Top 5 AR-15 Handguards

The handguard on your AR-15 matters more than you might realize. It doesn’t matter if you’re a builder or if you just want to swap out a factory part for an aftermarket upgrade — the handguard is worth considering carefully. All too often, it’s an afterthought or selected without much care. To make things easier for you, these are five of our favorite AR-15 handguards and why the various features might be important to you.

Unique ARs — Slim We the People

unique ars handguard
The We the People handguard is offered by Unique ARs both with and without a top rail. (Photo credit: Unique ARs)

Now, it’s worth mentioning that any and all handguards made by Unique ARs are well worth adding to your collection. Which design you choose is up to your personal tastes and preferences. If your only concern is aesthetics, Unique ARs does produce handguards that are made with a serious lean into aesthetic appeal, meaning no rail and no mounting slots. But the company also produces beautifully designed handguards that offer functional features like the Slim We the People model.

The Unique ARs Slim We the People handguard is exactly what its name suggests — a handguard with We the People blazing down the side. It’s a slim design so it’s sleeker and lighter, weighing in at 1.03 pounds if you include the weight of the barrel nut and screws. This handguard is made from 6061 T6 aluminum, which is precipitation-hardened and aged for superior overall strength. It has a full-length Picatinny rail which is excellent for the addition of optics, magnifiers, and any other accessory you want on the top of the handguard. There are also M-LOK compatible slots at the 6 o’clock position. It has an inside diameter of 1.55 inches and an exterior diameter of 1.8 inches. According to the company, it’s compatible with all MIL-SPEC AR-15 uppers.

Aero Precision AR-15 Atlas R-One M-LOK Handguard

aero handguard
Aero Precision offers a full line of AR-15 handguards, so odds are there’s one you’ll like. (Photo credit: Aero Precision)

If there’s one company with a deservedly great reputation for making quality AR parts and accessories, it’s Aero Precision. Their components are well made, durable, and functional, all of which are vitally important to AR owners. The Aero Precision AR-15 Atlas R-One M-LOK Handguard is made for functional use and offered in various lengths, so odds are it’s available in the length you need for your AR-15. This handguard is made from 6061 T6 aluminum for durability and strength and has an anodized finish for resistance to the usual bumps and scrapes of serious use.

Features of the Atlas R-One include a full-length Picatinny rail for optics, magnifiers, thermal, and whatever else you want to mount to the gun. There are M-LOK compatible mounting points on every side — except for the topmost portion, of course — and that means it’s easy to add any number of accessories.

This handguard features the Aero Taper Lock Attachment System (ATLAS) which involves a pair of tapered locking nuts for the even distribution of pressure with the use of a custom barrel nut and turnbuckle screw. It’s offered in quite a few lengths, including 4.8 inches, 7.3 inches, 9.3 inches, 10.3 inches, 12.7 inches, 15 inches, and 16.6 inches. Available colors include black, Burnt Bronze Cerakote, Magpul FDE Cerakote, Magpul OD Cerakote, Sniper Grey Cerakote, and OD Green Anodized.

Midwest Industries Combat Rail T-Series Free Float Quad Rail

midwest quad rail ar-15 handguards
Sometimes you want the mounting options only a quad rail can give you. (Photo credit: Midwest Industries)

There are times when you want significantly more mounting surfaces on your handguard and aren’t overly concerned with weight. Quad rails tend to be bulkier due to the amount of metal necessary to create all those extra rails, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Midwest Industries Combat Rail T-Series Free Float Quad Rail has those four Picatinny rail mounting surfaces, making it extremely simple to add aftermarket accessories. If you, for whatever reason, need to trick out your AR-15 with optics, lights, lasers, and a vertical grip, this is the way to get it done.

This quad rail from Midwest Industries is designed to deliver a monolithic look with a full-length rail and is truly made for superior functionality. It has two integral anti-rotation QD sling sockets, so you can add a compatible sling, and is fully dehorned and deburred so it won’t snag. It also comes with the Midwest Industries lifetime guarantee. This handguard is also available in a variety of lengths including 12.625 inches, 7.25 inches, 14 inches, and 15 inches. It has a black finish. It is made from 6061 aluminum, meaning it’s naturally aged for strength, and is Type 3 hard coat anodized for resistance to surface wear. It has a 4140 heat-treated barrel nut, a patented 4140 heat-treated torque plate, and is T-marked for reference points when mounting accessories.

Strike Industries Gridlock Lite Handguard

strike industries handguard
Want a streamlined handguard? Check out this one from Strike Industries. (Photo credit: Strike Industries)

If you don’t require a full-length Picatinny rail, whether due to personal preference or you’re looking to cut weight, then check out handguards that only have rail at the front and back of the system. The Strike Industries Gridlock Lite Handguard is designed to reduce weight as much as possible while remaining functional. It’s a one-piece design that utilizes the company’s Quick Rail Detach System which allows the handguard to be removed by a quick-detach latch. That feature makes it far easier to make necessary adjustments to the gun and parts, such as adjustable gas blocks. This handguard is made from 6061 aluminum and has a barrel nut machined from 7000 series aluminum.

Features of the Strike Industries Gridlock Lite Handguard include free float compatibility, sections of Picatinny rail at either end, and a forward end cut to accommodate suppressors. There are also integral free swivel QD sockets at the rear of the handguard. This handguard is made to be lightweight and user-friendly. It’s offered in various lengths including 8.5 inches, 11 inches, 15 inches, and 17 inches. Black is the dominant color, although it is available in red in certain lengths. This is a great, streamlined option for times when cutting ounces really matters.

Odin Works 02 Lite M-LOK Handguard

AR-15 handguards
For a truly lightweight handguard that also looks cool, there’s this option from Odin Works. (Photo credit: Odin Works)

For times when you want to cut weight by a lot and retain some aesthetic appeal as well, there’s the Odin Works 02 Lite M-LOK Handguard. This handguard is designed to look good and perform well. It is currently the lightest handguard Odin Works offers. In fact, it’s about 20% lighter than their other products. It’s made from 6005- T651 aluminum which is both durable and rigid while remaining lightweight. It has a T6 temper that gives it a tensile strength of 38,000 psi. With an internal diameter of 1.6 inches, this handguard is best used with low-profile gas blocks. It does have Picatinny rail at either end but leaves most of the topmost surface clear to cut weight and reduce the risk of snagging.

The O2 Lite M-LOK Handguard is made in 9.5 inches, 12.5 inches, and 15.5 inches. Available colors include black, blue, FDE, orange, red, and tan. It does have M-LOK slots at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, so you have the option to add lights or other aftermarket accessories. QD Sling Swivel mounts facilitate the addition of a sling. This is a well-made handguard that reduces the overall weight of your AR-15 and makes it look good.

What do you look for in AR-15 handguards? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you've seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master's Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.

Sign Up for Newsletter

Let us know what topics you would be interested:
© 2024 GunMag Warehouse. All Rights Reserved.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap