Lightest AR-15 Handguards: Roundup [2017]

Ounces equal pounds…pounds equal pain.

Lightest AR-15 Handguards
Lightest AR-15 Handguards

At least if you’re schlepping your AR-15 around on patrol.

But what if you’re a competitor looking to shave a couple fractions of a second from your target transition times?

Well, we’ve got both sides covered…from the battle-proven to the truly featherweight AR-15 handguards.  Read on to see how they compare in terms of weight, strength, and price.

But if you can’t weight (lol):

Baseline and Comparison Metrics

To get a sense of how light some of these handguards are…let’s take a look at some more known weights of standard polymer and quadrail handguards.

We’ve got some standard things in there like Price, Length, and Weight.  But we’re also going to throw in some new metrics to figure out the best deal per length ($/inch) and best weight ratio (oz/inch).

I’m also going to looking at rifle-length handguards (~12″) since that is the most standard for competitors.  And M-LOK because that’s what I prefer…although most will have KeyMod versions too.

And a lot of manufacturers leave out the barrel nut that connects the handguard to the rail.  So I’m putting them separately whenever possible.

Magpul Rifle Length Handguard (Polymer)

Magpul Rifle Length Handguard
Magpul Rifle Length Handguard
  • Price: $37
  • Length: 12.6″
  • Handguard Weight: 12.1 oz
  • Barrel Nut Weight: NA
  • Total Weight: 12.1 oz
  • Price/Length: $2.93/inch
  • Weight/Length: .96 oz/inch

Daniel Defense DDM4 (Quad Rail)

DDM4 Rail 12
DDM4 Rail 12″
  • Price: $375
  • Length: 12.4″
  • Handguard Weight: 12.4 oz
  • Barrel Nut Weight: 1.7 oz
  • Total Weight: 14.1 oz
  • Price/Length: $30.24/inch
  • Weight/Length: 1.13 oz/inch

Got a quick sense?  Now get ready for our picks of the lightest AR-15 Handguards!

Lancer

Lancer Lightweight Handguard

Prices accurate at time of writing

Oooh…carbon fiber!  That elicits two things in my mind…lightness and totally unnecessary car parts.

But in this case I like it on the Lancer Lightweight Handguard ($225)

It gets that light obviously with carbon fiber vs aluminum but also since it doesn’t have any rails except at the end.

I also like how it’s not perfectly cylindrical since a flat surface on the side and bottom makes it easier to prop up against barriers for longer range shots.

  • Price: $225
  • Length: 13″
  • Handguard Weight: 8.6 oz
  • Barrel Nut Weight: 2.4 oz
  • Total Weight: 11.0 oz
  • Price/Length: $17.31/inch
  • Weight/Length: .85 oz/inch

Faxon

Another brand new carbon fiber rail…right now only the 15″ is available with a special deal from Rainier Arms ($332).

Faxon Carbon Fiber Handguard

Prices accurate at time of writing

It looks to have more rail space and weigh less than the above Lancer.  Plus it’s also not cylindrical to make it easier to resting against objects.

Faxon Carbon Fiber Handguard, Side
Faxon Carbon Fiber Handguard, Side

There’s also the ability to swap out the standard steel barrel nut for a titanium one that further reduces the weight.

I’m looking forward to trying this bad boy out!

  • Price: $300
  • Length: 15″
  • Handguard Weight: 6.71 oz
  • Barrel Nut Weight: 1.28 oz (.77 oz for titanium)
  • Total Weight: 7.99 oz
  • Price/Length: $20.00/inch
  • Weight/Length: .53 oz/inch

Bravo Company Manufacturing (BCM)

The previous leader in the lightweight race with their magnesium rails (original KMR)…the new generation aluminum KMR Alpha ($190) is still an awesome contender and proven in the field.

You can tell the old-school (now unobtanium) KMR from the Alpha rails by the white logos on the the Alphas.  Also only available in KeyMod.

  • Price: $190
  • Length: 13″
  • Handguard Weight: 7.8 oz
  • Barrel Nut Weight: 2.4 oz
  • Total Weight: 10.2 oz (original one was around 2 oz lighter)
  • Price/Length: $14.62/inch
  • Weight/Length: .78 oz/inch

Bravo Company KMR

Bravo Company KMR, Magnesium

Midwest Industries

Midwest Industries Lightweight Handguards, Top
Midwest Industries Lightweight Handguards, Top

The lightweight versions of my go-to handguard that I covered in my How to Build an AR-15 Upper and Best AR-15 Upgrades articles.

Midwest Industries managed to shave off a few oz by taking off some of the Picatinny rails on top of the handguard.  I’m totally cool with this since most people don’t mount anything in the middle anyways.

There’s also two versions…the G3 ML ($190) which is the slightly heavier version but has 8 sides of usable rails.  Or the LWMG3 ($190) which only has 4 sides but is lighter.

Midwest Industries Lightweight Handguards, Side
Midwest Industries Lightweight Handguards, G3 ML (Left) & LWMG3 (Right)

I’ve tried both out and the G3 ML (8 sides of rails) feels slightly better in hand.  Plus you have more angles for lights and other accessories.  But if you’re going for straight weight…you can’t beat the LWMG3.

So how to the two stack up?

LWMG3 (4 Sides)

Editor's Choice (Lightweight Rail)

Midwest Industries LWMG3

Prices accurate at time of writing

  • Price: $190
  • Length: 12.5″
  • Handguard Weight: NA
  • Barrel Nut Weight: NA
  • Total Weight: 8.2 oz
  • Price/Length: $15.2/inch
  • Weight/Length: .66 oz/inch

G3 ML (8 Sides)

Best Value

Midwest Industries G3 ML

Prices accurate at time of writing

  • Price: $190
  • Length: 12.625″
  • Handguard Weight: NA
  • Barrel Nut Weight: NA
  • Total Weight: 8.8 oz
  • Price/Length: $15.05/inch
  • Weight/Length: .70 oz/inch

Now I know what you’re thinking…when am I going to show the really cool looking braided carbon fiber handguard?

Brigand Arms

Brigand Arms Carbon Fiber Handguard
Brigand Arms Carbon Fiber Handguard

The Brigand Arms Carbon Fiber Handguard ($296) is LIGHT.  Like 4.3 oz TOTAL light.

I was so amazed at SHOT 2017 that I knew I had to have one in a lightweight build (coming soon).

But it’s also EXPENSIVE.  Not totally out of the realm of what these lightweight AR-15 handguards normally run…but you probably gotta save up a little or really value your split times.

Now I know what you’re thinking…that thing is totally going to break.  Maybe if you’re a certified doorkicker.  But for range and competition folks I think you’ll be just fine with the specs.

Brigand Arms with 40lb Weight
Brigand Arms with 40lb Weight

I wouldn’t step on it or throw it in to the back of my truck, but I think it can handle the worst case situation I would put it in (jamming into the side of a stage wall).

Brigand Arms 12 Carbon Fiber Handguard
Brigand Arms 12 Carbon Fiber Handguard

It’s going into my latest lightweight build so I’ll report back soon.  One possible negative is that it is a complete cylinder all the way around…so it might be a little hard to get a good resting spot against barriers.

Lightest Handguard

Brigand Arms Carbon Fiber Handguard

Let’s take a look at the numbers:

  • Price: $296
  • Length: 12.4″
  • Handguard Weight: 2.9 oz
  • Barrel Nut Weight: 1.4 oz
  • Total Weight: 4.3 oz
  • Price/Length: $23.87/inch
  • Weight/Length: .35 oz/inch (Damn son!)

Conclusion

Lightest AR-15 Rails
Lightest AR-15 Rails

In the test of the lightest rail possible, the winner is the Brigand Arms (.35 oz/inch, $23.87/inch) carbon fiber braided handguard.  It probably isn’t the most utilitarian one unless you’re purely competing with it.  Plus it’s the most expensive on the list.

The KMR Alpha (.78 oz/inch, $14.62/inch) lowers the price compared to its big magnesium alloy brother, but increases the weight.  It’s a little longer at 13″ and only comes in KeyMod.

And the Faxon Carbon Fiber (.53 oz/inch, $20/inch) and Lancer Carbon Fiber (.85 oz/inch, $17.31/inch) fill the gap in between aluminum and Brigand arms.

However, for the best bang for the buck…I’d go with either the Midwest G3 ML (.70 oz/inch, $15.05/inch) or LWMG3 (.66 oz/inch, $15.20/inch).  You can hang a lot of accessories and brace against barriers.  Also KeyMod and other colors available.  It’s what I’m going to be using for my non-competition builds from now on.

Did I miss any lightweight handguards?  What’s your go-to?

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14 Comments on "Lightest AR-15 Handguards: Roundup [2017]"

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jason brown
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Good comparison, but if you want a wider comp with many more options, check out the ar15 Parts Weights Database (PWD). Google it, it’s a Google Sheet that has almost 1200 rail systems alone…and lots of other weight data on AR parts. Great resource.

Brian
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Seekins NOXS rails should have made this list.
15″ weighs 9.2oz and the barrel but comes in at 2.6oz.
And it is made in the USA.

matt
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you should have included the matrix rails. i dunno how light they are, but they’re cheap, and claim made in usa status.

Vik
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No Odin Works O2?

Cam
Guest

I’m surprised not to see vseven weapon systems on this list. They make some pretty lightweight titanium rails. I think their 15″ handguard weighs in at 10.4 oz. Not sure if it requires a barrel nut or uses the standard.

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