Top Five Best AR-15 Handguards For Your Black Rifle

By Thomas Conroy
Patriot gun slinger, Tom Conroy, gives us his choices of the best AR-15 handguards, lets see if you agree.

Best AR-15 Handguards for the black rifle
Top Five Best AR-15 Handguards

AmmoLand Gun News

USA – -(  The AR-15 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 the rifle is the AR-15 handguards. 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 AR 15 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!


Here are my Top Five AR-15 Handguards

5) Magpul MOE

Magpul MOE AR-15 Handguard
Magpul MOE Handguard

Magpul’s MOE 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

Midwest Industries Gen II SS Series Handguard
Midwest Industries Gen II SS Series Handguard

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  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

Bravo Company KMR Handgaurd
Bravo Company KMR Handgaurd

The “Keymod Modular Rail” (KMR) system handguard  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 Automatics Ar-15/M16 Super Modular Rails SMR
Geissele Automatics Ar-15/M16 Super Modular Rails SMR

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 , might as well match it with the handguard, right?


1) A.R.M.S.  S.I.R.

A.R.M.S. - S.I.R. Handguard
A.R.M.S. – S.I.R. Handguard

The S.I.R. handguard 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.

AmmoLand Editor Comments:  This article was updated to reflect changes in product improvements / availability on 06/27/2017.

43 thoughts on “Top Five Best AR-15 Handguards For Your Black Rifle

  1. If BCM made a KMR and MLR, they would have a waiting list for their handguards. I contacted them and asked if that would be a possibility, and they said they have no plans on making an m-lok rail. Seems stupid to me just because they hired the inventor of Key Mod Eric Kinsel, doesn’t mean they cant make m-lok. A week went by and I heard our Armed Forces are going with m-lok. Forget with who though, maybe they signed with FN or Stag. On top of all that, almost $300 for a handguard with shotty mounting solutions. If BCM sent me a KeyMod rail for free it would just solidify the fact that they should of went M-Lok or at least have both offerings.

  2. This list is by no means comprehensive, which I understand is difficult when picking 5 out of the entire industry. While these are 5 great options, they are by no means the best value. The Rainier Evolution and Fortis REV are basically the same product as the ARMS SIR, but they’re half the price ($150 and $170 respectively). Additionally, while the MOE is extremely popular, the Spike Industries Viper offers potentially better quality, 12, 6, 1, and 10 o’clock MLOK surfaces, and a cool red heath shield option if desired — and for less money than MOE or MOE SL.

    This list clearly does not consider bang for your buck handguards. Explore your options so you don’t waste money.

  3. I built two AR’s using the magpul furniture. One in red and one in blue. They both are lightweight compared to the 3rd AR I built. I even dyed the magpul magazines to match the furniture. Now my son has his favorite color and I have mine.

  4. Newer to the list of free float handguards is from DaVinci Arms. It is the lightest I’ve tried, and the hex pattern is slick. Price is really good too! I think you can only get them on line right now; haven’t seen them in my local shop.

  5. Let’s be honest, most of us do not shoot enough or at the precision levels that can appreciate the accuracy potential gained by a custom hand guard. It’s much like adding a winch to your $50k pickup truck. It looks cool but who’s going to take it off road. I like the full length hand guard in keymod because it’s versatile and has unlimited mounting options for lights and other goodies. However, a decent rifle with the magpul guard and a rail to mount your flashlight is about all any of us need or will use. Now I’m going to wait for all the comments about taking that new truck offroad and you 3 gun competitors out there.

  6. Nice comments all. I got one free float and going to convertor her to free foat. Though it’s confusing between m-lok, key mod and other for attaching items. I gt the wrong shit yesterday so only item I got that fit was my push in sling attachment and magpul sites the rest don’t fit and I’m pissed. My krypek fwd is pencil thin. It’s not free float but very pretty. I’ll keep searhing. I have 4 blank lowers have to compete and going free float o the. I have one I at have to trash because when I first started converting my ARS I had no clue like now and my gunsmith fking glued my frw gas block because it used sets crews and was eforedimplig to keep it I n place. So I’ve got a pare that I have a crooked gas block and it’s low profile and takes a high fwd site. I do have a free float handguardthetis pretty big and may end up grinding and rounding it to get it to fit a free float ease ica get the set screws out butte gas block is cemented and I have a feeling if I take a heat gun or torch to loosen it ay plug the gas orts in thinking of seeing how much I gotta grin off and ur chase another free float to put on the other. The rest I an just knock off the front A site and most free float guards Coe with barrel nuts and I can get low gas blocks for about13.00 ea

  7. He wrote in the article that he chose only free float that had an attachment point not only free float handguards and bothered that might fit your particular goals. These are also his top five. I personally like m.i. but that’s just my preference

    1. I just used the 15″ version of the UTG vanguard in your link to give me nearly a full barrel shroud. I am very satisfied with this UTG product and the keymod system.

  8. Personally I don’t think I can take advice from a guy that said he chose only free floating hand guards and lists 2 out of 5 that are anything but free floating. If it snaps in place using a delta ring and hand guard cap it is attached to the barrel and therefore not free floating. A couple comments previously listed here listed some of what I would consider easily top five options. Daniel defense and seekins precision. And I would like to add Sampson to the list.

    1. He said he only chose free float hand guards that rails could be attached to, not the smooth type with no rail attachment points. He isn’t saying he didn’t choose any that weren’t free floating. You misunderstood.

  9. want to stay with old school nam m 16 look but want to upgrade to 6.5 granel with 20 in barell but stay with tryangular forearm and the use of front sight as it was on m 16 style can i get this to work on a ar 15 platform please e mail me and let me know thanks Don

    1. Donald, you should be able to retain the M 16 triangular handguard but watch to be certain the outside diameter of the 6.5 Gredel barrel is the same as the inside diameter of the front sight tower and the handguard attachment part directly behind the front sight base. As long as the OD of your barrel matches these parts ID you should be all right. I have an HBAR AR 15 A2 with triangular handguards on it, mostly because I find them to be effective at shielding the hand from heat, they look great, feel good in the hand and require no maintenance – and weigh less than the rail type free float types. If you want to add a light and a laser you can always use the front sight attached rail mounts.

  10. There are so, so many great handguards out there these days. I’m a big fan of Midwest Industries, they are high quality at prices that won’t break the bank. Using one of their 15″ Gen II SS Series one of my 5.56 builds….looks awesome. I’ll be putting one of their MI Lightweight M-LOK Compatible handguards on my 6.8 SPC “Make-over.” ALG Defense is making some nice simple but elegant handguards as well at a very reasonable price.

  11. Daniel Defense rails are tough enough for the military and fit,finish is great.I have all of the handguards listed above except the A.R.M.S and the DD is much better IMO.I have two of the DD omega rails and installation is easy with no modification to the weapon.They are also free floated and strong with no flex.Pricey yes but well worth it.

  12. Wouldlove to see this article done based an the same thing . this time do the top five based on quality but affordable for the minimum wage worker.

    1. Try Monstrum Tactical or firetacsports for low cost, high quality free float handguards. I have used both and am satisfied with both. Watch for their weekly sales that give good discounts. Good Luck

      1. If you are a minimum wage worker you shouldn’t be spending what little money you make on

        anything but subsistence . If you feel you need a firearm for home defense then you can buy

        a much cheaper weapon like a revolver or shotgun. I want a Ferrari, but I drive a Toyota.

        1. Hey joe, [email protected] off. Just because someone work minimum wage doesn’t mean they can save a little bit of money at a time for said firearm. Last time I checked it a free country and we have the right to bare arms you closed minded dipshit. People choose to and spend their money how they see fit not you. Budget builds are great and allow the individual to purchase a part at a time. Nothing wrong with that. Next, think before you open you mouth.

    2. Palmetto state armory has deals all the time i just finished a complete build with magpul grip and stock, stainless steel free float barrel with a keymod front for $555

  13. For free I’ll choose using the standard A2 style…Which still keeps my left hand from burning while I’m firing at anything, which really is the only purpose of the hand guard..

  14. For free I’ll choose using the standard A2 style…Which keeps my left hand from burning while I’m firing at anything.

  15. You left out two manufacturers with great products and service that matches — Samson Manufacturing and Seekins Precision. Samson’s handguards use the standard AR barrel nut while Seekins’ uses a proprietary barrel nut that is installed with a standard armorer’s wrench. Seekins makes a large diameter handguard (MCSR) that will cover a supressor on an SBR.

  16. I used the Midwest Industries Gen II SS Series in my first AR build. Not only beautiful, it is sleek, highly functional, and tough as nails! I particularly like putting a small length of rail just where I want it, and not having it all over the place. I like the thin, smooth grip, the right size for my hand, and as light as possible for a rifle-length build. Great product!

    1. I just completed building an AR with a low profile keymod handguard, and I have no complaints. I have attached a stud for a bipod or sling and a forward handgrip using the keymod system.

      Could you be more specific about what you find wrong with the system?

      1. Here is my feeling regarding the KeyMod hand guards: when I need a mounting rail for it, I have to order from the Internet. I can find all the Magpul stuff for M-Lok; go to Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shop, to Sportsmans Warehouse and the small AR gun shops, they all carry M-Lok items. And, don’t forget to use loc-rite, not needed for M-Lok a better system.

    2. I love my Keymod rail!! You just have to know how to properly add the picatinny rail pieces and you can do anything to it.
      I built my first AR15 and added a scope and bipod to it and I just really like the look of it too!!

  17. Assembling an AR15 is not very difficult , Read , watch videos of sub assembies and soon you’ll try. Nothing like saving nothing by buying headspace gauges , armorers wrenches , vises, screwdrivers, etc. But it really impresses your friends and family that you actually assembled something nice and works. Best part ,dont like it change it.

  18. If you were to purchase your AR from Windham Weapons any accessory you purchase from them gets installed at no charge. Great quality AR’s and great deal.

  19. Your article could not be more timely for me. Building a new AR in 6.5 Grendel with the assistance of my gunsmith friend. The hand guard that I selected first is not compatible with the new Super Match JP Enterprises barrel profile. How about an article explaining the various methods to secure hand guards and maintain a free-floated barrel? Thanks

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