One of the goals I had hoped to achieve during the 2010 SHOT Show was to find a better solution for building side charging AR-15′s. I already have one from Young Manufacturing but to be perfectly honest, the Y/M product is more of an afterthought than something that was designed specifically for this purpose. While Y/M is taking standard components and modifying them to work as a side charging unit, LAR Grizzly has been busy designing a completely new series of side charging upper receivers from the ground up. As you can imagine, I was very pleased when I stumbled upon their display, this past January, and discovered the OPS-4 Upper Receivers.
The OPS-4 line consists of right side, left side, and ambidextrous options as well as the standard flat top, high ride, and high ride light versions. These uppers are available both billet and forged. The two uppers that we are showcasing are flat tops in both the right side and ambidextrous configuration which we used for the build on our Precision Rifle Raffle. The high ride versions are basically the equivalent to adding a riser to the flat top.
The first thing I noticed about these uppers is that there is no place for a rear charging handle. Considering that there is also no need for one, eliminating it altogether just makes sense. Of course, you still need a groove in the upper to allow for the gas key to clear so you can install and remove your bolt carrier group (BCG). LAR Grizzly’s answer for this was to add a thread to the groove and install a plug to keep the BCG from falling out when the upper and lower are separated.
For these kind of side charging uppers, you need to install the charging handles in the BCG. Looking back at the Y/M system, they have taken a standard BCG and modified them for use with handles. This means there are teeth on the right side which were originally meant to work with a forward assist. Since the charging handle itself becomes the forward assist, these teeth are not necessary. Using a BCG without the teeth makes it more difficult for debris to get caught inside and therefore significantly decreases the chance of a malfunction.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind about the left side of these upper receivers. The ambi and left side models come with a modified bolt catch that must be used in place of the standard catch. The reason for this is pretty simple: If you have a charging handle on the left side, it will strike the thumb lever portion of the bolt catch. The right side version of this upper is milled out to allow the use of a standard bolt catch, however, there is not enough room to install devices such as Magpul’s B.A.D. Lever. If you’re one of the growing number of people who like these devices, you will be happy to know that Phase 5 Tactical offers two different monolithic extended bolt releases which should work great on the OPS-4. Their EBRv2-SC will work with both the left side and ambi units.
In my honest opinion, I think the OPS-4 is a far better system than any other reciprocating side charging upper on the market. I’d also like to point out that I paid $459.75 for the Y/M system while the LAR Grizzly OPS-4 can be had for $300.00 or $400.00 for their billet version.