9 Lightest AR15 Handguard Upgrades

Besides the aesthetics and modularity of a handguard system, some users prefer the lightest AR15 handguard upgrades to build the lightest firearm for tactical applications. Small little ounces here and there can add up weight before even adding accessories to the firearm.

We picked these handguard based on weight when building a 16" legal length rifle as well as 10.5" AR15 pistol or SBR. These include aluminum free float rail handguard as well as polymer handguards. Depend on your rifle's configuration, the handguard length can add weight to the gun. If extra rail space isn't needed, then go for a shorter one.

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BCM MCMR - Best Overall

bcm mcmr rail

Recommended for 10" barrel builds

  • Weight: 8.2 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 8" long rail

16" barrel build

  • Weight: 8.9 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 10" long rail 

The MCMR Series of AR-15 handguards from BCM stands out for its blend of modularity, reliable mounting, enhanced shooting precision, and robustness. While not the absolute lightest on the market, it masterfully strikes a balance between a lightweight design and a sturdy mounting system.

Compatible with the M-LOK platform, these handguards grant shooters the versatility to tailor their firearm configurations. They inherit the trusted barrel nut and lock-up design from BCM's pioneering KMR handguard. A standout feature is its proprietary patented mounting system (US Patent 8904691), which includes a mechanical index to the 12:00 rail. This ensures optimal positioning of the mounting hardware, reducing movement from heat during rapid firing.

V7 Magnesium Hyper Light Handguard - Lightest For Competition

v7 system handguard

Recommended for 10" barrel builds

  • Weight: 3.5 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 9.2" long rail 

16" barrel build

  • Weight: 5.2 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 13.5" long rail 

The handguard is manufactured from a unique blend of aluminum and magnesium alloy, making it approximately 30% lighter than the commonly used 6061 aluminum. It boasts an E-cote finish, which offers a robust, ceramic-like coating that outperforms anodizing in terms of wear resistance.

Notably, it features three built-in QD sling swivel attachment points located at the 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions. Its slim and lightweight design is attributed to the use of 7068 Super Aluminum, which is notably stronger than the 7075 Aluminum variant. The handguard is designed as a one-piece free float, equipped with a full top Picatinny rail suitable for optics and sights.

Additionally, it has M-LOK slots at the 3, 6, and 9 o'clock positions. It comes with an anti-rotation pin specifically for the V7 upper and is compatible with most low-profile gas blocks. Furthermore, the handguard ensures a snug fit with the barrel nut.

Sons Of Liberty M89 Handguard - Best Mounting Rigidity

sons of liberty m89 handguard

Recommended for 10" barrel builds

  • Weight: 8.2 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 8" long rail

16" barrel build

  • Weight: 15.2 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 13" long rail 

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

Recommended for 10" barrel builds

  • Weight: 12.93 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 9.55" long rail 

16" barrel build

  • Weight: 16.61 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 10" long rail 

A significant advantage of the RIS III is its weight efficiency. It's not a paper weight handguard, but its sturdy barrel nut design is something AR15 builders can't miss out on. This is a very high quality Daniel Defense product, where the original RIS II's pic rail inherently adds more weight, the RIS III achieves a lighter profile by incorporating more M-LOK slots, thereby shedding unnecessary weight without compromising on versatility.

The proprietary RIS II bolt up system still stays the same, which means anyone can get the MLOK RIS III upgrade on their existing RIS II handguard.

Both uninterrupted top rail and FSP models are available.

Midwest Industries Combat Rail M LOK - Best For The Money

midwest industries combat rail

Recommended for 10" barrel builds

  • Weight: 7.6 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 10.5" long rail 

16" barrel build

  • Weight: 9.2 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 14" long rail 

The best part about the Midwest Industries Combat 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.

Faxon Carbon Fiber Handguard - Best For High End AR Builds

faxon carbon fiber handguard rail

Recommended for 10" barrel builds

  • Weight: 6.24 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 10.2" long rail 

14.5" - 16" barrel build

  • Weight: 6.2 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 13.3" long rail 

The STREAMLINE Carbon Fiber Handguard, a collaboration between Faxon and Lancer Systems, is a marvel in firearm engineering. Highlighting its ultra-lightweight nature, it's 40% lighter than aluminum yet 10 times stronger, weighing just under 8 ounces with a steel barrel nut.

These handguards are designed for both competition and duty, it boasts 8 M-LOK facets for accessory mounting and is compatible with standard AR-15 barrel nuts. With low heat transfer and the ability to fit common suppressors, this handguard is not only feather-light but also durable and versatile.

Magpul SL Polymer Handguard - Lightest For Delta Ring Barrel Nut

Recommended for 9" - 14.5 "carbine length gas system builds

  • Weight: 6.8 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 7.1" long rail 

16" mid length barrel build

  • Weight: 8.3 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 10.9" long rail 

The MOE SL Hand Guard, tailored for AR15/M4 firearms with carbine or mid-length gas systems and an A2 front sight, offers a harmonious blend of modularity and affordability in a sleek, lightweight design. Crafted with adaptability in mind, it features M-LOK slots at the two, six, and ten o'clock positions, enabling the attachment of optional Picatinny rail sections and other M-LOK accessories.

This allows users to easily mount tactical lights, slings, grips, and more. Its reinforced, heat-resistant polymer construction ensures durability without the added weight and cost of an aluminum counterpart. Moreover, the inclusion of an integral riveted aluminum heat shield, a large front extension, and a lower lip safeguards users from the heat of the front sight assembly, maximizing the handguard's usable length.

Notably, this narrow design serves as an upgrade from the bulkier M4 Carbine-type plastic handguards, and its installation is straightforward, utilizing the existing delta ring and round front hand guard retaining cap. For those not requiring the mounting of high-end laser devices, opting for a polymer handguard might just be the pinnacle of achieving an ultra-lightweight handguard solution.

BCM PKMR Mid Length Handguard

bcm pkmr mid length handguard

Recommended for any carbine gas length builds

  • Weight: 5.6 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 8" long rail

Any m]Mid Length gas System Builds

  • Weight: 7.9 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 10" long rail 

The PKMR handguard is a direct replacement for AR15s with a mid-length gas system and a mil-spec front sight base. The PKMR handguard has been recognized for its lightweight design and superior quality. Its built-in handstop and texture make it ideal for mounting a vertical grip, even with its KeyMod design. The handguard's texture ensures an excellent grip, though there's a wish for additional KeyMod slots towards the rear.

Its snug fit is noteworthy; despite requiring some finesse during installation, the outcome is a stable handguard with no movement on the BCM upper. Its diameter is notably smaller than other aftermarket options, and while there's a slight separation at the rear during installation, the overall feedback is positive. The PKMR handguard stands out as a top choice for those seeking a quality drop-in polymer handguard. 

With three six-hole KeyMod mounting surfaces positioned at 10:30, 1:30, and 6:00, users have ample customization options. An aluminum heat shield effectively minimizes heat transfer to both the handguard and the shooter's hand. 

Strike Gridlok LITE Handguard

strike industries rail

Recommended for 10" barrel builds

  • Weight: 12.7 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 10" long rail 

16" barrel build

  • Weight: 15.2 oz including barrel nut
  • Length: 13.5" long rail 

The AR-15 SI Strike Rail was purpose-built for agency partners needing a reliable yet lightweight rail for high-stakes situations. Introducing the new SI Strike Rail, combining strength and lightness with essential features.

Featuring a 1.57" internal diameter, it accommodates suppressors and Oppressor attachments. Exclusively for AR-15 rifles, it's MLOK compatible with ambidextrous QD sockets and an anti-rotation feature.

For gas block coverage, consider the 13.5" version. It includes shims for precise torque, proven in 3-gun competitions. M-Lok thickness is perfectly calibrated.

Our 10" black forearm is praised for compatibility with external M-Lok rails. While some wished for a tighter anti-rotation fit, our shims ensure gas tube alignment. Quick installation with locking hardware, perfect for 10.5" pistol barrels.

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