What I Love & Hate About Aftermarket AR Carry Handle/Sights

I like a bit of a traditional look in my guns, which is why my AR-15 wears an aftermarket carry handle — specifically the UTG PRO Carry Handle Sight, which retails for $74.97. Oh, I certainly love the electronic optics available today … more on that below. But every now and again it’s just fun to have a carry handle with the integrated sights. Here’s what I love — and hate — about the UTG.

Love: Well-Built and Functional

This carry handle is made in the USA with a 7075-T6 aluminum alloy base. It’s matte black hard-coat anodized, which means it’s strong, light and tough. It’s called a carry handle, but also houses a steel A2 rear sight assembly, allowing for elevation and windage adjustments. Moreover, two aiming apertures allow near- and far-sighting applications. Retention thumb nuts allow for easy clamping, and the rear sight matches up perfectly to a standard front sight. In addition, the sights are easily adjusted utilizing clearly marked knurled dials. I can even manipulate the controls while wearing gloves. If I need to adjust an electronic optic, I have to embark on a more arduous process requiring more manual dexterity — something not always possible even when shooting at the range.

Love: Traditional Look

This is a functional handle and sight, to be sure, but I mostly just enjoy the aesthetics of an AR-15 with a carry handle. Even though red dot and other electronic optics are ubiquitous, there’s just something traditional … nostalgic … old school … about the look of the carry handle. I love the amazing functionality of flat-tops, but they just look like unfinished guns to me. The carry handle completes the look. The weird part is…

Hate: I Virtually Never Carry My AR This Way.

I carry my AR with a two-point sling. In this configuration, the muzzle points straight down and the gun is close to my body where I can deploy it quickly. If it’s not in this position, then my two hands are controlling it. I may be at low ready or I may have the gun up, ready to engage a target. When I’m done shooting, my AR goes right into a rifle bag, unloaded. This helps indicate that it’s unloaded and out of service. I just don’t ever carry it using the carry handle.

Neutral: Not an Electronic Optic

Here’s both a love and hate in the same element: I love the fact that the UTG PRO is not an electronic optic. Although today’s optics are exceptionally tough and reliable, I don’t have to worry about damaging an expensive piece of gear if my rifle gets trashed and thrashed. I don’t have to worry about turning it on and off. I don’t have to worry about the batteries running low or out of power. I don’t have to worry about protecting and cleaning the glass. However, I also don’t have that simple red dot or other aiming reticle available to me, showing the exact point of impact even if my eye isn’t fully aligned with the optic.

Do you have an aftermarket carry handle installed on your AR-15? If so, what do you love (or hate) about it?

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About the author: Mark Kakkuri is a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • singleshotcajun October 20, 2018, 5:27 am

    I hate the term “carry handle”. I’ve seen idiots at a public range muzzle sweeping everyone in the county holding on to a “carry handle” These devices are a great way to protect your rear sight and give you a great sight picture. I have two A2 NM rifles and shoot them in Service Rifle,love an A2 rear sight. The only problem I see in the UTG and in some other makers A2 sights both “carry handle” and rail mounted sans handle is the tendency to lose windage when adjusting elevation. On my UTG’s I feeler gauge the right side to an even gap on both sides then take the sight apart,drill a 1/8 ” blind hole in the upright, install pin ,hone it to length , put everything back together and then have no rotation in windage while adjusting elevation.

    • Robert March 4, 2019, 7:16 pm

      Oh no its the end of the world a keyboard warrior got muzzle swept…

  • Mark Kiernan October 20, 2018, 12:13 am

    I have a carry handle set up on one of my AR’s the reliable simplicity in any environment is my reasoning, as far as a carry handle it’s useless because my knuckles don’t fit through the opening, but it’s rifle and not a suitcase and you can’t reach the trigger from there anyway.

  • Jon Lewis October 19, 2018, 8:42 pm

    Having carried an M16A1 for mostdt of my military carrer and shooting competition withit also, I never liked the A2 style sights or rifle for that matter.

  • Edgar October 19, 2018, 6:11 pm

    Dont know why you call it a “carry handle”. Thoe original was sufficiently large to use as a “carry-handle”. But the new detachable handle serves only to house the rear sight. Unless you have ultra-small little girl hands…. your hand is not going to fit in the carry handle. Its boils down to a very large detachable rear sight….. little more. If thats the “look” your going for…. then great for you. This is supposed to be fun, so put whatever you want on it and enjoy yourself

  • Dean MCCollom October 19, 2018, 12:04 pm

    What you are referring to as a carry handle is actually a vestige of the guard for the charging handle on stoners original .308 AR design.

  • Michael October 19, 2018, 10:59 am

    Viet Nam jungles late 60’s. Resupply 60 ammo can in left hand and carry handle of 16 in right, making sure to stay close to ground cover, while moving forward. Moving quick and staying low, 16 could be easily carried and slung forward quick enough to grab grip and squeeze off defensive auto bursts. No sighting. No need. Not pretty. Just necessary…..and worked.

  • AJ October 19, 2018, 9:36 am

    I can’t speak for everyone but we weren’t even allowed to carry our weapons by the carry handle… Like ever.

    The carry handle was however very practical for it’s time, and even today in some aspects. As you said sir, a practical use rifle CAN be subjected to being thrashed around. The carry handle gave the Iron sights a high level of rigidity. And while optics and BUIS can most times be used interchangeably and effectively on a practical platform, this added rigidity would be paramount on a survival-use rifle. Foldable BUIS, glass, and battery operated glass can become damaged or inoperable in a split second. And while a rifle with no sights can still throw lead, it may not or will not allow you to conserve ammo with proper shot placement.

  • john hornby October 19, 2018, 8:36 am

    I like iron sites or good 1.5 x 4.5 scope ! There is no battery going flat or breaking down when you need them. It seems everyone has IDEAS on this subject !

  • DAN III October 19, 2018, 8:16 am

    FYI….the hole in the handle center IS for mounting optics ! I run a Trijicon TA-47 on my ARmalite’s GI carry handle.

  • akjc77 October 19, 2018, 7:42 am

    I love em both ways which is why the flat top uppers were such an improvement, now you Can have it either way. I never have issue with losing zero when I swap them out. So it’s all about the mood Im in, cannot beat the carry handle look! But I never carry my rifle by the handle.

  • Ron Guziejka October 19, 2018, 6:42 am

    It comes down to what you like, I spent two tours in Nam carrying a GI issues M16, it saved my life on a few occasions
    so I have a close relationship with the AR platform. AR’s without a carry handle look unfinished to me,thought I have a couple in the flat top configuration. I do have a hard time squeezing my big head down enough to use the iron sights on a flat top.
    the carry handle sights work better for me. and it’s easy to switch red dots off and on the carry handle. I have to admit I never use the carry handle to carry the gun. It doesn’t work in USPSA or IDPA competitions.

  • David Hartford October 19, 2018, 5:48 am

    I agree with your first part. From all my years in the Army I have always enjoyed the challenge of iron sights!

  • Rangemaster11B October 19, 2018, 3:36 am

    I don’t believe I ever really used the carry handle on my M16.

  • Dr Motown October 18, 2018, 8:01 am

    You didn’t know any of this before you clamped the device on your rail? It’s pretty obvious what carry handles can and can’t do for an AR….

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