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Thread: RFI: Ready to upgrade free-float handguards

  1. #1
    Site Supporter dogcaller's Avatar
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    Jun 2013
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    RFI: Ready to upgrade free-float handguards

    I have two uppers with handguards I'd like to upgrade and I have a few questions... I realize I could get plenty of input from ARFCOM, but I always prefer to start here when possible. The variety of options is pretty staggering, so I'm going to start with my desired end-state and some bigger picture questions.

    Here are the uppers:

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    My buddy borrowed it once and named it "The Ghost." It's a 16" with a fluted bbl and quad-rail cheese-graters and a flip-up front sight. My recollection is that it was built by BCM.





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    This is a ban-era Wilson Combat 18" upper. It has a short aluminum free-floated handguard.


    Weight is a factor, I would like to keep weight down--actually, I'd prefer to shave a little weight, if possible. I'd like to have relatively smooth lines and form factor. I don't anticipate hanging much from the rail. I would like to have a sling attachment option and potentially a light on my 16" and a sling and bipod attachment option on the 18." I prefer the slings be of the style that can be used "patrol ready" as opposed to just a carrying strap. I'd like to keep the BUIS option available on The Ghost. I'd rather not have a full-length Picatinny on top, if possible. The Ghost will have a Steiner P4xi mounted in a lightweight Larue. The Wilson sometimes wears a Romeo red dot, and sometimes wears a 3-9x40 (as a back-up prarie dog rifle). Both are used for general purposes: carbine classes, coyote hunting, zombie apocalypse duty, perhaps someday a 2-gun competition, etc. I've never been trained in or used the C-clamp hold, but it does seem to be the rage, and I'm open to it, if that matters.

    My understanding is that for things like bipods I will need to use aluminum, but polymer or fiberglass is an option if not attaching anything load-bearing. Is this accurate? What about with sling attachments? It also seems that M-Lock won the attachment-system wars, so I assume I should go with that.

    I'm not much of a gun plumber. I've never built a complete AR and I don't plan to do the work myself. I have been watching some videos, and while I believe I could do it, I'm not sure the purchase of the tools and equipment I would need, plus the inevitable (for me) headache of "no easy project" is worth it. These uppers run great and are quite accurate--I'd like to keep it that way.

    Am I headed in the right direction? Do you happen to have suggestions that might fill the bill?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Site Supporter
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    Quote Originally Posted by dogcaller View Post
    I have two uppers with handguards I'd like to upgrade and I have a few questions... I realize I could get plenty of input from ARFCOM, but I always prefer to start here when possible. The variety of options is pretty staggering, so I'm going to start with my desired end-state and some bigger picture questions.

    Here are the uppers:

    Name:  IMG_6075.jpg
Views: 224
Size:  65.7 KB
    My buddy borrowed it once and named it "The Ghost." It's a 16" with a fluted bbl and quad-rail cheese-graters and a flip-up front sight. My recollection is that it was built by BCM.





    Name:  IMG_6074.jpg
Views: 222
Size:  60.0 KB.
    This is a ban-era Wilson Combat 18" upper. It has a short aluminum free-floated handguard.


    Weight is a factor, I would like to keep weight down--actually, I'd prefer to shave a little weight, if possible. I'd like to have relatively smooth lines and form factor. I don't anticipate hanging much from the rail. I would like to have a sling attachment option and potentially a light on my 16" and a sling and bipod attachment option on the 18." I prefer the slings be of the style that can be used "patrol ready" as opposed to just a carrying strap. I'd like to keep the BUIS option available on The Ghost. I'd rather not have a full-length Picatinny on top, if possible. The Ghost will have a Steiner P4xi mounted in a lightweight Larue. The Wilson sometimes wears a Romeo red dot, and sometimes wears a 3-9x40 (as a back-up prarie dog rifle). Both are used for general purposes: carbine classes, coyote hunting, zombie apocalypse duty, perhaps someday a 2-gun competition, etc. I've never been trained in or used the C-clamp hold, but it does seem to be the rage, and I'm open to it, if that matters.

    My understanding is that for things like bipods I will need to use aluminum, but polymer or fiberglass is an option if not attaching anything load-bearing. Is this accurate? What about with sling attachments? It also seems that M-Lock won the attachment-system wars, so I assume I should go with that.

    I'm not much of a gun plumber. I've never built a complete AR and I don't plan to do the work myself. I have been watching some videos, and while I believe I could do it, I'm not sure the purchase of the tools and equipment I would need, plus the inevitable (for me) headache of "no easy project" is worth it. These uppers run great and are quite accurate--I'd like to keep it that way.

    Am I headed in the right direction? Do you happen to have suggestions that might fill the bill?

    Thanks!
    Your assumption that non metal rails can’t take load from a bipod is incorrect. It depends on the rail. For example the original PRI rails for the Mk 12 were non metal. It depends on the quality of the rail and your use.

    If you are farming the work out I would take the opportunity to have the 18” barrel threaded.

    Your 16” will likely need a new gas block.

    So do you want 1913 rails or Mlok ?

    I’ve had good experiences with:

    Daniel defense
    ZEV/ Mega Wedgelok - this includes the ZEV/mega/SOLGW, TriArc, FN and Hodge versions - all of which are made by ZEV/Mega under license from Hodge
    Geissele
    ALG
    KAC
    BCM - though these have the most flex and might not be optimal for bipod use.

    ALG is going to be the best value

    Geissele has deals on Blemish rails

    https://geissele.com/count-blemula-s-castle.html

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by HCM View Post
    Your assumption that non metal rails can’t take load from a bipod is incorrect. It depends on the rail. For example the original PRI rails for the Mk 12 were non metal. It depends on the quality of the rail and your use.
    And we've even seen the much heralded RIS2 socom rail have the lower, removable rail section bend under the force of the bipod.

  4. #4
    Unless the rail you decide on uses the original barrel nut - a possibility on the bottom rile - you are going to need to remove the gas blocks. If either of them are aluminum you may want to replace them with either carbon steel or stainless gas blocks.

    ALG is probably one of the most inexpensive good quality rail you are going to find, the problem being they are often out of stock.

    Another option is the LaRue LAT or SAT handguards (I prefer the LAT) they cost $10.00 an inch from 7 to 13.2 inches. They are also generally not in stock, it took me several months to get my 13.2" LAT.

    https://www.larue.com/products/larue...ny-handguards/

    https://www.larue.com/products/larue...ny-handguards/

  5. #5
    One cool thing about VTAC rails is they use the existing barrel nut. Have them on 2 guns, they're great.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by ViniVidivici View Post
    One cool thing about VTAC rails is they use the existing barrel nut. Have them on 2 guns, they're great.
    VTAC's offerings have dwindled to pretty much slings and a few sling accessories. I don't see his rails listed on the website at all.

    Anyway, a couple options for those not wanting to change the barrel nut are the SOCC rail from Troy and the C4 from Centurion.

    Sent from my SM-G970U using Tapatalk

  7. #7
    I am a huge fan of Centurion Arms rails. They have options that mount to the factory barrel nut or their own proprietary system. These days, I would choose an MLOK option. That way, you can run it slick or attach whatever you want. I have Centurion Rails on multiple guns and the only thing I might change would be to upgrade to MLOK rails vs the quad rails that I have now.

  8. #8
    Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2014
    Location
    Wax-Uh-Hah-Chee, Republic of Texas
    I enjoy the SLR rails I have on a few of my rifles. All of them have pic rail on top, but I know they make version without.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by LJP View Post
    I am a huge fan of Centurion Arms rails. They have options that mount to the factory barrel nut or their own proprietary system. These days, I would choose an MLOK option. That way, you can run it slick or attach whatever you want. I have Centurion Rails on multiple guns and the only thing I might change would be to upgrade to MLOK rails vs the quad rails that I have now.
    + another for Centurion's. They are two piece and don't require removal of the gas block.

  10. #10
    Brigham Jung pls schüler's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    TX
    Longer rail systems provide longer iron sight radius, no barrel shadowing with white light and better stability possibilities offhand and w/bipod. Bipod is more and more stable the further forward you go; go as far forward as your rail can stay rigid.

    Pinned gas blocks are arguably most reliable. If yours are pinned you can usually cut/grind the block down enough to slide on a rail compatible with your barrel nut. Usually without having to remove gas block if you find a rail compatible with the existing barrel nut.

    If your gas blocks are set screw style... then mark for proper position w/r to gas port before removing or when installing. Some gas blocks are/were meant to allow space for drop-in handguard ring. When installing a set screw block I dimple barrel (with drill) where set screws locate, use red loctite and stake the screws with a punch.

    That said,

    Ghost: If the rifle will be shot offhand w/o marksman style sling use and you want to keep flip up front sight... A rail replacement doesnt offer much more than improved ergonomics, i.e., easier to wrap hand around with use of foregrip or handstop, barricade stop. If it were me I'd go with a light rail 13.5-15", lose the flip gas block.q

    Wilson stand in for yotes: Yes, free float that girl. Longest rigid rail you can afford.

    For carbines shot offhand I have been using Bootleg rails (cheapest, has non-GI barrel nut in kit) or a Fortis Rev 2 (mounts to standard GI barrel nut) since they are light weight. Not most rigid.

    For rigid options Geissele & Larue ain't dummies even if Larue butts heads like a dummy, tho Geissele rails offerings intentionally range from rigid to lightweight. Do homework.

    Be wary of older ALG models, rail may have non-continuous 12 oclock rail but non-MLok slots even though it may appear like MLok.

    I have come to prefer continuous 12'o rail on all rails for accessory mount options like TLR RM in front of offset iron, two old school Vik Tac light mounts for a long-boy 1" barrel thrower light, etc.

    If you've ever burned through a few several mags you know how beautiful a shielded handguard is, MOE SL is da bomb... rails aint always the answer, especially for a short range build. Love IWC's mount-n-slot light mounts for MOE handguards.

    Sent from my VS835 using Tapatalk

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