Best M16A1 Handguards – 2020 Buyer’s Guide

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Finding the best M16A1 handguard might be a challenge, especially if you have no idea what to look for. A great handguard is what you’ll need to ensure that your hands are protected from burns you might receive for accidentally touching the barrel.

At the same time, some handguards may actually play a role in quickly dissipating the heat produced by extended usage of your M16A1 rifle. It will depend on the design of the handguard itself. To serve as a starting point in your search, we’ve taken the liberty of putting together a list of six of the best M16A1 handguards currently on the market.

Before we get to the list, let’s talk about the two types of handguards available and provide you with a brief description of each. We’ll also give you a brief list of what to look for while choosing a handguard for your own rifle. 

Comparison of the Best M16A1 Handguards

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Made from high-quality aluminum.
  • Available in various colors and finishes.
  • Includes M-Lok slots for customization.
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  • Best M16a1 handguard for the money.
  • Features M-Lok slots for better customization.
  • Made from high-quality polymer for superior durability and heat resistance.
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  • Picatinny rail included for customization options.
  • Oversized cooling ports for quicker heat dissipation.
  • Made from high-quality aluminum for superior durability.
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  • Fits all kinds of AR-style rifles.
  • Made from fiberglass reinforced polymer.
  • Internal heat shield for quick heat dissipation.
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  • Picatinny rail included for customization options.
  • 360-degree sling swivel for easy sling attachment.
  • Made from high-quality aluminum for added durability.
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  • Works with A2 rifles (M16a1).
  • Best M16a1 triangular handguard.
  • Accepts all kinds of slings and bipods.
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Types of Handguards

There are two types of handguards available for an M16A1 rifle. They are drop-in and free-float handguards. Each has some similarities and differences but are both effective in their purpose of protecting your hands and sometimes playing a role in making your rifle more reliable and accurate. Here’s a brief overview of each type:

Drop-In Handguards

Drop-in is a fancy term for “easy to install”. All you’ll need are the right tools and minutes of your time to add these onto your rifle. At the same time, you won’t have to make any permanent modifications to the rifle itself. Between the two types, drop-ins are usually more affordable so it might be the best possible option for those who are on a budget.

Geissele - Super Modular Rails Drop-in Handguard





vs.

Rock River Arms Free Float Barrel Sleeve

Free-Float Handguards

These kinds are best known for giving your rifle more accurate shooting. The reason it’s called a free-floating handguard is that it never touches the barrel. The handguard itself has the ability to make the barrel a little longer than what the gas system allows.

However, it will still deliver a reliable shooting performance like nothing else. Price-wise, they may be a little more pricey compared to drop-ins but may have some that are affordable if you are on a budget. Some may also be easy to install while others might require some gunsmithing skills in order to be installed successfully.

How to Choose an M16A1 Handguard

Finding an M16A1 handguard from the many that flood the market might be a challenge. But knowing which is better than low-quality and ineffective handguards might make all the difference. To help you better distinguish a great one from one that isn’t up-to-snuff, here’s what you need to look for:

Price

The price might be an important factor, especially for those looking for a handguard on a budget. If you hold the price to a high standard, don’t let it be the be-all to end-all decision. Be sure to pay close attention to the other factors like the materials used for manufacturing. As a rule of thumb, find the best possible quality you can afford rather than a handguard that is considered cheap in price, but disappointing in quality.

Quality

Quality should always trump everything else, especially when you’re finding something like a handguard for your M16a1 rifle. Most of the products we’ll be reviewing are made from materials like aluminum or steel. Both are proven to take all kinds of abuse and impact associated with shooting a heavy-duty rifle. The better the materials, the better the chance it will last a long time.

Free-Float or Drop-In?

Do you want something that’s easy to install? Do you want your rifle to be more accurate? There are all kinds of questions you’re probably asking yourself right now. If you’re looking for something that will be affordable and easy to install, a drop-in handguard could be more up your alley. If you’re considering increasing the accuracy of your rifle, a free-floating handguard could be the solution. Consider your personal needs and preferences before choosing either one so you’ll get exactly what you want.

Quick Take - The Best M16A1 Handguards

Review of the Best M16A1 Handguards

The following is the list of six of the best M16A1 handguards currently on the market as of this writing. While the list might be subject to change, this is your opportunity to get a good look at what’s popular right now among M16A1 users.

As you go through the list, be sure to take note of any features and functions that might match your personal needs and preferences. Now, let’s kick off this review list by unveiling our “best overall” choice:

Pros

  • Super Durable
  • Easy to Install, Only Takes Minutes
  • Easy to Customize With All Kinds of Accessories

Cons

  • None

To start off, we’ll be taking a look at the Geissele Super Modular Rails handguard. This is a drop-in-style you can easily install in a matter of minutes. It’s even available in a variety of colors and finishes.

Of course, choosing that will be entirely up to you. It has an M-Lok rail designed to give you fully customizable options so you can make your M16A1 a sharpshooting unit destined to turn heads at the range. Simply install a scope or an optic on the rail and you’ll be in business.

What you’ll also notice is that there are more M-Lok slots located on the rail itself. You can add more accessories at the 3, 6, or 9 o’clock slots. So it doesn’t have to be optics or scopes here. You can add on a flashlight if you plan on using the rifle for low light or nighttime use.

Whether it’s day or night, you have a handguard to use for just about any application. And to top it off, it will quickly dissipate the heat in a short period of time. If you’re looking for the best of the best when it comes to handguards, the Geissele Super Modular Rail could be something that’s right up your alley.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for an excellent drop-in handguard that will have the potential of giving your rifle a huge upgrade, then look no further than the Geissele. Once installed, you’re free to add on as many optics and accessories as you want for a beastly-looking M16A1 rifle.

Sure, it’s not a free-floating guard that will improve your accuracy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take it up a notch with a great scope or optic tacked onto the top rail.

Best For The Money: 
Magpul Carbine-Length Handguard

Pros

  • Fits All Kinds of Hand Sizes
  • Customization is a Lot Easier
  • Heat Dissipation is Very Quick

Cons

  • Installation Might Be a Challenge
  • This May Sit a Little Too High for Some Red Dot Sights

If you’re looking for a handguard that is considered the best for budget shoppers, then you’ll enjoy using the Magpul Carbine-Length Handguard. This is a drop-in style you can easily install. Once added on, you’ll instantly get the benefit of quick heat dissipation, which is especially important if you’ve used the rifle for an extended session at the range. 

This is designed from a high-quality, heat-resistant polymer that won’t melt, break, or get scuffed up. In other words, it’s a tough looking unit you can put to good use the moment you tack it onto your rifle.

It is perfect if you’re looking for an upgrade or something to add onto a building project you’re working on. Either way, it’s a reliable handguard that will last you a long time. And what’s better than that? The fact that it’s affordable for most budgets.

If you’re looking for the best possible handguard you can afford in terms of quality, the Magpul Carbine-Length Handguard could be the clear favorite in your eyes.

Also, you get to have the advantage of customizing your rifle with the right kind of scopes or optics. That’s because it has M-Lok slots that will allow you to add on as many accessories as you need to ensure your rifle is more reliable and even more of a high-powered beast. If you’re looking to get a lot out of your handguard and want to keep your bank account intact in the process, this Magpul product might be the solution.

Bottom Line

This is more than just a budget handguard. It is solid in construction and quality. Plus, you get heat dissipation that is much faster than pretty much any other handguard on the market. Not bad for something that’s considered a “budget” handguard, right?

Of course, we can’t forget the customization ability you get using the M-Lok slots. Whether you have money to play with or not, you’ll be shocked by how reliable this can be. And even more so when it’s cheaper than higher-end handguards.

Pros

  • Easy to Install, Takes Minutes
  • Very Affordable for Most Budgets
  • Heat Dissipation is Almost Instant

Cons

  • Some Reviewers Were Not Happy With the Swivel Holes
  • The Installation Instructions Might Be a Little Confusing to Some

Now, we’ll be taking a look at the Yankee Hill Machine 2-Piece Handguard. If you’re a sucker for the Picatinny-style rail, you’ll love this product, in particular. That means you’ll be able to add on a scope or optic of your choice so long as it’s fit for that kind of rail system.

The body of the handguard is made from high-quality aluminum, making it a very durable little unit that will work to protect your hands from getting burned due to accidentally touching a hot barrel. Yet, the over-sized cooling ports will make that a thing of the past. You can expect the heat to dissipate almost immediately, even after you’ve spent all day firing off a few hundred rounds at the range.

As far as looks go, this is as close as you are going to get to a tactical-looking handguard. So if you’re looking for something that looks intimidating and is ready for action no matter the application, this might be a product you’ll want to look at a little further. If you also use Colt-style carbine rifles, this kind of handguard will work best with them.

However, that won’t render it useless with all other M16A1 rifles. If you’re looking for a drop-in-style that will keep heat to a minimum and take your customization game to the next level, this Yankee Hill Machine handguard might be just your cup of coffee.

Bottom Line

The Yankee Hill Machine Handguard is small and compact, but does an excellent job getting rid of the heat from your barrel quickly. Not to mention, it has plenty of Picatinny slots available so you can install any scope or optic you want in order to give your accuracy a big boost. Aside from all that, it’s durable and easy to install and you can call it your own for a good, long time.

Pros

  • Solid, Tight Fit
  • Easy to Install
  • Heat Dissipation is a Lot Quicker Than Most

Cons

  • Some Sanding May Be Needed Prior to Fitting

Now, we’ll be taking a look at the Double Star Skinny-Style Carbine Handguard. Right out of the gate, you’ll notice that this handguard is super-tough. That’s because it’s made from a fiberglass reinforced polymer designed to give you superior resistance to corrosion, but it will also deliver an excellent impact like nothing else.

What’s even more interesting is that this product comes with a built-in heat shield, which means it can stand up to the heat generated from your barrel, even after a long day at the range. This handguard is as close as you’re going to get to a military-style look. So if you’re looking for something that will make your M16A1 rifle a little more intimidating, this handguard by Double Star is probably worth a closer look.

Bottom Line

The Double Star Handguard is probably one of the dark horse candidates for best overall over the past few years.  For the moment, it’s an excellent drop-in option with a unique design that keeps heat to a minimum thanks to the heat shield. Other than that, it’s a reliable and fits like a glove, no matter which AR-style rifle you choose.

Pros

  • Fits Perfectly and No Play to Speak Of
  • Easy to Fit on All Kinds of Scopes and Optics
  • Easy to Install, Takes No More Than 5 Minutes

Cons

  • None

Now we’ll be turning our attention to the free-float handguards on our list. Well, actually it’s not a free-float, per se, but the design can sure make it look like one. What we’ll be looking at is the Non-Free-Float Carbine Handguard from Troy Industries.

If you’re looking for something that will give you the look and feel of a free-floating handguard, you’ll probably fall in love with this one rather quickly. Also included on this rail is a Picatinny rail you can use to add on any accessories or scopes. So, if you’re planning on adding a scope, optic, or any other accessory, you’ll have a good amount of room to work with, thanks to the rail system.

Also included is a four position, 360-degree sling swivel you can use to add on any slings for a hands-free carrying experience. For example, if you’re out hunting, you’ll probably need your hands free in order to use binoculars to find a place to set up shop.

You never know when your next big game target will show up. If you’re looking for a product that will give you all the customization options you’ve ever wanted, plus the ability to go hands-free with a good solid sling, then the Troy Industries option could be your next handguard of choice.

Bottom Line

It may not be a standalone, free-floating handguard, but the design looks pretty much like one. Don’t be surprised when people ask you if it’s free-floating. Imagine the shock on their faces when you tell them no.

Other than that, this is a pretty solid item with enough customizable options to work with. Not to mention, it takes almost no time at all to get it installed. So attach it and forget it. Unless of course, you want to add on any extra accessories.

Pros

  • Excellent for All Kinds of Applications
  • Made From High-Quality Polymer, So it’s Super Durable
  • Accuracy is Immediately Increased Upon Installation

Cons

  • Some Fitting Might Be Required
  • Mil-Spec Barrel Nuts May Have Trouble Fitting

For our final handguard, we’ll actually be taking a look at a free-floating handguard. This is the Rock River Arms Free-Float Barrel Sleeve. If you’re looking for a handguard that will give you consistent, accurate shots each time, you’d be insane to pass up the opportunity to look at this further.

This handguard is best used for M16A1 rifles that use an A2 sight. If that’s the kind of rifle you have, this might be the handguard that goes along with it. This will fit most slings and can also operate without issue if you’re shooting from a bipod. Either way, expect this handguard not only to provide you the best in heat protection, but also up your accuracy game quite a bit.

Bottom Line

If you’re a sucker for a free-floating handguard, you’re probably going to love this one, in particular. Don’t be shocked if you notice an increase in accuracy the instant you install it. The installation might be a challenge for this one, though.

If it seems a little intimidating, you may want to take it to a nearby gunsmith. But if you’re up for a bit of a challenge, all it takes is the right tools, a little bit of patience, and some (but not master level) gunsmithing skills. If that’s right in your wheelhouse, this might be the handguard for you.

Conclusion

The M16A1 handguards listed above are some of the best in the business. But which one is right for you? If you see a handguard you think you might enjoy, consider going in-depth in your research so you know what others are saying about it. From there, you can determine whether or not you’re interested in buying it or if another model is worth your hard-earned money.

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!

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