Best-Rated AR-15 Handguards

Updated January 11, 2023

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.

Table of Contents


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Easy to install/remove: The best AR-15 handguards allow you to adjust the position of your accessories quickly, for customized setups.
  4. 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.


  • Handguard


  • Geissele MK14 Super Modular M-LOK Rail


  • Aero Precision ATLAS S-ONE Handguard


  • SLR Rifleworks ION Ultra Lite Lightweight Handguard


  • Odin Works O2 Lite Rail System


  • Fortis Camber AR-15 M-LOK Handguard


  • 2A Armament Aethon M-LOK Rail System


  • Strike Industries GRIDLOK M-LOK Rail System With Front Sight


  • Midwest Industries Combat Rail M-LOK Lightweight Handguard


  • RISE Armament RA-905 AR-15 M-LOK Handguard


  • STNGR HWK M-LOK Handguard




Geissele MK14 Super Modular M-LOK Rail
  • Price:

    from $275.00

  • Length:

    9.5, 13.5, 15-Inch

Shooters choose Giessele for their rock-solid, precision-engineered M-LOK rail systems, and this MK14 is no exception. In fact, Geissele's manufacturing standards are so high that each barrel nut must be hand-selected to fit each rail. The MK14 uses an updated version of the proven Giessele barrel nut design for superior rigidity and easy installation. 

The MK14 is made with durable 6061-T6 aluminum and finished with Type III hardcoat anodizing, ensuring years of hard work in the field. It also has a small diameter and short height for reduced weight and a slimmer overall package. 

The MK14 covers five different positions around its circumference, with M-LOK slots at the 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions and quick-disconnect sling sockets at the 11 and 1 o'clock positions. It also has a complete top Picatinny rail for all your attachments. 

Aero Precision ATLAS S-ONE Handguard
  • Price:

    from $135.99

  • 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 $246.99

  • 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. You get mounting slots that run the full length of the rail in the 3, 6, and 9 o'clock locations.

Fortis Camber AR-15 M-LOK Handguard
  • Price:

    from $251.70

  • Length:


If you're on the hunt for a stable and reliable M-LOK handguard you can attach to your AR-15, the Fortis Camber AR-15 M-LOK Handguard deserves your consideration. This sleek addition to your AR build increases your grip to keep you comfortable and safe in the field. 

The free float design of this handguard uses an innovative Camber Lock™ mounting system for exceptional strength and security. This attachment method relies on its stainless steel barrel nut and locking camber nuts, which are constructed to ensure rigidity and reduce weight. This revolutionary mounting system comes with quick detach capabilities, enabling users to install and remove the handguard in seconds — perfect for servicing and cleaning to keep your firearm in top condition. 

Firearm enthusiasts often choose the Fortis Camber Handguard for its versatility and lightweight features. The M-LOK slots along the sides and bottom and the full-length Picatinny rail on top allow gun owners to easily add multiple attachments to support everything from bipods and lasers to lights and switches. 

2A Armament Aethon M-LOK Rail System
  • Price:

    from $147.25

  • 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 GRIDLOK M-LOK Rail System With Front Sight
  • Price:

    from $209.95

  • Length:

    8.5, 11, 15, 17-Inch

Strike Industries GRIDLOK M-LOK rail system takes the typical M-LOK handguard to new extremes. Strike Industries put two years of research and development into this GRIDLOK handguard, resulting in a one-of-a-kind rail system. If you like the idea of a free-floating handguard but don't want to deal with the hassle of assembly, the Strike Industries GRIDLOK is the handguard for you.

M-LOK slots surround the GRIDLOK, and there are Picatinny rail sections in the front and rear, complete with an integrated flip-up front sight. You can remove the front top rail to accommodate an A2 sight setup.

This rail system features a proprietary barrel nut design with a spring-loaded quick-release lever. It takes just seconds to attach or detach from your rifle, making this the fastest M-LOK handguard to install and remove. 

Midwest Industries Combat Rail M-LOK Lightweight Handguard


  • Price:

    from $189.95

  • Length:

    10.5, 12.625, 14, 15-Inch

With any purchase, you're looking to get your money's worth. The Combat Rail M-LOK Lightweight Handguard from Midwest Industries gives you confidence that it's made to last. This American-made handguard falls under the company's lifetime warranty, giving you the peace of mind that you're investing in a capable tool. 

This manufacturer didn't cut any corners with the design, using 6061-T6 Aluminum for the body and 4140 steel for the barrel nut. The entire body is treated with a hardcoat anodized type III finish that meets military specifications, affording this piece extra protection. These rugged materials will withstand tough wear and tear and extreme weather, offering superior operation on the range or in the field. After a speedy installation process, this lightweight handguard will be ready for years of use. 

This one-piece, free-floating handguard is fully dehorned and deburred, offering a slim and lightweight profile that is comfortable in your hands. It's available in various lengths and weights to provide a solution that fits your needs. It has two anti-rotation tabs to ensure stable, accurate, and consistent firing. Its QD sling sockets, Picatinny rail, and M-LOK slots allow you to add everything you need to ensure your AR is ready for anything.


RISE Armament RA-905 AR-15 M-LOK Handguard
  • Price:

    from $256.45

  • Length:

    10, 13, 15-Inch

The RISE Armament RA-905 handguard offers endless customization options. It has six quick-detach sling mounting points, giving you plenty of options for a sling attachment. It also has M-LOK slots at the 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions for even more mounting options.

This rail system is made from a lightweight, durable 6061-T6 aluminum that can withstand even the harshest field conditions. It also has a lightweight, free-floating design and streamlined shape, providing a tight grip for precise, controlled handling. 

RISE Armament designed the RA-905 with top Picatinny rail sections in the front for a backup front sight. They also eliminated the top rail's center to further reduce weight. 

The RA-905's slip-on alignment system makes this handguard quick and easy to install. It's also designed with anti-rotation and anti-slip technology, eliminating the risk of sight misalignment. 

The RA-905 is compatible with most low-profile gas blocks with no modifications needed.

  • Price:

    from $130.49

  • Length:

    7, 10, 13.5, 15-Inch

The STNGR HWK M-LOK Handguard provides the ideal balance between ease of use and control. This top-of-the-line product offers the unrivaled attention to detail and artistry that the STNGR company is known for. This manufacturing precision results in a handguard that will elevate the feel and performance of your firearm. 

STNGR uses only premium materials to create its line of handguards, choosing 6061-T6 aluminum as the main component to ensure durability. This model also features a hardcoat anodized finish to increase its longevity and resistance to environmental exposure. These AR-15 additions are designed to stand the test of time and be ready for action in the harshest conditions. 

Engineers add aggressive angled machine cuts throughout construction to decrease weight and improve ventilation to keep your firearm sleek and maneuverable. This handguard's intuitive design elements, like its M-LOK slots and Picatinny rails, allow for adding many different attachments while improving your grip across the board. You can also install a sling with ease thanks to the four integrated QD slots.


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.