Owners of the more traditional version of AR rifles - the ones with permanently attached carry handles - are a bit handicapped in terms of installing adequate optics. Machining tolerances for mounting rails are another issue. The increased height of the rifle is yet another obstacle in the way of getting a little bit more accuracy out of an AR.
Quick Take: Best Carry Handle Scope Mounts
Here are our suggested carry handle scope mounts:
- Global Gear AR-15 Carry Handle Z Mount
- Leupold Mark 4 AR-15/M16 Carry Handle Mount
- UTG AR-15 Carry Handle Rail Mount
Special Needs of the Carry Handle Mounts
The different tolerances of mounting rails often lead to a changed point of impact. The rails can shift in the groove of the carry handle. The differences mean your scope may be a fraction off - which at 100 yards is a significant issue.
Another drawback is the height of installed optics. The raised position enables the shooter to keep the iron sight functionality of a standard carry handle. But it also compels the marksman to elevate the head position unnaturally in order to get a good sight picture. The carry handle mounts already make a pretty tall rifle, especially when a 30-round magazine is in place. They can practically disable the shooter when in the prone position. Consequently, the scope mounted so high often causes canting of the weapon - which in turn becomes a significant accuracy problem.
All in all, the most significant gripe that comes with an AR carry handle mount is that the scope is mounted so high. It forces the bullet trajectory into a rainbow pattern since the barrel is about 2 1/2" lower than the scope. As most of us know, the scope should generally be mounted as low as possible to the bore of the rifle. That way, the flight path of the bullet will be close to the crosshairs of the scope.
The "flat top" AR is more suited to the full range of sights and scopes. But the carry-handle design is robust, strong, and still offers a rigid platform for an optic or some other aiming device. The earliest mounts were not stable enough, really. They tended to lose zero after 20-25 rounds. But modern carry-handle mounts use much higher-quality, precision-machined components. This lets them be correctly fitted and adequately secured to the groove in the carrying handle.
Special Types of Mounts
A gooseneck mount or a Z-mount is a longer rail in the form of reverse letter Z. It’s attached to the carry handle groove and extends across the upper receiver to accommodate a red dot or an optic.
It’ll still coexist with the rifle's iron sights. The forward rail is very stable, but it still depends on the fit of the mount to the carry handle, which will vary from one manufacturer to another quite a lot.
Quick Comparison Chart
1. Global Gear AR-15 Carry Handle Z Mount
2. Leupold Mark 4 AR-15/M16 Carry Handle Mount
3. UTG AR-15 Carry Handle Rail Mount
4. Weaver AR-15/M16 Single Rail (SR) Mount System
5. Brownells AR-15/M16 Carry Handle Scope Base
Reviews of the Different Models
Let’s take a look now at some of the most useful scope mounts to use with your AR-15’s carry handle.
Global Gear’s anodized aluminum see-through optic mount lets you place scopes on non-flat top AR-15's with its two levels of rails.
With a total length of 11.22”, a Global Gear`s top rail connects to the hole in the carry handle and the bottom section rests above the barrel. It also features side rails for mounting lights and lasers.
This solid, well-made rail is attached to the carry handle by a knurled knob with holes drilled in it. This will allow you to use a small screwdriver as a lever to tighten the mount.
The Global Gear Z-mount offers a comfortable cheek weld and natural shooting stance. At the same time, it keeps plenty of clearance between the Picatinny rail and the handguard.
One-piece Z-mounts are too long for many smaller optics, so the rest of our reviews will focus on mounts for smaller and compacts sights. The first comes from the reputable American manufacturer of rugged and reliable mounting systems Leupold & Stevens, Inc.
The battle-tested Leupold Mark 4 AR-15 Handle Mount is machined from a single heat-treated aluminum billet for added rigidity and strength. The Mark 4’s base fits into the sight channel of the carry handle. It offers proper support for any riflescope or red dot while allowing extra adjustment space for optimal eye relief. This 4.0" long cross-slot base-mounting platform will accept any Leupold's QRW and PRW rings or "Weaver" cross-slot style rings.
There’s just a single complaint: some shooters complain that the sight hole for the iron sights is partially obstructed by the mounting screw assembly. This can make only the top half of the iron sights visible.
As one of Leapers' products, the UTG Model 4/15 Tactical Rail Mount presents superb mil-spec quality and design for standard weaver rings or military STANAG scope rings. The Leapers UTG offers a simple, "see-through," 5th Generation upper tail system that attaches to the carry handle of any AR-15.
This very affordable metal hardware for the carry-handle style of mount features 12 slots that stretch across a rail 7.68 inches long. It measures a standard 20mm wide to flawlessly fit into the mil-spec AR-15 handle.
The heavy-duty construction secured with a knurled thumbnut makes for a good fit to the AR-15 carry handle. There’s no movement or “return to zero” issues after removal, either.
Another legendary American manufacturer of mounting systems, Weaver Optics offers various sturdy and versatile mounts that easily attach to AR-15 style weapons. Their Single Rail (SR) mount system installs on a carry handle. It measures 5¼" in length and provides optimal mounting height and eye relief.
This carry handle mount is machined from hardened, 6061 extruded aluminum with a hard-anodized finish. This mount is available for A2 carry handle or A4 flattop receivers. Both models feature ten cross-slots and accept all Weaver top-mount style rings.
The lightweight SR mount securely attaches to the carry handle with steel thumbscrews, allowing unobstructed use of the factory sights through the sight tunnel in the handle.
As one of the biggest wholesalers of firearms parts, Brownells also offers their own precision-machined aluminum scope mount for standard AR-15/M-16s with either a detachable or fixed carry handle.
The scope base weighs only 3 oz. and the platform is 7 inches long. This allows you to position the optics for proper eye relief while also delivering solid stability for repeatable accuracy.
This Weaver-style mounting system attaches securely to the top of the carry handle with a single hardened steel stud and knurled nut. It features eight cross-slots that would accept Weaver-style rings. The ‘'see-through'' design allows for the use of the original front and rear metal sights.
Tips for Installing a Carry Handle Mount
Still, when it comes to mount stability and the rigidity advertised by manufacturers, your carry-handle mount may not be as stable as you hope. If your mount shows slight signs of wiggle or shifting in the groove of the carry handle, there are a few tips to help you stabilize disobedient hardware.
In order to get the best possible fit for the rail and minimize the possibility of it shifting, you have a couple choices. You can remove a small layer of metal from the mount using a file or Dremel. Or, you can use some epoxy. Another way would be to glass-bed the mount into the rail with a quality glass-bedding kit.
The right optic is challenging to install reliably atop a carry handle. It requires exceptionally stable mounting, so the best option for most AR-15s is to attach a riflescope directly to the carry handle.
An example of a scope with an integral mount is an expensive ACOG scope. It will fit tightly into the sight channel of the carrying handle, providing the consistent sight picture. You could also install a multi-slot platform that attaches to the carry handle, and then mount your preferred scope and ring set to this platform.
Attaching optics or sights to the carry handle of your AR firearm is not an insurmountable obstacle. It’s often a more affordable option is replacing the upper receiver with a flat top. Plus, many shooters prefer mounting riflescopes on the carry handle to bring the optic closer to eye level when shooting from the shoulder. At the same time, they can use the carry handle sights through the mount channel.
New mount designs and advanced technological processes allow reliable installation of your optics without removing the carry handle. A carry handle mount is not an ideal mount but it’s been made to work for decades. Even today, many accomplished shooters still use carry-handle mounted optics.