In our own experiences along with everything we've seen across the internet, their quality control is excellent, as is their customer support in the unlikely event you have any problems. All Aero Precision's free float hand guards are made out of 6061 (T6) aluminum, which is generally the standard material across the industry.
They have both MILK and Named variations for all of their hand guard designs, but we generally recommend Milk as we explain here. It has a Pica tinny rail across the top with Milk style slots on the bottom and sides.
LengthWeight7”5.22 oz9”6.03 oz12”8 oz15”9.07 note that the mounting hardware will add additional weight and is the same 4.72 oz no matter what length hand guard you choose. This allows you to still mount your front sight to a flat and extremely secure surface while removing potentially unnecessary weight.
LengthWeight7”4.86 oz9”5.47 oz12”7 oz15”7.95 for the average AR-15 builder, one of Aero Precision's offerings should more than fit your needs. Here's a picture of an AR-15 I recently built with the Atlas S-One (with GUNFIGHTER FEE Rail Panels).
I've purchased a number of complete BCM uppers and have nothing but good things to say about them. That's worth noting because I feel both are quality products made of the same 6061 (T6) aluminum.
One major advantage of the MMR vs the Aero Precision options covered above is that it has mounting slots at more angles. We've talked about Saxon in the past as being known for making super lightweight parts, like their pencil-thin and gunner-profiled AR-15 barrels.
Saxon Streamline Carbon Hand guards Saxon's Streamline hand guards are made from carbon fiber, which the company claims to be 40% lighter than aluminum while simultaneously being 10 times stronger. Although I can't speak to the specifics of those numbers, I can say that it definitely feels a lot lighter, yet still very rugged.
It's worth noting that Saxon's mounting hardware and barrel nut are also lighter than most, so you're seeing bigger savings in total. V Seven Weapon Systems has emerged as a high-end manufacturer of lightweight AR-15 parts in recent years, and they offer the lightest hand guards on our list.
V Seven Hyper-Light MILK Hand guard AR-15 V Seven introduces yet another lightweight material to our list: a blended aluminum and magnesium alloy. They claim it's 30% lighter than the typical 6061 aluminum while also being stronger, and the results speak for themselves (see table below).
With these features combined, it's arguably a better lightweight option for tactical and practical applications. LengthWeight7”2.8 oz9.2”3.5 oz11.1”4.3 oz13.5”5.2 oz15”5.7 oz16.5”6.2 oz For those of you with a fixed front sight base and delta ring assembly who just aren't ready to make the switch to a low-profile gas block, here are the best drop in AR-15 hand guards.
When it comes to the quintessential drop in polymer hand guards, most people's minds go to Magnum. The company literally created the MILK mounting system, which has become the standard today.
The two pieces fit around your front sight base, giving you additional mounting space. The downside to this longer aluminum set up is that it's heavy, weighing 14.1 oz.
Until recently, you could argue cost was a factor, as free floated AR-15s are generally more expensive. With that said, these days you can often build or buy a free floated AR-15 without much additional cost, if any.
With that said, modern back-up sights have come a long way, as has battery life and reliability for red dots. Except perhaps those regularly engaged in combat, I see no reason to go with a front sight base.
As the name suggests, they're free of contact from your barrel and “float” from your upper receiver to the end of the hand guard. Absorb more heat when made from the same materials and offer worse ventilation.
This also prevents you from potentially touching a hot barrel or even worse, shooting yourself in the hand. Despite the added weight, I'm generally running up to a 14" hand guard whenever possible... and I have short stubby arms.
In the image below, these Daniel Defense AR-15s have the following mounting systems on their hand guards (in order): Generally, it's now preferred to have just a Pica tinny rail on top, then Milk or Named elsewhere to lighten your hand guard.
For those with the budget, Carbon Fiber can be a stronger-yet-lighter alternative for free float hand guards. Lots of AR-15 Uppers (And Hand guards)We’ll help with decisions such as going drop-in vs free-float or Named vs MILK.
It used to be personal preference but recently SITCOM (US Special Operations Command) released their results of testing. And MILK is the clear winner due to much better impact test results.
BCM-15-MLOK-Rail Free-floating hand guards give you an accuracy advantage since it doesn’t contact the barrel…so your hand position and extra gadgets such as bipeds don’t affect barrel harmonics. Install was standard and there’s some strong feeling anti-rotation tabs built into the hand guard.
However after a bunch of mags I found that it was fine (unless you have really thin fingers). Plus there’s sometimes some blemished versions, so you can save even more if you don’t care to have a “perfect” rail.
Readers' Ratings *Update* The lesser-railed LCN has become the basis of our night vision build (after a little paint job). Unity Taps System on STN GR Land we love it…the slick upper side makes it easy to mount buttons.
There’s the HWK hand guard which gives a more aggressive “prong-ed” look and the ability to add a light/laser to the bottom with the included rail. I think it could look really cool with a 14.5 pinned barrel, so it sits flush with the cutout.
Cyclops (front) and Gecko (rear) Rail Covers I personally like the look of the Cyclops more, but the Gecko is probably the more useful one to maintain a good grip.
I love how it saves weight by not having a full Pica tinny rail on top. Note that the top where the rail would have been is rounded so if you’re thinking of putting a pressure pad for lights…you’re out of luck.
Only negative about the Aero hand guards is that sometimes (especially after a seasonal sales) they are out of stock for a while. This lightweight hand guard includes a full Pica tinny rail on top.
I’ve been using the older version of this (non MILK) for years as my primary competition rifle hand guard. But still a great hand guard if you’re looking to save a little and still keep the full top rail.
If you’re needing lots of Pica tinny real estate…the perennial favorite YAM has got you covered. “Rifle” length is equal to 12.6 but will cost you a couple more ounces in weight compared to MILK varieties.
Lightweight Build Brigand Arms and Saxon Pencil 14.5 Pinned Combined with a pencil 14.5 barrel…this AR was nearing 5 lb territory.
But keep in mind that you won’t be able to add anything to it…and since it is cylindrical all the way through…you’re going to have a harder time bracing against barriers. As you guessed from the name…this hand guard combines MILK attachments throughout with Pica tinny compatibility at the front sides.
I’m using it for my newest AR-15 precision build with a fluted 18 Saxon barrel. I’ve seen them around a lot in competitions but either didn’t like the look, feel, or price combination.
Many of them come in two pieces, which are placed on the gun and are screwed together to prevent the need to take off the barrel. You shouldn’t need to make any modifications to your AR-15 when installing a new drop-in hand guard, and since they’ve got a relatively simplistic design, they’re usually cheaper than their free float counterparts.
What you get with the MILK is a heat-resistant polymer hand guard that’s hardy enough to handle your clanging and banging and comfortable enough to grip onto. Despite its simplistic design, the MILK has slots on its 2, 6, and 10-o’clock positions where you can mount an optional Pica tinny rail system.
I have a box of holsters and cheapo rails now that sit in the back of my shed. And if you’re just getting into guns and are in the beginning stages of learning about the AR-15, you might want to check out our comprehensive AR-15 guide.