The Subtle Art of Ambi Controls
By Nathan Mitchell
One of the new hotness topics that is out there is the full ambi controls on your AR15. What does this even mean? This means the charging handle, safety selector, bolt release and magazine release are all able to be manipulated on both sides of the rifle. Oh cool, that seems neat. Some of this is useful and some of it is more hassle than it should be in my opinion. Please let me elaborate. Just for a disclaimer I am a right-handed shooter, so this is in my right-handed opinion.
I’m starting with the easy one here. Being able to manipulate this with both hands is amazing. I always am curious why all rifles don’t come with them. I mean how often do we use the charging handle anyway? Most of the time it’s going to be during a malfunction, to lock the bolt back, check for a chambered round, or to get the round chambered. All these situations can benefit from being able to operate with options of the right or left hand. Some of those situations can even save your life getting the issue solved as quickly as possible. I think the mechanisms on most ambi charging handles work better too.
This is a no brainer as well. We are not all delta operators, and our fingers are not our safety. If you are training with a rifle, you should be shooting on and off hand. Being able to flip the switch no matter what position you have the rifle in makes for a safer range. I use my thumb to go into the fire position and then use my index to flip it back to safe. I find it too much movement to use my thumb to go back to safe. It also puts my hand in a bad spot to get back on the trigger and off safe again if something pops up. That’s more tactical shooting where fractions of a second count.
Now we get into something that is nice to have in certain situations. I would not call this a no brainer by any stretch of the imagination. I also want to say the Gen2 lowers that are coming out soon will have this feature because the benefit outweighed the bad. During normal shooting situations you will never use this button unless your left-handed. Most of the time the bolt is locked back and needs to be released when changing mags and when chambering the first round. When chambering the first round do it however you want, it doesn’t really matter. The mag change is when this all becomes important. Most right-handed shooters use their left hand to change a mag and when the hand jams the mag in you go up and release the bolt on the left side. If you are shooting left hand, then you use your right hand to reload and having the bolt release on the right side just gets you back in the fight that much faster. The key here is it always keeps your strong hand on or near the trigger. I don’t do a lot of reloads while shooting left-handed. I know I need to train it more, but I just do not. I do use it when shooting long range in the prone though. I use a bag under the stock and not having to move that hand to release the bolt helps me stay focused on target and not needing a full readjust after a reload.
Stay with me here. I’m not a fan of these for right-handed shooters. Let me explain before you start thinking of all the companies offering this and assume I’m crazy. Let’s start with the pros here. This gives you the option of dropping the mag with the strong hand while the opposite hand is going for the new mag. This increases the reload speed and gets you back to fighting that much faster weather you are shooting left or right-handed. It keeps the motion the same which helps with muscle memory. Now for the cons. Well, it’s just one con. It’s a big one. When running in kit or when the rifle is slung across the body, I’ve seen people drop a lot of mags on accident. This is because most of these ambi mag releases are not protected like it is on the right side. This to me is a bigger problem than having to push the button on the right side when shooting left-handed. But for argument’s sake let us talk about how to reload when shooting left-handed. Click mag is empty you bring your right hand up to push the button. I like to grab and rip the mag out since its going down anyway. That’s when you grab a new one and slam it in then the hand goes up and hit that bad ass ambi bolt release. Back to work.