AR15 Handguard Types

Choosing the perfect handguard for your AR15 might seem like a maze of options. I mean, “handguard”, “forend”, “forearm”, and “foregrip” – it’s like they’re trying to make this more complicated than it needs to be! But fret not! We’ll navigate through the jargon and styles together. So, let’s dive into the wonderful world of AR15 handguards and unlock the ultimate blend of form and function!

Best AR15 Handguard Types – Criteria

SPOILER! If you heard that there is no best handguard, you’ve heard wrong. Of course, there is a best, but the only way to find it is to understand these next top 7 AR15 handguard features and how they are ultimately going to affect the way you shoot!

AT3 SPEAR Free Float Handguard comes in a bunch of color and length options

Before reading any further, try to answer the questions below to better identify what AR15 handguard type is the right one for you.

LookWhat kind of look are you going for? Classic? Military? Tactical?
Mounting optionsDo you want to mount accessories? What kind and how many?
WeightHow much weight are you willing to sacrifice for function?
Ease of installationAre you OK with modifying your AR?
AccuracyFree float handguards can tighten up your groups – do you care?
PriceWhat are you willing to spend?
Heat resistanceWill you be shooting enough where heat will be an issue?

Keep the answers to these questions in mind as we look through the different types of handguards.

AR15 Handguard Type: Drop-in

Drop-in handguards are the classic, two-piece handguards the M4 was originally designed to use. They are called “drop-in” because to install/remove these handguards, you really just need to pull back the spring-loaded delta ring and drop in some new ones!

The big advantages of the drop-in family of handguards:

  • Easy to install (just “drop” them in!)
  • No modifications to the weapon (most off-the-shelf standard first-tier AR15 rifles have these handguards)
  • Usually the least expensive (not much to it!)

Within this drop-in category, there are really 3 main types – polymer drop-in handguards, railed drop-in handguards, and retro drop-in handguards.

Best Polymer Drop-in Handguards

The classic M4 or AR 15 handguard is a 2-piece polymer handguard that has a metal heat shield on the inside. They tend to resist heat well, even after lots of shooting. The polymer construction makes them very lightweight, and they are available in several lengths, and the proper handguard depends on the length of your gas system.

Magpul MOE M-LOK Carbine Length Handguard

Magpul (and some others) also make upgraded polymer handguards, that can add mounting options, and enhance the look of your rifle.

LookClassic handguards are Plain-Jane, but some options like the Magpul handguards can dress it up a bit
Mounting optionsClassic handguards have no mounting options , but Magpul handguards allow for mounting M-lok attachments
WeightVery light and easy to grip
Ease of installationVery easy to install
AccuracyNo accuracy boost
PriceCheap and readily available, usually less than $40
Heat resistanceGood heat resistance

Best Railed Drop-in Handguards

There are also several varieties of drop-in “railed” handguards. Most of these specific types are made of aluminum.

The most common type is the quad rail, which gets its name from the 4 rails that run the length of the handguard (12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions).

These rails are typically designed in the MIL-STD 1913 (Picatinny) specification, but Keymod and M-LOK mounting rails are increasingly replacing the need for factory rails.

Midwest Industries AR-15 Two Piece Drop-In Quad Rail

These AR handguards allow the mounting of all different types of accessories. You can mount bipods, foregrips, and possibly lights or lasers on these rails. We do not recommend mounting optics on a drop-in rail (or any rail that is not integrally built into the receiver) because rails have some “wiggle”. For more information on where to mount optics make sure to check out this article.

LookGives the rifle a bit of a “tactical” look
Mounting optionsAllows mounting of bipods, grips, lights, or lasers – should not mount optics
WeightUsually a little heavier than the classic polymer handguards
Ease of installationVery easy to install
AccuracyNo accuracy boost
PriceUsually reasonably priced, often less than $50. But some higher quality options can be $150-200 plus.
Heat resistanceAluminum drop-in rails have the potential to get hot after prolonged shooting, polymer is usually OK

Best Retro Drop-in Handguards

This one is sort of an honorary mention. They are still polymer drop-in handguards just like the first one. The catch is these have their own warranted category of being from the somewhat olden days. Retro AR15 handguards have recently found a bit of a comeback.

Luth-AR makes retro triangular handguards in Carbine Length and Rifle Length

All of us old souls that had the pop culture of yesteryear shoved down our throats growing up now have a taste for it and feel like expressing ourselves with newly manufactured old-school gun parts. Ones like the Luth-AR handguard pictured above offer very little in the way of ergonomics and even less when it comes to accessorizing. To be fair the handguard itself is accessorizing in this case.

LookClassic, Retro, Old-School. 1960s Era AR15 Rifles
Mounting optionsNo mounting options
WeightTypically very lightweight
Ease of installationPotentially somewhat difficult. They require a triangular handguard cap behind the gas block to accept the handguard. If you do not have this, disassembly of the gas system is required to install it. Consult our free Army Service Manual for more info on how to go about that.
AccuracyNo accuracy boost
PriceMost brand new options hover under $60
Heat resistanceGood heat resistance

AR15 Handguard Type: Free Floating

Now things are getting fun! In addition to providing better accuracy, free floating handguards can offer great customization options for your AR 15.

The accuracy of the free-floating handguard comes from the fact that the handguard doesn’t touch the barrel – it is mounted directly to the upper receiver. This allows the barrel to “float” and its harmonics remain uninterrupted, resulting in slightly better accuracy.

The accuracy difference is especially evident when using grips or bipods on the handguard. When you rest a rifle on a bipod that is attached to the barrel (or a drop-in handguard) the bipod will create interference that will mess with the harmonics of the barrel. This small amount of interference can provide fairly significant accuracy issues down the range. With a free-float handguard, you can put all kinds of force on the handguard and it won’t affect the barrel whatsoever.

AT3 SPEAR Free Float Handguard in OD Green

Another advantage of free-floating handguards is that you can make them longer than the length of the gas system, by using a low-profile gas block. For instance, on a typical AR15 carbine, the drop-in handguard is about 7” long. But with a free float + low profile gas block, you can use rails as long as 15”! This opens up a world of customization options.

There are 2 main categories of free float handguards – free floating railed handguards (we call them “free float rails”), and non-railed handguards (we call them “free float tubes”).

Best Slotted Free-Float Handguards

AT3 SPEAR Free Float Handguard has a top rail and plenty of MLOK slots for accessories!

Over the last few years, slotted handguards like Keymod and M-Lok handguards have become very popular as an alternative to the classic Picatinny rail. These use machined slots instead of “ridge and groove” for attaching accessories. The result is a lighter handguard, that is simpler to machine.

It should be noted that Keymod has fallen out of favor and a majority of accessories and rails out there lean heavily into M-Lok.

LookTons of options available. Great for those who want a minimalist or tactical appearance.
Mounting optionsAllows mounting of bipods, grips, lights, or lasers and optics. Some designs use Keymod or M-Lok attachment instead of picatinny rails, which can reduce the weight and cost of the handguard.
WeightCan vary widely between brands and sizes, but Keymod and M-lok designs can be quite lightweight.
Ease of installationMore difficult to install than a drop in handguard – requires partial disassembly of the rifle (about 30-45 minutes of work). Also requires special tools like a vise block and armorer’s wrench.
Accuracy.5 – .75 MOA improvement over drop-in handguards
PriceThe most expensive of the handguard types, with some handguards costing $300+. But some brands offer rails starting in the $50-100 range.
Heat resistanceDespite aluminum construction, most quad rail handguards are vented well enough that heat is not an issue.

Best Railed Free-Float Handguards

AT3 Pro Quad Rails – Free Float AR15 Handguards

Railed free-float handguards are a very popular type of free-floating handguards. They are available in many different lengths, colors, and configurations. When used with a low-profile gas block, the handguard can be as long as the user wants.

The classic railed handguard is the “quad rail” – named for its 4 Picatinny rails (12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions) The problem is – they tend to be somewhat heavy and require significant machine work and time (which can lead to higher costs).

LookTons of options available. Great for the decked-out “tactical” builds.
Mounting optionsAllows mounting of numerous accessories. By far the most accessory-friendly handguard.
WeightCan vary widely between brands and sizes, but railed free-floats will typically be heavier than their slotted brother due to the extra material.
Ease of installationMore difficult to install than a drop in handguard – requires partial disassembly of the rifle (about 30-45 minutes of work). Also requires special tools like a vise block and armorer’s wrench.
Accuracy.5 – .75 MOA improvement over drop-in handguards.
PriceThe most expensive of the handguard types, with some handguards costing $300+. But some brands offer rails starting in the $50-100 range.
Heat resistanceDespite aluminum construction, most quad rail handguards are vented well enough that heat is not an issue.

Best Tube Free Float Handguards

Hogue Free Float Tube style handguards are great for the no-frills builds

The free float tubes are a common sight on match-grade rifles that value accuracy above all else. These days they are becoming less and less common since standard railed free-float handguards are the norm. The tube style provides the accuracy benefits of railed free-floating handguards but are pretty much no-frills in design. A common manufacturer of these types of handguards is Hogue.

LookFairly plain, but available in many different colors and lengths
Mounting optionsNone
WeightGenerally lighter than the free float railed handguards, but still a little heavier than classic handguards
Ease of installationMore difficult to install than drop in – requires partial disassembly of the rifle (about 30-45 minutes of work). Also requires special tools like a vise block and armorer’s wrench.
Accuracy.5 – .75 MOA improvement over drop-in handguards
PriceReasonably priced, often less than $100.
Heat resistanceAluminum construction can cause heat issues – vents in the handguards will help

Final Thoughts – AR15 Handguard Types

There you have it, folks! We’ve covered a lot of ground in exploring the various options for choosing the perfect AR 15 handguard. Remember, this is not just an accessory – it’s a crucial part of your rifle that can impact both its functionality and appearance. Don’t be afraid to do your research and shop around before making a decision on your favorite AR15 handguard type. While we generally recommend free float handguards as the top choice, we understand that cost and installation can be a factor. But fear not, there are plenty of other options out there to suit your needs and preferences. Happy handguard-ing!


How long should an AR15 free-float handguard be?

There is no set perfect length for a handguard. It mostly depends on both your gas system and barrel length.

How long should my handguard be compared to my barrel?

In most cases, it is agreed that your handguard should be as long as possible without covering your muzzle or muzzle device. This gives the user lots of space for accessories and a more uniform look. At the very least a freefloat handguard should be long enough that it completely covers the gas system.

Are AR-15 handguards universal?

Most AR-15 handguards can interchange so long as the mounting hardware is the same. A drop-in will fit most delta ring style drop-ins barring any proprietary measurements. Free-float handguards can be trickier in that not every handguard company’s replacement barrel nut will fit the contour of another brand’s handguard.

What are the different styles of handguards for AR-15?

As far as the AR15 handguard type, there would be Drop-In and Free Float. There are unlimited styles.

What handguards does the military use?

The US military’s current standard issue rifle is the M4 (as of writing this) and it typically will be found with a drop-in quad rail.

One Last Tip

If there’s anyone that knows the AR-15 platform, it’s the US military. As a special offer for our readers, you can get the Official US Army Manual for AR-15/M4/M16 right now – for free. Click here to snag a copy.

Read More

44 thoughts on “Choosing the Best AR15 Handguard Type – 7 Things to Look For (2024 Update)

  1. I have a Colt manufactured upper with 16″ barrel installed with a “standard mil-spec barrel nut” and low-profile gas block installed. My Question: Does anyone know of a 15″ handguard I can install over the standard mil-spec barrel nut and the low-profile gas block? (I wish to avoid disturbing the ultra-robust Colt installation of the barrel and the low-profile gas block.)

  2. I am having trouble identifying the correct names and parts for the rail system of my AR-15. This weapon has 8 (T-15 possibly?) screws keeping the picatinny handrail connected. What type of handrail is that called? Are there ways to change that to make it a free float or drop in?

  3. Will the seven inch quad rail fit a ruger ar 556 upper?

  4. I have a m&p15 and I’m looking to get a 15 inch free floating Handguard, what length gas tube would I need for the new Handguard?

  5. I just purchased a 16” mid length free float upper from Palmetto State Armory, is it possible to replace the handguard with a MAGPUL MOE M-LOK Hand Guard, Mid-Length?

    I only saw that available as a drop in option.

  6. Hi everyone, novice AR owner here. Looking to upgrade the standard base-model generic plastic handguard that came with my M&P 15 5.56 and first off, this article was quite helpful in explaining the differences and pros/cons of each type. So thank you to whoever put in the time to explain.

    My one question has to do with the accuracy piece. At what range would I really see a difference in accuracy between drop-in and free-float? I don’t plan on shooting more than 150 yards or so, and if one MOA is ~1 inch per 100 yards, that doesn’t seem like much of a difference. It seems as if there’s no significant differenc between the two types for guys like me, or am I missing something?

  7. Tried to download the AR book. No love.

  8. One thing I didn’t see above is that, not all free-float handguards are compatible with “billet” uppers. I was building a 9mm AR and, I had chosen a Matrix Arms side-charging upper. I wasn’t paying attention when I chose to use a Midwest Industries MLOK handguard and, due to the mechanism that locks the rail on the handguard in alignment with the receiver’s rail, it wouldn’t fit. The bottom/front of the receiver was too wide to accept the locking tabs. I really wanted to go with that combination so, I took the receiver and the handguard to a gunsmith. I had him mill small reliefs in the bottom/front of the receiver to accommodate the locking tabs of the handguard. Afterwards, it fit perfectly but, it cost me an additional $80 for that oversight. I did go back and look at the website where I ordered the handguard and, it clearly stated “not compatible with billet uppers”. I should have paid closer attention. Lesson learned.

  9. Free float hand guards have two different thread diameters

  10. I want a free float handguard for my s&w mp15 sport 2 223 556. Any suggestions. I want to stay in between 50 to 150 on the price. I like quad rails but open to other options. I’m new to accessories so want a good bit for myself.

    1. Hi Darrius,

      Thanks for your interest. Our Spear handguard would fit well on your M&P15 Sport II. It is simple to install, lightweight, and easy on the wallet.

      Hope this helps.

  11. Handgaurds and foregrips aint the same thing !

  12. save your money for a handguard and switch your rifle to a piston drive like a m14 I know you don’t have to shoot rapid fire to get it to hot handle without a glove, every shot gets it hotter ammo, your bolt and hands get to cookingThe gas system keeps pouring hot gas into it !

  13. If you’re looking for a FF handguard and need help deciding which one to go with, I suggest you check out the AR15 Parts Weights Database. Google it. Over 1450 rail systems are currently included, which attachment system, weight, ID, length, and material all included as specs. It’s the best parts selecting tool on the internet…and not just for rails!

  14. I’m just now getting back into rifles after only keeping pistols for home defense. I did spend quite a lot of time around weapons in my 6 yr. military career. Large machine guns down to small arms. It’s been almost 22 yrs. since I’ve handled a rifle like this and much less a M2.50 cal. or Mark 19. I’ve recently built an AR-15 5.56 variant that I’d like to start upgrading. It’s built with a floating 16″ barrel. “Heavy” 15″ Key mod hand guards I’ll upgrade 1st. (Any advice on light, strong, affordable and less busy hand guards than what I’ve found lately). I like the rails and only in the spots I need iron sights. The full rail along the top is a bit much. The rest is much like my G.I. A-2 but with rails and no carry handle. I also wanted to say thanks. Thank s for this helpful website. It’s been instrumental while I built my AR-15.

  15. Hello All.
    Long story short I have a DPMS 20″ bull barrel with rifle length gas system, & a .936″ gas block seat.
    Here is the tricky part. Down the barrel, towards the action, from the gas port the barrel expands to 1 1/8″ in OD.
    When it was on the original rifle it had a free float tube, with no ability to mount anything.

    ***Actual Question***
    Does anyone know of an at least 15″ free float forend that doesn’t weigh a ton and has a barrel nut that can accommodate such a wide barrel? or Does anyone know of an AR 10 forend that will fit on an AR15 receiver?


  16. Thank you for forearm article. I’ve been thinking of this upgrade but was confused as to options. One question though. How can i tell if my gas block is small enough for float quad rail and how do i install?

  17. Great piece of information! Thank you very much.

  18. James, assuming your handguard is heating up due to your barrel temperature rising, there are a few things you can do to remedy the situation. One option is to get a heavier contour barrel. Thin barrels tend to heat up quicker since the heat from the expanding gasses only has to heat a small abount of metal to reach the outside. The trade-off of a heavy barrel is that it will take more time to cool completely, for the opposite reason.

    Another option is to buy a freefloat handguard. Freefloat handguards minimize contact with the barrel, so it shouldn’t heat up from firing much, if at all.

    But before dropping big bucks on new parts, consider evaluating how you are firing. If you are shooting in such a manner that your barrel is heating your handguard to the point that you’re worried about something melting, that tells me that you are firing quite quickly and not giving your rifle a break. If you are doing some sort of speed competition, that’s fine, but be aware of the problems this will bring up.

    For one thing, as your barrel heats up, your accuracy will visibly decrease. Hot barrels are more “flexible” than cold ones. This causes what is known as “walking” of the barrel, where your barrel may shift a few degrees from shot to shot, causing a matching point-of-impact shift.

    In addition, heating up your barrel, then continuing to fire without break is hard on your chamber and the beginning of your rifling. This practice will reduce barrel life by quite a bit.

    Ideally, if you are shooting for accuracy or even just want to make a plinker last as long as you can make it, you would shoot slowly and methodically. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been guilty of doing a couple of mag dumps, but most of the time I will fire off five to ten rounds with a few seconds between each shot, then wait a couple of minutes to relax my barrel. Once I feel the barrel becoming noticeably hot, I let the rifle sit for ten to fifteen minutes (less if it’s cold out) or until it is back to the atmospheric temperature. Even shooting slowly for too long without a break can heat up a barrel too much.

    Honestly, I’ve used Magpul products and they are very well-made. I wouldn’t worry too much about an AFG melting, since it would require a pretty high temperature. My biggest worry would be the waste of ammo and how hard on your rifle that much heat would be. A hot barrel is a bigger problem than a hot handguard. Hot handguards should just warn you of how hard you pushed your barrel.

  19. Thank you for this article! I have a Firefield carbine length drop in quad rail handguard on my spanky new M&P 15 5.56 and it does get quite warm. Is there anything that can be done for this? I want to get the Magpul Magpul AFG2 Angled Forend Grip, but I don’t want it to melt with use… Any advice?

  20. Very helpful, thanks!

  21. I have a Ar-15 with a 20 inch barrel. I’m looking for a different free floating railing system, something that would cover most over the barrel. Any suggestions? I’m a rookie here. thank you in advanced for the help.

  22. Thank You AT3Tactical for this extremely helpful and highly informative piece in the various AR15 rails. I couldn’t have stumbled across this article at a more better time than today. I’m currently in the market for a custom hand guard rail and after talking with many friends and going to my local firearms store, I was amazed at how many different kinds of rails their were and the pros/cons of each one. Of course, everyone I talked to all had their own opinion, but the general consensus was that ultimately, it boils down to personal preference and what’s the most comfortable for myself. Fortunately for me, I came across this article and not only did it provide me with enough information, it also provided me with enough to actually make a determination on what specific kind and style that I wanted. So this weekend I’ll be out shopping for a new rail and I’ll save a ton of time because I already know which one I want to purchase. Thanks again AT3 Tactical for posting this informative and in my opinion “A must read” article if you’re in the market for a new hand guard rail for an AR15.

  23. Very informative. glad to know about difference between drop in and free float fore grips.

  24. Great and impostant article, however, there are a couple things I’d like to bring up. First: “When you rest a rifle on a bipod that is attached to the barrel (or a drop-in handguard) the bipod will create force that can very slightly warp the barrel.” That aluminum/polymer handguard is going warp long before that chrome moly steel barrel is going to warp and to be honest, I’ve never heard of a bipod attached to a barrel bending it. I have heard rumors. Second: The effectiveness of free float handguards on the AR platform depend on a great deal of things. Was the barrel extension bent or twisted when the barrel was installed? Is the barrel extension straight? Is the barrel nut perfectly machined? Was the rail perfectly machined? Are the screws holding that rail on permanently secured? The point is the AR platform was never intended to be a tack driver, it is a combat rifle. I’ve seen several free float handguards that either weren’t attached properly or weren’t made properly. I’ve seen them come loose. In any of these instances they will not be “true.” Most free float handguards are secured to a special barrel nut by six screws, which itself is secured to the barrel and the barrel extension. Some have an end cap that is secured by more screws, which may or may not be touching the barrel. So yes, technically it is not attached to the barrel but it is attached to something that is attached to the barrel. Regardless of how many screws, the whole setup depends on no movement of the rail, that the rail is straight (if you have an iron sight) and those screws holding up. I personally have never seen a drop-in that wasn’t tight and locked up, being clamped in place with the delta ring, a VERY strong spring and the end cap. I’m sure there are exceptions if you go really cheap, as with anything.

    I know it appears I’m doing a “hatchet” job on this article – I am not and it is well written, however, there are potential issues with free float handguards that people should know. I will add that a nice drop-in will likely be in the $60 – $120 price range, a nice free float setup (handguard, barrel nut, shims, sleeve, screws) will cost $180 and up (potentially $300+). A “classic” drop-in can be had for $20 – $30. Installation of a drop-in requires no tools and is hard to screw up, a free float probably shouldn’t be installed by a novice and they require special tools (vise, torque wrench, upper receiver clamp, etc.) and knowledge. Additionally, many people attach a front sight to the end of a free float – again, if it’s not straight or secure, it will be useless. I’ve never seen anyone attach optics to a drop-in handguard, only “tools” (light, sling attachment, laser, etc.). All said, I have four AR’s with both types of handguards. I like both. If accuracy was my prime concern I would go with free float as the author states. As for who I am: I build my own rifles (AR’s), I’ve served in the Army/Army Reserve for 38 years, I’m a retired state trooper and a POST certified firearms instructor/range master. I am very familiar with the AR platform and again, I wish to stress that it was designed as a combat rifle – it was never intended to be a sniper rifle or a tack driver, it’s design for this purpose is flawed. If you want superb accuracy go with a glass or polymer bedded bolt action rifle. I hope I’ve made it clear this is a great and informative article – I’m in agreement with the author on many points – I simply wanted to point out some additional issues to consider regarding handguards.

  25. mitch, whether the more expensive rails are worth it is almost completely dependent on your use of the rifle. The quality of the materials, QC, strength, weight, and (less importantly) looks factor into the price of a free-float rail, much like with anything else. Though there are exceptions and many people are happy with fifty-dollar rails, they likely won’t be of the same quality as the more expensive counterparts. They are more likely to break, probably aren’t as concerned with weight, probably didn’t see extensive QC to ensure they will fit or function properly, and probably are simplistic in design. As I told Orrin, I have a Daniel Defense Omega rail that, after almost ten years, is still holding strong. It is extremely light weight, but it is as sturdy as they come. Obviously, I am a proponent of the higher end rails, but if you just want something to toss a cheap light on, the cheaper rails will do just fine. Just don’t expect them to hold up forever or take too many hits and be prepared to deal with poor QC. If you are mounting a lot of equipment, are hard on your rifles, or are planning on adding an expensive optic to your rifle, dish out the extra cash now and save on replacements down the road. If you are building a budget rifle and want a rail for light use, then buying a 400-dollar rail will be pointless (unless you just like the looks). I went with the Daniel Defense because I wanted a light-ish weight rifle and planned on putting a nicer scope on my rifle (which I am FINALLY about to do). My advice: buy the nicest rails you can afford. If you have 150 to spend on rails, spend 150. If you only have 50 bucks, either make due with what you can get or save a bit more. I’ll personally cheap out on some stuff, but optics, triggers, barrels, and forearms are some of the only things that I’ve learned to be picky about.

    1. I have had them all. Are you just going to shoot at the range from a bench .or are you gone run your rifle hard ,really use it? I personally have carbine length spikes tactical large / fat keep your hands cooler, free-floating while still having pinned fsb. If you still have to have a gas block. Why not have a front site post to. With a flat top receiver you can have a rear fixed or flip up sight . And Mount an optic and not have to worry about a front sight unless it visually bothers you .if using a red dot. actually when using a red dot you don’t look at the dot you’re looking at your target the front site post you won’t even see it if shooting properly. And on my other rifle I have BCM plastic drop in and I’m happy as can be with that and you can attach lights or whatever you want. I have two sets very expensive free float hand guards that I don’t use , and the accuracy that you lose from dropping hand guards is nothing that you’re going to notice unless you’re a professional Match shooter at long distances, it’s really about what type of shooting your going to do. Just realize this industry gets people hyped up on stuff that is really over the top. Overall you should worry about your bcg , barrel and a good trigger ! that’s what really counts and having the fundamentals of trigger control. Without that I don’t care what you buy you’re not gonna be Happy.

  26. Great article. Very informative. My only question is, why the huge cost difference in free float rails? Some are as low as $50 others as high as $400. I am not sure iif the cost is worth it.

  27. Orrin, from my experience, no. With a free-float forearm, the rail is ridgedly attatched to the receiver. As long as you have a quality rail, it won’t move around on impacts unless they are strong enough to damage the rails. I have a nine year old Daniel Defense Omega rail (free floating) mounted on my 20″ rifle and the sights (front iron mounted on rail, rear mounted on receiver) have never come off zero due to an impact. Granted, I’m careful with my rifles, but it’s still fallen short distances on occasion. If you are going to mount an optic on an AR, free-float is the way to go. Drop in handguards can shift due to pressure on a given point, throwing off optics. Now, my experience with these things is limited (one drop-in tube, one drop-in quad rail, and one free float quad rail) so I can only speak from what I’ve seen. Most people recommend free floating forearms for optics of any kind.

  28. My question is…if i were to mount iron sights or an optic onto a free floating forearm and the rifle got bumped or dropped would the sights or optics be more likely to be out of alighnment on a free float compared to a fixed forearm?

  29. M16 Colt is a wonderful gun
    I need a full catalog for it free
    and amodel please

  30. Can you change a drop in quad rail hand guard for a free float hand guard? Can the a free float work with the spring loaded delta ring the same as a drop in.

  31. I’d like to replace my stock mid-length handguards with a drop in rail system. The current handguards measure 8-5/8″. Is a 9″ system compatable with those 8-5/8″ handguards?


  32. Great Info on the Forearm. Love the site so far. Will explore more.

  33. I have purchased a Sig Sauer AR-15 m400 .223 16″ barrel with Direct Gas Impingement, what length of free float Tactical Quad Rail can I fit ? Thanks

  34. What size quad rail will fit on a olympic arms k16 bull barrel the barrel is 16 inches

  35. Hi Paul – your original front sight will work fine with this rail!

    Bill – yes our rails work with Adams Arms uppers!

    Thanks, Zac

  36. thanks for the info ,im purchasing an AT3 7” free float quad rail for a s&w m&p15 5.56 cal. will my front org. sight have to be replaced or will this fit ok?

    1. It should that exactly what I put on mine!

  37. Will the AT3 quad rail fit on an Adams Arms Upper?

  38. Thank you so much for the article. I needed the info. Nice job.
    It seems that I saw somewhere that there is a split free float rail to where you do not have to take off the front sight and it attaches to your barrel nut and it won’t twist, either. I will look at your sight further to see what you have. Thanks again.

    1. Bill you’re correct, for awhile you could only get quad rails but now m-lok and Keymod drop ins are available. I have one on my Bushy, the only downfall is they’re not available for mid or rifle length gas systems

    2. Another reason I shop at AT3 is, I enjoy the articles and videos. They make learning easy.

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