to get in on the upgrade in time. I trudge on hoping the upgrade will be offered again and as time passes I learn to hate the Gen 1; but not nearly as much as the rattle rear charger.
Lonnie Elden Jackson
July 1, 2021
Absolutely amazing products
Jon Shively jr
July 1, 2021
Never owned a side charging ar15
September 14, 2021
bro..... GAME CHANGER!!! (seriously, do yourself a favor and pick one up!)
Matthew Robbins
July 2, 2021
Kalani cruz
July 2, 2021
Awesome innovation
Gary K
July 4, 2021
Hi folks. what is the torque value to re-tighten the side charger screw? in inch pounds or foot pounds please.? don't want to over tighten and snap it off. And with all the recoil cycles, it can add extra stress so knowing that torque value is important. also the availablity of buying extra charger hooks and screws. Id change out that screw ever few hundred rounds. they can't cost that much for a bag of those. How about it? sound like a plan.?
July 12, 2021
Hey Gary, there is no torque value for the side charging handle screw; just hand tighten it and you should be good to go. Right now we don't sell the screws individually, but if you ever have an issue with yours we will be happy to replace it through our warranty program.
July 26, 2021
If you have a W.W. Granger locally they can supply you with the correct bolt. If not find out the diameter, grade and T.P.I (threads per inch) and you can order them online from Granger. Hope this helps you.
ol roy
July 4, 2021
Im left sided and its way better than mil speck
Russell Sullivan
September 9, 2021
Do you mean to say that you purchased a side charging upper which is designed to be operated with the left hand? Or, you have the right side charging upper, but you are left handed? I am left handed, and I mistakenly ordered a right side charging upper
July 4, 2021
Would be great. I always add an extended latch to my charging handle s and it's just something to be in the way most of the time.
Darrell Dutsch
July 4, 2021
Awesome stuff! New ideas!
July 4, 2021
July 4, 2021
Love side chargers
July 5, 2021
Love my side charge
Russell Hajek
July 8, 2021
Just bought two 80% lowers for AR-15 can you recommend upper w bolt carrier side charge options to complete and whatever other parts needed.
July 8, 2021
Didn't do the trade in, I like the Gen1 handle better, friend has the gen2, don't like the feel.
Jeffrey Snodie
July 12, 2021
I love both of my side charging uppers. Positive feel on the bolt. Can maintain target acquisition when chambering a round. Less moving parts is always better.
Jeff Franks
July 12, 2021
I love being able to run all functions without ever taking my eye off scope
July 13, 2021
I have both gen 1 and 2 gen one gives me that old classic rifle feeling like ww2 guns the other a modern newer feel it’s solid ????????❤️????
July 14, 2021
July 14, 2021
I love Bear Creek Arsenal Side Charging uppers. So much better than rear chargers. I sell their brand on
July 15, 2021
I just picked up a side charge 7.62x39 and put it on a palmetto lower with a Franklin binary trigger running C- product mags.. and I absolutely LOVE it
July 16, 2021
Please Bring back gen 1 or option to buy gen1. I don't like the look or feel of the gen 2. But love the side charging over milspec for sure.
July 16, 2021
Purchased a couple of side charging. Love them!
Michael Anthony
July 19, 2021
side charging handles are cool, i got one but not thinking about it much got it on a right sided upper.. i see in your article for some shooters this introduced a technique im sure most hunters are familiar with to chamber a round if the cycle and mag swap doesnt happen perfect. personally i immediately felt like it was on the wrong side and autopilot turned off as my brain turned back on to realize i had to do something different than i was ingrained. later i saw a few you offered on left side uppers and was very interested in that because i wouldn't have to adjust my technique much.. (its autopilot dude i cant even mag swap with my right hand without having to think about it, but with my left its already done like i never ran out of ammo.) on the flip side i can see this as being a HUGE upgrade for left handed shooters.
George s
July 21, 2021
I Love my bear creek arsenal side charging handle 223/556 can’t wait to order a 7.62x39
Ryan Mareno
July 24, 2021
I love my 2 side charging 7.62x39s
Terry Denman
July 28, 2021
Set up my first side charging upper on my 7.62 last year. Looks and works great. Just purchased another. Decided to do some changes, found that whoever assembled it beat the hell out of the roll pin on the gas block. I tried to loosen the barrel nut and I couldn't move it. Working on sending it and another one back for warranty. Hope I can get this worked out, we'll see. Bear Creek is normally great.
August 1, 2021
Would like to see more calibers like 5.7 and 5.45. Please expand your offerings.
Colton Bollinger
January 24, 2024
+1 Plus, 17 mach II; which is just a .17 barrel (a la the .17 HMR barrels they already have), with different chamber (22LR size) And... .17 WSM A bit more work, but should be able to be done by scaling down a 5.56 NATO operating system. I would buy all these, just on cool factor alone! ????
Robert West
August 5, 2021
I too have a Gen 1 side charging upper in 7.62x39 and like to know if there is any option for converting to a Gen 2?
Wesley Scott
August 13, 2021
Didn't find out about the gen 2 upgrade plan until, like 30 minutes ago. From a YouTube video. Not even on the blog. I got excited, then learn here that it's no longer a thing. Would've loved to have had the opportunity to switch out.
August 24, 2021
All 4 of my AR's sport BCA side charge uppers. As I shoot left handed (blind in right eye) it allows me to keep my left hand on the grip while actuating the bolt with my right. My favorite use is as a straight pull bolt on my AR 300HAMR. The added accuracy and muzzle velocity from blocking the gas port is significant and the gun stays cleaner. It's also 3x faster than a conventional bolt. While I love my M1A SOCOM, it's heavy and not especially accurate. A side charge .308 may wean me away from the SOCOM if I ever feel confident that I can get a significant weight reduction with reliable results.
Chris Sarbo
September 27, 2021
I have several BC side charging AR’s, most recently 7.62x39 with 16” barrel and carbine gas system. I will prob put some kind of brake/comp on it but I was wondering if there is specific set up that the engineers find run best in a mil-spec lower? A spring and buffer weight combo. I read somewhere that H3 works best for recoil mitigation. I am more concerned with proper ejection and the gun running smooth and steady. Please Advise.
September 27, 2021
We use a standard, carbine, buffer and spring here, and that works well. As far as recoil mitigation, that is based on the individual needs as not everybody has the same reaction to recoil, and will need to be tested at the user level. Hope that helps.
Don W
September 30, 2021
With regards to the right handed, side charging uppers - I shoot left handed, would I encounter issues with brass to the face or will the charging handle act as the deflector?
October 1, 2021
The side charging handle serves as a shell deflector if needed. Watch some of our videos and YouTube and you'll see the cases hitting it and deflecting away. Everyone's experience can vary a bit, however. Hope that helps!
October 10, 2021
I love My side charger, and My rear charging ar, but it would be nice if someone would design n build a picatinny mounted charging port cover.
Johnny Kennedy
November 3, 2021
First off, I'm fairly new to AR's but I've been a long range rifleman and hunter for years. I usually do all the work on my rifles Having some problems and I need some advice/help. Got my BCA Side Charging upper (.223 Wylde, 20" Stainless barrel, 1-8t, Rifle Length Gas system and 15" M-LOK) and then ordered a Presma AR-15 Mil-Spec Buffer Kit. Lower is a SPD, LLC Mil-Spec. I mated the upper to the lower (with stock) and rifle with fire once but will not eject fired case. If I cycle the action by hand, empty case ejects (is not hot?!), another feeds from the mag and it's ready to go again. What could the problem be? buffer/spring, gas tube?
November 4, 2021
There is probably an issue with your gas system. You can create a warranty claim at If you would like to talk to one of our techs you can send an e-mail to We are here for you.
Kevin Daniel Wilcox
March 18, 2022
I had the same problem I was doing the breaking. The first 10 maybe 15 rounds ran flawlessly and then issues started happening stovepipe jams just a whole bunch of stuff that involve my gas system or buffer wasn't sure which one started playing around with different buffers and stuff come to find out the gas block wasn't even attached it was moving forward and backward so every time I pulled the trigger it would jump until eventually it went all the way forward and it became a bolt action rifle
November 11, 2021
Do y’all have nickel boron coated BCG for side charging upper?
November 15, 2021
Not at this moment we do not . Check out our wide stock of barrels -
November 16, 2021
Reinventing the wheel again with more parts, less compatability, as a side charging bcg will go into a rear charged upper, but has no way to load first round. Kinda thought the first round might be a little useful at times. Stone age, but sticking with rear pull.
May 21, 2022
If you swap the side charge BCG into a milspec receiver,you would install the rear charge handle. The only difference in the carrier is two small holes.
November 22, 2021
Do you sell replacement charging handle mine came off when hunting and lost it
November 23, 2021
Send an email to and they can help you out!
Jimmy Honaker
January 6, 2022
Can you use a side charge upper on any ar 15 someone told me you couldn't without certain modifications
January 7, 2022
Yes, our side charging uppers can be used with a MILSPEC cut AR15 lower.
Jim Grimes
April 29, 2022
Can I purchase a 2nd. generation handle only part for my bcg.
May 6, 2022
Unfortunately we do not currently have that in stock.
James Reed
July 18, 2022
Will you ever offer the Chargers uppers with BCG Strip for A.R. 15’s and AR 10. I have 3 or more of the no 1 can they be changed to the newer version two. I love your product
Jason Long
October 14, 2022
What torque lbs. do I use on the bolt that secures the know to the BCG? It keeps coming loose, can I use thread locker as well?
October 30, 2022
Just make sure that you use the BLUE locker and very little at that. (some shooters use the Green but i never have) Let it set up/cure for 20-24 hrs. and you should be good to go
Jim Grimes
January 10, 2023
Can I purchase a gen 2 handle for my ar 15 platform?
Sean Fadely
January 15, 2023
Wish the B. A. D. lever or similar would work with your side chargers!
Robert Bright
January 18, 2023
So I guess I have a Gen 1 side charging upper. It has no threads to accept your threaded receiver plug. I know I can keep a conventional charging handle in the upper but I bought this to get away from that. Plus, it looks ridiculous as so many people have pointed out to me. Its to bad you do not a have a fix for this or trade in deal to remove this inferior product from the shooting world. A product that has your company name and logo so proudly displayed on its self. I'm so tired of buying an item then have to fix it. Is there anyway this can be remedied short of buying another upper? There must be away. Thank you for your time.
Lawrence Campuirciani
January 19, 2023
I have an upper with a 20-inch barrel and 1/7 twist in5.56. Its great shooting off the mat at 300 plus yards. Very easy to load and feed laying down using a scope and bipod. I also have a shorter upper with 16-inch barrel, I find the side charge very convenient. Great innovation, great prices, excellent customer service.
Mike Y
February 12, 2023
I have a 7.62x39 side charging upper from you, will it work with an Aero Precision enhanced buffer tube? The buffer tube has rails inside for the bcg to ride on. Will it work?
Joseph Romano
February 13, 2023
Anyone built an upper using the BCA handguards and barrel nut? Looking for the wrench for the barrel nut so I can torque it correctly.
February 21, 2023
Can someone PLEASE point me to the instructions for how to properly strip the BCG on the 22lr side charger? I cannot find any information on how to remove the extractor for cleaning. They skip right over that part on their Youtube video where they had the perfect chance to explain it.
Benjamin W Bauer
March 5, 2023
What is the best fix for a side charge handle that keeps coming loose? I am really not a fan off the regular thread instead of reverse threads.
Aaron Zavala
April 23, 2023
Can I still shoot my 6.5 Creedmoor without the rear plug ?? My Bear Creek Arsenal upper doesn’t close snug to my Aero Precision lower receiver unless I unscrew the plug
James Wall
April 14, 2024
I had the same problem. I ended up filling just a hair off the flat part of the screw and was able to close it up, it's tight, but hey, tight is good.
Steven Frenzel
May 2, 2023
BCA, This is called the rear receiver plug. The rear receiver plug and O-ring is designed to prevent gas from escaping from the receiver and hitting the user in the face. Ok i get it but why is the hole opening there? No issue just curious.
Gregory Arrambide
May 10, 2023
I have cycling issues been trying to figure out how to fix. If someone could help I would forever grateful.
May 16, 2023
Bca side charger for my home defence is a great cost-effective way to keep my home safe if needed i upgraded a few parts like the bolt head and gas block and tube,, 1x7 twist shoots nice heats up kinda quick ,after 30 rounds at the range,but for what the cost is and ables me to get in a side charger
Dave Vogt
July 10, 2023
I’m looking for a LEFT SIDE charging handle Do you have any available ?
Larry Nichols
September 13, 2023
I bought two 223/556 side charging uppers with bcg's. It would be great if a BCA 22lr side charge bcg would work in their 223/556 uppers like CMMG's 22lr conversion bcg works in rear charging uppers.
Brian Roe
September 22, 2023
I use my firearms for hunting - not for the "coolness" factor at the gun range. I also live in one of those states that allow/ require a certain size straight wall cartridge in order to use a rifle to hunt deer. I have the BCA right side charging; .350 Legend; 20" non fluted, parkerized, heavy barrel - complete upper for this purpose. It is great for blind hunting. No so much for stalk hunting (too heavy, too long). I am not a fan of the M4 barrel profile. I am a fan of the heavy barrel profile. I do not care either way about fluting. I DO care about the "flash" from an uncoated stainless steel barrel -or- the "flash" from a coated barrel that has uncoated fluting. Again, I am a hunter. I do not want to "flash" my presents to wildlife. My request - Please produce a right side charging; .350 Legend; 16" fluted or not fluted, 100% parkerized or black nitride coated, heavy barrel - complete upper. Thank you for your consideration.
BCA Customer
November 10, 2023
I know it's probably already answered but what size is the o-ring on the bolt retaining screw? Thank you
Billy Courson
November 21, 2023
When I order a 16” barrel does it have to be a certain one or will any work on the right side charge upper I ordered?
November 22, 2023
It depends on the caliber of the barrel. For instance, if you have a 5.56 Nato, .223 Wylde, .300 Blackout, or .350 Legend the BCG is interchangeable, but other calibers you would need a different BCG as the bolts are different. The BCGs for the AR10 line are all the same, so you could swap a barrel and be fine. Which upper do you have and which barrel are you wanting?
Can I use an ambient charging handle on a side charging upper?
December 1, 2023
Have a .22lr conversion that only allows for ambi charging. I have it in my bca room ghtside charging upper and have to charge the first round with a ???? in the side of the bcg. My question is can you use an ambidextrous rear charging handle on your right side uppers?
Jay Cromp
December 6, 2023
How would a side charging handle effect a left hand shooter? I currently shoot both an rear charged AR15 & 10 left handed.
December 26, 2023
i bought one a couple years ago and have not used it much because of how loud the bolt is when it charges. loud clank forward. maybe there is something wrong with mine but i thought it would be about the same as a traditional bolt but this one sounds like it is trying to destroy itself. cycles fine though, think it jammed 1 time on a cheap wolf round
January 7, 2024
Does BCA make a upper vice mount to clamp the side charge uppers which do not hold the same specs as a standard rear charge mil spec upper? What is the easiest way to install a hand guard on a BCA side charge upper?
Jason Martin
January 26, 2024
Bought my first gen2 sidecharging upper when they first released it in 6.5 grendel- now have somewhere close to 35! Now I only have 8 rear charging & 4 are 9mm,the rest are just for training- just to stay familiar with standard m4.But the gen2's are the way to go- even in the really short barrel lengths. We have a couple 7.5" length uppers & whether you use suppressed or not the sidecharging upper just works better.Every time I have them at the range everyone has to try them out& I have yet to get a negative comment about them. Of course they are great with scopes but I have a couple set up with red dots & irons and work great! The lefty sidecharging upper is great too,my wife has a lefty 6.5 grendel that shoots dime size groups at 300yds with a m4 cut barrel& a Hawke 4x12x50!Anyways you get the picture- I'm more than a little hooked on BCA gen2 uppers! Capt J
Larry Staton
February 19, 2024
May be listed somewhere but Can you install a rear charging handle on the side charging so you have dual charging?
william watson
April 1, 2024
There's a good Reason why they sale out FAST ! The best thing sense the wheel .
Michael Olszta
April 1, 2024
I have purchased the following from BCA: .223 Wylde Right Side Charging Upper | 16” Parkerized M4 Barrel | 1:7 Twist | Carbine Length Gas System | 15” MLOK .308 Forged Upper | 20” Black Nitride Heavy Barrel | 1:10 Twist | Rifle Length Gas System | 15” MLOK Split Rail 6.5 Creedmoor, 24” Stainless Straight Fluted Heavy Barrel, 1:8 Twist, Rifle Length Gas System, 17” MLOK Split Rail|Side Charging 6.5 Grendel, 20" Stainless Heavy Barrel, 1:8 Twist, Rifle Length Gas System, 15" MLOK Split Rail|Side Charging Upper All are accurate and well made. My really strong wish is for BCA to make a 6.5 Creedmoor 18" Side Charging Upper. I'd buy one of the rear charging models but so enjoy the side charging that I hope BCA sees this request and starts making the requested 18" heavy barrel side charging 6.5 creedmoor preferably in black nitrided barrel. I'[m learning more about this caliber including reloading for it and see why so many competition shooters are using this caliber. .308/7.62 is great as is .223/5.56. But these 6.5's really seem to nail the best of all the cartridges .30 caliber and down. I'll probably get the 6 ARC later on but the 6.5 Creedmoor as described is a very strong desire. I'll continue to wait for BCA to make and sell these. I'm a very happy customer.
Joe Vetrano
June 3, 2024
How is the best way to break in your barrel 6mm arc?
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