7 Best AR15 Handguard Upgrades

This guide goes over the 7 best AR15 handguard options for people building a brand new AR or upgrading their existing rifles. With our 2 decades of experience building AR15s, these handguards were handpicked based on durability, weight, ergonomics, aesthetics and modularity. 

There are so many AR15 handguard products on the market, but only a few made it to this list. If you don't like the factory handguard on your AR-15, please take a look at these upgrades.

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BCM MCMR - Best Overall

bcm mcmr rail

The MCMR Series of AR-15 handguards from BCM offer exceptional modularity, reliable mounting, improved shooting accuracy, and durability. With their lightweight design and compatibility with the M-LOK platform, these handguards provide shooters with the flexibility to customize their firearm setups.

These BCM handguards utilize the same reliable barrel nut and lock-up design that was originally introduced with their groundbreaking KMR handguard. 

One of the key features of this handguard is its proprietary patented mounting system (US Patent 8904691). This system includes a mechanical index to the 12:00 rail, effectively positioning the mounting hardware to minimize any movement caused by heat generated by rapid firing.

Sons Of Liberty M89 Handguard - Best Mounting Rigidity

sons of liberty m89 handguard

The Sons Of Liberty (SOLGW M89) is the newest generation handguard with increased rigidity to minimize deflection when using tripod and sling hard in the field. This means any laser mounted device can maintain zero better than other handguard systems on the market.

With a slightly wider extrusion, the M89 provides additional real estate around the gas block, ensuring you can mount accessories with ease using the M-lock system (Also include 45-degree slots for offset angle light mounting). Moreover, the larger diameter of the M89 rail enables it to handle sustained shooting without heating up excessively.

The innovative drive lock rail system is another top notch design. The steel barrel nut, longer than that of the M76 wedge lock handguard rail, contributes to the overall rigidity of the system and more contact surface around the barrel nut. This robust design, featuring individual wedges and chamfered cuts in the nut, allows the rail to be securely driven back into the upper every time a screw is torqued.

Daniel Defense RIS III M LOK - Best For Fighting Rifle

dd ris 3 handguard

The Daniel Defense RIS III combines the battle-tested excellence of the Mil-Spec RIS II (1913 Quad Rail) with the versatility of the M-LOK attachment system. It's machined with durable aircraft-grade 6061-T6 aluminum, the RIS III ensures reliability even in the harshest conditions. Its lightweight design is made possible by reducing weight while adding versatility through the utilization of M-LOK attachment points.

One of the standout features of the Daniel Defense RIS III is the inclusion of seven M-LOK attachment points along the handguard. These attachment points are strategically placed along the rail, offering users endless possibilities to customize your AR15 rifle.

Midwest Industries Night Fighter M LOK - Best For The Money

Midwest Industries Night Fighter M LOK

The best part about the Night Fighter Handguard from Midwest Industries is its exceptional rigidity for any AR15 builds. With its long steel barrel nut and torque plate, it offers unparalleled stability, eliminating flex and torque commonly experienced with other handguards.

This rigidity ensures precise and consistent performance, making it an ideal choice for shooters who want to mount lasers at the end of their rail without worrying about point of impact shifts.

Additionally, the handguard's slimline design, comfortable grip, and user-friendly features make it a versatile and attractive option for any AR-15 setup.

Geissele Automatics MK16 Modular Handguard - Best For High End AR Builds

geissele mk16 mlok rail

The MK16 rail is a beefy and super sturdy modular handguard for any high end AR-15 builds, and it's much slimmer than their MK 8 handguard. This is the same handguard selected by the USASOC on platforms like the URG-I rifles and The most interesting design is the anti-rotation tabs and set-screws to guarantee the tightest installation on the AR15 upper receiver to prevent handguard twist. 

The entire handguard is precision-machined from 7000 Series aluminum for strength, the MK16 is finished with a durable Type-3 Hardcoat anodized coating.

Available in 9.3", 10.5", and 15" lengths, Geissele provides options to suit every shooter's preference. Upgrade your AR-15 with the Geissele Super Modular Rail MK16 and experience unparalleled performance and versatility in one sleek package.

JP Mark 3 - Best For Competition Rifles

jp handguard

One of the key considerations when selecting a handguard is ensuring it doesn't obstruct the barrel. The JP Enterprise Mark 3 handguard offers a free-floating design, allowing for optimal barrel clearance.

This design feature promotes improved accuracy and consistency by reducing potential barrel interference. Additionally, the handguard's extended barrel nut provides enhanced stability, minimizing any movement or play during firearm operation.

On top of that, the JP Enterprise Mark 3 handguard is its rough grip texture. This unique characteristic provides users with a secure and comfortable hold, enhancing shooting control and stability. Whether engaging in rapid-fire scenarios or precision shooting, the rough grip ensures a firm grasp even in challenging conditions.

Cloud Defensive Cloud Optimized Rail - Best Switch Grip Ergonomics 

cloud defensive cor handguard

The Cloud Defensive COR handguard uses the same barrel nut installation design as the BCM that provides a super tight lock up with anti rotation tabs between the upper receiver and the handguard to prevent twist.

The most interesting design is the recesses cutout to integrate weapon light switch on the front end of the handguard to optimize AR15 grip ergonomics. 

When it comes to compatibility, there are two versions available. CORv1 works with our Optimized Weapon Light or the Light Control System (LSS) for Surefire ST-07. CORv2, on the other hand, is compatible with the Light Control System (LCS) for Surefire, the Light Control System (LCS) Streamlight, Surefire SR-07, Surefire DS-07. 

AR15 Handguard FAQ

Free Float VS Fixed 

We highly recommend opting for a free float handguard system when building an AR-15 rifle for maximum accuracy. Most AR-15 rifles available on the market today utilize this system, which eliminates any fixed nodes near the gas block that could potentially interfere with the barrel harmonics.

With a free float handguard, there is no physical contact with the barrel except at the barrel nut, ensuring optimal precision for your AR-15 build. Therefore, if you prioritize accuracy in your AR-15 setup, a free float handguard system is the way to go.

M LOK or KeyMod

keymod vs mlok test

As more and more M LOK handguard hits the market, the M LOK is the more popular than KeyMod. It offers tighter accessory mounting especially for precision devices like lasers. KeyMod is still readily available on the market. Learn more about NAVSEA CRANE test for their durability here

Anti Rotational Tab Necessary

It is highly recommended to incorporate an anti-rotation tab when building a durable AR-15 rifle. This tab serves the purpose of securely locking up the handguard with the upper receiver, providing increased stability and preventing any unwanted shifting or rotation of the handguard, especially during high-volume firing or when exposed to heat.

By utilizing an anti-rotation tab, you can ensure that your handguard remains firmly in place, contributing to the overall durability and reliability of your AR-15 build.

What Makes A Barrel Nut Super Rigid ?

Using a long barrel nut, such as the ones offered by Geissele MK16 & Sons Of Liberty M89, is highly recommended for minimizing deflection and flex in a handguard. If you have ever observed barrel flex in certain AR-15 rifles when pressure is applied to the free float handguard, this issue is directly associated with the design of the barrel nut.

By opting for a longer barrel nut, you enhance the overall rigidity of the handguard system, which in turn positively impacts the performance and accuracy of your AR-15.

What Handguard Length To Get?

The recommended handguards listed above come in various lengths:

  • 7"
  • 9"
  • 10"
  • 11"
  • 12"
  • 13"
  • 15"

Choosing a longer handguard offers several advantages. Firstly, it provides more space for mounting accessories, allowing you to customize your AR-15 rifle to your liking. When it comes to mounting weapon lights, it is highly recommended to position the light as far forward as possible. This ensures that the light's bezel is located near the muzzle, eliminating any barrel shadow that could interfere with the light beam. Users can also opt for longer light extension mounts to achieve the desired configuration, with a wide range of options available.

Moreover, a longer handguard enables shooters to utilize a C clamp grip further out on the handguard. This grip technique helps in driving the muzzle faster towards the target, enhancing target acquisition speed. Additionally, gripping the handguard further out improves recoil control, providing a more stable shooting experience.

By selecting a longer handguard for your AR-15, you not only gain increased accessory mounting options but also benefit from improved maneuverability, enhanced recoil control, and better handling during shooting sessions. However, it can add weight to the rifle slightly.

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