The AR 15 is jokingly referred to as the “Lego gun” for a reason. It’s so amazingly modular that nearly every component can be swapped out for a part with a different length, size, material, and so on. Ultimately, the goal is to allow any AR owner to customize their firearm and get it set up perfectly for their intended use, whether that use is hunting, range shooting, or home defense. Of course, if you’re in the process of customizing your AR, you’ve probably had a question or two about how to choose the best parts. In the case of AR upper components, the most expensive option doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best! So, when you toss that metric out the window, how do you choose? Hopefully not based on what you can get for a steal by way of your brother’s best friend’s cousin—that’s no way to find the best parts for your own customized AR! It may sound simplistic to say, but every component on your AR can affect how well it fires, which can in turn impact your accuracy and comfort. Though, some components can have a bigger impact than others.
It might not seem like the most impactful component. After all, the handguard is just there to provide protection when the barrel heats up from repeated firing. It’s not like the gas system, which has a direct impact on the firing process. Except, well, your AR’s handguard can actually have a pretty big impact on your groups. Whether you choose a more basic military-style handguard or you go the route of the free-float handguard with rail system, the choice you make can affect your comfort and grip, which then impacts your overall experience. Even more simply than that, the handguard is there to, well, guard your hands. The means you choose, however, can have a bigger impact than you might think—which is why it’s important to choose your handguard carefully.
The first decision to make when it comes to handguards is whether you want one with a rail system or not. The biggest difference, beyond basic shape, is whether or not you want to be able to attach accessories to your AR. While there are other ways to do so, an AR rail system is generally the easiest and most convenient way to be able to place accessories just where you want them. For example, many AR owners find that an AR 15 rail grip gives them better accuracy than the grip on a rail-less handguard. The other things to consider when choosing a handguard include the length, weight, material, installation. While the AR is designed to be modular, there are an abundance of companies manufacturing some of the best AR accessories and parts, so it’s important to ensure those components will work with each other.
When it comes specifically to choosing the right handguard length, one of the biggest factors is your AR’s gas system—not necessarily the barrel itself. Most handguards are designed to go from the front of the upper receiver and extend past the gas block. Aside from guarding your hands from heat build-up, one of the other primary functions of any handguard is to protect the gas tube from being bent or damaged. So, while it’s possible to have a handguard that extends beyond your gas block (generally only if you have a low-profile gas block), it’s never a good idea to have a handguard that doesn’t fully cover your gas tube.
Secondary to protecting your gas system is comfort. When making your decision, it’s important to consider how far forward on the barrel you prefer to grip, and at what distance you lose that stable grip, because this will impact firing safety and accuracy. If you prefer a longer grip, you’ll want an AR rail system or handguard that allows you to do so.
We’ve discussed this once or twice in the past, but it’s important enough that we’ll reiterate: having a solid but comfortable grip is one of the most important things you can focus on when customizing your AR. Whether you choose a small handstop, a larger forend grip, or a simple AR 15 rail grip, these AR rail system attachments can have a big impact. At RailScales, our AR accessories are designed to provide big impact without the weight. Whether you choose a small Karve handstop or a larger Anchor forend grip, our goal is to provide durable, heat-resistant, and easy to install options that won’t add noticeable weight to the front of your firearm—all the better for an improved experience and better control.
Learn more about how RailScales patented AR 15 rail accessories can help you customize your firearm for the best experience. Shop online today and experience the difference for yourself!