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.
Quick Comparison Chart of the Best Drop-in Handguards
Magpul - AR-15/M16 Moe M-LOK Mid-length
Midwest Industries, Inc. - AR-15/M16 Two-piece Forend
Troy Industries, Inc. - AR-15/M16 Enhanced Drop-in Battle Rail
B5 Systems - AR-15 Handguards Mid-length Keymod
Mission First Tactical, Llc - AR-15 Tekko Handguard Carbine
Why Choose 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, M-LOK and KeyMod functionality.
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 start picking 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 mind how easy taking it on and 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-Floating Handguard
Why choose a drop-in handguard over a free-floating 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 - The Best AR-15 Drop-in Handguards
These are our recommendations for the best drop-in handguards for the AR-15:
Reviews of the Best Drop-in Handguards for the AR-15:
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! To get you on the right track, here are some of the best & newest products on the market:
The Magpul line of AR-15 mid-length handguards are an excellent range of lightweight handguards. 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.
- M-LOK slots for extra rails & accessories
- Lots of color options
- Slightly clunky profile in the hand
- Sometimes difficult to fit into the delta ring
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, 6” 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.
- Lightweight (7.5 oz)
- Plenty of vent holes to keep the barrel cool
- Lots of customization options
- Strong material
- Tight fit means tight tolerances, so assembly may be challenging
Troy Industries’ AR-15 Enhanced Battle Rail is another excellent aluminum handgrip. It comes in both 7” and 9” lengths. It has a strong but lightweight design with a comfortable profile. It contains spaces for 4 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.
- Tight fit with no movement
- Strong aluminum design
- Picatinny rails & sockets fo QD swivels
- Finish is prone to rust when exposed to the elements
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.
- Super lightweight (5 oz)
- Durable construction
- Comfortable round design
- Requires extra parts for rails or existing M-LOK functionality.
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 being damaged. It is the lightest handguard reviewed here.
- Easy to install
- Good ventilation to keep the barrel and gas-tubes cool
- Comfortable grip
- M-LOK functionality
- Fewer customization options
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:
- First and foremost, make sure it is unloaded! Remove the magazine and examine the chamber. Firearms safety should never be ignored.
- 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.
- If you’re removing an older handguard, use your tool to pull back the delta ring and remove the old handguard.
- Take the new handguard apart using the Allen wrench if necessary, and separate the parts
- 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.
- Repeat with the bottom part of the handguard, making sure to line everything up.
- Use the supplied screws & hex key to fasten the handguard together.
- At this point the installation is complete, and you’re free to attach any additional rails or accessories.
A good handguard should be lightweight and sturdy without compromising usefulness. While there are a ton out there, these handguards 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 in this list that will take your AR-15 to the next level.