By Thomas Conroy
USA - -(Ammoland.com)- The AR-15’s modular design makes it easy to change out parts, and customize the rifle to whatever configuration you want.
You can set up the gun for plinking, competition, long-range precision, tactical applications – variations are pretty much limited only by your own imagination.
One of the most-changed parts on an AR-15 is the handguard. Once you know what length gas system your AR has – carbine, mid-length or rifle – you can choose the corresponding handguard and start making your rifle easier to use, able to accept useful accessories, not to mention look better immediately.
To choose the best handguard for your rifle, you’ll need to decide what its main use will be. Will it be your home defense gun, varmint-hunting rig, or competition rifle? There are so many choices that you really do need to narrow the field down a bit. Brownells alone lists more than 80 kinds of handguards for AR-style rifles on its website, including for the big .308 versions.
I’ve chosen handguards that might be geared to one purpose, but have enough features to make them useful for other purposes, too. For example, while there are plenty of slick-sided free-float tubes out there, I chose only free-float handguards that also have some sort of mounting rail or way of attaching accessories. Other handguards that are more specialized might fit your particular purpose better.
The good news is that there are way more than just five handguards to choose from!
So here are my Top Five AR-15 Handguards For Your Black Rifle
5) Magpul MOE
Magpul’s MOE ( http://goo.gl/mQEVrj ) handguard is a great option for beginners who want to try customizing their own AR-15 for the first time. It’s designed to quickly and easily snap into place on any standard AR that has both a delta ring and round or triangular front handguard cap. The Magpul MOE does not require any tools or advanced disassembly to install. You just push down on the delta ring around the barrel near the receiver, pop out the original handguards, and pop in the MOE replacement. More info on the Magpul MOE Handguard.
The MOE handguard gives a more-comfortable profile, the ability to accept bolt-on rails, tactical light mounts, vertical fore grips, and other accessories. Plus it comes in a variety of colors, giving you lots of choice.
The things to remember are that MOE handguards do not free float the barrel, and must have a delta ring and a round or triangular front cap to work.
4) Midwest Industries Gen II SS Series
A step up in complexity from snap-in handguards that improve handling and accessorizing are handguards that require you to disassemble the rifle more, and might necessitate adding parts like a low-profile gas block.
Midwest Industries offers a lot of different versions of these more-advanced handguards that also free-float the barrel, helping improve accuracy potential. You can get them with all sorts of rail options, even the new “keymod” version ( http://goo.gl/AM3a6Q ) that has key-shaped slots that let you attach accessories anywhere you want, and or take them off to leave the fore end of your rifle smooth and snag-free.
3) Bravo Company KMR
The “Keymod Modular Rail” (KMR) system handguard ( http://goo.gl/jMO0xL ) from Bravo Company is another advanced handguard using the keymod attachment system. It also free floats the barrel, and has some really neat features. The keymod mounting holes are positioned around the handguard in such a way to give you four more “halfway” mounting positions, between the traditional 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock positions on standard rails. Also, the bottom of the rail is wide with a generous flat, allowing you to easily rest on a barricade or other object for steady supported position shooting. It’s also really lightweight, but still strong.
2) Geissele Super Modular Rails SMK MK4
Geissele is famous for their great AR-15 triggers. But they also make advanced AR-15 handguards, too. The Super Modular Rail (SMR) MK4 combines both traditional Picatinny rail with keymod attachment slots, and comes with its own barrel nut. It’s sturdy, yet lightweight, and its versatile mounting options let you configure it just about any way you want. If you’ve got the Geissele trigger ( http://goo.gl/ZynigG ) , might as well match it with the handguard, right?
1) A.R.M.S. S.I.R.
The S.I.R. handguard ( http://goo.gl/IfEXwy ) from Atlantic Research Marketing Systems is tops in this list of AR-15 handguards. It’s currently in use by U.S. Special Forces around the world. It’s designed to install quickly without removing the barrel. It’s lightweight, but still gives plenty of rail-mounting space. The rails at the 3, 6 and 9 o-clock can all be installed and removed while leaving the top rail in pace. It attaches to the standard barrel nut and only requires that you remove the delta ring. It has built-in anti-rotation tabs that help you get it perfectly aligned without needing any special tools. It does all this and free-floats the barrel, too.
You can get it for different-length gas systems, and even guns with standard A1- or A2-style carry handles on top of the receiver. But know this. All this battle-tested, uber-cool, tacticalicious, Tier-One, Operators-Operating-Operationally goodness & functionality will cost you. But if your heart is absolutely set on something like the S.I.R system handguard, then you’re probably okay with the price.
Just Do It
There are many, many AR-15 handguards out there, designed to give all sorts of different features, mounting options and enhancements to your rifle. Do a little research and some thinking, and then choose which one you think will work best. Not only can you improve the handling and performance of your AR-15 with a new handguard, you can also have the satisfaction of knowing you installed it all by yourself.
Thomas Conroy is a firearms aficionado and writer who lives in the Midwest.