If you’re building or repairing an M4, you already know how important it is to find a good handguard that complements the other components.
We’ve done all the research on handguards so you don’t have to. We’ll explain what separates the various types and show you some great examples of the best M4 handguards for any build you have in mind.
Comparison Chart of the Best M4 Handguards
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Drop-in Handguards vs. Free Float Handguards
Before we start digging into any details, there are two main variants of handguard you should be aware of. Let’s go over what differentiates them and what makes them worthwhile.
These are two-piece handguards that most M4s use, as they were included in the original designs. All you’ve got to do to remove or install a drop-in is to pull on the delta ring, usually spring-loaded, and drop in a new one.
Therefore, these types are very easy to install and don’t count as modifications since they’re the most common type. They also tend to be very affordable in comparison to the alternative. Of this variant, polymer handguards have a metal heat shield on their inside. Railed drop-in handguards usually have four rails that allow you to mount various accessories to your weapon.
Free Floating Handguards
These provide a great customization choice for your M4 build. They never touch the barrel but are instead installed right on the upper receiver, thus “floating”. This lets your barrel float and may improve your accuracy slightly.
If you use a grip or bipod, you’ll notice the accuracy boost more clearly. You can apply more pressure to the handguard without altering your barrel’s position Since you can make these longer than the gas system, you can attach accessories beyond that of which you can manage with a drop-in version.
Aspects to Consider Before Buying a Handguard
There are some key factors to keep in mind during your browsing or shopping process. These are important features that directly affect how a handguard can change your weapon operation and its performance during shooting.
Some handguards will add to a military or custom appearance. If you’re going for a specific look for your build, this is a critical component you don’t want to forget!
If you plan on using certain mounts, check to make sure that the handgrip you’re eyeing has the slot available to function properly with it. Nothing would be worse than getting a great handgrip only to find that it doesn’t work with your current mount.
Consider what kinds of accessories you might use. Railed handguards have a greater capacity for attachments, for example, so something like this might have you narrow your search criteria.
Some handguards affect accuracy positively or negatively. If pinpoint accuracy is a concern, you’ll probably lean toward free-floating types.
Polymer handguards have extra heat-resistance capacity; consider this factor if you’re going to fire automatic a lot of the time or operate in high-heat environments.
Review of the Best M4 Handguards
Now that we’re familiar with the different types and aspects of good handguards, let’s take a look at the best M4 models on the market. These will each have different focuses or benefits, but even if you can’t find the perfect product for your build, these will act as great starting points to compare to other guards.
Magpul Industries MOE Carbine Length Handguard
This is a great standard handguard that should work with most M4 builds. It’s forged from a polymer material base that is then railed along the grip edge, bringing you the best of both the polymer and railed worlds.
What this means for you is that you get exceptional heat protection due to the aluminum shield that’s been integrated into the construction. Additionally, you gain the capacity to add some attachments.
Workable accessories include Picatinny rails or some M-LOK additions that you can find on various sites. There are slots at three different positions to allow for ultimate flexibility and customization.
It’s very easy to install using the delta ring that comes with the purchase. There are also extensions at the front and sides to extend the heat shield over the gas block; which could come in handy in certain high-humidity environments. It is of a reasonable length and isn’t too heavy, either, although you won’t get any accuracy boost if you press heavily on the guard during shooting.
This is a classic, affordable model that combines the heat resistance of a polymer construction with the accessory function of a rail model. This allows you to modify your weapon the way you like it while still providing excellent protection for you and the weapon.
Best for the Money:
AIM Sports Inc M4 MLOK Handguard
This is on the other end of the spectrum from the previous product It brings some excellent value for the money as a free float model, which means that it rests above the upper receiver. You can put pressure on it and you won’t see accuracy decreases, so if this is something you like to do you might find exactly what you’re looking for in this model.
There are seven different mounting rails, so there’s plenty of room for attachments or modifications like scopes. There’s a specific rail for Picatinny mounts that’s super lightweight for your convenience and easy transport. Anti-rotation tabs help keep it locked into place even under heavy fire.
The material is a high-grade aluminum, which can resist some heat but isn't quite as good as a polymer model in our first review. However, given its total customization, it's clear that this item is more for builds that have a high mod count in mind. It’ll operate just fine in environments where heat can dissipate naturally.
The AIM Sports handguard is made from aluminum in a free float mold. It’s designed for modularity and to work well with Picatinny mounts. It is a perfect choice if you’re looking to have a custom carbine and use that kind of mount already.
3. Double Star M4 Skinny Style Carbine Handguard
This is very much the opposite of the previous handguard. It's small, compact, and ideal for simplistic M4 builds that aren't going to make much use from a bunch of mods. It's made from a polymer compound that's already ideal for resisting heat as opposed to an aluminum alloy.
A single heat shield is included to defend your hands when the weapon is running hot. This is smaller than some other polymer handguards, but this fits in with the product’s simple design. It’s very uncluttered except for its ribbed grip that promotes easy holding while firing the carbine. This minimalist design also allows it to be sold for a great, affordable price and keep the weight of your weapon low.
Since this is a drop-in type, it’s easy to install and remove. The lack of modularity should be seen as a feature, not a flaw, since some folks will want a standard-issue M4 and won't bother with scopes or attachments very much in the first place.
The Double Star handguard is a compact, minimalist piece that provides protection against heat and ignores the possibility of many modifications. It’s a drop-in, easy-install piece that’s perfect for a beginner or standard-issue M4 builds.
4. Pro Mag M4 Polymer Quad Rail Carbine Handguard
This is another dual-purpose handguard that fulfills a lot of needs at once. It’s made from a nylon polymer compound that excels at reducing heat transference and can protect your hands from undue harm. In addition, aluminum shields add to heat reduction to make a product that’s great for hot environments or firing your carbine for long periods of time.
In addition, it’s railed all along its length so you can add modifications or accessories to your heart’s content. These can include scopes or mounts. Installing it is as easy as removal via the included delta ring. The four rails can make it seem a little busy or clunky, but it’s not too severe as to negatively impact performance during real-world use.
It's very easy to grip on top or bottom but doesn't afford any accuracy increase as you put pressure on the handguard since it's a drop-in style. However, given its versatility in all other regards, this product still proves to be an exemplary addition to most M4 templates. To make it an even better deal, it's super affordable for just about anyone!
The Pro Mag handguard is both polymer-constructed and railed, so you get the heat resistance of the former and the modifiability of the latter. It’s easy to install and affordable for most folks, although it doesn’t improve your accuracy at all.
Best Binelli Option:
Strike Industries Hayl Rail MLOK Handguard
Here’s a handguard that’s made from M4 Benelli combat shotguns, although you can install this on other rifles or carbines if you’re skilled enough. It’s very lightweight and made from an aluminum alloy that allows it to retain its durability without having to add on a bunch of ounces. Since it was made for combat shotguns originally, its durability and ruggedness are assuredly enough to handle the power of an M4 carbine.
This product is a drop-in style but still has slots for installing MLOK accessories, although not as many as dedicated rail models. These rails are a little small, so you’ll need to make sure that any attachments you have in mind are of the right size and category to work with the handguard.
It is pricey, but it’s worth it in terms of the value it brings. You’ll be able to steadily control any recoil or issue from your firearm, even beyond that of what a typical M4 might emanate. It doesn't resist heat quite as well as some polymer-only builds that also include heat shields, but the toughness that makes up its construction helps to balance them out somewhat.
Installation might be a bit of a pain, but your purchase does come with a hex wrench and the screws needed for a secure fit. You can always look up guides or advice if you’re having trouble.
This is a rugged, hardcore handguard used on combat shotguns. It’s durable, lightweight despite its toughness, and has attachment slots for MLOK accessories. It’s also a drop-in style and includes tools if you need to assure a secure installation on your carbine.
Best Magpul Option:
Magpul Industries Moe Sl Handguard
Finally, let’s look at a longer handguard that’s a bit over eight inches in total length. This can make it a bit bulky for some rifles, although the actual size of the handguard horizontally is quite compact. It has a solid grip that makes it easy to steady and three slots of MLOK attachments or a Picatinny mount.
This item is actually made from a polymer base, however, and, in addition to its natural heat resistance, it has aluminum shields to help divert heat away from your hands. This, once again, combines polymer benefits with the customization options of a railed handguard.
It's a drop-in model, so you won't see real accuracy improvements if there's a lot of pressure put on the handguard. However, it's very easy to install and is a good all-rounder if you don't have many special features that you want out of your handguard. It'll also work with a variety of M4 builds.
Overall, this is really similar to the first product we reviewed, with the biggest difference being its length and the additional aluminum heat shield. You'll have to decide if these differences are worthwhile for your personal carbine.
This is a versatile product that can provide adequate heat protection in addition to allowing some awesome attachments to be added to its base. There are three slots for modification and it works with Picatinny mounts. It’s longer than many other handguards, but not by much, and is otherwise very sleek and compact.
No matter what specific carbine you are building, there's a great handguard that can help put the finishing touches on your M4. Hopefully, this guide has been of help and provided you with the know-how and some options to find a great piece for your firearm. Check out our other guides for other helpful tips and M4 piece recommendations.