We’ve talked a lot in previous blogs about ways to choose the best AR accessories, as well as questions to answer before hunting down new parts for your upper. And in essence, the question of “best” is a very fluid one since everyone has different needs and preferences when it comes to their AR. But now, it’s time to get a bit more specific. It may be because we make some pretty awesome handstops and grips, but the RailScales team frequently hears the question, “Which is better?” in regard to the ongoing grip or handstop debate. There are pros and cons to each, so let’s break it down.
First, a brief explanation for those of you who may be new to the AR community. Both hand stops and grips are accessories that can be attached to the forward end of your AR’s barrel by way of a rail system. They aren’t, by any means, a mandatory part of AR 15 ownership, but many owners find them a useful way to get a secure grip on the forend and have a more sturdy stance overall. The difference between a handstop and a grip breaks down to a question of size and grip.
A handstop is a small accessory, usually no more than an inch or two long, that is intended to jut down from the bottom of your rail near the end of the barrel. With a hand stop, you’ll still grip around the rail in the same way you would with no grip assistant. The hand stop is there to do two things: it is there as a sensory guide so your hand can find the right grip distance without a lot of fiddling, and it is intended to be a point of resistance so you can tug your hand back more easily and get a more stable grip. It is not, as some assume, something for you to press forward into, but rather, something for you to tug back against, so you can more easily steady the buttstock into your shoulder.
In essence, a grip performs a similar purpose to a hand stop. It will attach in about the same place on your rails, and it’s made to help your forward hand get a better grip. The big difference is that a grip is longer, generally somewhere in the range of four to six inches. Where a handstop is there for your hand to just rest against, a grip is there for your hand to, well, grip. It will jut down with enough length that you can actually wrap your hand around it and use that grip to pull your AR back into a secure stance. Grips also come in two general categories, angled and vertical.
There are an abundance of AR accessory manufacturers out there, so odds are good you’ll be able to find a KeyMod hand stop just as easily as you could an M-LOK hand stop—and the same goes for grips, of course. The upside to both hand stops and grips is that they have been shown to help improve accuracy and precision. They’re made to give you a sturdier grip, so as long as your chosen hand stop or grip is doing so, you will likely see some level of improvement in overall control.
The primary differences between the two categories, as you’ve probably figured out, are the weight and the way each will cause you to adjust your grip on the forend. With handstops, your grip will still wrap directly to the rails near the front of the barrel and, depending on how much you’re firing in rapid succession and the material your rails are made from, heat can eventually become an issue. Of course, there are rails and rail scales that can help with that pretty easily. Because a grip will hang below the barrel, you’re less likely to feel any heat from firing too many rounds quickly.
In turn, both the weight and the grip will affect your usage, at least somewhat. Handstops will pretty much always be lighter than grips, just by dint of size, so if weight is your big concern, a handstop will be the lightest option. A grip, on the other hand, will come in a range of different weight options. A heavier grip may be more sturdy and durable, but that has the potential to affect the overall weight distribution of your AR, so you’ll want to pay attention to the weight and the material when choosing a grip. Your preference for hand stop or grip may also depend on what your primary usage is. A hunter may prefer a small handstop while a competition shooter may want the added stability of a vertical grip.
Here at RailScales, we pride ourselves on making the best AR accessories based on our knowledge of AR owners’ needs. Whether you prefer a grip or a hand stop, shop our specially designed and manufactured control options online and experience the difference for yourself!