AR15: your experience with quadrails vs. plastic handguards


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Z-Michigan
September 22, 2009, 04:15 PM
I am thinking about installing a quadrail forearm on a mid-length 16" AR. The main purpose would be to allow mounting of a light, and possibly a VFG - I go back and forth on whether I like a VFG. If it's a free float it would also get a sling mount, but probably not if it's not a free float. I need some input on the real benefits and drawbacks of a quadrail, and I'd like to ask people with experience who have taken a rifle with stock plastic handguards and replaced them with a quadrail to post details if they could:

1) Type of rifle including gas system and barrel weight
2) Type of quadrail installed - brand, model, whether it is a free-float or not
3) Has the gun's accuracy been affected by the quadrail? How much and for better or worse?
4) Do you have any issues with heat on your hands after a lot of shooting with the quadrail, compared to the stock handguards?
5) How solid does the quadrail feel? (this shouldn't be an issue for most FF models, but I see varying reports with the drop-in replacement models.)
6) Does the extra weight out front create gun handling issues for you in shooting from an unsupported position?

I'm interested in reports at all price levels whether you put a UTG set on a kit gun or a DD FF rail on a Noveske.

I would also be interested in comments from anyone who has used one of the short-rail blocks that attaches to a standard front sight and is intended primarily for a light - how well does it work and has it affected accuracy?

Thanks in advance!

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GunTech
September 22, 2009, 04:25 PM
I've built a few railed ARs and I am starting to see the appeal of plain handguards. Unless you need to hang a bunch of stuff on your rifle, why bother?

I am interested in trying the new MagPul MOE handguards

http://www.magpul.com/catalog/images/moehg.jpg

Z-Michigan
September 22, 2009, 04:30 PM
Thanks. I actually have those MOE handguards on a Bushmaster and I'm really not happy with them. They fit loosely, and rails bolted to them are rather clumsy. They are, IMHO, one of Magpul's less impressive products.

All my experience is with conventional handguards, so I'm looking to get others' expertise before spending the money on rails.

DMK
September 22, 2009, 04:57 PM
If you just want to mount a light, you can get small rails that attach to the standard handguards. Keeps things lightweight and thin. I've tried YHM rails, but don't like the added weight and size. Free floating the barrel didn't make a huge improvement for my needs since I mostly shoot my AR15s offhand.

http://mysite.verizon.net/dmk0210/myarms/Midlengths.JPG

Z-Michigan
September 22, 2009, 05:14 PM
Appreciate the other comments but really I am specifically interested in quadrails and how they have affected accuracy and handling in people's experience. I have tried many of the alternatives.

John Parker
September 22, 2009, 06:42 PM
During my deployments, I've taken them off and stuck with the traditional handguards. I don't like the added weight and bulk, and since I don't use the IR lasers I've never seen a reason to have them. I don't need my rifle hanging up on stuff getting in and out of a Corolla. Lots of guys use and love them, they're great for many applications, just not mine.

taliv
September 22, 2009, 06:49 PM
i don't remove handguards and install rails, per se, because i buy guns (KAC SR15, noveske, etc) with quadrails already installed from the factory, or build my own guns in which case i install them when i build them.

so, they haven't really affected accuracy or handling on any of my guns.

i will say that if you're concerned about accuracy, get a free float rail. if you are concerned about handling, get a quality rail. cheap rails (e.g. YHM or the crap les baer uses) are MUCH heavier than a good quality rail like DD Lite or Knight's URX2 (the latter being by far my favorite rail).

Maverick223
September 22, 2009, 07:01 PM
My experience has been that people with rails pile too much junk on them. :neener: I don't think they make a big difference other than appearance, weight, and versatility. FWIW the Vltor CASV handguards look like a nice lightweight alternative, but are pretty expensive. :)

Z-Michigan
September 22, 2009, 08:46 PM
taliv, can you comment on heat issues (or non-issues) with your guns that have rail setups, and also how solid they feel?

KW
September 22, 2009, 08:59 PM
I used to have a KAC RAS and currently have a MI #17. Both non-free-floating 2 piece carbine rails. I never noticed any real change in accuracy from either, which isn't a surprise as they mount the same as the stock hand guards. Heat management is much better using the rail + covers or VFG IMO.

The nice thing about these type of rails is that they will allow you to mount stuff when and where you want to. Want a VFG - put it on there. Want to use a bipod for a day on the bench - swap the VFG for it). And if the mood strikes you to go back to basics, you can either just put covers on all the rails, or swap the rails off and put the regular hand guards back on in 5 minutes or so.

Drop in rails like this can have a bit of wiggle to them (usually its the bottom section that has the play in it - probably since that's the one you are wrenching on with a VFG or bipod). The MI seems tighter then my old KAC. The MI I have now weighs 5 oz. more then the stock hand guards and cost $130 or so.

taliv
September 22, 2009, 09:24 PM
i never really had any heat issues to speak of. many of my guns i run in 3gun matches and they get hot from laying in the sun, but not from firing. ...shoot 40 rnds in 40 seconds, then sit for an hour, 5-8 times in a day. others i've shot in carbine classes, even the aforementioned heavy YHM rail which has no ventilation... 1300 rnds or so in 3 days. heat never bothered me. (well, 100+ deg in memphis in august kept me and the gun warmer than i'd like, but firing it didn't make it too hot to hold.)


now... i will admit, when firing with a suppressor, they will get hot quickly, but both guns i shoot suppressors on have VFG and i don't touch the rails if i can avoid it

MoDerN_WarRioR
September 22, 2009, 10:16 PM
Ok ill try to give you as much info about my rail system as i can. :)

I Purchased a DPMS 16" carbine and it came with the stock plastic poly clam-shell hand guards. And i really didnt mind the plastic guards until i decided i wanted to install a vertical grip. So i put a rail on my plastic lower guard, installed the vertical grip and realized how sloppy it was. I had Soooo Much play that it forced me to buy a rail system...

So i bought the UTG 2 piece 4 rail system and i know alot of people will Dog on UTG for being cheap and inexpensive but i wasnt going to pay 200-300 bucks for a really high quality rail when all i wanted to do was install a stupid vert grip. Once i installed the UTG... OMG i loved it the second i touched it!!ROCK SOLID! Every thing was flush, it came with 12 rubber rail covers and it was just what i wanted!

Now performance wise, YES it does add extra weight but.. its worth it for the extra stability and extra options for mounting. The Heat literally dissipates from the rail system due to extensive air ports. I found it to be very helpful in keeping tight shots due to the fact the guard has no play to it what so ever. Now i can attach my bipod.. my vert grip.. my flash light at ease. And it looks sweet too ;) Hehe

Let me know if this helped you out.. if you want more info let me know! Ill attach a picture of mine for you. TTYL!

http://i613.photobucket.com/albums/tt211/Modern_Warrior/IMG_0606-1.jpg

-Chris

Gary G23
September 22, 2009, 10:47 PM
I put MI rails on a carbine and a mid-length. I took them off of the mid-length. The weight really changes the dynamics of the rifle.

tincanhunter
September 22, 2009, 10:54 PM
1) Type of rifle including gas system and barrel weight
Bushmaster M4 Carbine in 6.8SPC.
2) Type of quadrail installed - brand, model, whether it is a free-float or not
Not exactly the typical quad rail. I used a Yankee Hill Free Float Forearm System. This forearm allows you to add rails as you need. Otherwise it's just a vented 2" aluminum tube.
3) Has the gun's accuracy been affected by the quadrail? How much and for better or worse?
Yes! For the better! I just shot an 8 shot (had 2 flyers, my fault) 0.6" group at 100 yds. My rifle wouldn't shoot this well before installing the free float tube. Got rid of the tension between the barrel and receiver as the rifle heats up.
4) Do you have any issues with heat on your hands after a lot of shooting with the quadrail, compared to the stock handguards?
No seems to be about the same as with the plastic hand guard
5) How solid does the quadrail feel? (this shouldn't be an issue for most FF models, but I see varying reports with the drop-in replacement models.)
Doesn't budge.
6) Does the extra weight out front create gun handling issues for you in shooting from an unsupported position?
In my case, no. But then again I don't have it weighted down with flashlights, lasers.... My guess is that weight wouldn't be an issue anyways since the aluminum tube as well as rails are very lite.

JDGray
September 22, 2009, 10:54 PM
I've used a cheapy UTG, and a Troy drop in on my ARs, and both were very tight and did not move. The UTG is said to be junk, but I never had an issue with it. It came on a used upper, and long since been traded away. If your worried about accuracy, get a free float, but if your shoulder firing it, the gun wont know the difference:) I never noticed my rail getting hot, but then its mounted on a 9mm. My varmint rig has a free float tube, and it's never got hot either, but at a rate of ten rounds in a minute, the heavy barrel is just getting warm:D

UTG on left Troy on the right
http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b278/JDG357/IMG_1919.jpg
Varmint rig with FF tube
http://i21.photobucket.com/albums/b278/JDG357/IMG_3158.jpg

mr.scott
September 23, 2009, 01:15 AM
I have YHM diamond freefloats on both of my ARs.
I love the look, on my RRA (16") I like having the rails so i can have a VFG, flip up front sight, QD sling attachment, and I can push my optic out a bit so I can have the stock fully collapsed.
My 20" YHM has flip up front sight, bi-pod, QD sling attachment, and an offset for a red dot sight for a backup optic for quick target aquisition. I don't find it heavy at all. I've carried both while humping it from the truck to our shooting location and never felt the weight difference.

MarineOne
September 23, 2009, 02:38 AM
1) Type of rifle including gas system and barrel weight
Bushmaster A2 HBAR 20 inch barrel, DI

2) Type of quadrail installed - brand, model, whether it is a free-float or not
Knights Armament 2 piece quad rail

3) Has the gun's accuracy been affected by the quadrail? How much and for better or worse?
A slight improvement since I have the ability to use a bipod now, which really helps with the longer shots.

4) Do you have any issues with heat on your hands after a lot of shooting with the quadrail, compared to the stock handguards?
Another slight improvement. There are more slots and more airflow, even with the rail covers.

5) How solid does the quadrail feel? (this shouldn't be an issue for most FF models, but I see varying reports with the drop-in replacement models.)
It was a little loose but I was able to tighten it up with the set screw included in the kit. There is some play up front by the FSB but I'm not using optics so it's not a deal breaker for me.

6) Does the extra weight out front create gun handling issues for you in shooting from an unsupported position?
Of course, simply due to the 20 inch profile and bipod.



Kris

SHvar
September 23, 2009, 12:53 PM
Depends, if you want a quadrail get one. I have a quadrail on one rifle, and never installed one on the other.
One of mine came with a top-shelf quadrail, it makes for a bit more maintance time, it needs rail protectors to not irritate your hands without gloves, but its not that much heavier, in fact mine is very very lightweight.

mljdeckard
September 23, 2009, 12:59 PM
I don't ever see myself needing to add accessories to all four sides. However, I have never been bothered by weight on an AR-type rifle. If a rifle CAME with a rail I wouldn't mind it. The rifle I WILL put a rail on is a varmint rifle. I want the weight and I want it to be free-floated. On a carbine, I'm not as concerned with limiting recoil or improving accuracy.

maxxwilde
September 23, 2009, 01:15 PM
Not sure how helpfull this will be, but here goes...
I have a YHM free float, lightweight quadrail. It came with the rifle, so cant speak for accuracy improvements or weight issues. It's very solidly mounted, no wiggle at all. The exposed rails are a bit rough on my hands. Or, conversely, the exposed rails give VERY good purchase in wet weather. Depends on your perspective LOL


Mike

nhm16
September 23, 2009, 01:26 PM
Check out this spreadsheet (http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pwswheghNQsFnUZMkZNF2DQ&output=html) comparing weights and what-not of various mid and high-end rails. Note that the Daniel Defense rails are barely any heavier than the standard handguards, when the barrel nut and delta ring are taken into account. Even the Omega, which is a free floating drop-in, barely weighs two ounces more than the standard handguard. Plus, the DD and the LaRue rails (and possibly others) are narrower than they are tall, and therefore with rail panels have a similar oval profile compared to standard handguards.

I have an DD Omega 7.0 on a 16" AR, and a Lite 12.0 on a 18" AR, and I love them... solid, no wobble, continuous top rail coverage. I have an AR Performance 6.8 SPC 16" upper with a YHM Customizable that I don't like (top rails on these things are inevitably canted) and will replace with a DD Lite 12.0 when finances permit.

Crawfish141
September 23, 2009, 01:51 PM
I'm a fan of the two piece plastic hand guards, light and simple. FYI, I think Cavalry arms makes the best.

james2133
September 23, 2009, 02:24 PM
I have a Rock River ar and i have had stock hand guards, surefire two piece quad rail and now a La Rue 9" free float. The surefire was nice but i wanted to go to a low profile gas block and flip up front sight that maintained the same sight radius. I love the La Rue fore end and it is rock solid. Another bonus is a built in QD sling swivel mount on both sides of the hand guard. Heat has never been a problem and accuracy has slightly increased with the free float. Both the rails were rock solid but if I were to do it again I would go straight to a quality free float. The weight is a bit heaver out front with a rail and stuff out front but if you train with it it becomes completely normal to you and is not an issue.

Z-Michigan
September 23, 2009, 03:10 PM
Thanks, guys, all the posts from #10 onward have been very helpful. I am a bit surprised at how few people seem to have replaced OEM handguards with a quadrail - I expected dozens of people to have posted about doing that.

BTW, the only quadrail-equipped rifle I've spent much time with is a POF 16" carbine with their OEM quadrail, and it is VERY front-heavy. But based on responses I'm wondering if some of that is due to their piston system rather than the rail.

Slightly off topic but worth noting:
FYI, I think Cavalry arms makes the best.

I have to agree. I have replaced OEM handguards on two rifles with Cavalry Arms plastic handguards and the fit, finish, and overall feel is far superior to what I took off. They also fit a lot tighter and don't rattle. Anyone specifically looking for plastic handguards, go with Cav Arms.

Zak Smith
September 23, 2009, 03:41 PM
I don't really like quad rails-- I much prefer a low-profile float tube like the PRI, that I can add rail segments to if/where they are needed.

http://demigodllc.com/photo/MSTN17-2/smaller/D462_9189_img.jpg (http://demigodllc.com/photo/MSTN17-2/?small=D462_9189_img.jpg)
............... Larger version of above photo. (http://demigodllc.com/photo/MSTN17-2/?small=D462_9189_img.jpg)

RP88
September 23, 2009, 03:57 PM
I have YHM rails (free float). I like them. The extra weight doesn't bother me.

If you enjoyed reading about "AR15: your experience with quadrails vs. plastic handguards" here in TheHighRoad.org archive, you'll LOVE our community. Come join TheHighRoad.org today for the full version!