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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sintercore Tripwire Charging Handle

I had the good fortune to sit down with Neal Brace, head honcho at Sintercore and mastermind behind the Tripwire charging handle.  I had first seen the handle on The Firearms Blog a few years back, and so it was pretty exciting to sit down with the designer and check out the works.

The first thing you'll notice is a lack of moving parts.  With a simple latch powered by a heavy-duty spring, the Tripwire is robust and simple.  Previously, I had used BCM Mod 4 handles on all my guns.  Those are great handles, but like nearly every gizmo out there for the AR-15, they add weight.  All that tough construction does add weight to the host rifle.

The Tripwire deftly dodges this issue with a minimalist design, with fewer moving parts and complete ambi control.  Most ambidextrous charging handles feature complicated systems to get the charging handle to unlock from the upper receiver regardless of which side of the handle you pull.

The Tripwire's left and right handles are fixed, and do not need to move to unlock the handle.  This is a great benefit to the shooter for a lot of reasons.  The most important reason is that no moving parts reduces the failure points of the system.  Secondly, the fixed handles ensure a smoother charge of the rifle, as they do not move when the shooter grabs them.  It's like charging an M1A or an AK- you have a fixed piece of metal that you pull back on to charge your rifle, not a moving part that must complete an arc of motion before you can begin to move the handle to the rear.

When shooting, the Tripwire stays locked to the receiver as it should.  When I discussed the design with Neal, I mentioned what a new concept the locking latch is, and my concerns about it unlocking from the receiver during firing.  He explained that he went through many different latch designs and springs before finding the right combination that would allow the handle to stay locked at all times except when you need it to unlock when you charge the weapon.

Following the Tripwire's release, several companies got onboard with similar designs with varying degrees of success.  The interesting thing to me is how the industry has shifted in regards to accepting this kind of design.  From the AR pattern rifle's inception, the charging handle had always been a point of contention, and the subject of numerous redesigns.  When I first started shooting, I wanted a larger latch on my handles for a faster "bladed palm" style charge.  After seeing a few handles bent from the abuse of larger latches, I went back to the basics.  I finally gravitated to the BCM handles, and have been happy with them, but also wanted an ambi option.  Most of the ambi handles out there really didn't appeal to me as the increased mass and bulk made me want to go back to my Mod 4's.

When Neal handed me the Tripwire in an envelope, I honestly thought it was empty.  When I took the handle out and held it, it was amazing how light it really was.  I asked him "is this thing really ambi?" He smiled and nodded.

Range Time

After installing the handle on my lightweight AR build, it was time to hit the range.  Before I installed it, Neal cautioned me that certain out of spec uppers would not work with the Tripwire.  I tested it with a PSA upper, a CMMG upper, an Aero Precision upper, and a V7 Weapon Systems upper and the Tripwire worked fine with all of them.

I took my rifle out for a few range sessions to break in the handle and see what I thought.  The Tripwire felt like no other handle I've used.  It locks tight to the upper, with no movement when firing, and unlocks smoothly when you need to charge the weapon or open the action.  With standard handles, there's always that bit of motion of the latch unlocking before the handle moves on the charge.  The Tripwire gives a bit of resistance, much like a good trigger, before unlocking and allowing you to run the bolt.  The fixed "wings" on the handle are great, and you can really wail on them when charging with a bladed hand with no worry that it will fail or your hand will slip off.

The texturing on the handle is aggressive, and provides positive purchase, but is not so aggressive that you feel like you're going to shred your hands.

After confirming the basic functions of the handle, I took my gun out to a low-light carbine course hosted by MDFI.  The Tripwire performed admirably throughout the class, which was a virtual monsoon.  My hands didn't slip off no matter how wet they got, and the Tripwire delivered a smooth, complete charge every time I racked the handle.

In working on this review, I spent quite a bit of time talking with Neal about the design.  He's gone through several different configurations on his quest to make the Tripwire the best product it can be.  It was great to discuss the development of the Tripwire, as well as seeing his commitment to good customer service.  Neal is very genuine when taking care of the customer, and its clear that he is very much in the business of treating customers the way he would like to be treated.  In the unlikely event a customer has an issue with the Tripwire, or any of Neal's other products, he will make it right.

The Tripwire is an excellent option for those looking to shave weight on their AR or looking for a truly custom part for their rifle.  It works as well as it looks, and that's saying something.

Get your Tripwire here.

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