For the modern sporting AR 15, handguards featuring rails are vital components. They provide an interface to mount accessories like lights and lasers, and they act as protective barriers between your support hand and the scorching hot barrel of your firearm. They also give your rifle a tactical look.
So, the question arises, what is the optimal length for a handguard?
The answer to this question is, it depends on the shooter and their preference. When considering a handguard for your AR 15, you must factor in what purpose your firearm will hold and make sure that the handguard fits that job. The general rule of thumb to go by when selecting a handguard is that it should be roughly about an inch away from your muzzle device, so there is no worry of destroying your rail.
The lengths of handguards can vary, but typically the sizes are classified as Carbine length, Mid-Length, Rifle Length, and Extended Length.
7” Handguard (Carbine Length)
The 7” handguard is the smallest option and gives you just enough room for a couple of modifications to be equipped while still leaving some room for the support hand. This is a preferred option for those assault rifle owners looking to keep everything compact and very light.
9.25” Handguard (Mid-Length)
The mid-length typically sits somewhere between 9” and 10”. Mid-length handguards allow for a front sight base in front on a mid-length barrel or work on a carbine with a low-profile gas block, and it provides the shooter a few extra inches to wrap the supporting hand around.
12” Handguard (Rifle Length)
The rifle length, dependent on the manufacturer, is typically the best option for AR 15 with a fixed front sight or can be used with a low-profile gas block. A 12” handguard will give you the best bang for your buck in terms of real estate to equip modifications and have hand space, all while keeping the overall weight of the assault rifle in the center.
15” Handguard (Extended Length)
Extended length handguards will give you the most length for hand space or area to mount lights, lasers, hand stops, M-LOK accessories, and the like. Typically, if you have an extended length handguard, you are most likely running a longer barrel which could shift the overall weight of the AR 15 from the center towards the muzzle of the firearm. The 15” handguard would be optimal for barricade shooting where the gun may rest on a supporting surface, reducing the worry of the barrel resting on a surface unprotected.
If you are still unsure of what handguard size or option best suits you? Contact us, and we’d be more than happy to talk you through the building process and find out what handguard best suits you! In the end, the optimal handguard is the one that fits the job that you have for your AR 15, that you feel most comfortable with, and that is within your price range.