The Firing Line Forums

Go Back   The Firing Line Forums > The Hide > The Art of the Rifle: Semi-automatics

Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old February 28, 2018, 03:24 AM   #1
dyl
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 31, 2009
Location: Ohio
Posts: 826
Which handguard allows more accuracy?

A free float handguard that secures directly to an upper receiver by 8 screws? Or a free float handguard that is secured primarily to an extended barrel nut?

I accidentally ordered (and received) an Aero Precision threaded upper and Atlas S-one handguard that secures to a barrel nut and has some anti-rotation tabs.

I originally wanted the M4E1 enhanced upper that has a built up section that the handguard screws directly into.

If anyone has a free float upper that attaches to the barrel nut and can still nail 1 MOA groups or smaller, maybe I'll just be content. I did like the engineering behind the idea of a handguard that screws into a reinforced upper though.

The only thing keeping me from returning and ordering what I originally wanted would be shipping, and if accuracy and durability are a wash.

Last edited by dyl; February 28, 2018 at 03:34 AM.
dyl is offline  
Old February 28, 2018, 05:12 AM   #2
DubC-Hicks
Senior Member
 
Join Date: December 20, 2009
Location: Backwoods, Northern MI
Posts: 916
I've gotten under 1 moa with handguards that attach to barrel nuts. I've used CIM Tactical, ADM, BCM, Midwest, along with others. I don't foresee there being a very noticeable difference in accuracy compared to the Aero setup, but less torque on the barrel nut and barrel itself can't hurt.
__________________
”Gun control is like trying to reduce drunk driving by making it tougher for sober people to own cars.” ~Unknown
DubC-Hicks is offline  
Old February 28, 2018, 09:17 AM   #3
MagnumWill
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 18, 2009
Location: Central Colorado
Posts: 917
I bet the difference is nonexistent for just about all purposes. Unless you’re putting it on a $5000 benchrest rifle that you have used in competition for decades...

Just getting the free float is going to offset any woes about having a barrel-mounted handguard. I have a 20” HBAR gun that could shoot just-sub MOA with its original GI-style handguard mounts, but if I load the bipod differently (like from sitting to prone) my point of impact would shift by almost two inches if I pressed hard enough. Now with the Alpha rail (nut mounted) it shoots still sub-MOA, but the different shooting positions no longer affect POI.
__________________
Those who hammer their swords into plow shares will plow for those who didn't...
MagnumWill is offline  
Old February 28, 2018, 11:11 AM   #4
lordmorgul
Member
 
Join Date: August 18, 2016
Posts: 99
Better question for you: do you like the Atlas S-One size and confirt for your hand or do you want a bigger one? The Atlas is lighter and thinner noticeably. I have two Aero X15 M4E1 Enhanced uppers, one with the Quantum and one with the Enhanced rail, and I like both but neither one is good for a very lightweight race gun, the Quantum is the heaviest to start with and it’s heavier when I’ve added rail sections to it that would have been built in to the Enhanced rail already.
lordmorgul is offline  
Old February 28, 2018, 12:34 PM   #5
marine6680
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 24, 2012
Location: Parker, CO
Posts: 4,554
My fiance's rifle can do sub MOA... Has a BCM handguard, mounts to their special barrel nut.

From a theoretical, on paper, point of view, their is some potential of the receiver mounted handguards affecting the barrel less.

From a practical view point... It isn't a factor for most shooters. You would likely need to be a top level bench rest competitor to notice any difference.
marine6680 is offline  
Old February 28, 2018, 03:02 PM   #6
FrankenMauser
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 25, 2008
Location: Potatoes and Hops
Posts: 11,139
With one exception, all of my hand guards mount on a barrel nut of some kind.
Those intended for precision work are MoA or better. Those not intended for precision work simply don't get tested in a manner conducive to tiny groups. (So they may be capable, but I don't know...)

The one exception:
I have an upper that was built as cheaply as possible to test an Anderson "5.56 Match" barrel. (Total cost, something like $86.)
I ended up modifying a hand guard cap to fit the 0.936" gas block seat, and just used a delta ring set that was in the parts box, paired with rifle-length GI (style) clam shells.

With any reasonable rest or technique, it'll hold MoA just fine. With a consistent hold in the rest and no additional downward pressure on the hand guards, it is consistently 3/4 MoA or better (usually much better) with decent ammo. I have a target around here somewhere where I was having an exceptionally good day with factory PPU 69 gr BTHP ammo, got bored with tiny groups, and traced around the staples holding my target to the stand (100 yd), until it was cut free.

What started as a test, wrapped up as a joke, turned into one of my favorite uppers. But it sure does look funky with that 0.936" barrel poking out of clam shell hand guards...
__________________
Don't even try it. It's even worse than the internet would lead you to believe.
FrankenMauser is offline  
Old February 28, 2018, 08:31 PM   #7
Mobuck
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 2, 2010
Posts: 6,155
Free float HG's are way over rated for most shooters' uses.
Mobuck is offline  
Old March 1, 2018, 07:51 PM   #8
rickyrick
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 15, 2010
Posts: 6,778
Free-float, non-free-float... most rifles I don’t notice a difference. Consistency of the shooter has the most effect if all else is equal. All the little upgrades can add up. Sometimes free float can make
A huge difference.
rickyrick is offline  
Old March 4, 2018, 03:27 AM   #9
Nathan
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 1, 2001
Posts: 4,339
Quote:
Free float HG's are way over rated for most shooters' uses.
This cannot be said enough!
Nathan is offline  
Old March 4, 2018, 03:53 AM   #10
FrankenMauser
Senior Member
 
Join Date: August 25, 2008
Location: Potatoes and Hops
Posts: 11,139
Wait...
You mean that a FF tube isn't needed for belt-loop bump-firing, and blasting the empties at 7 feet while chugging beer?!
But. But...
__________________
Don't even try it. It's even worse than the internet would lead you to believe.
FrankenMauser is offline  
Old March 4, 2018, 07:40 AM   #11
Nathan
Senior Member
 
Join Date: July 1, 2001
Posts: 4,339
Quote:
Wait...
You mean that a FF tube isn't needed for belt-loop bump-firing, and blasting the empties at 7 feet while chugging beer?!
But. But...

I know. It turns out YouTube was wrong......just this one time!
Nathan is offline  
Old March 4, 2018, 07:53 AM   #12
Mobuck
Senior Member
 
Join Date: February 2, 2010
Posts: 6,155
No doubt FF hand guards have a place in the AR world BUT more are used for show than for the need.
Mobuck is offline  
Old March 4, 2018, 11:18 AM   #13
MagnumWill
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 18, 2009
Location: Central Colorado
Posts: 917
Sorry guys, I have to disagree. I completely concur that a FF does NOT make the gun “more accurate” - but if you’ve got a bipod and you shoot more than one position or just offhand, your POI will absolutely change if you have a barrel-mounted bipod. Even from sitting at the bench to prone changed my POI by a certainly evident amount.

With the normal MOE handguard, my rifle was capable of shooting .75 MOA (which I was honestly surprised). Then my next trip I said, “now i’ll shoot from prone, and if it hits the same this thing is never changing” because I was mulling going to a FF for the reason I mentioned above. I shot those groups from sitting only, and I didn’t know if shooting prone (where you do put a little more pressure on the gun) would affect it.

I got to the range, got in prone and fired a couple groups, same ammunition, same conditions, then quickly said, “yup, free float it is”. Ever since I put the Alpha rail on it, it hasn’t mattered in which position I shoot in, POI only shifts due to me + ammo + conditions now. Will it make a difference for you? I have no idea, but it definitely did help my rifle and my situation.

But yes, if you’re just moving dirt with lead, heck, free float? You probably can get away with a polymer lower while you’re at it.

*EDIT* another is point to make is that if I was shooting XM855 while trying to determine whether FF was better or not, I would never have been able to tell, as the difference was less than the variation in 855. IMI Razor Core is the way to go... so another point for the “it’s just for plinking” column if you’re not shooting for increasing accuracy.
__________________
Those who hammer their swords into plow shares will plow for those who didn't...

Last edited by MagnumWill; March 4, 2018 at 11:24 AM.
MagnumWill is offline  
Old March 4, 2018, 02:21 PM   #14
rickyrick
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 15, 2010
Posts: 6,778
I say FF guards have the benefit of dealing with gas blocks easily. Most can cover a gas block without worrying about exact length
rickyrick is offline  
Old March 4, 2018, 10:38 PM   #15
ed308
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 5, 2016
Location: DFW, TX
Posts: 770
Every AR I've converted to a FF hand guard has printed smaller groups. And that's whether attached the barrel nut or via a portion of the upper receiver. Some have tightened 1/2" or more (at 100 yards). So any AR I own for precision, they get a FF hand guard. Blasting ARs get a Magpul hand guard.

Last edited by ed308; March 4, 2018 at 10:50 PM.
ed308 is offline  
Old March 6, 2018, 11:04 AM   #16
JeepHammer
Junior member
 
Join Date: February 27, 2015
Posts: 1,768
My introduction to free float was WAY back in service rifle competitions.
Over the winter I went from running in the top ten to middle of the pack...
It seems that everyone under the sun heard about, and converted to competition legal free float over the winter and it took me about a month to catch on and catch up!

Then I got deployed.
That's where I first saw the Israeli version of AR10...
Carry handle sawed off, flat top optics rail TIG welded to the uppers & full float barrels that weren't disguised as common service rifles.

Trust me, the 'Bad Guys' were super scared of those sharp shooters/snipers since they could pick the fire bomb or gunman out of a rock throwing crowd...

If you actually *Think* that a free floating barrel is a gimmick, then it's time for rifle shooting 101 class again. It might not do the guys with a $299 farm store rifle with $12 'China' barrel, ammo waster & noise maker any good...
But if you AIM every shot, you will most certainly see the difference on paper, and the difference isn't even close...

As for barrel nut or reinforced upper, doesn't really matter, still pulling on the same spot of the upper receiver.
Unless you have a 'Tacti-Cool' rifle, with rear view mirror, aircraft landing lights, espresso maker, cup holder, three bayonets, high def video camera, blow dryer,.... Mounted on the free float tube...
You hang enough weight on that tube and you WILL flex/bow the upper receiver.
Same goes for pressing down on tube while on a forward mounted bipod...
(For you guys that strap a rifle into a shooting cradle device, you are warned...)

There is a reason the bipod is mounted on the fore stock or fore arm on high accuracy bolt rifles, and why the barrel is almost always free floated...
*IF* you were to mount a fore arm on an AR LOWER...
Two things happen real quick,
1. You don't need a barrel tube/hand guards of any kind, just barrel, gas block & gas tube hanging out there,
2. You have to pull both pins, take top end stright off the front since it will no longer 'Shotgun'.

This allows for a true 'Bull Barrel', barrel diameter limited by the placement of common gas tubes.

If you want a 'Tack Driver', then you can't do without a free float tube.
JeepHammer is offline  
Old March 6, 2018, 12:40 PM   #17
rickyrick
Senior Member
 
Join Date: March 15, 2010
Posts: 6,778
A lot of people don’t care really if their groups are 1”, 2”, 2.5” or 3”

I get that it helps, I have some FF uppers too. Some people are perfectly happy trying to see how far away they can hit a pop can. They don’t care which side of the can is struck. Some people can take a non ff low end rifle and outshoot everyone within sight.

When I was younger, I thought I could learn to play the guitar, I got to where I could strum a few cords and a couple of tricks... one day there was an old acoustic guitar laying around the shop. I tried to pick it but the neck was warped and the strings way too high, so I couldn’t impress my friends. I proclaimed that the guitar was junk and unplayable. Another coworker picked up the guitar, tuned it in like a second and began playing the most beautiful music.
Sometimes it’s not the tool, it’s the person using it.
Having good equipment helps for sure. All the variables in the equation matter really, not just one.
rickyrick is offline  
Old March 6, 2018, 01:22 PM   #18
JeepHammer
Junior member
 
Join Date: February 27, 2015
Posts: 1,768
Quote:
. Some people can take a non ff low end rifle and outshoot everyone within sight.
Maybe if you introduce a national match shooter into a boyscout group...

Comparing apples to apples, National Match Shooters to National Match Shooters, that statement would be dead wrong...
I got my butt SMOKED by guys that went full float while I was shooting conventional service rifle.
First time I'd EVER placed outside of the top 1/4 and usually top 10 even on bad days...

Outside of squaring the upper receiver face & squaring barrel/barrel nut so the barrel gets into the upper square & true, a full float is probably the best thing you can do to an upper assembly.
JeepHammer is offline  
Old March 6, 2018, 01:26 PM   #19
ed308
Senior Member
 
Join Date: November 5, 2016
Location: DFW, TX
Posts: 770
The FF hand guard is just one part of the equation. The barrel and developing a load for a particular barrel is the most important part IMO. But the shooter's ability is probably even more important. Then add trigger, free float hand guard and glass to increase accuracy. And making sure you install the barrel and muzzle device properly is a factor affecting accuracy.
ed308 is offline  
Old March 6, 2018, 03:29 PM   #20
dyl
Senior Member
 
Join Date: October 31, 2009
Location: Ohio
Posts: 826
- the result -

Thanks for the responses. Here's what happened in the end. I brought my slim hand guard over to a good friend who is doing a build alongside me, but his is in 458 socom. What do you know, he liked it and despite the bull barrel, it fits. So he asked to purchase it from me (he is always skewing monetary things in my favor... need to get him back with something nice) and I ordered the set I originally wanted which secures to the upper.

This is definitely for a precision build with more newfangled things on it and a Ballistic Advantage 223 Wylde barrel. I know it may not be my LAST AR but I think I could learn how to shoot well with this one.

As for a blaster, that role has just been filled with a PSA upper with A2 front sight and nitrided barrel. And yes, I DID try a bayonet on it. Don't tell anyone or my credibility with some goes out the roof... yet greatly increases with others.
dyl is offline  
Reply

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 03:24 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
This site and contents, including all posts, Copyright © 1998-2018 S.W.A.T. Magazine
Copyright Complaints: Please direct DMCA Takedown Notices to the registered agent: thefiringline.com
Contact Us
Page generated in 0.08493 seconds with 10 queries