AR Handguard Types: Which is Best for You?

The AR-15 is one of the most popular firearms, and for a good reason. It has a modular design, which allows for endless customization with accessories and parts. The handguard (sometimes called a forend, forearm, or foregrip) might be the most important part to add to your rifle because it creates more space for other accessories. Selecting the right handguard for your build is critical if you want to improve your shooting experience. 

What Does an AR Handguard Do?

Before choosing which handguard type is best for you, it’s important to know what the function of a handguard is. While they can serve to change the appearance of your AR-15, they can do a lot more. The main purpose of a AR handguard is to protect your hand from barrel heat while firing. It also has space to attach accessories like lights and gas blocks. Designs can vary greatly, but there are two main AR handguard types: free-floating and drop-in. 

Free-Floating AR-15 Handguards

Free-floating handguards do just what the name suggests. They “float” around the barrel and don’t make contact with it aside from where they attach at the barrel nut. This design often costs a bit more, but it comes with one huge advantage. Because free-floating handguards don’t touch the barrel, they offer slightly better accuracy, especially if you’re using grips or bipods. 

Non-Railed and Railed Free-Floating Handguards

Free-floating handguards can come in two designs: railed and non-railed. Railed ones are often referred to as “free-float rails” and the non-railed ones are usually called “free-float tubes.” If you want to build your AR with mounted accessories, you’ll need a railed free-floating handguard. These come with Picatinny rails and can be adjusted in length if you use a low-profile gas block. The one downside to free-float rails is that they can become heavy. A non-railed design can be more lightweight and puts improved accuracy above all else. 

Drop-In AR Handguards

Drop-in handguards are the classic, most common type, and they are usually constructed with lightweight polymer. These handguards often feature two pieces that fit around the barrel, making them easy to install and remove. When assembling, you just “drop in” the new handguard. Compared to free-floating handguards, drop-in ones tend to be a bit more affordable, but they can negatively impact accuracy. Similar to free-floating designs, drop-in handguards can also come in railed options for mounting accessories like bipods and foregrips. You should avoid mounting optics, however. 

AR-15 Handguards and Bundles from Phantom

Phantom is committed to providing you with durable handguards built to last. Our products are proudly made in the USA, and our selection of AR handguards includes high-quality free-floating designs for mounting accessories. These handguards feature the M-LOK (Modular Lock) system and are constructed from hard-coat anodized aluminum. These lightweight, heat-resistant handguards are easy to install with our non-timing barrel nut (included). We offer free-floating handguards as well as bundles that include a low-profile gas block and two Picatinny rails. 
Browse our full selection to find the right handguard or bundle for your AR-15 build. To learn more about our products, please contact our team of experts today.