Best-Rated AR-15 Handguards

Updated January 14, 2022

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

SHOOTING AN AR-15: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE

  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.

BEST-RATED AR-15 HANDGUARDS

  • Handguard

    Price

  • Geissele MK14 Super Modular M-LOK Rail

    $275.00

  • Aero Precision ATLAS S-ONE Handguard

    $135.99

  • SLR Rifleworks ION Ultra Lite Lightweight Handguard

    $246.99

  • Odin Works O2 Lite Rail System

    $180.50

  • Spike's Tactical M-LOK Combat Rated Rail (CRR)

    $216.00

  • 2A Armament Aethon M-LOK Rail System

    $147.25

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

    $209.95

  • Fortis SWITCH MOD2 556 M-LOK Rail System

    $256.45

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

    $179.99

  • V Seven 2099 Ultra-Light M-LOK Handguard

    $324.95

2022 PRODUCT REVIEW: BEST AR-15 HANDGUARDS

 

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.

Spike's Tactical M-LOK Combat Rated Rail (CRR)
  • Price:

    from $216.00

  • Length:

    7, 9, 10, 12-Inch

The Spike's Tactical M-LOK CCR has been completely redesigned for an improved shooting experience. It has a reinforced quick-disconnect sling swivel slot on each side of the rail and free-float ergonomic features to make your firearm easy to hold, carry, mount and shoot. Its free-floating design and M-LOK mounting slots at 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions provide superior flexibility for mounting all types of accessories. The rail also compliments billet AR lowers and uppers.

Spike's Tactical M-LOK CRR is precision machined from a single piece of high-strength 6061-T6 aluminum. It has a fluted body, significantly reducing its overall weight. It also has a narrow 1.8-inch diameter profile, making this rail compatible with numerous muzzle devices. A Mil-Spec Type III black hardcoat anodized finish gives the rail the perfect balance of durability and looks.

Along with its easy installation, the Spike's Tactical M-LOK CRR offers four different mounting locations for accessories. The installation kit includes shims and a barrel nut compatible with standard three-pin barrel nut wrenches.

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. 

Fortis SWITCH MOD2 556 M-LOK Rail System
  • Price:

    from $256.45

  • Length:

    15-Inch

Whether you're a competitive shooter looking for a high-quality rifle or a homeowner who wants to protect their property, the Fortis SWITCH MOD2 556 is the ideal rail system for an AR-15. It's made of aircraft-grade aluminum for exceptional durability when your AR is put to the test. 

It also has top rail sections for backup sights and optics at the front and rear. The M-LOK slots at the 3, 6 and 9 o'clock positions provide space for additional Picatinny rail sections.

The Fortis SWITCH MOD2 556 features aggressive cuts along the sides for an improved grip and attractive appearance. Open venting at the 12 o'clock position provides better airflow to the barrel to help disperse heat buildup. 

This rail system also has a quick-detach lever, allowing you to quickly remove the handguard to change the gas block settings or clean the barrel. The rail's unique locking system also permits tool-free removal so you can make changes anytime, anywhere.

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.

V Seven 2099 Ultra-Light M-LOK Handguard
  • Price:

    from $324.95

  • 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.