Best-Rated AR-15 Handguards
Updated February 3, 2021
The term free-floating handguard brings to mind something magically surrounding your AR-15 barrel and is suspended in thin air. Nothing could be further from the truth. A free-floating handguard is in fact rigidly mounted to the gun’s upper receiver. The barrel is considered to be free-floating.
At its most basic purpose, an AR15 free float handguard fills the same need as the weapon’s original two-piece drop-in handguard. It gives your support hand protection from the heat caused by firing the weapon. Even with a semi-auto rate of fire, it doesn't take long for the heat to build up.
Additionally, you need to have something more substantial than just a naked barrel to hang onto. Of course, you could fire your AR that way. However, without a handguard of some sort, you would look pretty silly. Again, the original drop-in plastic handguard does work. However, an AR15 free float handguard takes care of this problem and more.
When you get rid of the old-school front sight that doubled as the gas block, the first perk of a free-floating rail comes into play. By installing an adjustable gas block, you now can extend the handguard all the way to the end of your barrel. Therefore, you have more room in which to mount accessories and hang onto your weapon. The advantages don't stop there. Let's explore other reasons to make the free-floating handguard leap.
Benefits to Upgrading AR-15 Handguards
Accuracy: An AR-15 free float handguard attaches directly to the upper receiver via the barrel nut. Therefore, the barrel of the weapon is free to do its thing without interference. Additionally, this design is much more stable than a drop-in style handguard due to the method of its mounting. Any time you can maintain a solid hold on the weapon without interference with the barrel, you are more likely to make an accurate shot.
Mounting accessories: The use of AR-15 rails gives you more versatility. The KeyMod and M-LOK AR-15 rails provide a multitude of mounting points for a sling mount, foregrips, lights, and lasers. Unless you run an AR15 free float handguard the only practical point to mount a sling is the underside of your gas block. Using AR-15 rails gives you the option to attach a sling at any position that suits your individual needs.
Easy to install/remove: The best AR-15 handguards allow you to adjust the position of your accessories quickly, for customized setups.
Look: Let’s be honest an AR-15 mounted with all sorts of accessories is one badass looking gun. Whether setting it up like a SOCOM rifle, or the FBI HRT, an upgraded AR-15 handguard can make a good looking gun a great looking gun.
Best-Rated AR-15 Handguards
|Aero Precision ATLAS R-ONE Handguard||$101.99|
|Aero Precision ATLAS S-ONE Handguard||$101.99|
|SLR Rifleworks ION Ultra Lite Lightweight Handguard||$208.99|
|Odin Works O2 Lite Rail System||$180.50|
|Seekins Precision NOXs M-LOK Rail System||$151.00|
|2A Armament Aethon M-LOK Rail System||$147.00|
|Strike Industries Strike M-LOK Rail System||$129.95|
|Fortis NIGHT Free Float Rail System||$189.90|
|Iron City Rifle Works Berserker Lite M-LOK Handguard||$189.99|
|V Seven 2099 Ultra-Light M-LOK Handguard||$280.33|
2021 Product Review: Best AR-15 Handguards
Aero Precision ATLAS R-ONE Handguard
Price: from $101.99
Length: 7, 9, 12, 15-Inch
Aero Precision quality is evident in their ATLAS R-ONE. What elements would you consider necessary in the best AR-15 rail system? The first qualities necessary are strength and durability. The ATLAS R-ONE is CNC machined out of 6061 T-6 aluminum, that has both bases covered. With a full-length Pic rail on its top and either KeyMod or M-LOK slots at the 3,6, and 9 o'clock position, versatility is covered. QD sling sockets are provided at these same positions for sling mount options.
Aero Precision has engineered an entirely new method of mounting called ATLAS (Aero Taper Lock Attachment System). ATLAS employs a custom barrel nut, wedge nuts, and a turnbuckle screw. Aero Precisions ATLAS R-ONE is easy to install while providing even pressure all around the rail. Warping of the AR-15 rails is eliminated by this proprietary mounting system.
Aero Precision ATLAS S-ONE Handguard
Price: from $101.99
Length: 7, 9, 12, 15-Inch
The ATLAS S-ONE handguard could be called the fraternal twin to the ATLAS R-ONE handguard. To make the S-ONE into the best free float handguard possible, Aero Precision kept the essentials from the R-ONE handguard.
Just like its older brother, the ATLAS S-ONE is CNC machined out of tough, durable 6061-T6 aluminum. It is available configured with either KeyMod or M-LOK slots. These mounting slots, as well as, QD sling sockets are amply spread in the 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions. Just as the ATLAS title indicates, the S-ONE incorporates Aero Precisions unique Aero Precision Lock Attachment System. The ATLAS mounting design eliminates warping of the AR-15 rails found in the installation of other traditional methods. These two Aero Precision rail systems are identical in every way, except for the Pic rail.
The S-ONE handguard does away with the center portion of the Pic rail.
The result is a low-profile, minimalist look that saves a little weight in the process. Along the center of the S-ONES top, you will feel slight ridges in the place of the Pic rail. These ridges will work either in place of or in combination with a finger-stop to allow you to index your support hand position.
SLR Rifleworks ION Ultra Lite Lightweight Handguard
Price: from $208.99
Length: 8, 10.7, 13.7, 15.5-Inch
SLR Rifleworks offers up its best free float handguard with the ION Ultra Light. Instead of letting the goal of being ultralight mean featureless, SLR Rifleworks packs in features galore. In keeping with the industry standards, the ION Ultra Light Lightweight Handguard is machined out of 6061 T-6 aluminum. However, SLR Rifleworks veers away from the pack with their proprietary slip-fit mounting lock design. You have no need to time the 7075 aluminum barrel nut. You simply torque it down and move on to the next step. The ION Ultra Light Handguard slips over the barrel nut, clamping down tight via the four inserts on its bottom edge. Additionally, the ION has a billet insert at its top, rear that hugs the gas tube of your AR-15. Therefore, if for any reason the multiple inserts on its bottom loosen, the ION will stay in position.
The ION covers seven different positions around its circumference with your choice of M-LOK or KeyMod slots. That means that not only you have the normal 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions but four 45-degree angle planes as well. Additionally, SLR put four different QD sling mount points at the front and rear of the ION. The IONs Pic rail exists only at the front and rear of its length. The center portion along the IONs top section is left slick. The resulting profile is very comfortable to engage with a traditional C type grip.
Odin Works O2 Lite Rail System
Price: from $180.50
Length: 9.5, 12.5, 15.5-Inch
When you are looking for lightweight, looks, and performance, the best AR-15 rail system by Odin Works is the O2 Lite Rail System. The O2 weighs in a full 20-percent lighter than any other free-floating handguard in their line up. The weight reduction comes from judicious machine work along with the choice to leave off the center portion of the Pic rail. Odin Works, like many manufacturers, look to this area for a place to lose weight and look great.
The Odin Works O2 Lite Rail System opts for 6005-T651 aluminum for its source material. This eclectic aluminum undergoes an additional stretching process during its tempering phases. While this is more time consuming, it does allow the material to be machined without distortion. Installation of the O2 is indeed amateur night. Using Odin Works unique adapter, barrel nut, and alignment tool, your new free-floating O2 rail installs in minutes.
The O2 Lite Rail System has QD sockets at the three and nine o'clock positions, both on the front and rear. Odin Works offers the O2 in either KeyMod or M-LOK configuration. You get mounting slots that run the full length of the rail in the 3, 6, and 9 o'clock locations.
Seekins Precision NOXs M-LOK Rail System
Price: from $151.00
Length: 9, 12, 15-Inch
Possibly the best free float rail system by Seekins Precision is the NOXs (pronounced no excess). Seekins Precision starts with 6061 T6 aluminum and carves out a handguard that looks beefy. However, upon further inspection, you realize that they have taken this rail down to its bare minimum without looking like it. Seekins opens up every possible area along this rail in order to save weight and allow for heat to escape the barrel.
The NOXs provides a slim profile for the shooter that has not quite so large hands. The rail stands out visually with its full, smooth, aggressive profile.
Unlike some AR-15 rails going for weight reduction, the NOXs shows off an uninterrupted Picatinny rail that flows from the front to the rear of the rail. Your choice of either KeyMod or M-LOK design slots run the length of the NOXs rail at the 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions. Additionally, Seekins put in four QD sling swivel attachment points at the 3, and 6 o'clock points in the front and rear of their NOXs AR15 free float handguard.
Seekins Precision employs its patent-pending Cross-lok mounting system for the NOXs rail. Among the rail mounting systems out there, the Cross-lok has proven to be a relatively simple one to use. This system provides a very secure lock-up along with an anti-rotation design feature.
2A Armament Aethon M-LOK Rail System
Price: from $147.00
Length: 7, 10, 12, 15-Inch
2A Armament gives you with their best AR-15 handguard that is rated highly for its striking appearance and rugged design. American sourced 6061 T6 extruded aluminum makes up the heart of the Aethon M-LOK rail system. This rails slim profile makes a solid grip not only possible but comfortable, even for shooters without gorilla hands. Attention to detail and precision machining leaves the Aethon without any sharp edges that might leave a blood trail.
The Aethon full-length Pic rail gets a neat touch with scalloped ribs that save weight. 2A Armament went with M-LOK slots and QD swivel mount points at the 3, 6, and 9 o'clock position.
Strike Industries Strike M-LOK Rail System
Price: from $129.95
Length: 7, 10, 13.5, 15.5, 17-Inch
Strike Industries is known for delivering high-quality products at a reasonable Price:. Keeping with that tradition, perhaps the best free float handguard for the money is the Strike M-LOK Rail System. This is a prime example of a light, rigid, one-piece AR15 free float handguard.
This handguard is large enough to accept most adjustable gas blocks, as well as, suppressors. While at the same time remain trim enough for most shooters to easily control without a forward grip.
However, if you want to attach a forward grip or another device, there is plenty of places to do so. There is an ample section of Pic rail at the front and rear on the top. Along with M-LOK slots at the 3, 6, and 9 o'clock position from the front of the rail to the rear. Strike Industries also put in ambidextrous QD swivel attachment points at the rear of this rail.
Fortis NIGHT Free Float Rail System
Price: from $189.90
Length: 10, 12, 14, 16-Inch
Although far from the most expensive free-floating rail system on the market, you might believe that it is. When you think about the best AR-15 rail system around, what comes to mind? Of course, quality, durability, and design are the first things. The Fortis NIGHT brings all three to the table. Then there is the visual impact the rail has on the weapon.
Fortis uses a proprietary, patent-pending two-piece barrel nut. This system rigidly attaches the NIGHT rail without any visible screws. However, it yields a full 360-degree contact between the handguard and receiver. The mounting process, which at first seems like magic, is actually one of the easiest to accomplish.
Available in either KeyMod or M-LOK configuration, the NIGHT rail system is complemented with a unique feature. The NIGHT has not only a full-length Pic rail on its top but a short section of quad-rail on its front. The resulting profile proves not only to be very functional but is going to draw attention. Fortis labeled this AR15 free float handguard the NIGHT, to me the title Dragon Slayer comes to mind.
Iron City Rifle Works Berserker Lite M-LOK Handguard
Price: from $189.99
Length: 8, 13, 15, 16.5-Inch
Ordinarily, the word minimalist brings to mind someone who is going for less. The Berserker is one of those AR-15 rails that excel in delivering more for the minimalist shooter looking for less. I'm talking about less weight, less mass, and fewer gimmicks. However, when it comes to quality and performance, the Berserker brings a lot to the table.
The skeletonized body of this rail is light and open. Iron City Rifle Works went with the most cut-outs that could possibly be included. The goal is to get the maximum weight reduction and heat dissipation possible. The result is all that. Plus a wicked showing that whether you love it or hate it, you can't look away from it.
The open design of the Berserker Lite gives you easy access to your adjustable gas block. Additionally, Iron City strays from the traditional pattern when it comes to mounting surfaces. There is a short Pic rail section up front large enough for a front sight, while the rest of the top is slick. The Berserker does have M-LOK slots at the 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions but only in the forward section of the rail. This lends itself to an all business, down and dirty look.
V Seven 2099 Ultra-Light M-LOK Handguard
Price: from $280.33
Length: 7.1, 9.2, 11.1, 13.5, 15, 16.5-Inch
Components for a super-fast, ultra-light competition gun don't come along every day. V Seven goes above and beyond with their offering for the best AR-15 rail system to be found. This distinction is achieved through the use of 2099 Lithium aluminum alloy. 2099 aluminum is twice as strong as its nearest 6061 competitors. The 2099 aluminum alloy is touted the most advanced aluminum on the planet.
The unsurpassed strength and rigidity of the 2099 aluminum alloy lets V Seven produce a full-featured, ultra-light AR15 free float handguard. The V Seven offers a Picatinny rail on top and M-LOK slots at 3, 6, and 9 o'clock along its full length for endless mounting options. Open lattice machine work is not only elegant and graceful but lends itself nicely to heat dissipation.
Upgrade Your AR-15 Handguard with Wing Tactical
For some shooters the original A2 style, drop-in handguard will always be the way to go. Honestly, if you only shoot occasionally, or simply need a personal defense weapon at the house, then that will work. However, if your shooting habits include extended periods of carrying your gun. Perhaps you hunt or target shoot at longer ranges. In that case, the move up to a free-floating handguard is something you should seriously consider.
Most of us like to tinker with our toys. Luckily the modular design of the AR-15 allows that with a very shallow learning curve. If you're reading this transcript, you can find videos online to step you through most mods on your AR-15. The tools and skillset required to switch out an AR-15 handguard are minimal. In consideration of cost, there are many different free-floating rail systems here. If you take a minute to look through them, you will find something to fit your needs and budget. Although you should be careful. Once you scratch the upgrade itch, there's no telling where it will take you.