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
|View Latest Price →|
|View Latest Price →|
|View Latest Price →|
|View Latest Price →|
|View Latest Price →|
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.
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.
AR-15 Diamond Pattern Free Float Handguards
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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"
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.
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
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.
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.