The Next Level Armament NLX223 Ambidextrous Charging Handle, made from 7075 aluminum, features two over-sized “ears” that provide a greater surface area to grab onto.
Due to the NLX223’s similar appearance to the AXTS Raptor Charging Handle, I opted to do a side-by-side comparison between the two. (Note: I only had one sample of the NLX223 and NLX308 for this review and multiple Raptors. This review is only based on the sample received for the review. Your experiences may vary.)
At first glance, the NLX223 has a luster black finish while the Raptor has a dull black matte finish. Both have white laser etched logos and writing on the top of the handle. The NLX223 had minor visible tooling marks which do not appear to affect the functionality at all.
The NLX223’s ambidextrous “ears” are larger than the Raptor’s and are evenly sized whereas the Raptor’s are both smaller and the (shooter’s) left side of the charging handle is smaller than the right. Though this will come down to the shooter’s preference, I found that the NLX223’s large “ears”, particularly the left side, as I am a right handed shooter, tends to get caught on kit when slung across the chest.
Both the NLX223 and the Raptor provide similar ambidextrous functionality with two movable “ears” that can operate the charging handle from either side. The NLX223 “ears” appear to operate in tandem, regardless which “ear” is pulled to the rear while the Raptor will only work in tandem when the right “ear” is pulled and the left operates alone when operated normally.
During operation of the NLX223 and the Raptor there is a noticeable difference between the smoothness of the two. The Raptor provides a smooth and quiet operation while the NLX223 seemed to “bind” during operation and produced a minor “squeaking” noise when the right “ear” was used, but not as prominent the left. During a fast “rack” of the charging handle, the squeaking is not readily noticeable.
During “racking” drills, the NLX223 caused some nominal marring on both the lower receiver (area above the buffer tube threads) and the area of the upper receiver where the charging handle slides in and out of. This was caused by the inside bottom of both “ears” as there were mar marks on the charging handle as well. This may or may not be a deal breaker for some.
The NLX223 is available for $80 from Next Level Armament.
Next Level Armament also offers the big brother to the NLX223, the NLX308, which is designed for .308 AR’s. Similar in design and functionality to the NLX223, the NLX308 is available for $90.