Install Any Free Float On Rifle Length

Why install a free float handguard?

  1. Install Any Free Float On Rifle Length Calculator
  2. Install Any Free Float On Rifle Length Chart
  3. Free Float Cpm
  4. Install Any Free Float On Rifle Lengths
  5. Install Any Free Float On Rifle Length Gauge
  6. Install Any Free Float On Rifle Length Calculator
  7. Install Any Free Float On Rifle Length Guide

Jun 28, 2010 While you wouldn't necessarily need to use a YHM Diamond FF handguard in Spectre length, this would/could be a viable alternative. Black.40, consider what you want to accomplish not just with the addition of the free-float handguard, but also what purpose you want the rifle to serve. Adding an extended FF handguard with the FSB cutout will give.

One of the main benefits to free-floating an AR-15 is an increase in accuracy from reduced variability in the barrel harmonics due to sling tension. The traditional AR-15 configuration has the sling mount attachment at the base of the front sight gas block, so moderate changes in sling tension can change the point of impact downrange. A direct impingement AR-15 can never be truly “free-floated” due to the attachment of the gas block and gas tube, but the addition of a quad rail or other free float style handguard can help with accuracy and also provides a stable and convenient platform for attaching bipods, lights, grips and other accessories.

What do I need to install a free float quad rail handguard?

When planning your free-float project, take a close look at the type of gas system currently on your rifle. Most standard front sight gas blocks are held onto the barrel by either tapered pins or by clamps. Make sure you have all the right tools and parts on hand for disassembly and reassembly before starting work.

Step-by-Step Installation

As always, before working on any firearm make sure it’s unloaded and safe to handle.

1. First, remove the original handguards using a handguard removal tool.

2. Separate the upper and lower receivers and remove the bolt carrier group and charging handle.

3. Clamp the upper receiver into a vise using a vise block and remove the flash hider and crush washer. The crush washer will not be reused.

4. Tap out the gas tube roll pin with a #2 roll pin punch and inspect the front sight gas block. If it has tapered pins, drive them out with a cup tip punch from the small side. If unsure, measure the pin diameter on each side first. If the pins are difficult to remove, apply penetrating oil, let sit overnight and try again. Sometimes applying light heat to the area also helps with removal.

5. If the gas block is a clamp-on type, use a hex key to loosen the set screws. Remove the original front sight gas block assembly from the barrel. If it sticks, gently tap on it with a soft-faced hammer until it slides off the barrel. Remove the handguard retainer and gas tube.

6. On a bench block, align the gas tube through-hole (with the large hole facing down) into the new gas block and use a roll pin holder to start the roll pin. Drive the roll pin flush with the gas block.

7. Remove the original barrel nut/delta ring assembly with the armorer’s wrench, then clean and inspect the upper receiver threads.

8. Remove the anti-rotation screw from the bottom of the new handguards and unscrew the new barrel nut, removing it from the handguards. Apply a thin layer of high quality lithium moly grease to the inside threads of the barrel nut, install it over the barrel so that the lock ring faces toward the upper receiver, then hand-tighten the barrel nut.

9. Set your torque wrench to 30 ft/lbs and tighten the barrel nut using your armorer’s wrench. Remove the torque wrench and loosen the barrel nut with the armorer’s wrench (never loosen with a torque wrench).

10. Re-torque to 30 ft/lbs, then remove the torque wrench and loosen again. Torque to 30 ft/lbs one more time and inspect the alignment between the barrel nut hole and the gas tube hole in the upper receiver. This three-time torque sequence allows the threads on the upper receiver and barrel nut to mate more completely.

11. Without exceeding 60 ft/lbs, tighten the barrel nut until the gas tube hole in the upper receiver and the hole in the barrel nut align perfectly. The holes should line up at about 35 foot-pounds of torque, and the gas tube should be centered in the barrel nut hole without touching the edges. Do not partially loosen the barrel nut to achieve alignment – if need be, loosen the nut completely and re-tighten to align correctly.

12. Apply blue threadlocker onto the gas block set screws and slide the gas block assembly onto the barrel, making sure the gas port in the barrel aligns with the hole in the gas block. Tighten the set screws on the gas block securely.

13. Next, loosen the lock ring and carefully thread the quad rail onto the barrel nut for a couple turns. Apply blue threadlocker onto the outside barrel nut threads and screw on the quad rail.

14. Adjust the lock ring and handguard until the top rail (marked “T”) is almost aligned with the rail on the upper receiver. Use a strap wrench and carefully tighten the handguard until snug. Be careful not to over-tighten; if too much torque is applied, it can misalign the barrel nut and gas tube underneath.

15. You can check for proper gas tube installation using the bolt carrier at this time: insert the bolt carrier group (without the charging handle) into the upper receiver and slowly slide it forward, checking to make sure the carrier gas key doesn’t bind on the gas tube.

16. Take a reading with your level across the top of the upper receiver and compare it with the level of the quad rail. Adjust the quad rail rotation until it matches the level of the upper receiver.

17. Reinstall the muzzle device with a new crush washer and align it correctly (flash hiders generally with the vented ports facing upward; muzzle brakes generally with the ports facing sideways).

18. Then apply blue threadlocker onto the anti-rotation screw on the bottom of the handguard, install it, and tighten until snug.

19. Reinstall the charging handle and bolt carrier group, then reassemble the upper and lower receivers and you’re done!

At a Glance: Best AR-15 Free-float Handguards

  • OUR TOP PICK: Aero Precision – AR-15 ATLAS S-ONE M-LOK Slim Line Handguards Free-Float
  • RUNNER UP: Midwest Industries, Inc. – AR-15 Combat Handguards Free Float M-LOK
  • BEST BUDGET OPTION: Bravo Company – AR-15 BCMGUNFIGHTER MCMR Handguard M-LOK Free Float

Comparison of Best AR-15 Free-float Handguards

PRODUCTDETAILS
Aero Precision – AR-15 ATLAS S-ONE M-LOK Slim Line Handguards Free-Float
  • Strong and lightweight
  • Top and bottom Picatinny rail
  • Black and FDE finish
  • Various lengths to choose from
  • Allows for better grip due to center of top rail being removed
  • Superior ATLAS locking system
  • Looks great
  • Affordable
Our Top Pick
Midwest Industries – AR-15 Combat Handguards Free Float M-LOK
  • Very durable
  • Comes with custom barrel nut and installation wrench
  • Comes with two quick-detach sling sockets
  • Continuous top Picatinny rail
  • Wide range of lengths available
  • Made in the USA
  • M-LOK system
  • Affordable
Bravo Company – AR-15 BCMGUNFIGHTER MCMR Handguard M-LOK Free Float
  • Ultra-durable
  • Continuous top Picatinny rail
  • Various lengths available
  • Comes with custom barrel nut and installation wrench
  • Looks the part
  • Made in the USA
  • M-LOK system

Free-float AR-15 handguards are a stylish way to improve the accuracy and handling of your rifle. They’re now the go-to choice for most dedicated shooters thanks to their superior design which allows for more ventilation and attachment choices.

The Best AR-15 Free-Float Handguards For Your Money

The selection of aftermarket parts for your AR-15 is huge. If you’re looking for a new handguard for your rifle you’ll likely be overwhelmed by the number of products available.

I’ve created this guide to make choosing the right AR-15 free-float handguard a direct and simple process. We’ll take a look at the best options to suit assorted needs and hopefully not break the bank in the process.

Let’s get into it.

Aero Precision AR-15 ATLAS S-ONE M-LOK Slim Line Handguards Free-Float

Aero Precision has got you covered if you’re looking for a lightweight and reliable M-LOK handguard. The AR-15 ATLAS S-ONE M-LOK Slim Line Handguard Free Float is machined from 6061-T6 aluminum, meaning it’s sturdy enough to withstand repeated shocks over the course of thousands of shots.

The handguard comes in various lengths, including 7 – 7.25″, 9 – 9.19″, 12 – 12.56″, and 15 – 14.94″. They’re all slim line builds to allow for a lighter end product, yet they maintain the strength required of them out in the field.

The ATLAS S-ONE is ideal for a modular sniper rifle build or for anyone looking to shed some weight from their rifle.

The handguard attaches to a custom barrel nut through the Aero Taper Lock Attachment System (ATLAS). This features two taper lock units that clamp to the barrel nut allowing for an even spread of pressure. It’s extremely effective and it makes your rifle look great.

The M-LOK system is considered the best in the industry and this free-float handguard also has a top and rear Picatinny rail to attach accessories. The middle of the top rail has been removed to allow for better grip and to reduce weight.

The handguard is available in black and FDE, so you can tailor it to your rifle’s style.

Pros

  • Strong and lightweight
  • Top and bottom Picatinny rail
  • Black and FDE finish
  • Various lengths to choose from
  • Allows for better grip due to center of top rail being removed
  • Superior ATLAS locking system
  • Looks great
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Top rail has center removed, meaning less room for attachments

Midwest Industries – AR-15 Combat Handguards Free Float M-LOK

Midwest Industries, Inc. are renowned for producing high-quality AR-15 accessories and gear right here in the USA from some of the best materials and methods available. The AR-15 Combat Handguards Free Float M-LOK range is a shining example of American manufacturing at its best.

The handguards come in lengths ranging from 7″ to 17″ guaranteeing you’ll find something to fit your rifle. The handguard has a continuous top Picatinny rail, giving you maximum space for attachments.

Choosing the right barrel nut can be a pain when installing a free-float handguard, but Midwest has solved this problem for you already by including a heat-treated barrel nut to fit the handguard.

The kit also comes with an installation wrench so you don’t need anything to put it together on your rifle. It also comes with two quick-detach sling sockets that are designed to prevent rotation.

The whole kit is made from heat treated aluminum to ensure it can withstand the shock from repeated firing. You can only get this kit in black.

The free-float combat handguard may not fit all billet upper receiver designs and shouldn’t be used with gas-piston ARs.

Pros

  • Very durable
  • Comes with custom barrel nut and installation wrench
  • Comes with two quick-detach sling sockets
  • Continuous top Picatinny rail
  • Wide range of lengths available
  • Made in the USA
  • M-LOK system
  • Affordable

Bravo’s AR-15 M-LOK Free Float MCMR Handguard

Bravo Company has another incredibly reliable free-float handguard made in the USA that you should definitely consider when upgrading your AR-15.

The MCMR M-LOK free-float handguard has a continuous Picatinny rail on top and six M-LOK slots allowing you to attach all the accessories you’ll ever need.

The MCMR comes in a variety of lengths, ranging from 7″ to 15″ so you can fit it to your rifle whether you’re rocking a carbine, mid-length, or other barrel length.

The kit comes with the handguard as well as a customer barrel nut so you don’t need to worry about searching for one to fit it. It also comes with an installation wrench and instructions to help you attach it.

All components in this bundle are machined from 6061-T6 aluminum and are given a hardcoat anodized finish to make them more robust and protect against corrosion. It’s also been dehorned to ensure you don’t catch your hand or gear on any sharp points.

The MCMR M-LOK handguard offers the perfect balance of strength and compatibility, and it’ll make your rifle look a lot meaner.

Pros

  • Ultra-durable
  • Continuous top Picatinny rail
  • Various lengths available
  • Comes with custom barrel nut and installation wrench
  • Looks the part
  • Made in the USA
  • M-LOK system

Midwest Industries AR-15 M-LOK Free Float Handguard G3 M-Series

Another fantastic free-float M-LOK handguard from Midwest Industries. The G3 M-Series is a professional-grade single-piece handguard that will increase the accuracy of your rifle and give you a more comfortable shooting experience

The kit includes a free-float handguard with a length ranging between 7.25″ to 15″ allowing you to fit your rifle and meet your specific needs. It also comes with a custom barrel nut and attachment wrench to save you time and trouble when it comes to installation.

There’s a full MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail along the top of the handguard, as well as seven M-LOK slots along the sides allowing you maximum space for attachments. It also includes five anti-rotation QD sling-swivel sockets.

All the components are machined from 6061-T6 aluminum and given a hardcoat anodized finish to protect against corrosion and abuse in the field. The handguard has also been dehorned to prevent you from cutting your hand or snagging your gear on any sharp points.

This is a lightweight and sturdy free-float handguard that is ideal for everyone from competition shooters to hunters and casual weekend range-goers.

The whole kit is made right here in the USA by Midwest Industries, Inc.

Pros

  • Ultra-durable
  • Lightweight
  • Comes in a variety of lengths to suit assorted needs
  • Picatinny rail and seven M-LOK side slots
  • Anti-rotation design
  • Made in the USA
  • Looks great
  • Affordable

Geissele Automatics AR-15 / MK14 Super Modular Rail Handguard

Install

The Geissele MK14 tactical slimline modular rail handguard is about as professional as it gets. It’s been designed to suit shooters who use a vertical grip or rail covers thanks to the slim cross-section on the rail.

There are M-LOK slots running all the way down the handguard in the 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions, as well as a continuous Picatinny rail on the top meaning you have all the room you need for attachments. There are also two QD sockets at the rear of the handguard in the 11 and 1 o’clock positions.

The kit includes the handguard as well as a custom barrel nut to allow for easy installation. It used to also include the barrel nut wrench, although this is no longer part of the package.

Install Any Free Float On Rifle Length Calculator

The whole kit is machined from 6061-T6 aluminum and has been given a hardcoat anodized finish to make it sturdier in the face of stress and corrosion. The handguard has been designed not to come loose or rotate even after thousands of rounds have been fired.

You can get the MK14 handguard in black or Geissele’s Desert Dirt Color (DDC). Either of these colors looks great on your rifle.

Pros

  • Very rugged and reliable
  • Professional build
  • Lots of room for accessories to be attached
  • M-LOK slots on the sides and the bottom
  • Continuous Picatinny rail along the top
  • Comes with barrel nut
  • Comes in black or DDC

Geissele Automatics AR-15/M16 MK8 Super Modular Rails, M-LOK

The AR-15/M16 MK8 Super Modular M-LOK Rail is another ultra-reliable and comfortable free-float handguard from Geissele Automatics. This is a more affordable option than the MK14 handguard sold by the company and offers many of the same great benefits.

The MK8 has been designed to accommodate all the attachments you could dream up. It has a continuous Picatinny rail along the top as well as M-LOK slots all the way along the bottom and sides of the handguard. You can get the MK8 in a variety of lengths from 7″ to 15″.

The handguard is machined from a semi-billet piece of aircraft-grade aluminum which means it has a comfortable balance of weight and sturdiness. Also included in the kit is a long barrel nut that has been machined from aircraft-grade aluminum and given a hardcoat anodized finish.

The free-float handguard screws onto the barrel nut before being secured by two cross bolts ensuring that it won’t come loose or rotate over time.

You can get the MK8 handguard in black or Geissele’s Desert Dirt Color (DDC) allowing you to customise it to meet the aesthetic look of your rifle. You can be sure the MK8 will look professional and mean regardless of which option you choose.

Pros

  • Machined from aircraft-grade aluminum
  • Loads of room for attachments
  • M-LOK slots along the sides and bottom of the handguard
  • Barrel nut included
  • Designed not to loosen or rotate over time
  • Comes in black or DDC
  • Looks great
  • Professional-quality

Midwest Industries AR-15 Lightweight Handguards M-LOK

For those looking to shed a few pounds off their AR, look no further than the Midwest Industries, Inc. AR-15 Lightweight M-LOK Handguards. Each one has been designed to keep the attachment rails where they matter most and ditch the rest to save weight.

Midwest Industries makes all of its products right here in the USA, so you’re keeping Amercians in work by choosing their products.

These Lightweight Handguards have a slimline profile and lack most of the center of the top Picatinny rail. They also have more M-LOK slots on the sides and bottom than most other handguards. This removes even more weight as well as adding convenience.

The handguards come in a variety of lengths from 10.5″ to 15″ so unless you’ve got an SBR you’ll be able to use them.

The whole kit is machined from 6061-T6 aluminum and is Type III hardcoat anodized to ensure extra strength and durability, even though it’s an ultra-slim build. The barrel nut, wrech, and screws are also included making installation a breeze.

On top of all this, you’ll also get a lifetime warranty with this product!

Pros

  • Tough and reliable
  • Ultra-slimline
  • Lightweight
  • Barrel nut, screws, and wrench included
  • Tons of M-LOK slots
  • Picatinny rail is present where it needs to be
  • Made in the USA
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Relatively affordable
  • Looks great

Cons

  • Center of Picatinny top rail is removed
  • Not available in lengths under 10.5″

Aero Precision AR-15/M16 Enhanced Handguards

The Enhanced Handguards from Aero Precision were designed specifically to fit the Aero Precision M4E1 enhanced upper receiver. That being said, they will also fit any standard threaded Mil-Spec upper receiver if you also purchase the BAR barrel nut.

The Enhanced Handguards used to be built with either M-LOK or KeyMod mounting points, although the KeyMod version has been discontinued. Currently, there are only two lengths available: 12″ and 15″ making this an option only for those of you with longer barrels.

The M-LOK version also has a continuous Picatinny rail along the top and plenty of M-LOK slots down the sides and bottom of the handguard. It also has three quick-disconnect sling sockets at the 3,6, and 9 o’clock positions.

The AR-15/M16 Enhanced Handguards are machined from 6061-T6 aluminum to ensure they can withstand the shock of repeated fire and the rough and tumble of being out in the field.

This Aero Precision enhanced handguard will look great on any rifle you attach it to. It only comes in black.

Pros

  • Specifically designed for the Aero Precision Enhanced Upper
  • Can be used on any Mil-Spec upper with the BAR barrel nut
  • Tough build
  • Lots of M-LOK slots and Picatinny rail for attachments
  • Three QD slots
  • Looks the part
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Limited lengths available
  • Need to purchase BAR barrel nut separately

What Is an AR-15 Free-Float Handguard?

There are two main types of handguards for an AR-15: drop-in and free-float. You attach the handguard to the lower receiver to cover the barrel of your rifle and prevent you from burning your hands when shooting.

Free-float handguards don’t attach to the barrel itself. This is important because anything that makes contact with the barrel of your AR-15 will reduce its accuracy. Thus, free-float handguards will allow you to shoot with more precision.

Free-float handguards can be longer than drop-in ones, which allows you to add more accessories and optics to them. They also allow your barrel to cool down quicker seeing as they usually have lots of gaps for heat to escape from.

How to Choose the Best AR-15 Free-Float Handguard

If you’ve come this far with your AR-15 then you’ll understand how massive the aftermarket for weapon upgrades is. You could fill a dozen football fields with all the gear there is to choose from.

Choosing the right free-float handguard for your AR-15 requires you to know what you need it for. You should also consider the quality and weight.

How easy is it to install

This is the first interaction you’ll have with your free-float handguard. Free-float handguards are more difficult to install than drop-in handguards, so you’ll want to try and get something that is as easy to install as possible.

Of course, this isn’t likely to be the deciding factor when you buy. Still, no one wants to spend their Sunday afternoon messing around with an overly complex attachment.

Free-float handguards attach over the barrel nut and you should try to get one that you can install yourself on the nut you have on your rifle.

If you have a timed barrel nut then you might be in for a frustrating afternoon when it comes to installing your handguard as you’ll need to line the nut up perfectly with the gas tube.

The gas tube goes over a non-timed barrel nut, not through it, so it’s much easier to install a free-float handguard with one of these.

I recommend you go for a free-float handguard with a non-timed installation for the easiest and quickest attachment.

Doesn’t slip when mounted

One of the most common issues with free-float handguards is that they slip forward over time. This obviously affects the accuracy of your rifle and should be avoided at all costs. Regular shooters will encounter this issue more frequently than low-volume weekenders.

Some poorly designed free-float handguards may also rotate over time, which will also throw off your sighting system and cause you to lose accuracy.

The best way to get around this issue is to get a free-float handguard that has been designed to fit your barrel nut specifically. This allows you to lock to the nut and prevents slippage and rotation over time.

Accessories you can mount to it

One of the major advantages of free-float handguards is that you can attach more accessories to them. So it’s important to know what you can attach.

M-LOK and Keymod handguards allow you to attach accessories directly or short lengths of Picatinny rail that support everything from lights and lasers to coffee makers. Seriously, you can attach a coffee maker to your rifle. The world is a fine place.

Weight and length

Obviously you want something sturdy. Free-float handguards are generally heavier than drop-in variants because they need to be able to withstand the shock from recoil while not being fully attached to the barrel.

The added weight actually makes your rifle feel more secure and a lot of people say it improves their accuracy.

Another benefit of free-float handguards is that they can be longer than drop-ins. You can attach a low-profile gas block to your barrel so your handguard can go over it. You wouldn’t usually have a free-float handguard with a front sight base as it gets in the way.

Can you use a front-sight block with an AR-15 free-float handguard?

You can use a front sight block with a short free-float handguard. But doing so doesn’t make much sense. One of the benefits of a free-float handguard is that it can be longer than a drop-in one, so cutting the length so much to use a front-sight block isn’t exactly practical.

Install Any Free Float On Rifle Length

The front-sight block will also likely just get in the way of your optic, so unless you’re shooting with just irons, it doesn’t make much sense to keep it these days.

Install Any Free Float On Rifle Length Chart

The Alternative: Low-Profile Gas Block

A low-profile gas block is perfect for a free-float handguard as it won’t restrict the length or get in the way of your optic’s field of view.

It used to be cheaper to opt for a front-sight block, although the cost has evened out these days. You can always install a set of backup iron sights alongside your primary optic.

In short, you’re best off going for a low-profile gas block.

Free-Float vs Drop-in Handguards: Why AR-15 Free-Float Handguards Are Better

We’ve already touched on some of the reasons you’d opt for a free-float handguard over a drop in one. Now we’re going to have a look at the pros and cons of each.

Free-float handguard

  • More expensive
  • Improves accuracy
  • Allows more attachments
  • Heavier
  • Most argue they look better
  • Barrel cools quicker
  • More difficult to install

Drop-in handguard

  • Cheaper
  • Contact with barrel reduces accuracy
  • Limited space for attachments
  • Lightweight
  • Has the classic AR-15 look
  • More prone to overheating
  • Quick and easy installation

Free Float Cpm

A free-float AR-15 handguard offers more benefits than a drop-in one and they’re becoming a lot more cost-effective than they used to be. Most people now opt for a free-float handguard when building their AR-15.

AR-15 Free-Float Handguard Length: Matching Your Barrel and Gas System

The most important thing to consider when choosing the length of your free-float handguard is that it fits onto your barrel. You can have your free-float handguard run the length of your barrel but it cannot extend to the muzzle device.

You’ll also need to make sure that it supports your gas system, although if you’ve got a low-profile gas block then your handguard should run straight over it.

A longer rail means more space for attachments but it also means more weight on the front of your rifle, which will affect how you shoot.

Many competitive shooters like to grip the front of the rifle far down towards the end of the barrel and a free-float handguard allows you to do this without any risk of burning your hands.

AR-15 free-float mounting systems: M-LOK vs KeyMod

Choosing the right mounting system is an important decision. You want to be able to attach a variety of accessories and ensure they won’t move around with the shock of repeat fire.

US SOCOM tested out M-LOK and KeyMod rails in various areas including repeatability, endurance, rough handling, drop test, and failure load. M-LOK came out on top in three of the five and performed the same as KeyMod in endurance and rough handling.

Overall, M-LOK has been proven to be the more robust mounting system and I’d recommend you use it if you’re a dedicated shooter.

AR-15 handguard materials

You’ll notice that most AR-15 free-float handguards are built from 6061-T6 aluminum. This is a sturdy alloy – although 7075-T6 aluminum is better. The handguard absorbs less shock than other components of your AR-15, so 6061-T6 is enough to see you through.

You can also use polymer with an aluminum coating if you’re on a budget, although I always recommend going for quality over price control.

If money is no issue, then carbon fiber handguards absorb less heat and are more durable. There is a pretty heavy price hike, however.

How hard is it to install an AR-15 free-float handguard?

Install Any Free Float On Rifle Lengths

You can install most AR-15 free-float handguards yourself, even though they are more difficult to attach than drop-in handguards.

They’re much easier to install if you have a non-timed barrel nut.

It’s not that difficult to install a free-float handguard, but you must check whether you need a specific barrel nut for the one you choose.

Install Any Free Float On Rifle Length Gauge

Conclusion

Install Any Free Float On Rifle Length Calculator

All things considered, I’d recommend you go for the Midwest Industries AR-15 Combat Handguards Free Float M-LOK. The reason for this is that t

Install Any Free Float On Rifle Length Guide

You want something you can rely on when it comes to a handguard and Midwest has built exactly that.