Best Ruger AR-556 Handguards – Must See Top Picks of 2024

| Last Updated:
October 14, 2023

The Ruger AR-556 is a rugged and affordable entry-level AR-15. The reliability is everything you would expect from Ruger, making it a runaway success for the company. However, the factory handguard is traditional and featureless.

If you need a modern, full-featured handguard for your AR-556, read on.

Comparison of the Best Ruger AR-556 Handguards

  • Includes Four Alphanumerically Marked Full-Length Picatinny Rails
  • Effective Diamond-Shaped Vents for Maximum Heat Dissipation and Comfort
  • Constructed of High-Grade Mil-Spec Aluminum and Hard Coat Anodization Materials
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  • Low-Profile and Lightweight Thanks to Material and Vent Designs
  • Secures to a Standard Barrel Nut With Bomb-Proof Stainless Bolts
  • Includes Three Lengths of Modular Picatinny Rail for Flexible Mounting
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  • The knurled Mid-Section Offers Excellent Grip
  • Five Flutes and Ten Slots on Standard Model Reduce Weight
  • Free Floats by Attaching to the Included Proprietary Barrel Nut
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Drop-In Handguard vs. Free Float Handguards

Drop-in handguards are cheaper and easier to install than free-floated ones.These types are secured both at the rear D-ring assembly and at the front handguard cap, bringing them in contact with the barrel. They tend to have a slight amount of play.

Free-floated handguards secure firmly to the barrel nut, but make no contact with the barrel whatsoever, contributing to your rifle's accuracy. Their firm, wiggle-free attachment makes them the better choice for high eye relief sights or optics.

Arguably, drop-in handguards are a better bet for mounting forward grips and bipods, as they will rotate a bit, mitigating torque. If you are trying to shave every possible ounce off the weight of your AR-15, a drop-in tends to be the way to go.

The bottom line is if you want something that is as stable and accurate as possible, looks amazing, and is better for mounting optics, go with a free float option. If you need something that is cheap and cuts down on needless weight, a drop-in is the way to go.

Remember, in this market as in many others, you get what you pay for. A better-made product will often come at a higher price.

How to Choose a Ruger AR-556 Handguards

Once you have decided whether you want a free float handguard or a drop-in one, you still have a plethora of options to choose from.

Mounting Options

First is the kind of mounting options. Most of these products come with a rail along the top. Quad-rail handguards have rails on all four sides for maximum versatility. These days, almost all rails are of the Picatinny or universal types. Some have non-rail attachment systems such as KeyMod or M-LOK.


Another thing to consider is material. Polymer is lighter than aluminum but can be less durable.

Aesthetics can be important, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Although most people like the sleek modern look of free float handguards, others find a certain mystique in various styles of drop-in ones.


Finally, of course, there is the price. Spend as much as you can afford to get the best possible quality.

Review of the Best Ruger AR-556 Handguards

There are dozens of handguards available for the Ruger AR-556 and choosing the right one for you can be confusing. We've done the hard work separating the wheat from the chaff, so read on for the best Ruger AR-556 handguards.

Best Overall:
AR-15 Diamond Pattern Free Float Handguards


  • Made in the USA and Covered by a Lifetime Warranty
  • Extended Top Rail is Continuous With the Receiver Rail
  • All Four Full-Length Picatinny Rails are Alphanumerically Marked
  • Machined From Top-Grade 6061 T6 Aluminum and Mil-Spec Hard Coat Anodization
  • Effective Diamond-Shaped Vents Look Tough and Keep the Barrel and Your Hand Cool


  • Installation Requires the Yankee Hill Nut Wrench

This is an incredibly functional and attractive free float handguard from Yankee Hill, one of the grandees of the AR world. Yankee Hill started building its rock-solid reputation in the 1960s with a military contract for M16 cleaning rods.

This product pushes the limit of both functionality and aesthetics. The four full-length rails give you the utmost flexibility in mounting tactical accessories. Between the rails, it features diamond-shaped vents that not only look hardcore but allow for superior heat dissipation. This design also helps keep the heat to a minimum.

The aluminum and hard coat anodization are both high-grade materials meeting military specifications. These handguards come in three lengths, seven, nine, and twelve inches, and will fit over low-profile gas blocks.

They ship with all the mounting hardware you need, including a barrel nut, jam nut, and anti-rotation screws. Optional Yankee Hill end caps are sold separately. The extended top rail provides a fluid transition from the receiver rail. The slots on all four rails are alphanumerically marked to help you remount accessories in the same places.

Bottom Line

This is a top-notch rail which brings the best in functionality and looks. The top features are the venting design and the seamless transition from receiver rail to handguard rail.

AR-15 Alpha Rail Handguards


  • Lightweight and Secure Free Float Design at a Great Price
  • Mil-Spec Materials and Good Venting Remove Heat Effectively
  • Mounts to Any Standard Barrel Nut With Two Tough Stainless Steel Bolts
  • Includes Two 2-Inch and One 4.2-Inch Modular Rails and the Hardware to Attach Wherever Needed


  • Mounting the Modular Rails is a Bit Difficult

Say what you want about Troy Industries, they make a fine product. Besides the full-length top rail, this product comes with 2 two-inch lengths and one 4.2-inch length of modular rail. The top rail is alphanumerically marked to ensure consistency in mounting accessories.

It comes with all the hardware necessary to mount these modular rails wherever you like. The vents form large circles providing great ventilation and weight reduction, while the textured body of the rail gives you an excellent grip.

This free float handguard mounts on a standard barrel nut (not included). Two hex-head bolts lock it into place and a built-in stop prevents over tightening. This product is constructed of the high-grade, mil-spec aluminum and hard coat anodization that you would expect from any quality AR component.

The hex-head bolts are stainless steel. The handguard is made in various lengths, although the 13-inch model stands out, but may require a low-profile gas block.

Bottom Line

This handrail offers excellent value for money. The material, design, and overall quality are excellent. The top features are the modular Picatinny rails and the ability to securely mount it on a standard barrel nut. This is another great product contributing to Troy's solid reputation.

3. AR-15 Free Float Handguards


  • Made in the U.S.A.
  • Very Easy to Install
  • Rugged Full-Tube Look
  • Lifetime Warranty From Brownells
  • Flutes and Slots Cut to Reduce Weight
  • The Mid-Section is Knurled for Excellent Grip


  • May Not Cover the Gas Block on a 20-Inch Barrel

This is a great handguard for anyone who wants a stern, understated look. Rather than resembling some kind of aluminum negligee for your AR, this product is a solid tube resembling the component of an industrial machine. That's not to say that it isn't highly engineered to be an effective, lightweight, and affordable AR handguard.

It comes with its own barrel nut for secure, fast, and easy attachment. The central length is knurled to give you a solid grip. Five sleek flutes have been machined out to reduce the weight. Ten rounded slots have been cut out near the muzzle for the same reason.

The materials and finish are standard 6061 T6 aluminum with black hard coat anodization. It is made in the U.S.A. and is covered by a lifetime warranty. The standard length is 12.5 inches, but it also comes in 4 and 7, the former non-fluted and the latter has eight flutes and no slots. The external diameter is 1.98 inches and the weight is 13 ounces.

Bottom Line

This handguard is a great value for money. The machining and quality are faultless. The fact that it isn't skeletonized like many others greatly increases its strength. We don't all need everything coated in endless rail, and the snag-free benefits will be appealing to many. The top feature of this handguard is the ease of install, though the affordability is great too.

4. Carbine Handguard Vmarmlce 13.5"


  • Rows of M-LOK Slots Along Seven Surfaces.
  • Full-Length Picatinny Top Rail Extended to Meet Receiver
  • Easy Installation With Included Bolts if You Have a Mil-Spec Delta Ring
  • Extends Past the Front Sight to Provide Extra Grip and Mounting Points


  • As a Drop-In Handguard, it is Not Firm Enough to Mount Optics

This is the only drop-in handguard on our list, and not without reason. It is a very well-designed piece of equipment. Drop-in handguards are not without benefits, and this one brings them in spades.

The installation process is exceptionally easy if you have a mil-spec barrel nut, delta ring, and handguard cap. It attaches to the delta ring with included screws at the rear and to a handguard cap up front.

Another of the major benefits is that it extends past the front sight on an M4-style carbine, giving extra surface area for grip and mounting accessories. The total length is 13.5 inches. The handguard, and especially the top Picatinny rail, extends back over the delta ring to be flush with the receiver and the receiver rail.

The seven surfaces other than the top are covered in rows of M-LOK slots for lightweight, solid mounting. Two lengths of M-LOK to Picatinny adaptors are included, one with five Picatinny slots and one with nine. Of course, this product is constructed of high-grade aluminum and mil-spec hard coat anodization.

Bottom Line

This product offers incredible value for the money. You get a great lightweight mount extending from flush with the receiver almost all the way to the muzzle. This drop-in is a runaway hit for a reason.

5. AR-15 Fm-9 Handguard Free Float M-Lok


  • Covered by a Lifetime Warranty and Made in the U.S.A.
  • Includes Four Shims in Two Sizes for Hassle-Free Mounting
  • Features Seven Rows of Weight-Reducing, Versatile M-LOK Slots and a Top Universal Rail
  • Made of Top-Grade Materials, Steel for the Barrel Nut and Bolts and Type III Hard Coat Anodized 6061 T6 Aluminum for the Handguard


  • Does Not Include Guidelines for Torque Values

This item pushes the envelope in lightness without compromising on quality. The Magpul M-LOK system allows you to mount tactical accessories without packing on the weight of added rails. In fact, not only do the seven rows of M-LOK slots add no weight, they reduce it.

As M-LOK was created by Magpul, one of the most trusted designers of AR components, there are no issues with this product.  The slim profile also contributes to weight reduction.

Despite its lightweight nature, the quality of the handguard is affirmed by mil-spec materials and a construction process following various international standards for quality control, like ISO:9001 and AS:9100. The proprietary Foxtrot Mike barrel nut is machined from steel. The 6061 T6 aluminum handguard mounts to it with eight stainless steel bolts. Shims are also included. It also comes in 8.5, 10.5, and 15-inch lengths.

Bottom Line

If you need an affordable, lightweight handguard, you would be hard-pressed to do better than this. M-LOK is the mounting solution of the future because it cuts weight and is reliably shock-resistant. The inclusion of shims is a big plus, making mounting a lot more hassle-free than it could be. Besides, the overall quality, design, and materials are fantastic.

Perks of Having a Top-of-the-Line Handguard

There are almost too many benefits to getting the best possible handguard to list.

First is sheer quality, as you tend to get what you pay for. This principle expresses itself, for example, in heat resistance. Aluminum needs good venting to stay cool, and polymer needs to be well-composed to avoid heat damage. Quality, by way of good design, will also contribute to the ease of installation.

A top-of-the-line handguard will have well-thought-out mounting options, whether rail, KeyMod, or MLOK. This allows you to mount a lot more than just a sight or scope. Different accessories will come equipped with different mounting options. Once you have chosen which laser, angled grip, flashlight, et cetera that you want on your handguard, and what position you want to mount them in, you will know which handrail is best for you.

The best handguards are also as lightweight as possible without compromising strength and durability. No one wants to suffer fatigue from lugging a heavy weapon around all day.


There is a lot more to choosing a handguard than is immediately obvious. Whether you decide on a drop-in or a free float, we're sure that you can find the best Ruger AR-556 handguard for you on our list.


Born on Vancouver Island, Jonathan Trefz has been fishing, shooting and exploring the outdoors since his youth. He enjoys fishing in British Columbia, hunting deer and coyotes in Alberta, and pursuing similar activities with his relatives in Idaho and eastern Washington. He is an avid clay shooter and enjoys little more than hitting the bush with a shotgun. He and his father have a hobby of buying used guns, accurizing them, bedding the barrel and refinishing the stock before resale. It's a great way to get to know a variety of different guns. Jonathan has traveled extensively, fishing in Siberia, boar hunting in Bosnia, and hippo spotting in Ethiopia.

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