Best AR-15 Drop In Handguards – 2020 Updated Review

by

The AR-15 is a modern-day classic choice for any buyer. It's designed with customization in mind, able to hit any spec imaginable. Comfort and safety are usually the name of the game when it comes to customization.

Having the right grip on your AR-15 can be the key to both of these things. This article will cover some basic info on drop-in handguards available for the AR-15, so you can choose the one that’s right for you.

Read on to find out more about the use of drop-in handguards and find out more about top versions.

Comparison of the Best AR-15 Drop-in Handguards

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Ideal for Mid-Length AR-15 Platforms
  • M-Lok Slots Spread over Three Sides of the Handguard
  • Sturdy and Lightweight Handguard With a Drop-in Design
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Four Picatinny Rails Total With 15 Mounting Slots
  • Two-Piece Design Permits Removal of Lower Section
  • Large Vent Holes and Rails are Etched With Position Markings
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Non-Free Floating Direct Replacement Handguard
  • Four Picatinny Rails and Four Sockets for QD Swivels
  • Durable Body With a Combination of Aluminum and Steel
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Reduced Diameter and Improved Ergonomics for Better Control
  • Multiple Keymod and Rail Slots for Attaching Accessories
  • Fits Both Round and Triangle Handguard Caps
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews
  • Ergonomic Grooves and Appropriate Size for Better Handling
  • Shock-Resistant Polymer Construction WIthstands Heat
  • Compatible With All M-lok Accessory Attachments
View Latest Price →Read Customer Reviews

Perks of Choosing a Drop-In Handguard

When it comes to drop-in handguards, there are a few functions. The primary purpose is comfort and safety. They provide an excellent anchor point and improve your accuracy without conducting heat from the barrel. But handguards also can accommodate additional accessories for your AR-15. They can add Picatinny rails and M-LOK and KeyMod functionalities.

The main benefit of a drop-in style handguard is that it is generally easier to put on and take off than the free-floating version. This means you can add the handguard without altering the existing AR-15 hardware.

Before you pick the handguard that’s best for you, there are a few things to consider. Weight, heat resistance, and installation type are the first things to look at.

Adding too much weight to your AR-15 can tire out your arm and reduce the safety of the weapon. It can also impact the balance of the gun, so finding a lightweight grip is important.

Heat resistance will determine the effectiveness of the handguard–if you’re burning your hand after just a few shots… Yeah, not gonna work!

Also consider how the grip installs. This could mean making sure it fits your barrel length. But it also requires keeping in mind how easy putting it on and taking it off will be. You want something that balances ease-of-use with stability.

Once you’ve established the basic functionality and qualities of a handguard, you can start thinking about the bells and whistles. What sort of look are you going for? Does the handguard accommodate accessories, and if so, what type of mounting system? Does it improve or take away from accuracy?

Drop-in vs. Free-Float Handguard

Why choose a drop-in handguard over a free-float handguard? Convenience is the #1 reason, though people tend to fall on one side of the debate or the other. The main reason is that any gun with a Delta ring and a front sight base is made to accommodate the drop-in. If you wanted to install a free-floating handguard, you’d have to remove or shave down both of those parts.

Drop-ins also tend to be lightweight and inexpensive compared to free-float models.

That said, there are some advantages to free-float systems, like less heat transference and better accuracy. But we’ll cover those another day.

Quick Take - Best AR-15 Drop-in Handguards

Review of the Best Drop-in Handguards for the AR-15

Below is a list of the five best drop-in handguards currently on the market. Take note of any characteristics and features that make a specific handguard stand out. If you have a good idea of how your handguard should look, think about the features and characteristics that will make it your favorite. If you find a handguard that matches what you’re looking for, then you know that it’s a winning option. 

Modding one of the most popular rifles on the market is kind of a double-edged sword. On one hand, there are thousands of options to choose from to fit the needs of any user, no matter how obscure. On the other hand, there are THOUSANDS of options to choose from! Let’s take a look at the first drop-in handguard on the list:

Pros

  • Low-cost
  • Lightweight
  • Lots of color options
  • M-LOK slots for extra rails & accessories

Cons

  • Slightly clunky profile in the hand
  • Sometimes difficult to fit into the Delta ring

What Recent Buyers Report

This drop-in handguard was quite the hit with most new users. They were able to install this in about a couple of minutes. They also said this was nice-looking and tough all-around. It also protects the rifle from all kinds of shock and recoil that would otherwise throw off your shots. 

Why it Stands Out to Us 

This handguard is made from high-quality polymer. It’s tough and doesn’t feel cheap and flimsy. But the real thing worth looking at is the M-LOK slots that allow for customization. So if you have a sight, scope, or any kind of accessory, you can attach them and give your rifle an overall boost. 

The Magpul line of AR-15 Mid-Length Handguards are an excellent range of lightweight options. They're designed for mid-length gas systems with either triangular or circular handguard retainers. They come in a range of colors ranging from dark earth to grey to black. They’re made of lightweight, durable polymer material. One of the biggest advantages is that the Magpul Mid-Length Guards have M-LOK slots on the sides and top of the handguard. So there's plenty of room to attach sights, lights, and foregrips.

Who Will Use This Most 

This handguard will work with a lot of users across many applications. If you’re hunting and need to add a scope or sight in a jiffy, this handguard might be exactly what you need. This will also be a great handguard for target shooting (both casual and competitive settings). So if customization is something you want out of a handguard, this might be what you’ll need for your rifle. 

Bottom Line

If you want a handguard that is simply tough, easy to customize, and will fit most AR-15 rifles, this handguard by Magpul will work hard for as long as you use it. Once you add this onto your rifle, you’ll be free and clear to add on whatever else you need to make your rifle stand out.

Pros

  • Strong material
  • Lightweight (7.5 oz)
  • Lots of customization options
  • Plenty of vent holes to keep the barrel cool

Cons

  • Tight fit means tight tolerances, so assembly may be challenging

What Recent Buyers Report

A lot of new buyers were quite happy with the handguard. Most of them were able to install this within a couple of minutes. They were also impressed with the overall quality. It is in a word, indestructible compared to some of the other handguards on the market. They also were quite satisfied with the ability to customize the rifle using the handguard’s top rail.

Why it Stands Out to Us 

This is a handguard that is short in length. But make no mistake, it does a great job making sure that your rifle’s barrel cools off quickly. Other than it’s protective abilities, it does offer you the ability to add on a scope or sight to allow for boosting your accuracy. If you want something that will allow you to maximize your rifle’s abilities, it starts with an accessory that gives you more room to customize. 

The Midwest Industries Two-Piece Forend is an excellent handgrip. Rather than the common plastic or polymer handgrips, it is made of aluminum. The lightweight, six-inch metal construction makes it more durable and even lighter than its plastic counterparts. The AR-15 grip Troy Industries offers has four full sets of Picatinny rails. It can accommodate everything from bipods to grenade launchers.

Who Will Use This Most 

This will likely be used by those who want to customize their rifles to their heart's content. This will also fit you best if you want something that will give you protection from accidentally touching the barrel and getting burned in the process. Thankfully, you’ll be able to safely touch the barrel, since it facilitates quick cooling. 

Bottom Line

If you need a handguard that isn’t too long but offers a lot of customization options, the Midwest Industries, Inc. AR-15/M16 Two-Piece Forend might be what you’ll need for your AR-15 rifle. It’s shorter than most handguards, but will give you long, reliable service nonetheless. 

Pros

  • Strong aluminum design
  • Tight fit with no movement
  • Picatinny rails & sockets for QD swivels

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Finish is prone to rust when exposed to the elements

What Recent Buyers Report

This rail was quite useful for most users. They were happy with the ability to install this in a matter of a few minutes. Once installed, they were able to add on all kinds of accessories like scopes and sights, to give their rifle an excellent boost in accuracy. One user said he found this handguard to be quite useful in hunting applications.

Why it Stands Out to Us 

This handguard is short in length, so it really won’t encompass the entire barrel like some handguards on the market. This not only allows for excellent customization opportunities, but it’s also a great handguard that allows for almost instant cooling of the barrel. So you won’t have to worry about getting burned if you somehow accidentally touch the barrel.

Troy Industries’ AR-15 Enhanced Battle Rail is another excellent aluminum handgrip. It comes in both seven-inch and nine-inch lengths. It has a strong but lightweight design with a comfortable profile. It contains spaces for four sets of Picatinny rails, as well as QD Swivel sockets to accommodate a harness. It has a sleek, tactical look and is an excellent fit on any AR-15.

Who Will Use This Most 

This will probably be used by a lot of hunters and target shooters alike. It will be a nice handguard to have if you want the cooling process to speed up a bit for your barrel. Meanwhile, it will allow you to add on what you need to make your AR-15 rifle stand out the best.

Bottom Line

The Troy Industries AR-15/M16 Enhanced Drop-In Rail might be your kind of handguard if you want a handguard that serves a few good purposes. You might call this a “do-it-all” kind of handguard since it will protect your hands, cool the barrel, and give your extra accessories some room to work with. 

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Durable construction
  • Super lightweight (5 oz.)
  • Comfortable round design

Cons

  • Requires extra parts for rails or existing M-LOK functionality

What Recent Buyers Report

This handguard was easy to install for most users. They were also able to customize this to their heart's content with some of the best accessories that allowed a better overall performance for their rifles. One user said that he was able to add on a flashlight that allowed him to see better at night while he was using his rifle for predator hunting.

Why it Stands Out to Us 

This handguard is short in length, but will more so be used for cooling off the barrel rather quickly than for customization purposes. But don’t count it as useless by any stretch of the imagination, if you plan on customizing your rifle. This is made from a high-quality composite material that is built like a tank, so it won’t scuff up or damage easily.

B5 System’s Mid-Length Keymod Handguard is an excellent composite handguard. It is the second-lightest handguard on this list at only 5 oz., It contains several Keymod slots and accommodations for aftermarket rails to be added. It is affordable, making it excellent when you’re on a budget.

Who Will Use This Most 

This will make an excellent handguard if you want something that will keep the barrel as cool as possible throughout the day and after extended periods of use. It’s strong, reliable, and will stay in place, even after periods of usage. 

Bottom Line

The B5 Systems AR-15 Handguard Mid-Length Keymod is a handguard that will protect your hands from touching the barrel and give you a good amount of customization options to work with. It’s not long nor short. But it’s a good handguard that will last you a long time if you take good care of your rifle.

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Comfortable grip
  • M-LOK functionality
  • Good ventilation to keep the barrel and gas-tubes cool

Cons

  • Fewer customization options

What Recent Buyers Report

This handguard was a cakewalk to install for most users. They said it took only a few minutes and the right kind of tools. They also mentioned that it was a tough little unit that can handle all kinds of shock and recoil. Not to be outdone, it also allowed for quick cooling of the barrel after an extended period of use.

Why it Stands Out to Us 

This handguard might be considered one of the more affordable options on the market. So if you’re looking for a handguard that is excellent in quality and allows for some customization, this bad boy might be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s made from high-quality polymer, so it will definitely handle its share of bumps and bangs, while still looking good.

The LLC-AR-15 Tekko Handguard by Mission First is an excellent, lightweight, low-cost handgrip. It has a sleek military look and is designed to allow for easy M-LOK functionality. Despite being made from polymer, it is very durable in any conditions without coming loose or damaged. It is the lightest handguard reviewed here.

Who Will Use This Most 

This will probably be used by budget shoppers who are looking for a high-quality but affordable option for handguards. It will be more of a protective handguard than something that will allow for a lot of customization. So, if you want something that will keep the barrel nice and cool after a long period of use, this sturdy-looking unit just might be what you’ll need.

Bottom Line

The Mission First Tactical AR-15 Handguard is the one handguard that won’t suck the life out of your bank account, but is durable enough to rise above the rest of the budget handguards that can be cheap and flimsy in quality.

How Hard is it to Install a Drop-In Handguard?

The good news is that the main advantage of drop-in handguards is that they are easy to install. But just to be safe, here’s a brief step-by-step guide:

  1. First and foremost, make sure it is unloaded! Remove the magazine and examine the chamber. Firearm safety should never be ignored.

  2. Gather your parts: your AR-15, your new handguard, the proper size hex key (often included with the handguard), an AR Combo Tool, and (if you have another handguard installed) a handguard removal tool.

  3. If you’re removing an older handguard, use your tool to pull back the Delta ring and remove the old handguard.

  4. Take the new handguard apart using the Allen wrench, if necessary and separate the parts.

  5. Insert the non-tapered end of the top piece to the area around the front-end cap. Then, use the handguard removal tool to insert the back end into the Delta ring. Be sure to align the grooves in the barrel nut.

  6. Repeat with the bottom part of the handguard, making sure to line everything up.

  7. Use the supplied screws & hex key to fasten the handguard together.

  8. At this point, the installation is complete and you’re free to attach any additional rails or accessories.

Pros and Cons of Drop-In Handguards

If you have a drop-in handguard, it’s important to know what to expect if you’re using one for your AR-15 rifle. Don’t let the downsides of a handguard discourage you from getting one in the first place. Some drop-in handguards fall short in some areas compared to other types of handguards (like free-floating handguards). Here are the following pros and cons you need to know about:

Pros

Drop-in handguards have their advantages. Knowing what they are will probably give you a good reason to invest in them. Here are some common pros of drop-In handguards:

Easy to Install

Drop-in is synonymous with easy to install. This means you’ll be able to install this in a matter of a few minutes with the right kind of tools. This also means you won’t have to rely on the services of a professional gunsmith to install these handguards on your rifle. 

Affordable For Most Budgets

If you need a handguard but don’t have a lot of money to play with, these handguards might be exactly what you’ll need. Not only that, you can afford a high-quality handguard without having to spend an arm and a leg. Don’t confuse this with something that is considered flimsy and cheap.

Light in Weight

Compared to some of the other handguard types currently available, drop-in handguards are typically lighter in weight compared to other types, like free-floating handguards. So, it won’t add on any additional weight to your rifle when it’s installed. 

Cons

Of course, there are some characteristics and features that may be detrimental to these types of handguards. Not every accessory is perfect and will have some flaws and shortcomings. Here are the following cons for drop-in handguards: 

May Not Boost Accuracy

It’s been said that some handguards will be able to give you a small boost in accuracy. However, some handguards don’t do that. One such type is a drop-in handguard. If you want something that will boost your accuracy, you can work around this by adding on a handguard with a rail that allows customization. In other words, you can add on a scope or sight to the handguard’s rail in the snap of a finger. 

Some May Feel Cheap In Quality

A lot of drop-in handguards will probably feel cheap and flimsy in quality. It all depends on how much money you’re spending. Sometimes, you do get what you pay for. It cannot be stressed enough that you need to get a handguard that is the best quality you can afford.

Conclusion

A good handguard should be lightweight and sturdy without compromising usefulness. While there are a ton out there, the handguards on this list are the ones I’d recommend looking over before you get lost in research.

They’re comfortable, lightweight, and have plenty of options for rails, guards, etc. . Regardless of your budget, you’re sure to find a great handguard on this list that will take your AR-15 to the next level.

About Josh Lewis

Josh Lewis the managing editor at Gun Mann and when he isn't writing about guns he is more than likely tinkering with them. He also enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time outdoors. As a lifelong gun owner he knows his stuff!

Leave a Comment