The standard charging handle found on the AR-15 has always been a bit of a conundrum for some. Some like its location, using it as a felt index by placing their nose against it to obtain consistent eye relief for sighting, while others hate that they have to pull the gun away from their face to load or clear a stoppage. Regardless of which camp you belong to, I think we can all agree that it is good to have options. For those who would prefer an alternative to the traditional top/rear-mounted charging handle, the JARD J16 just might be the gun for you.
In addition to a bolt handle that protrudes from the right side of the receiver, the J16 can also be folded into a very small package for use in close confines, such as in many urban settings for room-to-room fighting, convoy/vehicle operations or VIP protection. Ultimately, it makes for a very compact and handy 5.56mm carbine well suited for law enforcement use. Recently, I had the opportunity to “wring out” this neat little carbine. Not only did I find it to be very reliable, but it was also super-accurate.
The first thing one notices about the J16 as it is taken from the box is the slightly taller upper receiver. While a section of Picatinny rail helps disguise this difference, it is still noticeable. But this taller profile is what makes the J16 different from the rest in the AR field. This area is where the bolt return spring is housed and allows the rear stock to be completely folded due to its lack of buffer and buffer spring. Like all AR-15 designs, when the J16 is fired, the expelled gas travels through a gas port and down a tube to the bolt assembly, forcing it to the rear. But instead of a carrier that engages a standard buffer spring, the bolt is pushed back into play by a spring that is mounted directly behind the bolt key. In reality, this is a pretty slick way of getting the job done.
Without a traditional buffer and spring being contained inside the rear telescoping stock tube, any number of design options can be explored for the gun. JARD opted to make its gun as compact as possible by offering a stock that can be folded over, making the gun just over 2 feet in length with a full 16.2-inch barrel. All kinds of operational options are available for a gun of this design, and with a weight of just 6.44 pounds, the rifle’s mission adaptability is enhanced even further. The J16 does’t stop here. Because of the bolt return spring location, a standard top-mounted charging handle will not work, so JARD solved this problem by cutting a slot down the right side of the upper receiver and inserted a curved charging handle into the side of the bolt assembly, something that reminded me of a Ruger Mini-14.