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It took forever to make the decision, but you finally have your rifle in hand. Now, because you’re dying to max out its capabilities, you’re looking for some information on the best ways to attach accessories to your new best friend. Enter the World of Firepower Handguard Buyer’s Guide, where you can see and compare a selection of handguards from some of the best brands in the business.

The majority of aftermarket handguards can be place into one of two categories: those that attach to the rifle at both ends and those that are attached at one end only. The handguards that attach at both ends can normally be used without having to modify your rifle and are simply “snap-in” replacements. The second type, which attach only at the receiver, allows you to “free-float” the barrel for better accuracy, but they might require changing the barrel nut and even the gas port. Both styles normally offer additional rails for the attachment of accessories or the ability to attach rail segments where needed.

To inform you about your best options, we asked some of the most popular manufacturers in the country to provide their very best for you, our readers.

 

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Daniel Defense SLiM Rail

The SLiM Rail (slim, lightweight, modular) features a Picatinny top rail that acts as an extension of the rail on flattop upper receivers. Using the KeyMod attachment system, additional rail segments can be added as needed in the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. The SLiM Rail handguard is available in lengths of 9 inches (mid-length), 12 inches (rifle length), and 15 inches (rifle, extended) and provides a free-floating condition to the barrel for better accuracy. Crafted in the USA from aircraft aluminum with an anodized finish for durability, the SLiM Rail provides improved ergonomics and modularity. The left and right sides of the handguard are equipped with ambidextrous sling swivel attachment points at 11 and 1 o’clock. The SLiM Rail can be used with a low-profile gas block on pistol, carbine or mid-length gas systems and requires that the original barrel nut be removed, as well as the gas block/sight tower. The system is shipped with the new barrel nut, bolt-up plate, screws, barrel nut wrench and Allen wrench.

Quick Specs

 Universal Dimensions

Width: 1.74 inches

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Height: 2.09 inches

Inside diameter: 1.08 inches

9-Inch Model

Length: 9.22 inches

Weight: 7.7 ounces

MSRP: $269

12-Inch Model

Length: 12.43 inches

Weight: 9.9 ounces

MSRP: $279

15-Inch Model

Length: 15.2 inches

Weight: 11.2 ounces

MSRP: $299

 

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Diamondhead VRS T-556

The VRS T-556 is a free-floating rail system with a rounded triangular shape and a choice of two methods of attaching additional rail segments. The VRS T-556 can be ordered with a KeyMod system or as a threaded version. Both have a full top rail to mate with the flat-top receiver. These rail systems are noted for their triangular shapes, and their slanted front profiles give them a unique appearance. Additional rails can be added to the sides and bottom, depending on your mission requirements. Constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum with an anodized finish, these rails are built to take the rigors of hard use. The VRS T-556 system can be used with low-profile gas blocks and requires that the original barrel nut be removed, as well as the gas block/sight tower. This system is available in four lengths in both KeyMod and threaded versions.

Quick Specs

8-Inch Model

Length: 8.75 inches

MSRP: $159

10-Inch Model

Length: 10.25 inches

MSRP: $169

13-Inch Model

Length: 13.5 inches

MSRP: $189

15-Inch Model

Length: 15.0 inches

MSRP: $209

 

 

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Daniel Defense DDM4 Rail

The DDM4 Rail features an optimized one-piece, free-floating, all-Picatinny format that provides superior ergonomics and durability and the light weight popular with many users. This “quad-rail” has limited-rotation QD swivel attachment points located at the front and rear of both sides for tangle-free sling attachment. The continuous Picatinny top rail provides plenty of real estate for sights and other accessories. The rail systems are constructed of aircraft aluminum with an anodized finish and are available in 9-, 10-, 12- and 15-inch lengths. The DDM4 Rail can be used with low-profile gas blocks and requires that the original barrel nut be removed, as well as the gas block/sight tower. The system is shipped with the new barrel nut, bolt-up plate, screws, barrel nut wrench and Allen wrench. Three Daniel Defense rail ladders made of high temperature-resistant Santoprene are also supplied for increased hand comfort.

Quick Specs

Universal Dimensions

Width: 1.90 inches

Height: 2.16 inches

Inside diameter: 1.08 inches

9.0-Inch Model

Length: 9.22 inches

Weight: 10.3 ounces

MSRP: $365

10-Inch Model

Length: 10.06 inches

Weight: 11 ounces

MSRP: $365

12-Inch Model

Length: 12.43 inches

Weight: 13.2 ounces

MSRP: $395

15-Inch Model

Length: 15.2 inches

Weight: 15.6 ounces

MSRP: $395

 

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Diamondhead VRS X-556

The VRS X-556 is a free-floating rail system with a traditional round shape (when compared to the triangular shape of the VRS T models), but it still offers the two choices of attaching additional rail segments. The VRS X-556 can be ordered with a KeyMod system or as a threaded version. Both have a full top rail to mate with the flat-top receiver. These rail systems have a flat front profile. Additional rails can be added to the sides and bottom. Constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum with an anodized finish, these rails are built to take the rigors of hard use. The VRS X-556 system can be used with low-profile gas blocks and requires that the original barrel nut be removed, as well as the gas block/sight tower. The VRS X-556 is available in four lengths in the threaded and KeyMod versions.

Quick Specs

 8-Inch Model

Length: 8.5 inches

MSRP: $149

10-Inch Model

Length: 10.25 inches

MSRP: $159

13-Inch Model

Length: 13.5 inches

MSRP: $179

15-Inch Model

Length: 15.0 inches

MSRP: $199

 

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Seekins Precision NOXs Rail System

To simulate precision rifle stocks, the SP3R V3 is designed with a flat bottom to add stability when shooting from a barricade or improvised rests. The lightweight profile is designed to fit perfectly in the shooter’s support hand to enhance handling qualities during active shooting situations. Machined from aircraft aluminum, the SP3R V3 has a top integral Picatinny rail that is seamless with the top rail of most upper receivers. It offers the shooter a choice of either KeyMod or M-Lok slots running the length of the handguard at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. Six anti-rotation QD sling attachment points are milled directly into the handguard. The cooling slots are designed to provide the maximum amount of airflow across the barrel to help prevent heat buildup during prolonged strings of fire. The SP3R V3 is anodized matte black and is available in 12- or 15-inch lengths.

The free-floated handguard improves accuracy but does require the replacement of the barrel nut and the use of a low-profile gas block.

Quick Specs

Universal Dimensions

Width: 2 inches

Height: 2.05 inches

Inside diameter: 1.8 inches

12-Inch Model

Length: 12.875 inches

Weight: 15.15 ounces

MSRP: $169

15-Inch Model

Length: 15 inches

Weight: 16.5 ounces

MSRP: $179

 

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Mission First Tactical TMARCIRS

The Tekko Metal AR Carbine Integrated Rail System replaces the plastic factory handguard in minutes. Drop in installation requires no gunsmithing or permanent alterations to the rifle. The snap-in handguard is held in place by the Delta ring and handguard cap. This “Quad-Rail” handguard provides four Picatinny rails at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. The continuous top rail eliminates the gap between the receiver and rail. At just 7 inches, the anodized aircraft-grade aluminum construction is lightweight and durable.

Quick Specs

Length: 7.125 inches

MSRP: $124.99

 

 

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Daniel Defense Omega Rail

The Omega Rail is a free-float “quad-rail” system that allows the operator to install it with just the included Allen wrench. It doesn’t require any weapon modifications. The Omega Rail features an integral QD sling swivel mount with rotation limiter and an uninterrupted upper rail platform. This lightweight rail system is machined from aircraft aluminum with an anodized finish. The Omega Rail System comes in 7- and 9-inch lengths.

The Omega Rail comes with three Santoprene black rail ladders to protect the shooter’s hands. This, in combination with the Omega’s oval shape, provides a comfortable and secure gripping surface.

Quick Specs

Universal Dimensions

Width: 1.90 inches

Height: 2.43 inches

Inside diameter: 1.08 inches

7-Inch Model

Length: 6.88 inches

Weight: 7.6 ounces

MSRP: $229

9-Inch Model

Length: 8.88 inches

Weight: 9.8 ounces

MSRP: $249

 

 

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Magpul MOE SL

MOE SL handguards are available in carbine-length (MAG538) and mid-length versions (MAG551) and are direct replacements for the original two-piece handguards for AR-15/M4 firearms with the triangular A2 front sight.

The MOE (Magpul Original Equipment) SL handguards feature M-LOK accessory slots at 2, 6 and 10 o’clock for attachment of optional Picatinny rail sections and other direct-attach M-LOK accessories. The durable, reinforced, heat-resistant polymer construction includes a riveted aluminum heat shield and is lighter than full-aluminum assemblies. The large front extension and lower lip protect the user from heat while providing maximum handguard length. The MOE SL is easy to install via the existing delta ring and round front handguard retaining cap with A2 front sight assembly. The factory sling swivel is not compatible and, if equipped, must be removed from the A2 front sight assembly. The narrow design of the MOE SL handguards replaces the bulky original handguards. This system is available in black, flat dark earth, stealth gray, and olive drab.

Quick Specs

Universal Dimensions

Width: 1.8 inches

Height: 2.4 inches

Carbine Length

Length: 8.9 inches

Weight: 6.7 ounces

MSRP: $34.95

Mid-length

Length: 10.9 inches

Weight: 8.3 ounces

MSRP: $39.95

 

 

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Mission First Tactical TMARCKRS

The Tekko Metal AR Carbine KeyMod Rail System replaces the plastic factory handguard, is easy to install and is held in place by the Delta ring and handguard cap. This installation method requires no permanent modifications to your rifle. The TMARCKRS provides an extension of your flat-top rails and the ability to add additional Picatinny rail segments using the KeyMod attachment system on the sides and bottom. With a length of 7 inches, the lightweight, aircraft-grade aluminum construction is anodized for a durable finish. The TMARCKRS is available in black and scorched dark earth.

Quick Specs

Length: 7.258 inches

Width: 1.821 inches

Height: 1.634 inches

Weight: 8.16 ounces

MSRP: $124.99

 

 

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Seekins Precision NOXs Rail System

The one-piece, free-float NOXs handguard comes with an integral Picatinny top rail and anti-rotation QD sling mounting points. It is available with full-length M-LOK or KeyMod mounting systems at the 3, 6 and 9 o’clock positions. The flat-bottom 6061-T6 aluminum construction improves stability on makeshift shooting positions, and lighter weight is provided by its thin, 1.5-inch diameter. The finish is black matte type III, class 2 hard anodized. The barrel nut and installation screws are included. NOXs handguards are available in 9-, 12.8- and 15-inch lengths.

Quick Specs

Universal Dimensions

Height: 1.98 inches

Width: 1.5 inches

Inside diameter: 1.35 inches

9-Inch Model

Length 9.275 inches

Weight: 6.1 ounces

MSRP: $159

12-Inch Model

Length 13.025 inches

Weight: 8.0 ounces

MSRP: $169

15-Inch Model

Length: 15.15 inches

Weight: 9.2 ounces

MSRP: $179

 

 

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Bravo Company USA BCM KMR Alpha Free-Float Handguards

Bravo Company USA BCM KMR Alpha Free-Float Handguards feature a seamless Picatinny top rail and KeyMod attachment points at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, as well as the four intermediate positions, for a wide range of mounting options. Construction is aluminum with a hard-coat black anodized finish. Their mounting, indexing and lock-up system mitigates 12:00 rail movement during use. The BCM KeyMod Sling Mount is included.

Quick Specs

Universal Dimensions

Width: 1.5 inches

Inside diameter: 1.3 inches

BCM KMR Alpha 10

Length: 10.5 inches
Weight: 8.5 ounces

MSRP $190

BCM KMR Alpha 13

Length: 13.4 inches
Weight: 9.9 ounces

MSRP $200

BCM KMR Alpha 15

Length: 15 inches
Weight: 10.3 ounces

MSRP $210

 

Editor’s Note: A version of this article first appeared in the April 2016 print issue of World of Firepower.

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