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The Forward Grip for the AR-15

Long guns are prone to recoil and muzzle-flip, just like handguns. There are a million strategies for how to take these factors. One of the most reliable is the forward grip.

Magpul MOE Slim Line AR-15 Handguard - Carbine Length - w/ M-LOK Slots - MAG538

These come in two main varieties: the forward grip (which is designed to be held like you might hold a pistol’s grip) and the hand stop (which isn’t designed to be gripped like a pistol, but rather to provide an anchor for a solid grip on the forend).

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The angled foregrip vs. the vertical grip

Which is better? Meh. Both have their strong points, for sure. And you can’t really have both.

Some look at the length of the gun. Let’s assume, for a minute, that we’re talking about rifles (because you can’t put a vertical foregrip on something that’s legally a pistol). Longer forends allow for a solid “High-C” style grip with the support arm extended way out.

Magpul AFG2 for AR-15 (MAG414) - Angled Fore Grip
The Magpul AFG2 is one of the most popular angled grips around.

In this style, a hand stop wins. It shows right where to stop the hand. But a vertical grip can also act as a hand stop.

Sadly, though, the hand stop can’t act as a vertical grip. But there is a continuum of sorts–a sliding scale where manufacturers try to create new names and categories for similar things.

Magpul MVG- MOE Vertical Grip - MAG413
A Magpul Vertical Grip. This one in MOE.

For example. Magpul’s Vertical Grip is clearly a vertical grip.

The Magpul Angled Foregrip is not a pistol grip.

Magpul’s Angled Foregrip is an angled foregrip. Truth in advertising.

The Magpul Hand Stop.

And the Magpul Hand Stop is clearly a hand stop.

But there are some vertical grips, going all the way back to the forward grip on the old Thompsons, that would be classified as grips, even though they’re angled.

Why does it matter?

Handstop. Hand Stop. Hand-stop.

These stop the hand. A hand stop’s entire purpose is to allow a shooter to stabilize a gun by pushing forward, without the risk of that hand sliding too far out on the forend and coming into contact with, or too near, the muzzle.

A hand stop, like this one from AT3, is a very simple device that can make a world of difference in ergonomics.
A handstop, like this one from AT3, is a very simple device that can make a world of difference in ergonomics.

Some like to pull back and into their body with the hand stop. Others simply use the hand stop as an index point for where their hand needs to stop when they grip the forend with their support hand. Others push–it all comes down to personal preference.

The legal argument with hand stops

A vertical grip, one that extends down or at an angle allowing the support hand to grip it like a pistol, is not legal on a pistol. You can’t put one on a 1911, or a GLOCK, or an AR pistol.

They may be placed on full-sized rifles and shotguns. These may not be placed on the shorter “firearm” designated guns that shoot shotshells, but they are totally fine on anything that is legally an SBR or SBS.

B5 Gripstop Hand Stop - Picatinny Mount
Push or pull, the B5 Systems hand stop has texture on one side to allow for a solid point of contact in either direction.

Hand stops, though, are different. Though they are still stabilizing devices, they’re allowed on pistols and common add-ons for AR-15 pistols and AK pistols, and PCC-like builds.

If you’re still following this thread, you’ll realize that the word “grip” means “like a pistol” and “hand stop” means it is not something you can grip like a pistol. So what, then, is to be made of the angled foregrip? Is it a grip? No. Is it a hand stop–yes.

Attachment types

There are hand stops, vertical grips, and angled grips in every style under the sun. If your gun has Picatinny rails, or Q-Mod, or M-LOK, or anything, really, you’re set. And there are adapters, too, that can help with cross-platform connections.

UTG Ultra Slim M-LOK Angled Foregrip
Slim, but effective. This M-LOK foregrip is from UTG.

The M-LOK angled foregrip seems to be the clear winner. While the Magpul options are likely the most popular, there are solid options (as in metal) from other makers, like this UTG.

Fortis Shift Vertical Foregrip - M-LOK
Fortis. Going with the skeletal aluminum construction, too.

The basic M-LOK forward grips are exceptional on carbines or any SBR. Short barrels (or short forends that allow for obtrusive front sight posts) mean you may be cramped up, and a vertical grip can keep you from reaching way back and grabbing the magazine well (and magazine), which can be problematic if you like for cartridges to feed right.

The MI barricade stop takes the old hand stop concept to the next level, allowing you to push against an obstacle or window sill to stabilize a shot.

M-LOK hand stops round out the top three for popularity, which really speaks to the popularity of M-LOK.

Other odd options

There’s at least one concept that we’ve yet to cover in enough detail. That is the vertical grip bipod. As forend space is limited, and you may want to have both a bipod for steady long-range shots and a foregrip for stable shots while moving, you might have to make a choice between the two.

Grip Pod V2 Vertical Forward Grip Bipod (Cam lever) - GPS-V2-CL
The Grip Pod V2 Vertical Forward Grip Bipod lets you get a grip or have a bipod, and you can even get a grip while the legs are out.

Or you can get one device that will allow you to do both things well. That’s where these handy combos come in.

UTG Combat D-Grip w/ Ambi Quick Release Deployable Bipod
UTG makes one, too. The Combat D-Grip.

The concept is easy enough to articulate. Many of these are hollow. Why not fill one with a bipod that can pop out when you need to go prone?

Get a grip

Like everything we could possibly talk about with the AR-15, which you choose will likely come down to personal preference.

Are you looking to color-match your accessories with your gun? That will limit your options, but not by much.

Do you have a long forend and do you like to stretch out your support arm? If so, look for the hand stop options.

Are you working with a carbine and more likely to tuck your elbows up into your body? The vertical grip may be the best option.

Lucky enough to be running full auto? If so, do you have ammo to run full auto? The vertical grip can keep your hand off the forend, which will–no matter what kind of forend you have–get hot. This can add that extra element of control.

This, of course, leaves the angled grip somewhere in the middle. It isn’t a compromise, though. It is insanely versatile, kind of like the carbine itself. And how you run it is up to you.

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.

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