BlackHawk Quad-Rails: The old saying “thin is in” applies to the pair of quad-rail handguards offered by BlackHawk. These two-piece aluminum handguards have Picatinny rails at the 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock positions and come in both rifle and carbine lengths. Quick-detach (QD) sling attachment points are located on both the right and left sides of these handguards. No modifications to the rifle are needed to securely install them.
Bravo Company KMR: If you want a KeyMod handguard, you need to take a look at the rails from Bravo Company USA. Available in lengths from 7 to 15 inches, Bravo Company’s KeyMod Rail (KMR) handguards are made with a blend of aluminum and magnesium for the perfect balance of strength and light weight. Bravo Company also uses a proprietary finish that offers better wear resistance than anodizing and is also very resistant to corrosion.
Command Arms M4S1: Constructed from a special polymer, the M4S1 handguard from Command Arms Accessories (CAA) is designed to work with both piston and direct-impingement ARs. Unlike some other rail systems, the M4S1 is designed to be comfortable in the hand yet still provide mounting points for accessories. The side rails are removable if not needed, and the lower can use either a 1.75- or 4-inch rail section. Two QD sling mounts are included.
Daniel Defense SLiM Rail: Developed by Daniel Defense to offer a lighter option to a standard rail system, the SLiM (Slim, Lightweight and Modular) Rail uses the increasingly popular KeyMod attachment system. Free-floating, these handguards have a Picatinny rail along the top for instant compatibility with most AR sight mounts. QD attachment points are standard. The rails are made of 6061-T6 aluminum and have a Type III hardcoat anodized finish.
Diamondhead VRS T-556: The Diamondhead VRS T-556 gives a shooter a rugged handguard on which to mount a variety of critical accessories. A proprietary barrel nut eliminates timing issues. Free-floated, the forend comes in four different lengths to meet your requirements. Accessory rails can be added by the shooter only where needed to reduce the carry weight and increase comfort while holding on target. KeyMod versions are also available.
Ergo KeyMod Forward Rail: For additional rail space, or to add rails to an AR-15 without removing the standard handguard, Ergo offers the KeyMod Forward Rail (KFR) system. This unit mounts to a standard A2-type sight base and extends forward toward the muzzle of the gun. Made of 6061-T6 aluminum, it has KeyMod attachment points on its four sides. No gunsmithing is required to install this made-in-the-U.S.A. rail system.
Fortis SWITCH 556: Designed to allow the shooter to rapidly swap rails for different mission parameters, the SWITCH 556 handguard uses a patent-pending system to swap and lock the rail without the use of any tool. Made of high-strength 6061-T6 aluminum, this handguard has KeyMod attachment points on three sides with a Picatinny rail along the top. Fortis also built rotation-limited, QD-style attachment points into the handguard.
Geissele MK4 M-LOK Super Modular Rail: Geissele’s MK4 M-LOK Super Modular Rail is built for performance. A shooter can add a front sight or supplementary optics to the top Picatinny rail, while short Picatinny rails at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions can handle lights or other accessories. M-LOK attachment points reduce the system’s weight and are at 45-degree angles to the top rail and along the remainder of the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock lengths. Geissele makes these rails in three lengths and offers them in both black and Desert Dirt finishes.
Hogue Free Float Forends: When Hogue designed its Free Float Forends with OverMolded Gripping Areas, the company did not sacrifice shootability for the power to accessorize. These free-floating handguards have soft rubber gripping areas that maximize shooter control and comfort. The far end of the handguards makes it easy to add most accessories through the use of removable Picatinny rails. Available in several lengths, these handguards are made of hardcoat anodized 6061-T6 aluminum.
Magpul MOE M-LOK: Available in carbine, mid and rifle lengths, the MOE M-LOK handguards offer the weight and pricing benefits of polymer with the durability and performance the Magpul name is known for. The handguards offer M-LOK mounting points at the 2, 6 and 10 o’clock positions and provide exceptional shooter protection from a hot barrel and gas block. These handguards are available in black, Flat Dark Earth, OD green and stealth grey.
Midwest Industries SSK-KeyMod: Midwest Industries is known for making high-quality rifle parts, and the SSK-KeyMod is a prime example. This one-piece, free-floating handguard is very lightweight yet rugged enough for a lifetime of hard service. A Picatinny rail is in the 12 o’clock position, while KeyMod attachment points occupy the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. Midwest Industries fully dehorned the handguard, added five QD sockets and even includes a length of KeyMod Picatinny rail with the unit.
PWS DI Handguard: Available in three lengths, the DI Handguard from Primary Weapon Systems (PWS) is a free-floating forend with KeyMod attachments for lights and other gear. PWS builds these handguards from 6061-T6 aluminum and gives them QD sling attachment points and integral Picatinny top rails. A pair of 2-inch Picatinny rail sections also ship with each handguard so you can immediately employ your necessary accessories.
Rainier Arms Force Mod 2: Control without compromise was one of the underlying principles when Rainier Arms developed the Force Mod 2 rail. A free-floating handguard system, the 12.5-inch rail comes in at only about 9 ounces, including the proprietary barrel nut. Other rail lengths are also available. Made of 6061-T6 aluminum, this KeyMod rail system has a Type III hardcoat anodized finish for excellent corrosion and abrasion resistance. Limited- rotation QD-type attachment points are integral to the rail.
Samson Evolution: Samson Manufacturing considers the Evolution series of handguards to be the “next step forward” in providing law enforcement officers, military members and shooting enthusiasts with a way to mount accessories to AR-style rifles. These Type III hardcoat anodized 6061-T6 aluminum forends are free-floating and relieved so that they will work with most gas piston rifles. Picatinny rails can be added anywhere along the handguard, and a full-length Picatinny rail sits in the 12 o’clock position.
Seekins Precision MCSR V2: Specifically designed to be compatible with sound suppressors, the Modular Combat Suppressor Rail (MCSR) V2 from Seekins Precision is ready for duty. The inside diameter of the rail is large enough for most suppressors to fit inside, providing the shooter with additional protection from heat. The company machines these forends from 6061-T6 aluminum and finishes them with a Type III Class 2 hardcoat anodizing. M-LOK attachment points allow for the addition of a variety of accessories, and QD sockets make adding a sling a literal snap.
Troy M-LOK: Available in both carbon fiber and aluminum, the Troy M-LOK rails offer an easy way to add mission-critical gear to your rifle without unnecessarily weighing you down. Troy’s M-LOK rails are available in 7.2-, 9-, 11-, 13- and 15-inch lengths, and they have an integrated Picatinny rail along the top for quickly adding a front sight or optic. Troy offers these handguards in black and Flat Dark Earth.
Wilson Combat TRIM: The TRIM (Tactical Rail Interface, Modular) from Wilson Combat is designed to be a versatile handguard to which a variety of accessories can be attached. The TRIM has a full-length Picatinny rail at 12 o’clock, and Picatinny rails can be added to the sides and bottom. Made of 6005A-T5 aluminum, these free-floating forends have integral QD sling attachment points.
Yankee Hill Machine KR7: Easy to handle, the KR7 series of handguards from Yankee Hill Machine (YHM) are light in the hand, partially because of the use of KeyMod attachment points. Unlike many alternatives, YHM uses an octagonal shape for this handguard, giving the shooter attachment points every 45 degrees instead of only every 90 degrees. This makes precisely positioning offset sights or a white light very easy. In addition to the rifle-, carbine- and mid-length forends, YHM offers a 4.15-inch Mini KR7 handguard for the smallest of SBRs.
In its most basic form, the handguard is designed to do as its name says: protect the shooter’s hands from the hot barrel. Modern AR-style rifles have expanded the role of the handguard so that many of these basic parts are now intricate mounting platforms for a wide variety of rifle enhancements. Everything from vertical foregrips to white lights can now be easily mounted to a handguard, or rail system, to improve the usefulness of the rifle.
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There are a variety of mounting systems on the market. Picatinny rails are the standard for most manufacturers. Ladder-like in appearance, Picatinny rails are compatible with nearly all sights, lasers and lights on the market. However, unused portions of rails add unnecessary weight to a gun.
Other attachment systems include the KeyMod and M-LOK. These systems remove the excess rails to save weight, yet allow a shooter to add those accessories that are needed. For equipment that is only compatible with Picatinny-style attachment points, there are Picatinny rails of varying lengths that can be attached to these KeyMod and M-LOK systems.
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Scroll through the gallery above for a few of the best handguard systems available from some of the major players in the aftermarket AR parts world today.
For more information, please visit the websites listed here:
- BlackHawk Quad-Rails: blackhawk.com; 800-379-1732
- Bravo Company KMR: bravocompanyusa.com; 877-272-8626
- Command Arms M4S1: commandarms.com; 866-611-9576
- Daniel Defense SLiM Rail: danieldefense.com; 866-554-4867
- Diamondhead VRS T-556: diamondhead-usa.com; 413-739-6970
- Ergo KeyMod Forward Rail: ergogrips.net; 877-281-3783
- Fortis SWITCH 556: fortismfg.com; 253-277-3211
- Geissele MK4 M-LOK Super Modular Rail: geissele.com; 610-272-2060
- Hogue Free Float Forends: hogueinc.com; 800-438-4747
- Magpul MOE M-LOK: magpul.com; 877-462-4785
- Midwest Industries SSK-KeyMod: midwestindustriesinc.com; 262-896-6780
- PWS DI Handguard: primaryweapons.com; 208-344-5217
- Rainier Arms Force Mod 2: rainierarms.com; 253-218-2999
- Samson Evolution: samson-mfg.com; 888-665-4370
- Seekins Precision MCSR V2: seekinsprecision.com; 208-743-3400
- Troy M-LOK: troyind.com; 866-788-6412
- Wilson Combat TRIM: wilsoncombat.com; 870-545-3618
- Yankee Hill Machine KR7: yhm.net; 877-892-6533
Big-bore powerhouse streamlined for fast-handling performance!
by Robert Jordan / Sep 28, 2015