The Best Handguards for an AR-15 Rifle

When building your modifying your AR-15 for the first time, you will experience or you experienced the pains of purchasing parts that aren’t perfect but sounded good on paper. We found this out when testing different brand and model handguards on our AR-15’s. This one is too skinny. The picatinny rails on all four sides is annoying (in our opinion). I only need picatinny rails for three accessories – what do I do with the rest? We found that the Aero Precision 15″ Enhanced Quad Rail Free-Float Handguards was the better choice for an AR-15 build.

What are the best handguards for an AR-15?

  1. Aero Precision 15″ Enhanced Quad Rail Free-Float Handguards – Editor’s Choice
  2. Midwest Industries 15″ Slim Line One Piece Free Float Handguard – Budget Option
  3. Troy Industries Aluminum 15″ BattleRail, Aluminum in Flat Dark Earth – Cerakote Option
  4. Midwest Industries 15″ Ultra Lightweight Free Float Handguard with Wrench and Titanium Hardware – Ballin’ Option

#1. Aero Precision 15″ Enhanced Quad Rail Free-Float Handguards

Check Current Price | Editors Choice

AR15 15″ Enhanced Quad Rail Handguards, Gen 2 – APRA100206A

Pro’s and Con’s

Pro’s

  • Quad rail sections where they count
  • Quad rail sections where they don’t necessarily matter
  • High quality manufacturing by Aero Precision
  • Can be attached to any upper (with included barrel nut)
  • Lightweight
  • Available in FDE

Con’s

  • Requires barrel nut (included) or special upper receiver for direct attachment
  • Full picatinny rail sections on the top only (if that matters to you)
  • You would prefer drop-in handguards
  • You’re still grabbing picatinny rail sections if you C-clamp your rifle.

Our experience with the Aero Precision 15″ Enhanced Quad Rail Free-Float Handguards

We have a few rifles with the Aero Precision Enhanced Quad Rail Free-Float Handguards. They’re great. We successfully mounted attachments via M-LOK and picatinny – they haven’t broken despite our hard abuse.

We recently mounted a push switch Surefire Scout Vampire Light via the Aero Precision Enhanced Quad Rail’s picatinny rail sections on the right side.

We like the handguards because shooting the rifle with your support hand at the rear of the handguard feels nice versus other 360 degree full rail handguards. The handguards seem like they belong on a spaceship. They’re lightweight. This product is also available in FDE.

Read: What’s the Best AR-15 Stripped Lower?

We don’t like that it requires a barrel nut to attach to just about every upper receiver. The only exception to this rule is if you purchase an Aero Precision enhanced upper receiver. Rest assured though, these links include the barrel nut.

We aren’t “C-clamp high speed shooters” but would imagine the picatinny rails would still be in your way.

#2. Midwest Industries 15″ Slim Line One Piece Free Float Handguard

Check Current Price | Budget Option

Pro’s and Con’s

Pro’s

  • Compatible with conventional AR-15 upper receivers
  • Lower relative cost than other comparable brands
  • Two anti-rotation QD sling swivel sockets
  • One 5-slot accessory rail
  • Comes with all required mounting hardware
  • M-LOK attachment points (if that’s your thing)

Con’s

  • Unless you’re a seasoned firearm accessories buyer, you may not be familiar with Midwest Industries
  • M-LOK (if that’s not your thing)
  • Small inside diameter (1.3″) – may not accommodate suppressors if you’re running a shorter barrel + suppressor.

Our experience with the Midwest Industries 15″ Slim Line One Piece Free Float Handguard

Midwest industries is a great source for rifle accessories. While a great brand itself – it’s not as well known as BCM, Daniel Defense, or Aero Precision. We like the slim design and the lack of picatinny railing on 3 sides of the handguard.

It’s hard to find parts outside of manufacturer to attach parts like this to a rifle. This rifle luckily comes with all the necessary attachment hardware.

A major bummer of the handguard is its internal diameter. For instance, the SilencerCo SAKER K 5.56MM SILENCER has a 1.5″ diameter. Two inches larger than the internal 1.3″ diameter of the handguard.

#3. Troy Industries Aluminum 15″ BattleRail Aluminum in Flat Dark Earth

Check Current Price | Cerakote Option

Pro’s and Con’s

Pro’s

  • Made from hardened aircraft aluminum with stainless steel parts
  • MIL-SPEC hardcoat anodizing
  • Lightweight and sleek
  • Easy installation
  • M-LOK attachment points (if that’s your thing)

Con’s

  • Needs barrel nut to attach to standard upper receiver (not included)
  • M-LOK (if that’s not your thing)

Our experience with the Troy Industries Aluminum 15″ BattleRail Aluminum in Flat Dark Earth

First – the FDE cerakote on this handguard is amazing. It feels sturdy and like it won’t chip easily. It’s lightweight like the previous recommendations – it seems to be a theme here. Troy Industries boasts an easy installation for this handguard.

It’s odd they didn’t include the barrel nut. While we sell barrel nuts from Aero Precision, we’re unsure about the spec differences. So it’s unfortunately just another part you’ll have to buy (don’t forget fasteners for it too!)

#4. Midwest Industries 15″ Ultra Lightweight Free Float Handguard with Wrench and Titanium Hardware

Check Current Price | Ballin’ Option

Pro’s and Con’s

Pro’s

  • Short Picatinny rail sections at the 12 o’clock position
  • M-LOK mounting slots on 7 flats along its length (if that’s your thing)
  • 2 anti-rotation QD sling swivel sockets
  • Ultra lightweight titanium barrel nut and mounting screws
  • Weight: 8.9 oz

Con’s

  • Weight difference isn’t huge compared to other handguards
  • Top picatinny rail is in short sections
  • M-LOK (if that’s not your thing)

Our experience with the Midwest Industries 15″ Ultra Lightweight Free Float Handguard with Wrench and Titanium Hardware

We like the short rail sections. We don’t see the need for the crazy long picatinny rail on top. So we like this feature. The QD sockets are nice to have, depending on how you shoot or set your kit up.

We weighed this handguard against the Aero Precision 15″ Enhanced Quadrail Handguard and it’s about a 4 oz difference. Does a quarter pound make a big difference to you? It might, a quarter or half pound here or there will. We feel it’s an overblown feature.

Free-floating vs drop-in handguards

We qualified at USMC boot camp using an M16A2 service rifle. These had drop in handguards with a fixed sight post with which the gas system was tied into. We say this because we qualified at 500 yards with this rifle and it didn’t have a free-floating barrel.

Many people say that having a free-floating barrel (the handguards do not touch the barrel) will improve accuracy. I can tell you that the increases accuracy probably won’t matter for a once per quarter or month shooter.

It’s my opinion that the accuracy would improve or be better after high rates of fire or when you’re gassed and trying to catch your breath. Even then – I’m not sure it’s worth pursuing a free-floating barrel and handguards for that reason alone.

What’s our rating criteria?

  • Current market availability
  • Price
  • Color options
  • Manufacturer’s reputation
  • Compatibility with AR-15 rifle

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