Are you thinking of getting yourself an AR-15 rifle?
The AR-15 is a great gun for both experienced handlers and beginners alike. It serves as a great entry point for beginners because of how easy it is for someone to familiarize themselves with it. Meanwhile, expert handlers fall in love with its reliability and consistency in the range.
It’s easy to understand now why it’s dubbed America’s rifle with that in mind. One aspect that both newbies and enthusiasts love is its customizability. This is all thanks to the AR 15 floating handguard.
You may have heard about the floating handguard once or twice before, but what exactly is it? To learn all you need to know, read what’s below and find out whether it’s the right handguard for you.
Differences Between Drop-In and Free-Floating Handguards
Before we dive into what makes free-floating handguards better, let’s compare them with their drop-in counterparts first. Drop-in handguards follow the traditional look of a handguard.
Drop-in handguards use an old-school installation system that involves the AR-15’s delta ring. These handguards separate into two pieces, allowing you to better handle the handguard during installation. Both pieces cover and cling to the gun’s entire barrel once installed.
Meanwhile, free-floating handguards connect to the barrel at only one point. They follow a more modern design, using fewer resources to manufacture them.
They don’t come in two separate pieces as drop-ins do. You’ll have to slide it around the barrel and anchor it in place yourself.
Free-Floating Handguard Pros
Compared to a drop-in handguard, free-floating ones are far lighter. As mentioned above, manufacturers use fewer materials to produce them. Despite this, they’re still as durable as their drop-in counterparts.
The default free-float design also has a lot of room for attachments. By default, most drop-in handguards are only tubes that cover the barrel. You’ll need to buy a different handguard or add some mods to enjoy attachments on your gun.
With a free-float design, you can install as many attachments as you want after installation. The number of attachments you can fit on it will depend on the handguard’s length. Because of how popular they are nowadays, finding a length that you like won’t be a problem.
Attachments are also stable once installed on free-floating handguards. It can be a chore to align them with your other attachments, but you can be sure they’ll stay put once you set them.
Installing attachments can be easy on a drop-in handguard. However, stability isn’t a guarantee. You may end up taking time to adjust your attachments after every shot.
Problems With Installation
The key problem with this type of AR 15 handguard is that it’s tricky to install. Drop-in handguards get their name because you only need to drop it in. After pulling back the delta ring, the upper and lower part of the handguard holds on to the barrel.
It almost snaps in place after releasing the delta ring. You’ll only need to fasten special nuts onto the handguard to keep it from separating. There’s no need for any extra tools beyond an Allen wrench to secure the aforementioned nuts.
With a floating handguard, you’ll need to slide it around the barrel before anything else. You then use the bolts given to you to fasten it onto the barrel. This becomes problematic because the handguard moves around.
Since it doesn’t latch onto the barrel from the get-go, you may need help to hold it in place as you fasten the bolts. All this is worth the effort, though. The bolts that fasten the handguard are the only things that touch the barrel in this case.
Heat Transfer and Harmonics
Minimal contact means there’s next to no heat transfer taking place. It also doesn’t disrupt the harmonics of the barrel.
Drop-in handguards grip the entire barrel. This disrupts the gun’s natural rhythm, stifling the harmonics. It can affect your accuracy since the gun doesn’t get to reset as it would with minimal contact.
Other than that, free-float handguards are only more costly than drop-ins. These cons aren’t enough to offset the benefits you get from using free-float guards. Now, you can tell why free-float guards are the superior choice.
Before you go buy a floating guard for your AR-15, there are a few things to consider. The material used in the handguard is what you should take time deciding on. Different materials will have a big impact on how you perform as you shoot.
Handguards made from steel are the most durable and impact-resistant option in the market. It’s a good idea to go for this option if you’re somewhat experienced with firearms.
The extra weight won’t affect you as much and you can withstand the recoil that comes with it. You won’t need to worry about maintenance as much with this as you would with other options.
These are lighter versions of steel handguards. They’re great for beginners who are still familiarizing themselves with the weight of the AR-15. It’s also perfect for beginners since they’ll likely be firing rifles more often than most.
Firing repeated shots is one of the best ways to get used to the recoil of a gun. By doing this, though, you’ll end up generating lots of heat in the barrel. What’s great about aluminum is that it won’t warp under high heat.
It does come with the drawback of being less impact-resistant, though. You’ll need to take care when handling the rifle unless you want to dent your handguard.
Looking for the lightest AR 15 handguard in the market? Opt for a carbon fiber one, then. This weighs half as the aluminum option does.
Despite the major weight reduction, it’s durable enough to resist a few knocks. It warps easily under heat, though. Control your shots and space them out to avoid overheating the barrel.
Since they’re virtually weightless, these are the perfect handguards to use when practicing your rifle shooting stances without the aid of a gun sling. It also allows you to add as many attachments as you want without making the gun too heavy.
Railed Vs Non-Railed Handguards
There are two categories of free-floating handguards for you to choose from. Railed handguards are ones with slots where you can add attachments to. These are what you’ll often be on sale since only a few people prefer using an AR-15 without attachments.
Non-railed handguards are for such people. They don’t have any slot where you can slip in most modern attachments. Because of this, non-railed handguards look like a tube that covers the entire barrel.
While they work fine as handguards, non-railed options have one major flaw. Their closed design means they don’t provide any ventilation. It’s important for a handguard to help expel the heat generated in the barrel.
Without ventilation, thermal expansion can occur and destroy your gun’s barrel. It’s better to opt for railed handguards to avoid this from happening. Though they may be heavier, you can always get something like the AR 15 handguard grip to help support the weight.
AR 15 Handguard Styles
If you’ve settled for a railed handguard, know that there are two categories under it, too. These are also known as handguard styles and they determine how easy it is to install attachments.
The KeyMod system is the more popular handguard style among the two options for beginners. Its popularity comes from how easy it is to install attachments on it.
The system has a set of holes that look like small keys, hence the name. You only need to fit the attachment through the larger and slide it towards the narrower side. Screw the bolt to fasten your attachment onto the rail and you’re set.
What’s great about the KeyMod is that it’s open-source. You won’t run out of attachments to install when using this system.
The Modular Lock (M-LOK) system has slats instead of key-shaped holes. Here, you insert compatible attachments by following the grooves. You then turn the attachments to face against the groove, locking it in place.
What’s great about the M-LOK system is that it isn’t open-sourced. M-LOK hands out licenses to companies they choose, instead. Only these companies can make products compatible with M-LOK.
While this limits available items, it ensures the quality of each compatible attachment. This way, you will get high-quality items with an M-LOK system.
Now that you have a sense of what you want, it’s time to pick a floating handguard for yourself. Websites like wingtacitcal.com provide you with the best options available online.
Get Yourself an AR 15 Floating Handguard Today
The drop-in and free-floating handguards are both viable choices for your AR-15. However, there are many reasons the free-floating handguard is superior to its drop-in counterpart. Know what makes the AR 15 floating handguard better and get one for yourself today!
Do you want to learn more about guns in the legal and lifestyle sense? Go through our other guides and posts to see what you can learn today. Prepare yourself for any situation and keep out of legal trouble with our help!