Detachable vs Fixed Carry Handle For AR-15: Weighing Your Choices

Posted by Matt Rice on Mar 29th 2023

Detachable vs Fixed Carry Handle For AR-15: Weighing Your Choices

Detachable vs Fixed Carry Handle For AR-15: Weighing Your Choices

The AR-15 rifle has long been celebrated for its customization options. One of the most notable choices to make is between a fixed carry handle and a detachable carry handle. Your decision will ultimately depend on your preferences and shooting needs. For a classic, historical design, the fixed carry handle is the way to go, while the detachable option offers greater flexibility for tactical shooting and sighting systems.

Fixed Carry Handles: Traditional and Charming

Fixed carry handles cannot be removed as they come attached to the receiver. While they may be considered obsolete by modern military standards, they still hold appeal for gun enthusiasts who appreciate their:

  • Historical significance
  • Traditional appearance

Detachable Carry Handles: Versatile and Customizable

detachable carry handle

Detachable carry handles, on the other hand, provide versatility, allowing for the attachment and removal of various sighting systems as needed. Users often prefer them due to their:

  • Replaceability
  • Upgradability
  • Enhanced customization

However, it's wise to note that not all detachable carry handles are created equal. Commercial-spec options might be of lesser quality compared to military-spec products.

In the end, the choice between fixed and detachable carry handles boils down to your personal preference and the intended use of your AR-15 rifle.

History of AR-15 Carry Handles: A Journey Through Time

The history of AR-15 carry handles is an intriguing one, taking us back to the M-16A1 rifle, where the carry handle was most commonly found. This fixed carry handle also appeared on other famous models like the XM-177.

The A1 Carry Handle: The Original

The original carry handle, known as the A1 carry handle, featured:

  • A windage-adjustable rear sight
  • Front sight elevation adjustments
  • An L-shaped sight aperture with two different aperture options

As the design evolved, newer models like the M-16A2 and M-16A4 introduced improvements to the rear sight, offering both windage and elevation adjustments for better accuracy and versatility.

From Fixed to Detachable Carry Handles

Fixed carry handles generally provided users with a reliable built-in sight, while detachable carry handles added the versatility of choosing different sight options for shooters. With the rise of flat-top rifles as the new standard, detachable rail-mount carry handles emerged for those who still preferred their sights mounted high.

The Decline of Carry Handles

Over time, fixed carry handles became obsolete from a military perspective due to the limitations they posed on customization and modern sighting systems. Detachable carry handles have also fallen out of general military use, primarily because users now have access to superior alternatives, such as:

  • Low-profile sights
  • Optic mounts

The history of AR-15 carry handles shows the evolution of sighting systems and highlights the importance of adaptability in the world of firearms. Today's modern sighting systems offer greater flexibility, accuracy, and customization options, making them the preferred choice for most shooters. However, the legacy of carry handles remains a testament to the ongoing development and refinement of the AR-15 platform. As firearm technology continues to advance, it will be fascinating to see what new innovations emerge to meet the ever-changing needs of shooting enthusiasts.

Fixed Carry Handle AR-15: A Classic Design with Pros and Cons

The fixed carry handle AR-15 is a classic design that has been used since the inception of the modern sporting rifle. Although removable carry handles have become more popular in recent years, fixed carry handles still have their place in the AR-15 world. Let's discuss their advantages and disadvantages.

Pros: Durability, Simplicity, and Cost-Effectiveness

  • Inherent durability: As an integral part of the upper receiver, a fixed carry handle is less likely to loosen or accidentally fall off during use, ensuring a more stable and reliable platform for shooting. Additionally, the fixed carry handle houses the rear sight, which is protected from impact by the handle itself, preventing sight damage or misalignment.
  • Simplicity and cost-effectiveness: With a fixed carry handle, there is no need to purchase a separate rear sight or riser mount, reducing the overall cost of building or customizing an AR-15.

Cons: Lack of Versatility and Added Weight

  • Lack of versatility: One major drawback of a fixed carry handle is its limited versatility compared to a flat-top receiver with an integral Picatinny rail. The fixed carry handle design restricts the user's ability to mount various optics or accessories that have become commonplace on modern tactical rifles.
  • Weight and bulk: Another potential issue is the weight and bulk of the fixed carry handle. Removing the carry handle can help reduce the overall weight of the rifle and provide a more streamlined platform for customization. However, this is not an option with a fixed carry handle, which can be a downside for those looking to build a lightweight or minimalistic rifle.

The fixed carry handle AR-15 offers a classic design with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. While it provides durability, simplicity, and cost-effectiveness, it also lacks the versatility and lightweight nature that many shooters seek in a modern tactical rifle. Ultimately, the choice between a fixed carry handle and a detachable one will depend on your personal preferences, shooting needs, and customization goals.

Detachable Carry Handle AR-15: Pros and Cons

a2 rear sight detachable carry handle

In this section, we'll explore the detachable carry handle option for AR-15 rifles, which allows users to attach and remove the carry handle as needed.

Pros: Versatility, Adaptability, and Ease of Attachment

  • Versatility: Detachable carry handles enable users to easily switch between configurations based on their needs or preferences. For example, they can be removed to accommodate other sighting systems or accessories.
  • Adaptability: Colt's detachable carry handle, used by the military, can be adjusted to fit various shooting scenarios, such as different distances and target sizes.
  • Ease of attachment: Most detachable carry handles can be effortlessly attached and removed from the rifle without any tools, making them highly convenient. The mil-spec Picatinny rail allows for an easy and secure connection.

Cons: Carrying Issues, Obsolescence, and Compatibility

  • Not ideal for carrying: Some detachable carry handles may not be suitable for actually carrying the rifle, as they might lack sturdiness or be difficult to grip comfortably.
  • Obsolete: It has been argued that detachable carry handles have fallen out of general use, with many gun enthusiasts and military forces opting for alternative methods like sling systems.
  • Compatibility: Not all AR-15 models may be compatible with all types of detachable carry handles, so it's essential to check compatibility before making a purchase.

As we continue to explore the world of AR-15 carry handles, remember that both fixed and detachable options have their unique benefits and drawbacks.

Comparing Fixed vs Detachable Carry Handles

When choosing between fixed and detachable carry handles for your AR-15, consider the following factors:

Optics Compatibility


  • Fixed carry handles are attached to the receiver and cannot be removed, limiting the available space for mounting additional optics.
  • Detachable carry handles, on the other hand, can be removed and replaced as needed, offering more options and flexibility to add different sights or scopes to your AR-15 without constraints.


  • The choice between the classic look of a fixed carry handle and the modern, streamlined appearance of a detachable carry handle or a flat-top receiver without any carry handle comes down to personal preference.


  • Fixed carry handles are great options if you plan on using only fixed sights on your AR-15.
  • Detachable carry handles offer more versatility because they can easily be removed and replaced with other aftermarket options, including low-profile backup iron sights. Additionally, a detachable carry handle provides better protection for the rear sight assembly from potential impacts.


  • Both fixed and detachable carry handles require minimal maintenance, but replacing a damaged handle is more manageable with a detachable option.
  • If a fixed carry handle sustains damage or malfunctions, you may need to replace the entire receiver or spend more time and effort fixing the issue, compared to a detachable carry handle that can simply be removed and replaced.

Popular Models and Manufacturers

Fixed Carry Handle Models

Fixed carry handle AR-15 rifles have been popular due to their classic design and original M16 appearance. Some well-known manufacturers producing fixed carry handle models include:

  • Colt - Colt's AR-15 rifles with fixed carry handles feature adjustable front and rear iron sights.
  • ArmaLite - ArmaLite's AR-15A2 and AR-15A4 models come with fixed carry handles and adjustable iron sights for precise aiming.
  • Bushmaster - The XM15-E2S series from Bushmaster features fixed carry handle models, offering the traditional AR-15 look and feel.

Detachable Carry Handle Models

Detachable carry handle AR-15 rifles provide versatility by allowing users to switch between iron sights and various optics types. Popular manufacturers producing detachable carry handle models include:

  • Colt - Colt's AR-15 rifles with removable carry handles also have Picatinny rails, allowing for a wide range of optics and accessories
  • Smith & Wesson - The M&P15 series offers flat-top AR-15 rifles with removable carry handles, providing flexibility for customization.
  • Palmetto State Armory - PSA offers a variety of AR-15 rifles, including those with flat-top designs and detachable carry handles
  • OZARK ARMAMENT - For those looking for a reliable and affordable detachable carry handle option, we offer a mil-spec, no-frills carry handle that serves as a great lower-cost alternative. Designed to fit seamlessly with flat-top AR-15 rifles,our Detachable Carry Handle provides users with a functional and durable option without breaking the bank.

In summary, both fixed and detachable carry handle models have their own advantages and unique designs. Popular manufacturers continue to produce both types, catering to the diverse preferences of AR-15 enthusiasts.

Making the Right Choice for Your Needs

When deciding between a fixed carry handle and a detachable carry handle for your AR-15, consider the intended use and personal preferences. Each option offers unique advantages and disadvantages.

Fixed carry handles provide a durable, low-profile iron sight for improved accuracy. Many shooters appreciate their classic appearance and find that fixed carry handles offer reliable performance under various conditions. Additionally, fixed carry handles can be more robust compared to detachable ones, which may be crucial for some users.

On the other hand, detachable carry handles offer versatility and customization options. They allow users to remove the carry handle easily if it interferes with their preferred optics or other accessories. However, when it comes to carrying the rifle, the carry handle may prove to be less comfortable than other options, such as a two- or three-point sling.

Consider the following factors when making your choice:

  • Intended use - If you prioritize accuracy with iron sights and a classic appearance, a fixed carry handle may be the preferred choice. However, if you prefer using modern optics and switching between accessories easily, a detachable carry handle would be more suitable.
  • Comfort and carrying - Examine your preferred carrying method and evaluate whether the carry handle will be comfortable and practical for your needs. Remember that slings may offer better carrying solutions.
  • Durability - While both fixed and detachable carry handles can be durable, fixed carry handles generally provide more ruggedness because they are permanently attached.

Taking these factors into account will help you make an informed choice that best suits your preferences and requirements.

Final Thoughts

When considering fixed vs. detachable carry handle AR-15s, there are a few factors to weigh. The fixed carry handle provides a classic and streamlined look, along with the protection it offers to the rear sight assembly. On the other hand, the removable carry handle allows for more customization and the ability to add different sighting options to your rifle.

Ultimately, your choice between a fixed or detachable carry handle will depend on your personal preferences and intended use of the firearm. Some shooters prefer the traditional aesthetic and built-in iron sights that a fixed carry handle provides, while others might prioritize customization and modularity offered by the detachable handle's flat-top platform.

To make an informed decision, it's essential to consider the intended application of your AR-15, such as target shooting, hunting, or home defense, and your preferences for sighting systems. By weighing these factors, you can find the right balance between form and function for your specific needs.

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Q: What is an AR15 carry handle, and what is its primary function?

A: An AR15 carry handle is a detachable or integral handle located on the top of the AR15 rifle's upper receiver. Its primary function is to allow the user to easily carry the rifle. Additionally, the carry handle often features a built-in rear sight, which can be used for aiming when paired with the rifle's front sight. It's a popular accessory among AR15 enthusiasts and is often associated with the classic "M16" military-style design.

Q: How do I install a detachable carry handle on my AR15?

A: Installing a detachable carry handle on an AR15 is a straightforward process. First, ensure that your AR15 has a Picatinny rail on the upper receiver. Next, align the carry handle's mounting brackets with the corresponding slots on the rail. Once in place, use the carry handle's built-in thumbscrews or bolts to securely fasten it to the rail. Be sure to tighten the screws or bolts evenly to ensure a stable fit. It's always a good idea to double-check the alignment of the carry handle with the rifle's front sight for accuracy.

Q: Can I use optics with my AR15 carry handle?

A: Yes, you can use optics with an AR15 carry handle. Some carry handles feature a built-in Picatinny rail on the top, allowing you to mount an optic directly onto the carry handle. Alternatively, there are carry handle scope mounts designed to attach to the carry handle and provide a stable platform for mounting optics. These mounts are a popular choice for those who want the versatility of using both iron sights and optics on their AR15 rifle.

Q: Are there different types of AR15 carry handles, and how do I choose the right one for my rifle?

A: There are two main types of AR15 carry handles: integral and detachable. Integral carry handles are built into the upper receiver of the rifle and cannot be removed. Detachable carry handles can be easily installed and removed from the upper receiver's Picatinny rail. When choosing a carry handle, consider factors such as your rifle's design, your preferred shooting style, and your budget. Additionally, look for carry handles made from durable materials like aluminum to ensure longevity and reliability.

Q: Are there any disadvantages to using an AR15 carry handle?

A: While AR15 carry handles offer convenience and a classic aesthetic, they can have some disadvantages. One potential downside is that the carry handle may limit the mounting space available for optics and other accessories on the upper receiver's rail. Additionally, some shooters may find that the height of the carry handle affects their shooting posture and sight picture. However, these disadvantages can often be mitigated by using carry handle mounts or adapters designed to accommodate optics and accessories. Ultimately, it's a matter of personal preference and shooting style.

Article Written By Matt Rice, Owner Operator of OZARK ARMAMENT 

Matt Rice is the founder and owner operator of OZARK ARMAMENT. He started the company in 2016 with a vision to bring quality, affordable firearm accessories to every person who wants to improve their shooting experience. With his dedication to providing old-school customer service and his attention to detail in the development and manufacturing of gear, Matt has helped OZARK ARMAMENT become a respected name in the firearm accessories industry.

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